I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mother's Day 2021

Mama and Grandma

I took this picture many years ago, at Grandma's home in Santa Monica. Mama had come to visit from Texas, while I was taking care of her mother as she, Grandma, endured chemo treatment for lymphoma. She was not expected to survive and was given palliative injections of chemo. But then she got better and lived for several more years. I believed it was because she had someone living with her and her two cats, which gave her a reason to look forward to every day.

In trying to figure out when this was taken, I had to think back to when I went on my six-week-long bicycle trip from Boulder, Colorado, to San Francisco (it was in the 1970s). I and a girlfriend spent those weeks on the road, most times sleeping in city parks or campgrounds as we made our way across the country. When I called my parents after we finished the trip, Mama asked me if I would be willing to be a caregiver for what was supposed to be a short time. Since I was betwixt and between, she figured I could spare a few weeks to spend with Grandma. In the end, I was there for more than six months and decided to leave when she was once again able to live alone. She didn't want me to leave, but I needed to resume my own life. It was quite a shock to my system to go from living outdoors to being confined to living in a stuffy two-bedroom house.

I don't know how old Grandma was in this picture, but she died at 79, so she must be younger here than I am today. It is quite a shock to realize this, and reminds me once again that if you live long enough, you'll get old, too. It must have been the mid-to-late 1970s, and both she and Mama have been gone for a long time. Mama died in 1993 at the age of 69. On this Mother's Day, I am glad to sit here and look at this long-ago picture and reminisce about times gone by. Even though they are no longer alive, they will always live in my heart as long as I draw breath.

Me and Chris in the 1980s

And I am a mother, too, even if my two sons are no longer living. This was taken in Boulder at my then-current home. No grey hair yet, and Chris is wearing his hair in the style of the day. He died at 40 and has been gone for almost two decades. He joined the Army when he was in his early thirties, and he died in Germany while serving. It was a heart attack that took him; he had high cholesterol and incipient coronary artery disease that he inherited from both parents. But still, it was a real shock to lose him at such a young age. Chris was jogging when he collapsed, and his fellow soldiers were unable to save him. It was classified as "sudden cardiac death," which (I have seen many times since) often takes seemingly healthy individuals, mostly young men. I remember reading about a young athlete who finished a run and died while getting a drink of water from a fountain, without any warning. After Chris' death, I began to notice that this is not all that uncommon, but before my own experience, I had no idea about the syndrome.

My goodness! I sure didn't sit down here this morning to become so maudlin, but instead wanted to remember why Mother's Day is important to me. After all, we all have mothers, and some of us are mothers too. It's nice to have living parents, but by the time you get to be old yourself, it's perfectly normal to have lost them. Not many of us live to be in our eighties and nineties, and the longer we live, the more we must learn to cherish the memories of our loved ones who have already left us.

Mama was a central part of my life as I grew up, and I have memories of her from my childhood into my middle years. Most of us only have one mother, and she is always a central character in our formative years. One strong memory I have of my parents when I was growing up was watching them get ready to go to a formal party, and Mama wore a dress that I can still see in my mind's eye: its voluminous skirt contained multi-layered clouds of sheer material decorated with streaks of silver and gold. When she moved, it swished around her in dazzling glory. I don't think she ever wore it again, but I will never forget how beautiful she looked that evening. The smell of her favorite perfume, Shalimar, was in the air as well. Of course I had to look it up, to find out if it is still available. These days, the scent is indeed still available, and that article tells us that 

Shalimar is preserved in its original 1925 formulation in the archives of the Osmothèque, donated by Jean-Paul Guerlain. As of 2017, Shalimar was Guerlain's second best selling fragrance, behind La Petite Robe Noire, with approximately 108 bottles being sold every hour.

I would love be able to smell it once again, and see if Mama might appear, but unfortunately my smeller doesn't work as well as it once did. I can still smell certain odors very well, but others are no longer available to my nose. That said, the memory of the scent of that perfume and its juxtaposition to my mother are still with me today.

After I finish this post, I'll start my own Mother's Day with a trip to the coffee shop to share a latte with my friend John, still sitting in his truck's cab rather than inside, since it will be awhile longer before they open the doors to indoor seating. It's cloudy and only 45°F out there right now, so we won't be sitting outdoors, I suspect. Then we will enjoy a gathering at my friend Lily's place for an early dinner. John is bringing some of his cod and will cook it for us. I'm bringing shortcake for his rhubarb sauce (instead of strawberry). Other than probably eating more than I should, it will be a fun gathering. We are now allowed to gather in small groups indoors if everyone is vaccinated. Slowly things are getting back to our new normal. And as I sit here in bed, my dear partner still sleeps quietly as I write.

Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary — it’s an act of infinite optimism. —Gilda Radner

And with that quote from one of my favorite people, I will continue with the rest of my Mother's Day 2021. I hope you will have a fine day, too, filled with lots of laughter and remembrances. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Quality versus quantity

A beautiful bunch of tulips

This picture was taken during my recent visit to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. There were so many beautiful flowers that my eyes felt overwhelmed at times, trying to take it all in. The quality of the display was not lessened by the enormous quantity. Is that true about life in general, I wonder?

I sometimes wake in the middle of the night and think about things, and last night I began to ponder my life in terms of duration. When I was a young woman, I would often think about what I wanted to accomplish, not in my entire life, but in that moment in time, where I was headed. I could no more imagine my life today than I could fly, but I sure thought I was more in control of the trajectory of my life than I was. Now here I am, creature of habit that I am, sitting in the dark with my laptop lighting up my face as I begin to create my Sunday morning meditation.

Now that I am in the end stages of life's journey, meaning that I am not only retired from my profession, I am also looking at a body that is moving out of the decade of its seventies and looking ahead at eighty. It is not the same one I enjoyed in my twenties, or thirties, or even sixties. I look over at my dear partner, sleeping quietly next to me, and I realize that, even though we met in our fifties, we have been together almost three decades. We've been through plenty of adventures and trials during that time, and I cannot imagine my life without him by my side. I hope we'll be here together for a long time to come, but who knows? We had a scare last August when he had a stroke and although he has recovered to a semblance of normalcy, it's a different normal. It has reminded me to be grateful for every single day.

Just as most of my readers can attest, our lives have certainly changed over the past year, during the pandemic that is still killing millions of people worldwide. We in this particular part of the country are faring pretty well, but it's not gone and has the potential to get worse if we relax our pandemic restrictions too quickly. Fortunately for us, we have access to vaccines, and I and most of my closest friends are completely vaccinated. This morning I'll gather with some of them at the coffee shop, where we will sit outside and enjoy each other's company. It is springtime, after all, and today we should have sunny skies and mild temperatures. Not warm by any means, but a nice warm sweater under my jacket will make it perfect, I'm hoping.

I can barely stand to watch the news these days, as I see what is happening in other parts of the world, India in particular. We were in similar straits on the East Coast last spring, but I fear that with all the new variants and poor Indian government management, it will only get worse. And not only in India: I see that there are more Covid infections worldwide right now than ever. As of today, there are 152 million reported cases, with 90 million recovered, and more than 3 million deaths. We here in the United States have the largest number of fatalities, but the rest of the world is catching up, as we have managed to vaccinate around half of our adult population. It's been a horrible year for many of us.

There are so many things I can be grateful for, and probably one I am most thankful for is that vaccine I was able to receive, for free, and after several weeks of anxious and nervous excursions into websites to sign up for a shot, they suddenly became available to anyone around here who wants to receive one. And almost everyone inside the stores I frequent is masked and keeps their distance. Yesterday I saw one woman inside Winco's who was not wearing a mask, but she was the only one. And although we can now walk on the trails outdoors without one, most people around here still wear theirs. I've got mine around my neck, and if someone passes me while they are wearing a mask, I pull mine up out of courtesy.

I am not the only one who has noticed that we had a winter without colds or flu, because of the masks. It's going to be hard to get back to being exposed to those nuisance viruses once again. Maybe I'll just keep one wearing a mask even after we aren't required to any more. But who knows when that will be? We are a long ways from being out of the woods with Covid.

As I lay in bed thinking about things last night, I pondered my wonderful circle of friends and acquaintances. We will be having a gathering of Trailblazers on June 3rd, after our Thursday hike, to enjoy food together again and to celebrate the season. We didn't have any gathering last year, because of the pandemic, and so this means the beginning of coming back together in our new normal. Details are still to be worked out, but it will be at Lake Padden, and a few of our members will be bringing their kayaks so that others can experience that adventure, if they want. Just being together again will be wonderful.

Last week I mentioned that I will be having a tooth extraction on May 13th. I pondered whether or not to get a second opinion, since there is no pain in that molar, but after some research and talking to others who have been through similar experiences, I decided to go ahead and do it. After all, it's not going to heal up by itself, and a 9mm pocket is serious. I found this article, What to Know about Periodontal Pockets, and that was enough to make me just go ahead and do it. So now I am in the process of mourning the loss of the tooth ahead of time. I also learned that seniors over the age of 65 have, on average, only 19 teeth left out of the 32 adult teeth they began with. So I am ahead of the curve by a lot, and I'll just enjoy my remaining healthy teeth. I had my wisdom teeth out long ago and don't remember it being particularly traumatic, but as I said, it was a long time ago.

As I age, I realize how fortunate I have been in my life. Not only do I have reasonable health and the ability to pretty much do all that I want these days, I also have many advantages that many don't have: I have a primary care doctor I like (and see as little as possible), I am able to attend three yoga classes a week through Zoom, get a monthly massage from a practitioner I adore, and receive acupuncture treatments every few weeks. I never thought I would enjoy having needles stuck into my body, but I do. And I always feel much better afterwards. One of these days I'll feel better about going back to the gym, but I'm not yet ready. Plus my favorite class is gone, perhaps forever (hi-lo aerobics). 

When I first began this weekly blog post, in 2009, I could not have imagined that I would still be doing this every Sunday morning. What would I write about? How could anybody be interested in it? At first I agonized over each post, but not any more, now I just take each Sunday as it comes around, and hope for the best. As I've said before, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't. For now, I'm glad I have the mental acuity to continue, and I so look forward to the comments from my friends.

A poem from Emily Dickinson has been rolling around in my head for a day or so, and therefore it seems I should share it with you. The entire poem is here, but the part that keeps coming back to me is this:

Elder, Today, a session wiser
And fainter, too, as Wiseness is —
I find myself still softly searching
For my Delinquent Palaces —

And a Suspicion, like a Finger
Touches my Forehead now and then
That I am looking oppositely
For the site of the Kingdom of Heaven —

And with that, dear friends, I will wish you the best of weeks ahead, and that you will please find another to give thanks for all that you have and all that you share with others. The world will be better for our having given each other a sincere wish for happiness. Be well until we meet again.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Thirteen years

Cherry tree in bloom

We moved into this apartment complex thirteen years ago now, and this tree was the first thing I saw as we pulled into the parking lot, with SG driving a U-Haul and me driving my silver Honda Civic. He had made an earlier trip to the area and found this place for us, left his own car and flew back to Boulder. The two of us arrived April 17, 2008 to begin our retirement years. This seemed like a good place to gain a foothold in the area. We did move from one end of the complex to the other in 2012, but otherwise it's been our home all these years. Twenty-six units make up the place, with lots of open area around us, which has changed over time, but it's quiet and mostly serene, and we see no reason to move anywhere else.

Many tenants have come and gone, and our rent has almost doubled over that time, but we have a community garden in the back, a large front porch and two entrances to the unit, which I had never enjoyed in an apartment before. I think it's a wonderful addition to apartment living. We live simply and have good relationships with our neighbors. People are mostly respectful of each other's space, and most of the children are on the far end of the complex. I do occasionally hear them playing and find the sound soothing, much as I find the birdsong coming from the trees.

It's not ideal, but it comes as close to ideal as we could find around here, and we are happy to be renters and not owners. We try to live lightly on the land and have only modest needs. This past year during the pandemic has been hard in many ways, but it would have been the same wherever we lived. Our county is undergoing a resurgence of the virus, but it seems to be getting under control, and most of the community is respectful of the need for masking and social distancing. We are in what is called Phase 3 of reopening, meaning that restaurants, gyms and bars can have up to half capacity in their facilities.

So much has changed during this past year, but we are slowly but surely regaining some normalcy, although I am still doing my yoga classes through Zoom, and frankly I prefer it in many ways. Once we return to the studio, only a few people at a time will be able to be inside, and we will need to bring our own mats, blankets and other props. Being in enclosed spaces still bothers me, even after having been fully vaccinated. I shop at the local Costco during senior hours, and mostly spend my time in close contact with only a few regulars. The coffee shop is still closed for anything other than buying takeout. I really miss hanging out inside. My usual spot these days is the passenger seat in John's truck. It's so much better than not having any place at all to visit. The weather, however, is now beginning to warm up enough to gather outside. 

Our ten-day warm streak of full sunshine is gone, and now it's just a rainy drizzle and makes the warm cab in John's truck much more inviting than sitting around outdoors. Once I finish my post and take care of the usual morning activities, I'll drive to the coffee shop and enjoy a latte with him. And I will be very happy when we will once again gather indoors to log onto our iPads and share stories. That is a ways in the future, however. I need to be happy with what we do have, and to be grateful that I can still get outside to enjoy life.

I'm trying to change my rather gloomy mood right now. Last week I finally made it to the dentist's office for a cleaning and an exam. It had been well over a year, and I knew I needed it, although I'm one of those people who rarely appreciates having good dental care until something really hurts. Everything checked out well, except for one back molar, which has a deep "pocket" and needs to be extracted, according to the dentist. My options are limited, but since there is no pain from that tooth, I am really skeptical about the necessity for losing it. I've never had any tooth pulled except for two bottom wisdom teeth long ago. My two top ones never descended and have never given me any problems.

I did get my dentist to agree to give me a prescription for two valium pills, one to be taken the night before, and the other the morning of the procedure. But of course the whole process is constantly on my mind. I have two more weeks before the big day. In my Trailblazers weekly Zoom meeting, I heard horror stories that have NOT helped me feel better about it at all. I'm wondering if maybe I should get a second opinion about the necessity of going through all this. But then again, it seems quite common for people in their old age to lose teeth. I'm willing to consider anything, but I sure don't need to hear more stories about what might happen. My dear husband has had two pulled during the past few years, and he didn't go through anything so horrific, so maybe I'm just making it all up. But it sure is on my mind a great deal of the time.

Other than that, however, I seem to be doing quite well overall. Although my sister Norma Jean likes to brag that she doesn't have any aches and pains, mine seem to be mostly in check at the moment. Never does a day go by when I don't have to nurse something that hurts; usually it's my knees or my right ankle, but one grows accustomed to having these little annoyances. At least I do. 

I wonder sometimes how much my daily exercises help me. Every morning I perform the Five Tibetan Rites, and I realize it's now been almost a decade that they have been part of my daily routine. Several friends have also been doing them, and one thing I know for sure is that they have helped me with my lower back pain. I also try very hard to get 10,000 steps on my iPhone every day, but lately it's been hit and miss. When I was going to the hi-lo aerobics class four times a week at the gym, it was no problem: the class always gave me more than half of them in an hour. I wonder if that class will resume someday. If so, I'll be there. I miss all those fellow regulars who were there along with me and wonder if there will ever be a time when we'll be back together. It's been hard to let go of what I loved.

Everybody has to deal with tough times. A gold medal doesn't make you immune to that. A skater is used to falling down and getting up again. —Dorothy Hamill

You know I couldn't end this post without finding a quote from somebody, and once I started looking I found this one from Dorothy Hamill. I am very used to falling down and getting up again, I do it almost every day. And the need I have for routine means spending some of my Sunday morning reading quotes, looking for just the right one to leave you with. It was the image of Dorothy trying and failing, and getting up again and again that stayed with me. 

And with that, I have reached the end of another Sunday morning post. Now I can get up and out of bed, while my dear partner still sleeps next to me. The sun has already risen, but it's cloudy and drizzly out there, not exactly calling me to get on with things, but you know I will. It's my nature. And I do hope, dear friends, that this coming week will bring you joy. Life is good and I'm looking on the bright side. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Our world today

Taken yesterday at the train station

Just last week, there were so few tulips up around town, but yesterday we saw these gorgeous tulips while on our six-mile walk from downtown to the Ferry Terminal in Fairhaven and back. On Thursday, Melanie and I will venture down to the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley to see what's showing up there. When Lily and I traveled there a few weeks ago (on Easter Sunday), the daffodils were open but very few of the tulips. It's amazing how quickly that has changed.

When I went to bed last night, I wondered what I might write about today. It often comes to me during the night, but not always. It's my first task of the week, if I consider Sunday as being the first day of the week and not the last. Sunday is different: on some calendars it is on the right side and others on the left. Curious, isn't it?

Of course, we make it up ourselves. There is really no difference between days of the week, or months or years, for that matter. The sun rises and sets as it has been doing since the dawn of time, but here we are, observers who have given names to it all and believe that we are in charge of things. How silly is that? I have no more control of my life than I do over the change of seasons or the weather. 

As I make my way through this beautiful springtime, I ponder the state of the world, and especially my country. We are in the midst of a terrible period of gun violence in America, with more than 45 mass shootings in the past MONTH. People going about their business, in grocery stores, or at work, or simply just being outside, are killed for no reason other than some crazy man with a gun, usually an assault rifle. What is happening? Can it be changed or at least mitigated? It fills me with despair.

And it makes me realize that nobody anywhere is safe from it. Just as I have no idea when it will be my time to die, I realize that there is no guarantee that I will not be shot dead in the street today. Or at the coffee shop. Or in a grocery store. If not me, then some other poor soul who doesn't know where the bullets are coming from, or why. It's hard enough to navigate through our lives, but now we must be aware of death coming from an unknown adversary.

We, my partner and I, talked yesterday about taking the time to fill out some forms that will help each other if we might be killed suddenly. Ways that we can cope if we are left behind and need to take care of business. I looked online and there are plenty of workbooks and other tools for this task. We have already filled out and registered our Advance Directives, but that doesn't take care of the details we need to know if for some reason we are left behind. I found this one that I particularly like, The Final Chapter: An End of Life Organizational Planning Tool. Here's an excerpt from the description:

Having everything documented in one place relieves emotional stress, heartache, and chaos for those who are grieving. Now, more than ever, our digital world necessitates a structured depository for passwords, accounts, insurance details and other crucial information, as much of it is saved online and cannot be accessed by anyone after death.This book provides peace of mind, financial security, guidance, direction, and knowledge for the survivors’ coming days and will be a major part of your legacy. 

I went ahead and ordered this one, after reading several reviews from different versions and found this one quite useful. Many people have been using things like this during the Covid pandemic, and some reviewers were grateful for having had so much of their burden lifted when a loved one ended up dying in the hospital. We just never know how our final chapter will be written. We live in an uncertain world in an uncertain time, and this is one way to give some semblance of control over our lives. 

I realize that my readers might have found other ways to cope with today's world, and I would be so happy to hear of other approaches to this time in life. One thing I know for sure: nobody can ever say about me that I left prematurely, since I have already lived a full life. Many of those who were killed in the most recent shooting were young and their families certainly didn't expect this. 

We think about leaving behind a legacy for our loved ones, but the most important thing I can do is to remove some of the pain from my partner, who would have to figure out how to access all the different avenues left unfinished, such as (perhaps) this blog, how to get onto it and let my readers know I am gone. We all die, and certainly I have been blessed to have my faculties intact as I begin to make my way through my own final chapter. I don't have an end date, none of us do for sure, but by the time we get into our late seventies, we know it's not that far in the future. It's actually kind of a relief to open up to this task and get it behind me.

Yesterday I watched the funeral of Prince Philip, who died at 99, and had lived a full and meaningful life. I was moved by the image of his sword and his hat on top of his casket, reminding me of my own son's memorial service that had his helmet and boots in front of his picture, since he died while serving in the Army. The Prince was married to the Queen for 73 years and I was also moved by the picture of her sitting alone in the chapel. We do what we can to lessen the burden of our passing for our loved ones. Nothing can remove the grief we feel for our loss, but it's so much easier when it is expected and not a sudden death, such as from being shot dead while shopping for groceries. But even that, we can recover from.

You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly - that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. —Anne Lamott

 I wish I could have written about something more uplifting and positive, but that's just not where my mind is today. It is the state of our world today, and of my heart and mind as well. That doesn't mean I am not hopeful for the future, and for all the good that surrounds me. Sometimes life is a mixed bag, isn't it? 

But my dear partner still sleeps next to me, as normal, gently breathing, and my tea is long gone, and it's time to out of bed and step into the rest of my day. And nothing can stop me from giving thanks for the delight that all the opening flowers fill me with. And for you, my dear readers. I hope you will have a lovely and safe week, until we meet again. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Paying it forward

Skagit Valley daffodils

 I overslept this morning, and I've got a massage scheduled early, so here goes a Sunday post with little to no idea what I've got to say. It's always a little bit disconcerting to awake and find that half my morning is already gone, and I am already feeling less than serene. This picture was taken last Sunday when my friend Lily and I drove to the Skagit Valley, hoping for tulips but seeing very few, although the daffodils were in full bloom! Gazing at that picture does bring me a little more serenity.

We've had a very cool spring, and everything is behind. But coming up this week we've got a big change in the works: a week (at least) of above-normal temperatures, and everything should catch up quickly. The weather has been really strange in so many places in the world, probably because of climate change, they say, but who knows for sure? We are still in the grip of the coronavirus in much of the world, as well as countless wars and rumors of war everywhere. It's a very unsettled time in the history of the world.

And here we are, right in the middle of it all. We in the United States had the first presidential election in our history where there was not a peaceful transfer of power, with an insurrection on January 6th, and many people still not convinced in the legitimacy of President Biden. It has caused so much strife and difficulty already, and I fear there is more to come. Not since the 1960s have so many citizens marched in the streets for change. And now almost everyone has at least one gun and I wake up every day to learn of another mass shooting in my country. It's inexplicable, and many of them seem random, making me more fearful for my safety and for those around me.

There are so many homeless and hopeless people in Bellingham, and it seems to be increasing daily. As I sat in the cab of my friend John's truck yesterday as we enjoyed our coffee together, at least six homeless people walked by, some with all their belongings in a grocery cart, few dressed appropriately for the cold weather. And a few obviously in a bad mental state, shouting and cursing at everyone they see. It's a very depressing state of affairs.

However, for now we do have a functioning government, and there are places for those without homes to get some food, even as many of them are huddled in doorways in inadequate sleeping bags, trying to sleep with all their belongings surrounding them. There are homeless shelters, but many of these unfortunate people don't go there because of the rules they must follow. And they must leave each morning to walk the streets. At least we are in springtime, and the weather will soon warm and make life a tiny bit easier for them. I fear that the trickle of homeless will soon become a flood, along with all the pain and suffering that we will all be forced to endure.

Not that it seems to be any better in other countries. I shudder to read every morning about what is happening in other parts of the world, where military are executing their own citizens in Myanmar, where innocents are being starved to death in Syria and other places, and where governments are teetering on the brink of collapse. Is it just me, or is the world really in worse shape than ever? The pandemic is raging in most countries, and we endured a horrible year in 2020. People want a scapegoat and are going after Asian Americans, as if they had anything to do with the virus.

Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times. —Saint Augustine

What do you suppose St. Augustine means by that statement? That if I can live well, times shall be good? My life is pretty darn good, and I have a roof over my head and hopefully no bullets will come through my windows. I can sit in my bed on a dark Sunday morning and ponder the state of everything. I don't know how to go forward when times are so bad everywhere around me. I feel almost guilty for my good fortune, when I see so many others suffering. If there is a way for me to make the world a better place, I ask for guidance to find that path.

First of all, I realize that even in the midst of so much suffering, there is plenty to be grateful for. Yesterday I observed several acts of kindness that were unexpected by the recipients, and I saw that and even offered one myself. Kindness is catching. I realize now that is the way forward for me: find ways to spread more kindness through my own little world, and life will get better. If everyone could find a way to be kind today, we can spread that benign virus into the world. Perhaps that is what St. Augustine means by living well. What do you think?

Paying it forward is also something that can help spread kindness through the world. I read not long ago about a long line of people in cars waiting to get a chance to buy coffee, and one person paid for the coffee of the people in the car behind them, and that started a chain that went on for 11 hours, from morning to evening. You can read about it here

Upon realizing as I sit here writing, there are definitely many ways for me to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Life gives us, every day, choices to make that can either brighten the world around us, or allow us to fall into despair and consent to its becoming darker. I was well on my way to darkness until I asked for guidance and found that article. Yes, it is possible for my small little self to make things better by looking for ways to spread kindness in my immediate environment.

One of the ways I can also spread kindness is to ask my readers to start a chain of kindness in their own lives. That would be you, my dear friend, and perhaps this day will become bright enough to light many sparks that will change the world. And with that admonition, I hope to feel that this bright new day will offer many of us a new beginning. 

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, my tea is long gone, and I am ready to begin the rest of my day. I will be getting a massage in a few short hours, and that will help me, too. I hope that your day will be bright with promise and lots of love, dear friends. Until we meet again next week, be well. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter 2021

Rita Eberle-Wessner creation

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. —Rabindranath Tagore

Here we are again, the week has slid around to another Sunday, this one Easter. I went back to look at previous Easter posts I have written, and the picture I thought I might use at the beginning, of my sister Norma Jean and me with our Easter baskets many decades past, has been used too many times already. This one, snagged from one of my Flickr friends, thrills me with its perfect evocation of springtime joy.

And I love the image that comes to mind when I read that quote from Tagore. What does it mean, to "let my life lightly dance on the edges of Time"? Almost every person whom I choose to emulate has already danced there, and they have left the realm of the living and now are only present through their past works. Does it matter that they are gone from this earth? Does it make them any less relevant?

No, certainly not. Easter reminds me that we are all caught in this wonderful and magical creation of ours, that of being born into a world we know nothing about, learning and growing, moving from youth to old age, feeling ourselves the same, but always dancing on the edges of Time. After living through a pandemic winter, the birds are now singing, the flowers emerging from the ground, and my life feels filled with promise. We are not through to the other side of the pandemic just yet, but there is much to be grateful for and to enjoy through each moment of the day.

Easter always comes on a different Sunday, and I learned that it was decided to be held the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, by the First Council of Nicea in AD325. It's also the celebration of Passover, the eight-day-long Jewish celebration of the Israelites being freed from Egyptian slavery. It's not by coincidence that all these events happen at the same time. But why in the world has Easter become associated with bunnies and Easter eggs? Here's why:

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.

The celebrations of annual events has been followed by humans immemorial, and here we are in 2021, still following the same paths set down by our ancestors. It makes sense, since we are all experiencing our magnificent planet and its seasons throughout our lives, whether we dance lightly on the edges of Time for a long or short moment. It's sort of reassuring to me to realize that even as momentous events occur, the march of the seasons stays the same through the years. Easter comes and Easter goes, but will return again and again.

For me, the holiday is also a time to remember those who are (as they say) on the other side of the grass. My parents are both gone, but when I sleep at night, my mother often visits me in my dreams. My children are both gone, but my son Chris sometimes comes to laugh and rejoice with me, and I remember that all that I am today is part of my history that will never disappear as long as I breathe.

And it is also a time to count my blessings, which are numerous. As I sit here in the dark with my laptop, I feel the presence of my dear partner, who sleeps next to me, and my gratitude for him in my life only grows as the time passes. When he had a stroke last August, and I worried that I might lose him, it became very clear to me that I had better appreciate our time together every single day. He has mostly recovered from it, but he's different now. In some ways it has been a good thing: he's more emotional and less reticent to share his feelings with me. He still makes puns and bad jokes that cause me to groan in protest, but now they are precious and unique. But he also still struggles to speak clearly and works on making progress every day. If anything, I love and cherish him more because of the stroke.

During this last year, I was unable to carry on my life as usual, and now what I realize is how much of my routine was fungible: although now that I walk with one or two friends, I still walk. If I cannot hike in the mountains, I can still enjoy the wonderful forest environment within a few minutes drive from here. I do miss my workouts at the gym, but three Zoom yoga classes a week in my living room have helped me stay moderately fit. And some things will never return to their pre-pandemic place in my daily life, but it's not something to lament, just to notice and appreciate today.

And yes, there is always my social calendar, one which I am enjoying right this moment: a conversation with my virtual family. Once I finish this post and hit publish, I will look forward to your comments and hear what you have to say. One day soon, I should be able to attend a movie theater inside, but for now I am happy to keep things virtual. Now that I am fully vaccinated, I feel so much less apprehensive about walking around in close proximity to others. Here in my town, we are all still wearing masks and keeping our distance, but lately I have been able to hug dear friends who are also vaccinated. It's wonderful and something I once took for granted.

And with that, dear friends, I will finish off with an Easter wish for you: that you will find joy and companionship in your day. And that you will also remember that whatever else happens, you are appreciated. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Living the dash

Camellia in bloom

Walking back home after my coffee shop visit, I saw a bush laden with camellias in bloom already. It's almost April, but I am always taken aback by how quickly we go from winter to spring in this part of the country. And since this pandemic started, I've altered my route from the bus stop back home, making for a longer walk. I am not getting the same amount of exercise every day that I did before, but I've managed to find ways to get in most of my steps through determined effort. And now the weather is getting better and being outdoors is much more pleasant than it was when it was dark and wet.

Have you heard the phrase "living the dash" before? It refers to the line used in obituaries between one's birth year and one's death, as in (my case) 1942–20xx. Obviously I don't yet know what those last two marks will be, because I seem to be hanging in there still today, into the third decade of the 21st century. One day my relatives and friends will be able to complete it. Happens to everybody eventually. So we are busy living our dashes as we progress through our days.

Yesterday I watched a very moving documentary about Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993). I always loved watching her in movies, and I remember her work as an ambassador for UNICEF in her later years. For some reason, I thought she had grown quite old, but she was only 63 when she died of a rare form of stomach cancer. She had two children, both boys, one from each of her two marriages, and she apparently had suffered miscarriages as well. She wanted to have lots of children, but it was not to be. I am well aware of how little most of us are able to plan out our lives. She was an amazing woman who would be in her nineties today if she had lived that long. I tend to think of her has having died prematurely, but is that really true? If one dies in their forties or fifties, that is definitely premature, but living until one is well into their sixties, I'm not sure. In some ways I look at my own life, rolling quickly towards my ninth decade of life, and I know I've been fortunate and have lived the vast majority of my dash already. No premature death for me.

Audrey accomplished so much during her life. She was fluent in six languages and made some memorable movies. I loved Breakfast at Tiffany's when I first saw it many years ago, and thanks to the miracle of today's world, I think I'll watch it again for free on Amazon Prime, which I subscribe to. She won an Oscar for her performance in that movie and is one of only a handful of people who have garnered an EGOT: which is shorthand for receiving an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. She was such a kind person, and you could see it in her face over the years she performed, and in the documentary you can tell how much she cared about the starving children she raised money for. During the time she was affiliated with UNICEF, contributions more than doubled because of her efforts. And she also found true love in her later years. If you subscribe to Netflix, you can see the documentary yourself.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years. —Audrey Hepburn
That was certainly true about Audrey: she is more beautiful in her later years than in her youth. And because of film, we have the ability to see all the phases of her life, from her first movie to this documentary that covers her life after she left Hollywood behind. Even today she is enriching my life and that of many others. Who could ask for a better legacy?

* * * 

I am now fully vaccinated. Last Tuesday I went to PeaceHealth, where I received my second Pfizer dose, and on April 9th, two weeks after that shot, I will be as safe as possible from the coronavirus. Nobody knows yet how long that immunity will last, but for now I am quite happy to know that I am protected from Covid and its variants. It is a good feeling, and yesterday I went to a restaurant for brunch after my walk. Lily treated me to a wonderful vegan meal at Twin Sisters Brewery, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating and seemed to be doing a brisk business. We are now able to have restaurants at 50% capacity, meaning that we are through the hardest part of the pandemic, and hopefully businesses will now begin to recover. I read somewhere that more than 2,000 restaurants have closed permanently in Seattle, never to return. That means all those employees will have to find other jobs.

I was expecting that I might have some after-effects from the shot, but other than a sore arm and a few aches and pains (which I might have had anyway), it was pretty easy. And a minor headache that didn't require me to take anything, but it's gone now, and I'm feeling happy to be among the thousands of old people who cannot pass it to others. There is still a five to ten percent chance of getting it, but if I do it should be a mild illness, probably similar to what I experienced last March. It was difficult a year ago to get a test, so I don't know for sure whether or not I had it, and fortunately I am not one of those people who developed what is called "long Covid," where you don't really get over it but continue to have symptoms that vary from mild to severe, and never let up. That must be really hard to deal with. This virus has truly altered our world, and not for the better.

But we are through the worst of it, at least in the US. I am hoping that we will not have another surge, although we are still getting more than a thousand new cases across the country every day. I am certainly not going to stop wearing a mask or keeping my distance from others. It's funny, I now feel quite happy to have my face covering, and considering that we didn't get much of a flu season because of it, maybe it would be a good idea to keep on with the masking in public places. They do it in Asian countries, where masks are pretty permanent accessories. Just another way our lives have changed. Plus I have quite a collection of them now.

Well, dear friends, that pretty much wraps up another Sunday post. I enjoyed writing this one, mostly because of Audrey, and now that my tea is gone and my dear partner sleeps next to me, everything feels bright and a new day beckons. 

I do hope that whatever you do with your day, it will be a good one. And remember, whatever you find to do with it, find a way to spread around some kindness. It will make the world a better place, as well as brighten your own day. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The evening of life

Red rainbow by Rita Eberle-Wessner

One of my favorite artists is Rita Eberle-Wessner, and I snagged this wonderful picture of hers from her Flickr site. She lives in Belgium and I am impressed with her ability to capture nature incredibly well. Of course, it helps that she uses a professional Canon Mark IV for many of these beauties. I looked it up to see how much it costs and realized it is not for me! I'll stick to my iPhone camera and snag hers for my own enjoyment. And yours, too, in this case.

This morning I'm looking back at my long life, and how many times I've completely changed everything in it, becoming an old woman very gradually but inexorably. I caught a glimpse of myself yesterday and was shocked by how deep the wrinkles around my mouth have gotten. I feel like the same person throughout my life, but the journey from a child to a young adult feels like ancient history. Even becoming a retired person feels like a long time ago; it's been thirteen years.

When I see the age of people I admire, I realize that many times these people were born what seems like not long ago to me, but they are now adults and making a mark on the world. Chadwick Boseman was only 43 when he died, but he had already become famous for his incredible acting ability. I just watched his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, his last movie, and I was so moved by his performance that I cannot forget that last scene. We are all diminished by his passing, but we will have his legacy of films to celebrate for a long time to come.

I'm in the process of seeing all the Oscar-nominated films, as is my habit, although this time it is from the comfort of my living room, and without my movie-going partner, Judy, while we are in the midst of a viral pandemic. This coming Tuesday I will get my second shot; SG had his second one last Friday, and hopefully after a few more weeks, I'll be as protected against the virus as I can be. Our post-pandemic life will look different across the world, but from here, the beginning of spring (or autumn in the Southern Hemisphere), it looks like we still have a ways to go. Canada just announced another month of border closure, making it well into the second year without the ability to travel across the border from the US. I'm a long way from considering travel, but one day we will be able to do so safely. Not today, though.

Today, I am pondering what it means to grow old. I've been given the gift of life for many decades now, and as I emerge from the decade of my seventies and tentatively place a toe into that of my eighties, I wonder why in the world people continue to live and in some cases thrive for so long. Anyone who loves his or her pets knows that they will not outlive us: their shorter life spans means they will leave us and we will grieve their loss. It doesn't mean we won't continue to love and enjoy them, just that we know what it means in the time ahead. 
A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning. —Carl Jung

I found this intriguing quote from one of my favorite authors. When I was younger, I studied Jung's work and read many of his most famous books. He was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst well known in the middle of the twentieth century. He died in 1961 at the age of 85. I think he was a man ahead of his time, and he came up with several concepts that have become mainstream. Read more about Carl Jung on his Wikipedia site here

I wonder what he would think of the internet and how connected we have all become to our smartphones and social media in general. It all happened after he died, but he seemed to know what was coming, writing extensively about the collective unconscious:

As modern humans go through their process of individuation, moving out of the collective unconscious into mature selves, they establish a persona—which can be understood simply as that small portion of the collective psyche which they embody, perform, and identify with. The collective unconscious exerts overwhelming influence on the minds of individuals. These effects of course vary widely, however, since they involve virtually every emotion and situation. At times, the collective unconscious can terrify, but it can also heal.

Well, to be fair, Jung wrote about everything in massive volumes of work, as well as giving lectures throughout the world. He was tremendously prolific, and continues to be very relevant in today's world. And I really wonder what he would think of these new collections of humans in the virtual world, such as this blog, with so many of my dear friends whom I will never sit down in a room with, but who are as important to me as any of the rest of my family. Our world has changed significantly with the advent of this new connectivity.

For me, my laptop and its ability to let me know what is happening in the entire world almost instantaneously has become essential and rather routine. Here I am sitting in my bed with the laptop, writing a post that will soon be published to anyone who wishes to read it, anywhere in the world, along with thousands of others that are being created as I write, by others like me, many of whom are also old. We bring our wisdom and beliefs into the blogosphere to share and amplify. There are people who, I'm told, look forward to this missive every Sunday as a way to regulate their Sundays into a regular routine.

Although I am looking at the sunset of my life, it is also at the beginning of a new day, and a new season. We have made it through another winter and I so look forward to the enjoyment of spring flowers, green plants shooting up out of the ground as if they were impatiently waiting for the sun to awaken them. My goodness, I have so many ways to feel joy and love that I can barely count them all. And not least in that list is feeling grateful for the physical body that carries me through all my days. Even though it's true that age has brought me aches and pains that will only increase as I age further, I cannot deny that I welcome them, listen to them, as they help me decide what I might be able to accomplish today, this first full day of spring.

Of course, the first task is almost finished: writing this post. Then, it will be time to leap out of bed (figuratively, that is) and get on with the rest of my day. That always starts the same way: washing up, dressing, brushing my teeth, and going out onto the front porch to do my exercises. And then it's off in my car to the coffee shop, where John will already be drinking coffee in his truck, waiting for me. 

One day we will once again be able to gather around the table inside, but not today, not yet. We'll be wearing our masks out in public, but since John is part of my "bubble," we'll take them off while we drink our coffee. If we get out of the cab, we'll put them back on again. I feel very fortunate that my entire town seems to be cognizant of the need for protection from the virus, even as other places are apparently ignoring the pandemic. I hope they will stay safe and not infect others on purpose.

And with that, my dear virtual family, I will leave you to enjoy your day, with lots of hopeful wishes for happiness as we move through yet another moment on this beautiful planet, with love and joy surrounding us everywhere. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Hodgepodge post

Buds are out

Yesterday I went out on a very nice five-mile walk with my friend Melanie, with lots of sunshine and a few wispy clouds, but oh how the signs of spring are everywhere! Even these fruit trees are beginning to be laden with blossoms, after a few days of sun and spring just around the corner. Today is Pi Day, March 14, with the first day of spring coming in five days: March 20 at 2:37am (here in the Pacific time zone). Oh, and then there's St. Patrick's Day next Wednesday!

What is Pi Day, you ask? Here's a fun fact about the date:

Pi denotes the relationship between a circle’s circumference and its diameter and is denoted by the fraction 22/7 which calculates approximately to 3.14. One of the most widely recognized mathematical constant, π, is an irrational number, the digits of which repeat in a random fashion and are never ending.

 Some people, those who write their dates with the day first, such as 22 July, celebrate Pi Day in the middle of summer (22/7). I guess for some people this is even more common, but I didn't know any of that when I began to look it up for this post. I've always heard that Pi Day falls in March, and it's an excuse to celebrate by eating some pie.

And I just learned that this morning, those who live in Chicago woke up to the traditional dyeing green of the Chicago River, as a surprise move for the city. Because of the pandemic, it was thought the tradition would be skipped this year, but the mayor sent out a tweet: "Although we didn’t gather, we were able to honor long-standing tradition by dyeing the Chicago River green, thanks to the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers." How we love to celebrate annual traditions! It was canceled last year because of the pandemic, so it's lovely to see another semblance of normalcy returning. If having a green river is normal, that is. Why green? Wikipedia tells me this:

The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.

 So, we have plenty of reasons to celebrate right now, it seems. That, and the passage of a huge stimulus bill in Congress, which will soon cause some extra money to show up in my bank account. I just checked: it's not there yet, but I did see on the news that some people have already received it, although the bill was just passed and signed into law on Thursday. More green that we can all appreciate.

Since there is no real focus for this post, I figure I can write about anything I want, and hope that in the end it will make for some interesting reading. Usually when Sunday morning comes around, I've got an idea of what I will say, but that's just not true today, so I decided to go with the flow. Hodgepodge (a confused mixture) gives me a bit of leeway to let the words take me where they will.

I'm in the process of trying to watch all the movies that are likely to be nominated for an Oscar, even though it's not in a movie theater with my friend Judy like usual. Yesterday I watched Da 5 Bloods, a Spike Lee creation that has gained plenty of Oscar buzz. The main reason why, I think, is the incredible performance of Delroy Lindo, who plays Paul, one of the four Vietnam vets who return to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen leader, and to find the gold bars they discovered and buried. I couldn't quite place where I'd seen Lindo before, but then I realized he plays a character in The Good Fight, which I very much enjoyed. But he's nothing like that guy in this movie. If you can deal with the violence of war (and greed), I recommend this movie wholeheartedly. It is, so far, the most impactful one I've seen, and Spike Lee has outdone himself.

Spike Lee’s new joint is an anguished, funny, violent argument with and about American history, with an unforgettable performance from Delroy Lindo at its heart. (A.O. Scott, NYT)

There are two more I'm looking forward to seeing, but both of them require me to pay an extra $20 rental fee to watch them: Minari and The Father. I will probably be required to pony up that extra cash in order to see them, and I might decide to wait until the Oscars are announced, which should be tomorrow, March 15.

So there's plenty to feel good about right now, as we move towards a new season in our world, and in our hearts. I think finally the pandemic is beginning to recede, but it's still very much present in the world, and we have every reason to keep wearing our masks, keeping our distance, and washing our hands. I will receive my second Covid vaccine shot on the 23rd, if all goes as planned, and two weeks after that I should be as safe as anyone else can be. It seems it will be awhile before we reach herd immunity here in the US, but it's on the horizon, at least, thanks to three wonderful and effective vaccines. I'm a Pfizer recipient, but I would have taken any one of the three in order to gain immunity from this awful virus.

And with that, this hodgepodge post has finally found its inevitable end. My tea is gone, dear partner still sleeping next to me, and a new day ahead, even if I did miss an hour of sleep last night. I'll make up for it tonight, though. I do hope you will find lots of reasons to celebrate this week, and until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well until then, dear friends.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Being brave

Golden Ears, Canadian mountains

I took this picture of these mountains right at sunrise a few years back, just at the right time to capture them in glorious color. I am looking across Bellingham Bay into Canada, and when I saw this, I stopped the car on my way to join the Saturday walk I did every single Saturday, for years. Until this past year, when the whole world changed with the pandemic.

 My life has certainly changed enormously since then. Now I still walk with one or two people on Saturday, because it's such an important part of my life, but I haven't been able to walk or hike with more than a few people for over a year now. I'm sure it's pretty much the same with everybody, but we are all hoping that as the Covid vaccine becomes available to us, we might be able to return to a semblance of normalcy. Whatever that means, post-pandemic. I have received the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and by the end of the month, I should become fully vaccinated against the virus. So much of the world still has no access to the vaccines, so I suppose I should feel grateful.

It's a bit hard for me to maintain a positive attitude, because the political situation around the world is in such flux, and it seems like things are falling apart. Every morning I read the news on my laptop, and during the week I tune in to the PBS Newshour every evening. I despair about the military coup in Myanmar, with the soldiers killing innocent protesters with impunity, just because they can. A young 19-year-old woman was one of them, her life cut short because of her activism. She was aware of the danger and did it anyway. She had told her parents and friends what to do with her things if she died. And the next day, even more protesters filled the streets, defiant and fully aware of the risks.

This past year I have been unable to watch any of the movies I would normally have watched in my favorite theater with my friend Judy. She has a very immune compromised husband and has stayed pretty much indoors or close by her neighborhood in order to protect him. We have lost touch, although she did call me on my birthday and fill me in on her limited life. Maybe later this year we will be able to get back together. She's just one of the people I miss.

I've been trying to watch some of the streaming movies that were released during 2020 and are possible award winners. Yesterday I watched The Trial of the Chicago Seven on Netflix, which has been available online since last October, but I wasn't made aware of it until I watched the Golden Globes. It covers the time when those who were arrested during the riots that took place in Chicago where the Democratic National Convention of 1968 occurred. I remember those times, but I was a young woman who only peripherally paid attention to current events. 

I had forgotten how incredibly scary those times were, and how much our country suffered from the awful effects of graft and corruption at the highest levels in the city of Chicago. The movie reminded me that this is not the only time in our country's history when we almost lost our freedom to political dirty tricks. So many young protesters came to Chicago to march against the Vietnam War and demand that our government change direction. That movie might not have been the most uplifting way for me to spend my Saturday, but I'm so glad I did. For one thing, it tied the events in the world today with the bravery and dedication of those who protested in the name of something they believed in back then. Fifty years ago, I well remember how despairing I was of the direction of our country, after the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

There is no shortage of brave and courageous young people in today's world. I see it every day on the news, and I see it also in the actions of many who are working to make the world a better place, even during this pandemic. Now that I am old and have seen much during my decades of life, I can reflect on how we will get through this period, too, and perhaps we will be better for it. It is definitely a time that we will never forget, and we might even see it in later years as an inflection point, a time when the world changed in positive and uplifting ways.

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism. —Alexander Hamilton

I am hopeful. It's a much better way to feel than despairing. There are moments when I look for the bravery that others exhibit to appear in my own self, and occasionally I am rewarded with the courage to look ahead with joy and hope in my heart. I am reminded how even someone like the Cowardly Lion was able to overcome his fears when he wanted to help Dorothy. Maybe that's why he came to me in a dream last week: to buoy up my own courage. The image from the movie of the Tin Man hanging onto his tail as they climbed the mountain that led into the castle where she was imprisoned, that image is uppermost in my mind as I begin to finish this post.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I am ready to take on the new day, with love and hope in my heart. My tea is gone, and spring moves ever closer on the calendar, bringing lots of new growth to enjoy and admire. I do hope this coming week will bring you plenty of ways to appreciate your life and your loved ones. Until we meet again next week, be well, dear friends.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Over the rainbow

Emerging crocus

I saw this precious early sign of spring to come while out walking in my neighborhood. Not only the crocus, but all the budding green shoots filled my heart with happiness. We made it through yet another winter, this one especially hard because of the pandemic. Better times are ahead.

As I have heard many times lately, and I hope it's true, the most difficult part of the worldwide pandemic is behind us. Perhaps that's why a couple of nights ago I had the most wonderful dream, filled with light and laughter, and a character from my past: the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz. Why did he appear in my dream, and what is the message I took from him? I remembered his "roar," a little whiff that makes me smile just to think of it.

I decided to find the entire movie and watch it again. Unfortunately, it's not streaming on any of my current apps at the moment, so I ended up joining HBO Max in order to watch it at home. I had been contemplating signing up for it anyway, since several studios are releasing this year's movies on the video app. Although it will be awhile before I can see myself walking into my favorite movie theater, I'll now be able to see them all before the awards season starts in earnest.

My father used to tell the story of the time he took my sister Norma Jean and me to the theater to see the movie. We were so scared, he said, about the tornado at the beginning, and I suspect also the witch, we climbed under the seats and cried until he took us out of the theater. I remembered the transition from sepia to technicolor very well, especially the ruby slippers and how gorgeous they looked to my young eyes.

My adult self watched the entire movie and took away so much that I had forgotten. Yes, I've seen it several times over the years, but yesterday it was a completely new story for me, with all the characters bringing up various emotions. And questions that never occurred to me before were: what happened to Dorothy's parents? Was she dreaming the entire story or did she actually go to Oz? Suffice it to say, I loved it when I re-watched it considering our current worldwide woes, and it gave me a bit of hope for the future. And I once again realized that the movie is truly a masterpiece.

I'm curious as to why the Cowardly Lion was so present in my dream, and I wonder what he personifies in my life today. Bert Lahr's performance was wonderful, and I laughed at his antics once again ("put 'em up, put 'em up"), at his comical tears and smiled at his willingness to work through his cowardice to stand up for Dorothy. There was also much more humor in the movie than I remembered from previous viewings.

I didn't realize until reading about the movie, how it was filmed and all the actors who were considered for the various parts, that it was based on a book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank Baum in May 1900. It's been reissued many times since, and perhaps it would be useful to find a copy and read it today. Perhaps I'd find out what happened to her parents.

Obviously, a movie made in 1939 no longer has anybody still alive who was part of the phenomenon that it became. We are left with a delightful artifact from that period in history, and I know I will want to watch it at least once more before I myself head over the rainbow. To me, that is what the rainbow represents: leaving the world of the living and heading off to where the bluebirds fly.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top that's where you'll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high 

Today I might spend some time looking at my new HBO Max app and maybe even settle in for a nice revisit of another movie that I remember from long ago, or even a new one. If the weather cooperates, I might even head out for a nice walk and see if those crocus flowers are still there two days later. At this time of the year, our environment changes in the blink of an eye. Yesterday, when I was walking with my friend Melanie, we saw some daffodils just ready to bloom, and on the way back an hour later, some had already opened in the full sunshine.

And what, my dear online friends, will you do with this wonderful irreplaceable day that we have ahead? I know some of you will already have experienced the day, since I'm over on the west coast of the US and many of you are even already into the next cycle. It always amazes me when I open my reader and see that it's already the next day over in Australia. So, whatever part of the cycle you are in, I hope it's a good one, and that you will spend at least part of it with your loved companions.

My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I am now ready to start the rest of my Sunday. By the time I visit with you again next week, I hope I will have received the first of two vaccine shots. It's been tough getting an appointment, and I won't actually believe it until it's behind me, but I think this will be the week when it happens. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Skydiving boogies

Formation built at a boogie

During my three decades as an active skydiver, I would often go off to "boogies," gatherings of skydivers from all over the world, usually ten days long, with aircraft of every sort to jump from. Although I was going to write about hiking today, last night in my dreams I spent much of the night creating many outlandish skydives, and I woke this morning with a smile on my face. What fun we had, both in real life and in those dreams.

That picture was taken on Christmas Eve 2002, on an organized load with both me and SG in it. I'm on the far left in purple, and you can see his white jumpsuit behind me. Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I made ten skydives, and on this one we had a photographer who captured this great picture. (Michael McGowan has made money for decades taking pictures like this one on organized skydives at Skydive Arizona.)

The reason I can give you all these details is because skydivers usually keep a journal of their dives, so they can be remembered. When you make ten in two days, it's easy to forget all the essentials. I'm not sure if this formation is called a Texas Star, but if not, it's similar. I rummaged through my stack of journals until I found the entry for this one. It's not very detailed, since I was more than a little tired at the end of each day, but I needed to put something in there before I lost the thread of my wonderful two days. It was almost two decades ago now, and I cannot imagine doing such a marathon session of skydives today! Or jumping out of an airplane at all, for that matter. My last skydive was in 2015, and then I sold my gear so that I would not be tempted to keep going when I knew it was time to quit.

For years, I worked on my skydiving skills, and I was an instructor for many of them, which helped me rack up the numbers. As many of my longtime readers might recall, I made more than 4,000 altogether, with one year making over 400, at the height of my passion. I never had a weekend when I wasn't working or playing in the sky. I was able to afford it all because I made money as an instructor and then spent it at boogies, so that I wouldn't need to pay taxes on that income. I also spent time in the occasional wind tunnel. This was taken at the wind tunnel in Orlando, during a five-day-long training session.

I was #A2, it seems

Time spent in wind tunnels did not count towards the hours I amassed in skydives, but it sure helped me learn better how to use my body in flight. (USPA gives awards for every 12 hour of freefall.) Looking at these pictures now, I am more than a little impressed that I was so dedicated. However, that was then, and times change and we grow older with every passing day. I sure had a wonderful career as a skydiver and love to look back at those days.

Every once in awhile I'll have a dream that takes me back to the thrill of a boogie, and that is what happened last night. I emerged from sleep up after having found five other women to make a special skydive with, and even though I can't remember now how it turned out, it must have been good since I woke feeling so happy.

Yesterday I was able to get an appointment for a Covid shot for both me and SG, thanks to my friend John, who called me as soon as he heard about this nearby pharmacy that was scheduling appointments. They were going fast, as you had to fill out a form that took awhile, and although we are now scheduled for shots a day apart, hopefully they will happen. I had an appointment through another place but it was canceled due to a shortage of vaccines caused by the terrible weather across the country. Our current ones are scheduled for the first week in March, and hopefully by then the vaccines will be available again. I almost didn't mention our luck in getting these appointments, thinking I might jinx it. 

I can't help but think that we are past the major shortages and that the vaccine supply will soon become more plentiful, but there really is no way to know for sure. Frankly, trying to score those appointments gave me as much stress and anxiety as I used to feel getting ready to make a skydive! Times sure do change, don't they?

Although I don't skydive any more, I am still a member of USPA (US Parachute Association) and receive the monthly magazine. There was a time that I would read it from cover to cover as soon as it arrived, but now I make a cursory pass through, mostly looking for people I used to know. Unfortunately, I also see how many of my old friends are no longer alive, either from an accident or, most often these days, passing away from natural causes. 

It is a constant reminder to me to cherish every single day of my life. Although I no longer jump out of perfectly good airplanes for fun, I have a universe of memories and dear friends I will never forget. I met SG through skydiving, so you can see how much it changed my life for good. We are able to make comments to each other that no one else would understand. Why I cannot remember any of them as I write is partly because I am now forgetting things more often. Not a good thing for a skydiver to realize. But I am still able to hike, walk with friends for long distances, and enjoy my yoga classes on Zoom. It is important to remember and cherish these times, too, because as life moves on, our abilities change as well.

The more time passes in your life, I think the greater you understand perspective. So I'm happy that I've had experiences that have reminded me that most exciting things might not feel so exciting later, and the most disappointing things might not be so disappointing later, either. —K. Flay

Well, it's getting to be the time for me to reluctantly put my old skydiving journals back on the shelf and start preparing for the rest of my Sunday. I have finished my tea, and my dear partner snores gently next to me. I still have a few little snippets of memory of last night's dreams to enjoy, but turning to the present moment and what I might be able to accomplish today seems more important. I do hope that you, my dear reader, will be well and find some joy to share with others in the coming week. I wish the same for myself. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Let's talk about love

Mama and me

 I of course have no conscious memory of this time in my life, when I was an infant surrounded and embraced by my mother's love. But I still carry within my heart the effect of that love, because although now I am old and Mama is gone, love endures forever.

Growing up, I was not conscious of the importance of being loved and cherished, but a person is harmed when they don't receive it. Instead of being deprived of love, I was the center of the universe. I am sure that I was a tyrant, for the first years of my life, since I didn't have to share that love with anybody else. Then my sister was born, and I actually had to begin to learn that reality meant sharing, and even beginning to expand my horizons to include loving my sister. Now I cannot imagine my world without her. 

Love doesn't have to spread itself thin when one loves more people; it grows and expands. My heart fills with love when I think of those who are part of my life. In fact, when I started to think about writing a post about love,  I could feel myself relax and smile inside, and it reminded me of the healing power of love, both given and received. Love is a medicine cabinet all by itself.

I watched the past week of the impeachment trial on TV, not completely, but with the sound off and listening when something would appear of interest to me. It was a hard thing to watch those videos of what actually happened inside our Capitol on January 6th, but it was (in my view) important to chronicle the entire event and hope that we can keep it from ever happening again, no matter the outcome of the trial. I felt real love and admiration for so many heroes of that day, and was surprised and impressed with the skill that the impeachment managers displayed in producing a coherent timeline. But I'm glad it's over and hopefully we can begin to look forward instead of backward. President Biden is certainly making some good choices, in my opinion, and once we get that new stimulus package into the hands of the American people, I believe we will be in much better shape.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's interesting to me that we have created a day out of our calendar that is dedicated to love: today.  February 14th is St. Valentine's Day, which celebrates a Roman Catholic saint, but there is more to the story.

The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. He links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day—an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. (from History)

 Well, I'm glad we don't have a day dedicated to hate! Just as I feel such healing powers when I think about love, I feel just the opposite when I experience hatred, for anything or anybody. It's the feeling that fills my heart with awfulness and causes my blood pressure to rise. I try very hard to stay with love, or at least acceptance, for everything and everybody as they are, not as I'd like them to be.

I am still trying very hard to get the vaccine so that I can be protected from the coronavirus, but there is such a shortage in our county that I'm letting it go and hoping that I can stay safe until such time as there is no problem receiving the jab(s). My doctor says that they will let me know when I can schedule a shot, and I keep checking the sources I have, but so far, no luck. In our county, they are giving the vaccine to those with underlying conditions and those at least 87 years old. I'm not there yet. 

We had a snowstorm here yesterday, and I didn't get out for my usual walk, so today I am hoping that I'll be able to bundle up and get outdoors. My friend John picked me up in his heavy-duty truck yesterday to take me to the coffee shop, and he will do the same again today. It's nice to know I don't have to try to drive on slippery and snowy streets. I do appreciate having his help, and that he is willing. I could of course make coffee here, but I need to get outside, even if I cannot do much quite yet. And I enjoy his company.

My morning routine is almost always to head to the coffee shop after getting out of bed, but Sundays require some time spent writing this post, first thing. My tea is now gone, and my dear partner is still sleeping next to me, and I can feel that it's getting to be time to move into the rest of my day. I am thinking about you, my dear friends, and hoping that you will find some way to appreciate and love those in your own circle, both present and past, and have some chocolate, too! I know I will. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Telling the truth

Lake Padden

I spent a bit of time looking for a picture to put on this post, since I had already decided I wanted to write about truth in the world we live in today, and nothing quite fit. This picture, taken during one of my countless trips around Lake Padden was as good as anything else. Why write about truth? Isn't it something we all know?

Apparently not. I have been pondering about whether we are living in a "post-truth" world, and last night I watched The Divided States of America on CNN, which only made me wonder even more what is happening in the world around me. The special program about what is pulling us apart, and more than anything, it seems to be that we are having a harder and harder time figuring out what is true and what is false. Is this partly because of the incredible number of sources we now have available to us to learn about the news of the day?

When I was young, we only had the three networks to choose from (ABC, CBS, and NBC) on TV, and I was not allowed to change the channel from Walter Cronkite when it was time for the news. As an adult, I remember watching him when Kennedy was assassinated, and he was like a trusted member of the family: no one would ever have doubted that he told us anything but the truth. 

As I pondered what angle to write about truth and lies, I did a little research. These days I have the incredible power of the internet, Wikipedia (which is now huge and 80 times larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica), and many fact-checking websites. I found an interesting article on Skeptic.com about why we are NOT living in a post-truth world. Here's a small excerpt from the article:

So we must safeguard the truth and rationality-promoting mission of universities precisely because we are not living in a post-truth era. Humans indeed are often irrational, but not always and everywhere. The rational angels of our nature can and must be encouraged by truth-promoting norms and institutions. Many are succeeding, despite what seems like a growth in reason inequality. 

 The CNN program showed the awful storming of our Capitol on January 6th and made me feel scared about the direction of the country. But during the final segment, Fareed Zakaria, the host, laid out a few possible ways to fix things, and I was pleased to hear his sense of optimism about the future. When he pointed out that as we grow more divided in our beliefs, we need to spend a little time standing in the shoes of those on the other side of the divide, and try to understand why someone would feel the way they do. He suggested a national call to service, much like the Peace Corps, but one that functions inside the country, rather than outside of it. People who live in San Francisco could volunteer to help in a rural farming community and see what life is like in another part of the country. That was one solution that appeals to me, although now that I am too old to even consider such service, I certainly hope that others will.

During my research, I also learned that one of the reasons we humans underestimated the pandemic so much is that we have difficulty understanding exponential growth. We think in very linear ways, rather than realizing how much things can change in the blink of an eye when change comes exponentially. One way to think about it is to envision a piece of paper that could be folded in half infinitely. How many times would you have to fold an 8x10 piece of paper in half to reach the moon? Well, I was more than a little surprised to learn that the number is: 45. What!? That is why we lost control of the pandemic's impact on our world: its exponential growth and our inability to realize its power.

Ah, yes: the pandemic. It has changed our world in so many ways, and I wonder whether we will ever return to a sense of normality. Of course, it's only been a year since we tried to quell the virus by shutting everything down. It's been almost a year since I was last able to attend classes at the Y, a year since our restaurants and coffee shops closed to everything except purchasing our items and leaving. No more hanging out, other than when the weather was nice and we could sit outside, socially distanced.

I have adapted to the new normal, but I really miss the social connections that have fallen away. I can no longer visit friends casually, and the last time I spent any quality time with my dear friends Lily and Hedi was in the summer when we could sit outside. Now it's February. My world is so much smaller, but I do make an effort to stay connected through texts and the occasional phone call. And of course I have a few friends whom I see every day, or almost every day. It makes me feel less isolated, and I do make a real effort to get my outdoor exercise daily.

Returning to the idea of telling the truth, I realize that I was taught that lies are easily identified, but that's simply not true. One of the problems I have these days is trying to figure out what the facts actually are. I am indebted to several websites that help me figure out that dilemma. Some that I use regularly are snopes.com and fivethirtyeight.com. Do you have others that help you figure out our social situation better? I hope you will share them.

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'try to be a little kinder.' —Aldous Huxley

 My ability to write by the seat of my pants (figuratively) on my blog has also become a lifeline through the virtual community that has been created here. I look forward to hearing from my commenters, who actually feel as much like family as, well, family does. My dear partner still sleeps while I write here, and I am trying to find a way to extricate myself from what has turned out to be a bit of a slog. I keep trying to find different ways to express myself, and sometimes it works better than others. I might have to return to this subject later on.

Until then, and until we meet again, I do hope you will have a wonderful and meaningful time in your life. Life is so unpredictable, but one thing that seems to have become an immovable object is sitting down on a Sunday morning and pressing these keys until it's time to stop. That would be about now, dear friends. Don't forget to count your blessings and give yourself a pat on the back for being a truth teller.

P.S. I just read today's cartoons, and this one is perfect for today's post (click to enlarge):