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

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

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 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.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fall ruminations

Whatcom Falls

 Yesterday morning the three of us ladies walked in Whatcom Falls park and I took this picture, showing how puny the falls can get. We've been in a drought, with little rain (as usual) this summer, and the falls are almost nonexistent. After weeks of rain, the entire area from left to right will be filled with roaring water, making it almost impossible to hear each other talking while standing here. But not today. This is the lowest level of the falls that I've seen since I moved here in 2008.

The trees are beginning to change color, just at the beginning of the season, and the rain is supposed to return this coming week. The change is pretty normal for mid-September and marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year. Cool weather, clear skies, punctuated by the occasional shower, perfect for a nice walk with just a light jacket. 

Yesterday was also the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and it has been impossible to turn on the TV without being reminded again and again of that awful time in our nation's history. It began our longest period of war and it has not ended yet, even if we have left Afghanistan and Iraq. Those countries are in terrible shape, and it does make me wonder what it was all for. So many soldiers and civilians dead. I can barely stand to think of it, so we pretty much kept the TV turned off this past weekend and hope we can move on to more positive memories soon.

Much of my attention these days has been towards taking off a few pounds. I started keeping track of my daily food intake, using an app on my phone, and I see it's now been 30 days since I began. It reminds me of how often I will lose a pound or two at the beginning of a diet and then enter a plateau where the scales stubbornly stay the same for awhile. When the entire amount of weight to lose is a small number, for me under ten pounds, seeing any progress comes and goes, which is normal. I've added more protein into my diet, which helps keep me from being too hungry, and it's been helpful to cut back and make every calorie come from healthy food rather than comfort food.

Even if the scales are not registering the weight loss, I can tell that I'm losing weight by the way my clothes fit. I have a pair of favorite pants that have needed a belt to stay up, and for months I managed to wear them without that belt. And they no longer are comfortable without it, which makes me happy. My belly has begun to shrink a little, so I will continue until I lose another three pounds over the next month or so. I'm moving in the right direction; nothing is more demoralizing than to be gaining pounds on my small frame. 

As I sit here in bed, in the dim light with the laptop sitting open, I can hear the rain starting, and the sound makes a light drumming on the roof, reminding me that we won't be having clear skies today. It is time to pull out my numerous rain jackets for the coming days ahead. It's a nice change and I really don't mind, and if it's not a downpour, it's nice to walk in it now and then. It doesn't take much for all the brown grass to begin to green up once again. 

I'm not feeling very inspired to write anything with much substance this morning, and I wonder why. It's not like I haven't been reading plenty of books and watching the occasional movie. Several friends asked if I had watched CODA, a new film about a young girl who is the only hearing person in her family. CODA is an acronym for "Child of Deaf Adults," and I found it moving and very uplifting. It apparently won all sorts of awards at the Sundance Film Festival. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it.

My sister recommended a book to me that I suggested last week that you might also enjoy, The Midnight Library. I ordered another book by the same author, Matt Haig, How to Stop Time, which I also enjoyed. It's not as wonderful as his previous book, but I will now make an effort to read everything he's written. One reviewer said this book is "a meditation on the tick and tock of time and mortality." From the above link:

Tom Hazard is a high school history teacher who has just moved back to London. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but due to a rare condition, he has been alive for centuries. Tom was born in 1581 in France and has lived history alongside famous historical characters such as Shakespeare, Captain Cook, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

 It is interesting to think about what it would be like to live forever, or at least for longer than our short lifespan. I remember long ago thinking about that, and realizing with a shock that all the people I love would be left behind in such a situation. And now here I am, old enough to have lost many dear friends and family already, and I wouldn't like it at all. Better to be a "mayfly" in the world (one who lives only for a day) than an "albatross" (long lived birds). In any event, the premise of the book was a good one and a good speculation about what it would be like to live for centuries.

Since our society equates happiness with youth, we often assume that sorrow, quiet desperation, and hopelessness go hand in hand with getting older. They don't. Emotional pain or numbness are symptoms of living the wrong life, not a long life. —Martha Beck

I can attest to the fact that getting older has its benefits. I am fortunate to live in a situation where I have access to healthy food (sometimes a bit too much of it), lots of green trails to explore, a comfortable place to live, and a dear sweet partner who helps me navigate the shoals of growing older. I look at him and see how hard he works to make our living situation better, and I am grateful. I pretty much have everything I need to continue comfortably in this life for a bit longer. But I do have to remember that it won't always be like this, and to stop and look around to help myself continue to be grateful, even when things change.  

The rain has stopped for the moment, and I feel the need to wrap up this post and begin the rest of my day. I will have 1,200 calories to spend, including a visit to the coffee shop for my oat latte, and time to spend with my friends there. Then I will come home and consider how I might enjoy the rest of my day. One thing I always do these days is stop to consider my dear virtual friends; I will visit your blogs and see how the world looks from your vantage point. I do hope it's a good day for you, too. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Kindness in today's world

Front porch flowers yesterday

Not knowing for sure what I might write about, yesterday I snapped this picture of my front porch flowers to start the process: showing what my petunias and geraniums are doing right now. I look at the flowers in my fellow bloggers' posts and realize my little offering is modest. But just right for me, since I tend to be someone whose garden needs to flourish under my "benign neglect." In other words, I enjoy looking at them and making sure they are watered, but otherwise they must get by without much else.
I've been searching for ways to heal myself, and I've found that kindness is the best way. —Lady Gaga

Kindness. What an interesting concept. I've written before about how much better it feels to treat others with kindness rather than hatred, to see them as we would like to be seen, and having a sense of forgiveness for slights, great or small,  to allow ourselves to grow in kindness.

It's amazing how much that can change my mood and the trajectory of my entire day. Finding ways to choose the softer, more inclusive path makes my life feel so much better. In other posts I've given ideas of how we might find more kindness in our lives, with the incredibly distressing news cycle trying hard to make us suspicious of everything and everybody. But it doesn't have to be like that. 

Instead, we can start each day with the idea that we will be agents of good today, that we will find ways to make someone else's day better. After all, this day is really all we have: our hopes and dreams can disappear in the blink of an eye. Nobody has a  guarantee that there will be a tomorrow, so let's take the present moment and use it for joy and love. We do get to choose that much.

This past week I joined the Senior Trailblazers for a hike I have enjoyed for more than a decade. The weather was perfect, late summer and clear skies made for a cold start in the High Country, but more than a dozen of us made the trek together. It was really nice to see everyone again, but I was so nervous about whether I could still do it that I hardly slept the night before. I worried that I would have ankle problems, or overheat as I have often lately, and I built the entire excursion into a problem. 

It occurs to me that I am no longer the risk taker I was in my earlier years. No, these days I am happy to keep going in a much safer, more sedate way. This is someone who enjoyed hurling herself out of an airplane several times in one day. But that was then. Now, I am so very happy to walk or hike, using my trekking poles for balance, with good friends in the wilderness and forests of my world. And remembering always to give thanks for the ability to continue well into my late seventies. 

I read a really good story this past week, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. It's a book that will make you think about what your life might have been like, if only you had made a different decision in some past situation. From that link:

As a place, the Midnight Library isn't really a library (of course), but is instead a 101-level lecture in parallel universe theory, philosophy and quantum indeterminacy. Really, it's a therapist simulator, minus the couch. A place of regret and possibility. Because who, in their darkest moments — or maybe just on a Tuesday — hasn't wondered what life would be like if only...

 I really enjoyed the book and thinking about how different my own life would have been if I had taken off in a different direction at various junctures in my life. If I had not made that first tandem jump back in 1990 and not having fallen in love with freefall, I would never had met my life partner, for one thing. As he sleeps next to me, I try but fail to imagine my life without him. Although we don't jump out of airplanes together any more, skydiving shaped my life and changed its trajectory forever. We have been together now for three decades and watched each other grow old. We met just before our fiftieth birthdays and, doing the math, you know we are well into our final years. Happy together in ways I could never have imagined.

When I retired from my job in 2007, we made the decision to move somewhere other than Colorado. What if we had chosen to stay, or to move some place like, for instance, Louisiana? Or New Jersey? Those places are in the news today because of Hurricane Ida, which caused enormous destruction as it tore apart entire cities this past week.

I am being careful here, because I could easily go down the path in my writing to consider today's news cycle. But I won't, since I believe most of us are looking for something else to fill our minds with. Like love and joy and hope and happiness. These aspects of life are always available to us by changing the direction of our thoughts, by looking past the present difficulties and being grateful for that which is always present in our lives: peace and hope for a better future. As I write this, I realize that there are many of us who are suffering, but it is possible to look beyond today's problems to a time when things will get better. And one thing I can promise you: it will change, because nothing in life holds still. It's always changing, and we can imagine a happy future just as well as any other.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. —Albert Einstein

I am incredibly blessed in my own present world, but I also know it will not stay this way forever. Life isn't like that, but it doesn't mean I need to cower in a corner and be afraid of what is coming. It does mean that I must continue to take care of myself and my surroundings as best I can, and look ahead to more joy and love in my life, no matter what else comes along. We can all do that, if we just put our minds to it. 

Oh, yes. A good friend of mine has always said "yes" to the world and what comes to her through it. And why not? It's so much easier to say yes than to try to push the river into our own idea of what our lives should look like. I so enjoy seeing how others are coping during this difficult time in the history of the world. Many of us are continuing to support and love each other, choosing kindness instead of meanness, choosing love instead of hate: we can do that through every breath we take.

And now it's time for me to finish up this post so I can publish it and see what you, my dear virtual friends, have to add to it. I always look forward to each one's "take" on my Sunday morning musings. And I do hope you will find some way today to add a little kindness to the world around you. I'll do the same and we will have made a difference.

My tea is gone, my dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, and the world looks so much brighter right now than it did when I sat down to write. Be well, dear ones, and I look forward to the coming week, with light and love in my heart.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Contemplating being alive

Squalicum Harbor yesterday

Yesterday, Saturday, my friend Melanie and I walked for around five miles at the marina in Bellingham Bay, under sunny and delightful skies. It wasn't very hot, since the sun at this time of the year is quickly moving towards the fall equinox. It's the very last days of summer, with just a week before the Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of the summer. The actual equinox will be on September 22, three weeks from this coming Wednesday. Right around the corner.

This is my favorite time of the year, when the days are crystal clear but not hot, and the trees begin to turn colors, while flowers are still abundant everywhere I look. I am so fortunate to still be able to walk that distance, at my age. I know so many other people who cannot because of injuries or other infirmities. But I am still alive and enjoying every single day as much as possible. I know it won't last. Nothing does, really: not youth, not health, or even the season of life.

When I look at how much has changed in the world during my lifetime, which is considerable but not all that long in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty amazing. When I was born in 1942, the entire world population was 2.3 billion, while today we are approaching 8 billion. That statistic alone tells the tale of how much our world has changed. You cannot add that many people into the world without profound deleterious effects. We are changing the climate in terrifying ways, along with many billions of children born into a world that cannot feed them. And I could go on and on with the bleak outlook that comes along with the population explosion, but I won't. That's not what I want to focus on, but instead I want to think about how much the last eight decades of life have given me.

There are many significant people still alive who were also born in that year: President Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Barbra Streisand, Harrison Ford, to name a few. And there are many other famous people who have died: Stephen Hawking, Jimi Hendrix, and Jerry Garcia, among many others. I remember when each one died, and I don't remember thinking that their deaths were premature, other than Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970 at the age of 27. I wonder what he would say about the world today. He accomplished so much in his short life and is still well known more than a half century after his death.

I learned to read at an early age, and I know that being able to make sense of my world was much increased by having that skill. These days, graduating from high school is no assurance that you will have learned to read. I suppose you could function quite well by just being able to watch TV. I well remember when we got our first one (I was a pre-teen), a black-and-white console that took up lots of space in the living room. It was our connection to the outside world, even though the snowy images of newscasters was very different from the images we see today. Are we better off for having such incredible connectivity? I wonder. Now I immediately am aware of everything of note that is happening throughout the entire world, and it's enough to dismay even the most positive of outlooks. 

Even though there are so many people, we are still making progress on extending the lifespan of those of us who are alive today. Now you can get new knees, hips, and shoulders, even if you don't realize how much will be required to regain your mobility, and it's just not the same. I haven't needed any of that, and I don't think at my age that I would submit to it. After all, now that I have lived a full life, I have to consider the quality of those years I have left. Fortunately I can still get out and walk and enjoy the forests and trails that surround me. If I couldn't get out and about any longer, I think I would find some way to enjoy the outdoors differently. One of my blogging friends was active and spent plenty of time outdoors, and then he had a procedure that ended up paralyzing him and putting him into a wheelchair. He has found a way to continue to enjoy life, and I appreciate reading about his life today and find it inspiring.

 When I was 57, I needed to have my knee repaired after having torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). I remember going to a couple of doctors who suggested that I should just learn to live with it, at my advanced age. It took several visits to surgeons before I found one that would work on me. I was reminded of how difficult the rehab would be and asked if I felt I was up to it. And I got the work done and learned just what they were talking about. It was not easy, but it was worth it. 

Today I have a good friend who is getting his second shoulder rebuilt, an even more difficult procedure, and he is 81! How times have changed. He has already gotten new knees and does pretty well with them, even going dancing now and then, and now his shoulders are being replaced, one at a time. I have considered what I would have done if I were in his shoes, and I'm not sure I would want to endure it. But it's not my choice to make. Everybody needs to do what feels right for them. 

It would be different if I were in constant pain, I suspect. Not that I don't have twinges of pain and discomfort from my joints, but I can still carry on with the help of exercises and, especially, yoga. I do think that practice has helped me stay flexible and able to continue to enjoy the outdoors to the maximum. When that changes, I will reconsider. But I am determined to enjoy the time left to me, and I will continue what has become sacred to me, my Sunday morning meditation here, and my ability to connect to my dear virtual friends. 

But as in all things, it is time to bring this post to an end, so I can get out of bed and get on with the rest of my day. It's taken longer than usual to get here, and I feel the pull of the day helping me to bring it to a close. You might notice I have given little bandwidth to the news of the day. That is on purpose; I need a break from it, as I'm sure you do, too.

My dear partner still sleeps quietly, my tea is gone, and I am ready to start the rest of my day. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Golden days of summer

Sunflower beauty

Late summer. When everything is so pretty because you know what's coming behind all the bursting flowers. It's my favorite time of the year, when the garden is at its peak of production, tomatoes ripen, the birds and bees are abundant, and the cool weather will not be a sometime event, but every day will be a mixture of sun and clouds, with the rain hopefully returning. The trees are beginning to show their fall colors already.

I am not a summer person. Exercising in the heat has become very hard for me, and I wilt in the sunshine. It wasn't always this way, but lately I am careful not to expose myself to full sun while trying to walk uphill. Don't misunderstand me; I am very happy to be able to still hike several miles and appreciate my body's abilities, especially at my advanced age. Every day I see people younger than me who are not fit enough to join me on my walks, so I give thanks for what I have. 

It's interesting to think about how much my life has changed over the decades, and how throughout it all, it's been important to me that I can walk and hike and basically do all that. So many things that I thought were important have fallen away, such as running and skydiving. There was a time when I believed that I would never want to stop those things and that I would be able to continue forever.

It makes me wonder if the same would be true if I couldn't go into the forests around here and walk to my heart's content. One of these days I might be unable to continue to do the things that seem impossible to give up. What I have learned over the decades is that I can, and that I will find a way to be happy and content with whatever life brings to me. For now, I need to appreciate each day and keep taking care of myself. I know I am fortunate and don't want to take it for granted.

Several of my online friends have told me that they are no longer watching the news on a daily basis. I am still addicted to it, but I now keep my consumption down to a bare minimum, so that I can continue to find equanimity in my daily life. It's true that where you focus your attention can make all the difference between enjoyment and despair. And what good does it accomplish to cry and grieve at the world situation, when my own small circle is the only place I can find joy and love?
Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief. —Marcus Tullius Cicero
I am grateful for my friends, both physical and virtual. I have learned how other people are coping during this tumultuous time in the history of the world. I am also finding new ways to see the world around me. I know it is possible to lose track of what's important and drown in sorrow, because I've been there quite a few times in the past few weeks. I need to keep myself uplifted rather than allow myself to give in to the darkness. And I will. Perhaps I can bring you along with me, what do you say? Or maybe you will bring ME into the light and we can dance in the sunbeams together. I believe that's what friends are for.

* * *

I've got several books going at once right now, and one has helped me to fall asleep every night, by reading just one short chapter after I climb into bed. It's another David Michie book, which is giving me another look at mindfulness and meditation. Once upon a time I meditated every day and found it to be very fulfilling, and these days I have attempted to find some time to take up the practice again. In any event, his writings always make me feel lighter and happier. 

My sister Norma Jean also told me about a book she read recently and recommended it highly: Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I've downloaded it onto my Paperwhite but haven't started it yet. I read the reviews and am looking forward to reading it. It's been a bestseller for a year now, and has been included on many lists as one not to miss, so I've also got that treasure to look forward to.

About that Paperwhite: I've found that reading on the device allows me to continue reading for much longer than when I am reading straight text from a physical book. My brother suggested that I enlarge and bold the text and find a font that I find appealing. I've done all that, and now I can lay aside my reading glasses and keep going for much longer. My eyes are definitely fading, due to the macular degeneration, but this helps me so much that I am encouraged I'll be able to keep reading for a good long time to come. That also makes me happy.

When I look at my life through the lens of gratitude, I can't imagine why I would not be able to find joy everywhere I look. I have so many reasons to celebrate each day as it comes. Sunday mornings I begin my day with this post, and although I had no idea what would come out today, I know that in spite of whatever my readers might glean from it, the post has helped me to change my own perspective to one that looks forward to the day to come, and those that follow as well. 

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and he's so still that I listen for his breathing. Ah, there it is, all is well. My tea is gone and my latte at the coffee shop beckons, along with my friends who will join me there, as usual. It's supposed to rain today, and after all the dry days, I'm looking forward to putting on my raincoat and allowing the cleansing drops to fall around me. Life is good.

I hope that whatever this day brings, you will find a moment to look around and see what wonders abound. They are there, with just a little nudge towards joy, I'll bet most of us can find some. Please remember that you are valued and that at least one person wishes you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Contemplating roses

Cornwall Rose Garden rose

 Truths and roses have thorns about them. —Henry David Thoreau

We have reached the Ides of August (the middle of the month) and late summer of 2021. It's a fraught time in the history of the planet. I wish there were more good news these days, but every time I turn on the TV and settle in to watch what's happening in the world today, I feel emotional pain, not just for the way the Covid virus is apparently sending us all backwards into lockdown, but how the children are vulnerable, and that this is still seen by some as a hoax. I feel also the pain of the people in the Middle East, where Afghanistan is falling to the Taliban, probably this week. Then yesterday Haiti suffered another earthquake and hundreds of people are buried in the rubble. And that's just the headlines.

I could go on and on, but I won't. It doesn't seem to help to wallow in misery, and there's enough of it in the news that I cannot easily bring myself to look away. For my own health, however, I realize that I must find the other side of this moment and think what it will look like in retrospect. What will be read about in history books about this moment in time? That it was when we turned the corner and started the journey towards truth and reconciliation? Or the moment when we lost our way completely and gave up the pretense that we are in charge in any way at all? Only time will give us the answer to that. The one thing I know for sure is that it is a pivotal and decisive moment.

So I will settle in on this Sunday morning to look for the bright spots in my own life, since there are many, and why not bring the moment into my own bedroom, listening to the sounds of summer outside my window? Yes, that is a much better idea than to try and make sense of the rest of it. I can hear a gull calling, interspersed with the harsh call of crows, and the distant sound of a train whistle. Otherwise, it is quiet as we await the sunrise. Days are much shorter now, and the sun doesn't come up until a few minutes after 6:00am today. We are losing more than three minutes of daylight every day, which adds up to quite a lot every week. 

As we get closer to the autumnal equinox, the world around me begins to ready itself for fall: leaves are beginning to change color, the garden is in full display, with grapes ripening on the arbor that Carter fashioned from a small planting of a few years ago. I thought it was strange when I saw him putting up large beams of driftwood over the area, but now it is a sweet little grotto of shade and the grapes are abundant everywhere. I had no idea that grape plants grew so quickly! It's so lovely and within less than a month we will be eating the fruit.

Last week I got quite a shock when I stepped on the scales, something I do every morning. I knew that I had been eating more than I should, and foods that I find comforting, like ice cream and buttered toast. Finally I could no longer deny what had transpired: it was either buy larger clothes or decide to stop the slide. I saw a number on the scales that I hadn't seen in years, so I decided to start counting my calories again. I had deleted from my phone an app I've used before, Lose It! When I got rid of it before, it told me that I would lose all my previous information, but when I downloaded it again, I found that it recognized me and gave me access to all the foods and meals I had entered before. What a nice surprise!

Now I am back to reasonable eating again, remembering how tasty an apple is when you are not looking for a big bowl of coffee ice cream. It makes me approach food quite differently when I must count those calories and not just rummage around aimlessly for something to munch on. And with all the wonderful salad delights that abound in the garden, it's become my newest project: lose that weight! It's been almost a week, and I can already see the difference in the way my favorite shorts fit. Instead of being uncomfortably tight, I can actually slide a finger or two into the waistband. Of course, they are a bit looser for having been worn for a couple of days, but still! I'm happy that I'm back again to thinking of food as fuel. It amazes me at how quickly I reach the daily calorie limit, in order to lose a half-pound a week, which is plenty fast enough for me. And it's also nice to treat myself as a worthwhile project.

Today our weather has broken from the latest heat wave and smoky skies we endured all last week. Today it's normal again, with clear skies and good air quality, which was impacted by the British Columbia forest fires and plenty of abnormally hot days. At least not what we usually have in mid-August. We will once again enjoy temperatures in the mid-seventies (24°C) during the day, and cool nights. And since the nights are getting longer and the days shorter, we have hopefully weathered the worst of the summer heat for this year. It was so strange to see orange skies and being unable to close our windows because of the hot temperatures. I rejoice in our usual delightful weather.

I am still enjoying my three-times-a-week Zoom yoga classes, although my favorite teacher has moved on after a decade and a half of instructing us. The new teacher will soon become another favorite, I think, since she's not only very sweet and attentive to her students, but she challenges us just enough and takes our individual needs into consideration. I will miss Denise (my previous instructor) for a long time, but she has promised to make a couple of videos for us to purchase from her, so we can go back into the past and enjoy her teaching at our leisure. Not exactly the same as a live class, but I'll take it.

Today is the anniversary of my son Chris' death, as well as the anniversary of the birthday of my son Stephen. Both of them are with the angels, but this is a day I don't let go by without acknowledging, and thinking of how different my life would have been if they had stayed on the planet as my children. By now they would probably both have given me great-grandchildren. Instead, I rejoice in the offspring of my blogging friends. It gives me great pleasure to see those remote children growing up and becoming grownups themselves. I love them very much and am so appreciative of the sharing of their lives with me and all others who read your blogs. I love my electronic family!

I just looked at the clock and realize that I've been here for almost two hours now, composing this for our enjoyment, and helping me to put into perspective this last week of news of the world. It helps me to write this, and I hope it helps you too. I tried not to dwell on the negative but emphasize the positive. One thing we all know is that it will change, the world with its trials and tribulations will continue to evolve into whatever is coming next. I am optimistic.

And with that, dear friends, I will leave you for today. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, the sun came up and is brightening my day, and the coffee shop and my friends there are beckoning. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Changing of the seasons

Dahlias mark late summer

I'll be glad when summer heat is behind us, but this week we have two or three days ahead that will be difficult for those of us who don't do well when it's hot: it won't be as bad as the awful heat at the end of June, but it won't be much fun, either. My ideal outdoor temperature is around 70°F (20-21°C), but we will be close to (or surpass) 90° by Thursday. 

Never mind. On the calendar, we are already past the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, which means that the worst of the high temperatures is behind us up here in the far northwestern corner of the country. And one thing that remains constant in our lives is change. I just re-read my post from last week, and I am sorry to tell you this one will be a seat-of-the-pants post, rather than one so well put together. Last week I began to think about what I would write a few days before, but this week it's just me again, no wonderful TED talk to inspire me, just my regular ruminations. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. As I sit here at the beginning, I am curious to see what emerges.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have reached my advanced age without real illness to deal with, but of course I have all the everyday problems that most of us struggle with as we age. I no longer seem to be able to hike uphill in full sun without having to slow way down and suffer, wishing I were anywhere else. My friend Melanie practically hauled me up to the pass on last Thursday's hike, encouraging me that I could do it as I struggled upwards. Once I was in the shade and resting, I was okay, but I noticed that night when I lay in bed waiting for sleep, my pulse rate was much higher than normal, reminding me that I had to get plenty of rest to recover. And I did; I slept nine hours and woke feeling refreshed.

Good thing, too: Friday was a full day, with my usual trip to the coffee shop and a trip to the gym to ride the stationary bike, then walking home through the blackberry bushes with lots of tasty ripe bursts on my tongue; then to my acupuncturist's office for a treatment and lastly, a massage. By the time I walked back home after all that, I felt wonderful.  

Yesterday was a nice five-mile walk in light rain with Melanie. We walked to Squalicum Harbor, one of our favorite Saturday walks, and it was delightful to experience some rain for a change: it had been 53 days since our last sprinkles, and although we only got a quarter of an inch for the entire day, it was enough to clear the air and give us nice cool temperatures. We finished with a quick trip to the Saturday Farmers' Market and shared a freshly baked scone. 

And now here I sit in the dark, listening to the morning sounds coming through the open window, tapping my keys and thinking about what's on my mind. I've been reading a book that I'm enjoying quite a lot. It's just one of three other books I'm making my way through, one in hardback and the rest on my Kindle. I think I told you that I recently purchased a Paperwhite Kindle and retired my old Kindle Fire. I love it and find it much easier to use than actual physical books. I'm also getting in the habit of re-reading books I enjoy a lot, and there they are, right at my fingertips on my Paperwhite. The battery lasts for an amazing amount of time, and I've found settings that are easier on my eyes and allow me to read longer than I would otherwise.

The book I'm enjoying so much is The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Four Paws of Spiritual Success. It's part of a series of four books, and David Michie, the author, writes from the point of view of a fabulous cat. He introduces the reader to many Buddhist beliefs and ideas, and all of it is easy to understand without getting into the philosophical weeds. And it ties together many different aspects of my own spiritual journey. I've now been practicing yoga for more than six years now and have enjoyed the readings each instructor gives at the beginning of class, which all come from B.K.S. Iyengar's book Light on Yoga, who founded the branch of yoga I practice.
The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually — to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul — harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. —Gary Zukav

 Through yoga practice, I've learned quite a lot about the spiritual values listed above: harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. It all is summed up in Michie's book about HHC, the Dalai Lama's cat (His Holiness' Cat) and intriguing for people like me who are always searching for ways to find harmony in one's life.

Now that I am approaching my seventy-ninth birthday, I find myself looking for ways to express my gratitude for all that I've lived through: I've endured grief, joy, sadness, and I find myself today surrounded by love for the life I've been blessed with. I did think when I was young that by the time I reached the age of almost eighty that I'd be ready to let go and lie down for my final sleep. But right now, today, I am filled with enough joyous energy to feel like I could keep going for a long time to come. But I know better. Our bodies were not designed to keep us going for much longer than I've already experienced. I will attempt to make use of these waning years of life to the fullest I can.

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away. —Zhuangzi

I am learning about impermanence, the ebb and flow of life and the precious gift of having lived at all. When I was young, it was scary to think of death, but now it seems like part of the blessing of living: My life won't last, just like everything else, and requires me to stop what I'm doing and open my eyes, look around in wonder, and take each day as it comes.  

I'm sitting here in midsummer with the joy of fall right around the corner. And I know I have the coffee shop directly ahead of me in this day's enjoyment, once I get up and start the rest of my day. My dear partner, who takes such good care of me, is still sleeping quietly as I tap the keys. The sun has risen and light flows through the window, beckoning me to come outside and play.

Dear friends, until we meet again next week, God willing, I hope you will enjoy a wonderful week filled with friends and family and furry cats, if that is what you wish. Please be safe and I wish you all good things.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Resilience

The old oak from Rita Eberle-Wessner

Sometimes when I am at a loss for a header picture for my Sunday posts, I peruse the wonderful work of Rita Eberle-Wessner, one of my favorite artists on Flickr. She has the ability to capture dreamlike states in her art, and I chose this one for today, showing this gorgeous old oak tree. We don't have many such beautiful oak trees in this particular part of America, but I do remember when I was growing up these trees were so much more plentiful. Wikipedia tells me:
White oaks and oaks in general are held sacred by many cultures. The Celts believed oaks to be sacred because of their size, durability, and nourishing acorns. The Celts named the oak the King of Trees and used the oak tree during many rituals. ... They also believed that the burning of oak leaves purifies the atmosphere.

 This tree and picture symbolize the thought that has been on my mind this past week: resilience. I have followed the Tokyo Olympics this past week with real interest in how these athletes are dealing with so much adversity. And then I listened to a TED talk by Lucy Hone, entitled "Three Secrets of Resilient People." That link takes you to a transcript of the talk, which I enjoyed tremendously and hope you will, too.

She tells us of a horrific traffic accident in 2014 that killed her 12-year-old daughter, her daughter's best friend and the friend's mother as well. She was devastated, and although she had earned a masters in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in wellbeing science/public health from Auckland University of Technology University, she found that she needed to find her own journey back to being mentally healthy and able to deal with the tragedy.

I know that many of you know that I too have lost two of my own, both having been sudden losses: one when my baby was 13 months old and contracted spinal meningitis, and the other when my grown 40-year-old son died of a heart attack while jogging, at the age of 40. Both of these events are long in my past, but I had to find a way to navigate through real grief. I was only 22 when Stephen died. Sick in the afternoon and dead that night. Chris was in the Army, where he was stationed in Germany and was on a three-month mission in Macedonia. Neither death was supposed to happen like that. But somehow I survived, and I have learned the lessons Lucy tells about in her talk. How to become resilient in the face of adversity.

Nobody who gets to be my age has a life without loss; it's part and parcel of the gift of being alive. We all die, even though we often forget that inconvenient truth while living our lives from day to day, but sometimes the loss of someone precious to us reminds us of this fact. Here are the three secrets of resilience, according to Lucy.

(1) Resilient people get that shit happens. Suffering is a part of everyday life, and no one I know has escaped it. Sometimes it comes from loss of a person, or it comes from an injury that keeps us from carrying out our daily lives like we think we should be able to. But nobody escapes unscathed, unless you live in a miraculous bubble. I'm not sure who I would be if I hadn't had such loss. It sure makes me treasure every day that I had with my departed loved ones,

(2) Resilient people are good at choosing where they put their attention. It reminds me of that famous and well-known phrase, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." I have found that one of the most healing things I can do is to remind myself of the many ways I am fortunate, and find a way to be grateful. Some people write a daily gratitude list, but Lucy suggests that if we are depressed, find three good things that happened to you today and think about them. I've been doing that while I wait for sleep to come to me, and I find it reassuring that there are always many good events in my daily life.

(3) Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?” Lucy says that this one has gotten the most feedback that it works. "Whether you’re ruminating over the past, or scrolling through social media, ask yourself whether what you’re doing — the way you’re thinking, the way you’re acting — is helping or harming you. That puts you back in the driver’s seat. It gives you some control over your decision-making.”

When I'm feeling down, I have a few techniques I use to help myself feel better, and the first one for me is always exercise of some sort: a walk in the forest or a session at the gym. It invariably gives me another perspective, and although whatever is bothering me doesn't go away, it changes my outlook. And there is the passage of time, the knowledge that whatever is happening will not keep me in the same state if I just look for something that will make me feel better. I like the idea of asking myself whether what I'm doing is helpful or harmful to my mental state.

I have watched Simone Biles come to grips with her inability to perform as expected, and not because of a physical inability but because she's not mentally able to push through her "twisties" as she calls it. Not knowing up from down while performing dangerous routines sounds terrifying. Last week I almost wrote in this post that I had a premonition that she might get hurt in the Olympics. I had a bad feeling, but I didn't know why, other than she has pushed herself almost beyond what is possible! But Simone chose to withdraw rather than go forward when she knew she shouldn't. I read recently that she was anxious to get the Olympics behind her so she could live a more normal life, and when they were pushed back a year, she was really devastated. So many people were counting on her to be flawless and she had to hang on for another year.

Well, in my opinion, she showed what a real heroine looks like. She did not try to push through it or keep going until she got hurt. And she has shown real grace and beauty in NOT performing. I don't know if she will enter either of the two remaining events she is scheduled to compete in. In some ways I hope she bows out and gives all the rest of us an example for taking care of ourselves first and not allowing the tremendous pressure we put on ourselves to dominate our lives. Simone is a true champion and survivor. Who knows how many lives she has changed for the better?

Like that old ancient oak tree, which has its roots deep into the earth, we are part of all that surrounds us, and we do get to choose what we focus on. I'd like to think that my invisible branches reach out and protect those less fortunate than me, and that I can provide a little virtual shade from the summer sun by sitting here in my dark room and tapping away at my keyboard, reveling in my dear partner sleeping away next to me, and giving thanks for the life I have right now, today.

I honor all those who struggle to make sense of our world today, and who share their insights with the rest of us. It makes me hopeful that we will get through another day with at least three good things to reflect on as we slip into another night of rest. I cherish you and give thanks for your presence in my life. I feel the call to visit the coffee shop and my dear friends there, as well. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Gazing at the stars

Lilium "Stargazer"

 I have been walking by these beautiful lilies every day this past week, on my way back home from the bus. The smell makes it through even to my own impaired smeller, so strong that I cannot even imagine someone trying to put a bouquet of these flowers inside their house. They are in a private garden and are taller than me. I found this information about the Stargazer online.

Stargazer lilies are often incorrectly called "Rubrum" lilies. Rubrums were a predecessor commercial lily to the 'Stargazers' whose flowers pointed down to the ground. As such, consumers and other end users thought the Rubrums' downward-facing flowers looked wilted. The 'Stargazer' lily was created in 1974 by Leslie Woodriff, a lily breeder in California, to overcome this downward look. Woodriff called the new cross 'Stargazer', because the blooms faced towards the sky.

 They have only been around since 1974, which feels like almost yesterday to me. It's impossible to believe that it's been close to a half century since they were created (47 years, to be exact).  I was a young woman back then, too. I hadn't even gone on many of my adventures, and I hadn't even started working at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) in Boulder, Colorado. And I worked there for three decades. Where does the time go? How can I be almost eighty already?

Today is also my younger sister Norma Jean's 76th birthday. Being less than three years apart in age, we were constant companions growing up, and I still talk with her for a couple of hours on FaceTime once a month, just to keep in touch. Although I do have other siblings, I am not as close to them as I am to her. Mostly I follow them on Facebook or we send one another texts now and then, but I don't feel the need to connect with them like I do with Norma Jean.

Taking a shared bath

When you can share a small sink with your sibling like this, you tend to bond more tightly than if there is more age distance between you. She never knew a world without me in it, and I only had a few short years to have my parents' devotion entirely to myself. But my world has been so much richer and stronger because she is in it. Happy birthday, dear sister!

* * *

Have you been following the star-crossed Olympics? They started this weekend in Tokyo, after having been delayed for a year because of the pandemic. They are perhaps the strangest Olympics in history: there are no spectators allowed inside to watch the events, and the pandemic is still going strong in many parts of the world, with Japan no exception. How strange to see empty stands and empty streets as what is usually a crowded venue is eerily silent. But they are still happening, and I am anxiously watching how Simone Biles is doing. Her dangerous routine is so advanced that most other athletes will not even attempt it. I just hope she will be okay, whether or not she garners a place on the medal podium. 

However the Olympics turn out, I just hope that everyone will be able to return to their own countries without mishap. And that they don't end up spreading the virus to innocent citizens in Tokyo and beyond. It's a little hard for me to understand why they didn't just wait another year. Or is it possible that we will never again be without the coronavirus hanging around in our lives? If we can just get everyone inoculated against it, we should be fine. But what a herculean effort is required to vaccinate eight billion people. I believe we can do it, given enough time.

I don't even want to think about all the climate disasters that are occurring every single day. I read recently that the scariest show on TV these days is the Weather Channel. Floods and fires galore. It's almost like all the worst climate predictions are coming true all at once. All I can think about is that it will get better, it has to because it can hardly get worse. However, I don't have to dwell on it, I can go for a nice walk in the sunshine, water my garden and be grateful for all the wonderful fresh veggies that emerge from the ground, or even go out onto my shaded front porch and do some yoga poses to clear my mind. What do you do to make yourself feel better when things are difficult?

And there's always gazing at the stars, or visiting the Astronomy Picture of the Day website to look at distant galaxies to remind myself that all the tribulations I am experiencing here are just small little blips in the larger scheme of things. Changing my perspective is the best way I've found to get through tough times. That, and staying away from doom and gloom as best I can, so that the sense of love and compassion emerges strong and shining in my heart. No matter what else happens, those attributes never are very far away, if I just look for them.

My day is just beginning, and the constant sunshine is beating down on all the green and lush forests and parks within my reach. All I have to do is leave the gloom behind and concentrate on the love that surrounds me. I can feel it even here, as I tap away at the keys and listen to the even breathing from my dear partner sleeping next to me. And I can also feel the presence of my invisible community, my electronic friends who read this after I hit "publish." I look forward to your comments, and I hope so much that you are having a good day, a good year, a good life. 

Don't forget to give yourself a big hug and try not to be too hard on yourself. You matter to me, and to many others in the universe we inhabit together. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Hope and friendship

Melanie, me, Chris

Yesterday the three of us went for a delightful five-mile walk along the boulevard between Bellingham and Fairhaven. As you can see from our kaffeeklatsch picture, it was breezy and cool, as we all wore our jackets when we sat outside in the partial sunshine, enjoying a break to celebrate Melanie's birthday. I had forgotten it, since I didn't visit Facebook and was not reminded of the date. My guilt was assuaged; she never forgets my birthday.

The older I get, the more forgetful I seem to become. Life goes on, day by day, with the seasons reminding me of the passage of time, but otherwise one day slides into the next without much notice. We are still in the middle of the pandemic, but you would never have known that if you were out and about in these parts. The boulevard was packed with people, and we saw many friends as we walked. We stopped to chat several times, so it turned out to be longer and more extended than we expected. It was marvelous.

I am beginning to wonder when, if ever, we will be able to return to a truly normal existence. All over the entire world, the virus is resurging and forcing us to keep up our guard. I have begun to wear my mask again in indoor settings, even when I'm given the option not to wear it. I keep reading about people who are fully vaccinated getting the new Delta variant and being able to transmit it to others, even if they don't get sick from it. Just when I think we are out of the woods, another thicket of infection appears.

But I am hopeful. It's different now that we who are fortunate enough to be able to get the vaccination are given some measure of protection. And as an extroverted person, I really need the interaction with others and am very glad to have a chance to socialize. And when I am not out and about, I can stay home and binge-watch some of the new shows on TV. Remember when that phrase became part of the language? To "binge-watch" became prevalent when different TV programs would release their entire seasons at once. And yes, I have become quite addicted to not having to wait a week until the next episode is released. Some shows are still doing that, but I find myself annoyed more than anticipatory when I cannot binge a favorite show! How about you? Do you like being able to sit down and enjoy an entire season, or do you prefer a more limited regime?

Once the Emmy Award nominations for the best TV of the past year were released last week, I perused the list to see if there was anything I might enjoy watching, and settled on a few to start with: I binge-watched the entire season of The Flight Attendant and am glad to learn there will be another season coming. It's what is called a "dark comedy" and I found it quite entertaining. Then I watched Ted Lasso, another comedy. But this one is truly uplifting, as it's not dark at all and is filled with hope and optimism. I recommend it if you are looking for something to make you feel better. In fact, all last night I kept thinking about Emily Dickinson's poem, "Hope is a thing with feathers," one of her most famous poems and a favorite of mine. The first of three stanzas:
"Hope" is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops  – at all –

 Sometimes, when I'm watching the news of the day, I get a feeling of hopelessness about the trajectory of the world. So many people are in such dire straits, and I wonder if it will continue to worsen, or begin to rise up from the depths of despair. One thing I have learned during my long life, whatever is happening right now will change and will morph into something else. I cannot help but feel that being optimistic is a survival technique. If I can look on the bright side of a situation, I am much better off than if I allow myself to be dragged down into defeat. No, I will continue to be hopeful that the world situation will expand into love and beauty.

You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own. —Michelle Obama

 I feel very fortunate that I have reached the time in my life when I can look back on all the hard parts, along with all the joy, and know that I have been blessed with so much. I find it imperative that I share the bounty with those who matter to me. There are so many friends who lift me up, and I want to do the same for others. Through this wonderful internet connection I share with you, my dear friends, I can reach out and send you this message in real time. And you can comment immediately and send out your own communication to me and all who enter here. You are precious and valuable, not only to me, but to all those others, those we cannot see or hear from, but who are there nevertheless. I am grateful.

And with that, I will begin to enter into the rest of my day. My tea is gone, my dear sweet partner still sleeps, right through the sound of the tapping of the keys, and the coffee shop beckons. I have much to accomplish before I head out the door, but the one Sunday task that I never shirk, this post, is finished and ready for publication. Until we meet again next week, dear ones, I wish you much joy and happiness. Be well.