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, 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):