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, March 28, 2021

Living the dash

Camellia in bloom

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

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

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

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

* * * 

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The evening of life

Red rainbow by Rita Eberle-Wessner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Hodgepodge post

Buds are out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Being brave

Golden Ears, Canadian mountains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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