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, 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.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Coffee and contemplation

Barista art

We are finally back inside our favorite coffee shop, Avellino's, with sparse seating but nevertheless we are back inside! These days when I arrive, after having taken the bus and getting in some steps, I fully expect to see John there, sitting in his favorite spot with his iPad open in front of him. Actually, we don't talk to each other nearly as much as we did when we were outside, but it's lovely to be returning to normal, even if things don't look or feel quite the same. Masks are optional if you are fully vaccinated, but there are many homeless people who hang out nearby, and I'm happy to see they come in to get coffee while wearing masks. They don't sit down inside but instead move to the chairs and tables outside.

I feel quite comfortable still wearing masks when inside places like the coffee shop, but once I sit down, we all drop our masks to drink our coffee and enjoy a breakfast treat. With the delta variant now the dominant strain of Covid in the United States, I fear a resurgence this fall as more and more of us move back inside. We are not yet done with this virus, even in places where we are mostly all fully vaccinated, but it's nowhere near the situation we were in a year ago, thanks to the vaccines.

Once the terrible heat wave receded, our temperatures have been pretty wonderful, in the low to mid-seventies (22–23°C) with full sun or a few morning clouds. By the afternoon, it's the only time I don't need a light jacket to carry with me, in case I get a bit chilly. And it's mid-July! I don't for a minute think we do not have warmer temperatures ahead, but not for the foreseeable future. It's super hot south of us in California, but we are quite comfortable. 

I went back to the Y the other day to see what the situation is there. Although the locker room is still unavailable, there are other showers that can be used if I bring my own towel and shampoo. I might start doing that next week, signaling another return to almost normal. There are a few classes, but my favorite hi-lo aerobic class is not one of them. Nobody seems to know if Joanne, the instructor, will be returning or not.

I am still taking three Zoom yoga classes a week, but people are beginning to return to the studio, slowly and carefully. Since you still need to bring your own supplies, I prefer sitting down in front of my iPad in my own living room. I do hope the Zoom classes will continue for awhile longer, but no matter what happens, I'll be enjoying yoga. I've learned so much over the years, and although my favorite teacher will be moving on at the end of the month, I'll find new instructors who will teach me other postures to challenge myself with.

I'm still rehabbing the ankle injury I sustained ten days ago, but it's much better, except when I first try walking on it, either in the morning or after sitting for awhile. I am using the RICE technique (Rest/Ice/Compression/Elevation) and will be thrilled when I can resume my usual activities in full. For the last few days, I have managed to get in all my 10,000+ steps, but it's slow going, and flat and even surfaces are needed to make sure I don't re-injure myself.

I've always been a bit of a klutz and seem to have more falls and scrapes than most people, and that was true even when I wasn't old. But with proper treatment, so far all my injuries have resolved themselves. Although not at the same level as before, I do hope that will continue into the future, with no need for hip or knee replacements. Frankly, I know very few people who have been able to return to their previous level of activity after replacing those joints. However, that said, our bodies are not meant to last forever, and I will deal with what comes into my life with as much equanimity as I can manage, no matter what.

The past year and a half has taught me that even though our entire lives can be turned upside down, we can and will cope, if we continue to maintain a positive attitude and take advantage of every avenue that presents itself. I now know many walking areas in my neighborhood that I have discovered over the past year, and I will continue to use them well into the weeks and months ahead. Although nobody knows what the future holds, I feel confident that we will adapt as needed, as long as we keep ourselves active and maintain a good attitude about it all.
You can't afford to get sick, and you can't depend on the present health care system to keep you well. It's up to you to protect and maintain your body's innate capacity for health and healing by making the right choices in how you live. —Andrew Weil

We may not be able to prevent illness and disease, but we can make a huge difference in outcome by how we live our daily lives. I know this to be true, and I see each day as an opportunity for growth and change. It also makes me feel so much better when I get outside and enjoy the trees, the flowers, the garden of green surrounding me. The walls of my home might keep me safe from many dangers, but I also need to venture out into the world as much as possible in order to keep myself from getting pulled down by all the sad events happening today. I don't do myself any favors by watching the news, but I can choose to limit what comes into my consciousness, and dilute it all by stepping out my front door with my walking shoes pointed in the direction of a nearby park.

Yesterday I pulled kale and beets out of my community garden and had a wonderful dinner with a vegetable salad, including many delights that could not have been enjoyed any fresher than right out of the ground! I also peeked at my potatoes and found a few that were sticking out and uncovered, so of course I harvested them and boy were they good! I also was able to get some compost over the rest of them so they won't get ruined by the sun. 

So, for now life is good, my ankle is better, and the day beckons to me. The coffee shop is calling, and my dear partner still sleeps next to me quietly, as I tap the keys and finally bring this Sunday morning meditation to a close. I do hope, my dear friends, that you find some time to enjoy your day and give thanks for the bounty that surrounds us. Until we meet again next week, I wish you call good things. Be well.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Independence Day 2021

Two new fawns

 A couple of mornings ago, I looked out from my front porch and saw Mama Deer with her two new babies. They could not be more than a few days old, but they are already out learning about where to find food and water. Spindly legs and all, they are adorable. I have seen twins before, and I wondered if this particular doe is prone to double births, or whether it is even the same one. I can't know for sure, but I sure was pleased to see these two healthy fawns with their mother, who was exploring ahead of them and looking back to see if they were still coming.

It will be awhile before these two will be independent creatures, but if all goes as normal, within a few months they will lose their spots and will have learned how to navigate this bright new world. Welcome, little ones! I think about how these deer must learn to coexist with humans, and hopefully other people will help to keep them safe, by putting out water and being understanding when they chomp down your favorite flowers. 

It is a holiday here, our Independence Day, just a few days after Canada celebrated her own celebration. The country of Canada was formed 153 years ago, but this year their celebration was different, since so many unmarked graves, thousands of them, have been discovered at residential schools where indigenous children were forced to reside, taken from their homes and culture, in hopes of being remade into little Canadian children. Canadians all over the country have been appalled and horrified by these discoveries.

More than 50 cities and towns have opted to cancel their Canada Day celebrations this year. In total, more than 50 municipalities across Canada have canceled July 1 celebrations, according to Indigenous rights group Idle No More.

This year, many Canadians wore orange instead of red and white to remember these lost children. “We're asking people to wear orange instead of red and white this Canada Day, as a show of solidarity with Indigenous peoples,” said Grand Chief Joel Abram of the Ontario-based Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians that represents seven Indigenous communities.

Unfortunately, I cannot imagine such a display of conscience happening here, south of their border. We did things just as bad, but you won't see anything but lots of red, white and blue today, with plenty of fireworks and cookouts and celebrations of our country's long history. For us, it's been 244 years. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the colonies' separation from Great Britain. I wonder how much longer our country will continue to exist in its current state. We are at a crossroads, ever since the storming of our Capitol on January 6. Or even before, but I won't explore that here today. Instead, I want to concentrate on all that's positive and hopeful, on this day of celebration.

We have not always chosen violence against others as the way forward. I found this lovely website online, Seven Reasons Why World Peace is Possible, and I am going to quote heavily from it here. It's already made me feel hopeful for the future, and that's what I'd like to offer as my Independence Day gift to you.

We live in an era of social upheaval which can be seen as an opportunity for transformative change, according to Riane Eisler from the Centre for Partnership Studies, toward the kinds of cultures that support a more equitable, caring, and sustainable way of life. Eisler developed this theory of Cultural Transformation after years of researching the causes of violence in society.

We don't have to accept the diet we are fed daily on the news channels, those that continue to pull us down to believe that there is no other way to exist but to fight. It's just not true, and we can be the change we'd like to see. I feel this in my bones, in my soul, and I am unwilling to just sit back and watch as my world devolves into chaos.

The idea that violence is inevitable is normalised through childhood socialisation and depressing media narratives, which teach us to accept coercion, competition and authority. On the other hand, listening to uplifting stories inspires positive action, and reminds you that you are not struggling alone. Permaculture News is a good place to find such stories. It is isolating and disempowering to believe that humans are bad for one another and the planet. We are interconnected. Nature is neither negative nor positive. It is not dualistic or linear. It does not progress, but evolves. 

Yes. Yes, YES! Let's look for stories that will uplift and inspire, stories of our communities and our own lives that will help us to see that we do have a choice to make in our daily activities, that we can choose love and compassion rather than hate and hostility towards one another. 

I feel incredibly fortunate to have the inspiration of many of my blogging friends from around the world, those of you who fill me with hope as I read of your own trials and tribulations, and the coping mechanisms you have developed to deal with them. 

At this moment in time, I am feeling a little down because of an injury to my right ankle. Last Thursday, just as I was beginning my weekly hike with other seniors, I stepped from a concrete walkway onto sand, and I twisted my ankle as I went down. It's still swollen and painful to walk on, but it's better than it was, and I am doing what I can. Since I can drive, and even stroll carefully (not walking quite yet) as I pay close attention to my ankle, I went downtown yesterday to see a movie (!), my first since the pandemic. My going-to-the-movies friend Judy and I saw In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest musical. Although it was good, it wasn't as wonderful as his earlier musical, Hamilton, which I loved. I enjoyed the singing and dancing, and the uplifting stories, but it didn't have the same effect on me as his earlier work did. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much and am glad I was able to see it in a theater.

We had to wear masks until we got to our seats, and everybody was well spread out throughout the theater, so I felt quite safe and comfortable. I am also very grateful for the level of vaccine coverage we have here in Bellingham. More than 60% of us are vaccinated, making the possibility of transmission much less. And we are now back to almost normal, or what passes for normal these days. It's been a long road back, fifteen months of struggle to get here.

Just a few days ago, we moved back inside our coffee shop, which is delightful! We don't have to wear masks if we are fully vaccinated, but we can still choose to do so if we wish. The tables are spread apart, and so far it feels like another wonderful milestone to appreciate and enjoy with my coffee shop buddies. 

My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I'll step out of bed and see how my ankle feels today. I'll wear my compression socks, and take it slowly as I move through my day. I can still do my Tibetan exercises, even if I cannot get in my usual daily steps quite yet. Soon. Until then, I will send you, my dear friends, my hopes and dreams for a great Independence Day. Until we meet again next week, be well and remember to give thanks for your one and only, special, and precious life.