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 31, 2021

One week later

Whatcom Falls after lots of rain

After last week's embarrassing fiasco, losing my post and trying unsuccessfully to recover it, I've checked to make sure I am in the right place as I begin this morning's writing. Not that I have any confidence that whatever pours out of my noggin will be interesting, but here goes.

Yesterday Mel and I walked to Whatcom Falls Park and saw the most amazing roaring water coming over the falls. You could hear it a long ways away, with all the rain we got during the last two days: almost three inches. Then the skies cleared and it got cold enough yesterday for me to have to scrape ice off my car before heading out. Bundled up against the cold, we had a lovely walk and I captured this picture. I was sort of amazed when I studied it closely to discover there is a man photographing the falls from above. Do you see him? That is a very dangerous place to be, and a few people have lost their lives by slipping right there and being carried to the rocks below.

You can see that our fall colors are still around, but beginning to fade as we pass the halfway mark from fall into the winter months. The long-range forecast is for lots of wet and cold weather ahead, with La NiƱa making an appearance this year. But for us, it's a relatively mild winter anyway: most of the snow should stay in the High Country and spare us. Although I well remember a winter when we got as much snow as we expected in Colorado, it was still short-lived in comparison.

We'll see. In any event, I am happy to have a warm and cozy apartment to live in as we move through the seasons. I have finally grown accustomed to the 20% hike in rent, and I guess almost half of it will be covered by the increase in our Social Security. It's the only bright spot in the economy for me right now: we will get a 5.9% increase for 2022. Everything has become so much more expensive, and I suspect it's the same for our landlords, so I am reconciled to it. It's no different anywhere else in the region, so where could I move to avoid it?

It's Halloween, the last day of the month of October. It's been a good transition month around here, with the rain returning and the days shorter and colder. Soon we will return to Daylight Standard Time, and it will be very dark around here about the time people get off work. Fortunately I am retired and won't venture out much in the evenings. I've also got a head lamp that I use to see my path ahead in the dark, which I need right now in the mornings as I walk to the bus.

I got a call from John yesterday. He had the massive shoulder surgery accomplished last Thursday, and he's in quite a lot of pain right now and is sleeping a lot, eating very little, and just trying to get through these first few weeks. He says he didn't remember last year's surgery on the other shoulder being so painful, and I can only imagine what it must be like. The doctor said the surgery went well, but that the right shoulder was worse than the other one, so it makes sense that the rebuild was more extensive. His left shoulder no longer hurts and he has full mobility in it, so he's hoping that it will be the same in a few months. We sure miss him at the coffee shop. Everyone sends their best wishes for a speedy recovery.

I am still meditating every morning after I exercise for ten minutes on the front porch. This time right now is when I would normally be getting out of bed and starting my day, but Sundays are different because I write this post. Since there is no reason to rush to the coffee shop, with John not there, I'm going to add the meditation time after exercise, just as if it were any other morning. Hopefully it will help me get used to a regular time to meditation every day.
Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes. —Thich Nhat Hanh

It's interesting how much it has helped me with the stress of daily life. That, and I am definitely watching much less news than I once did. After all, I can learn everything that is going on within a short time on my favorite news channel and the internet; everything else is just commentary and repeat information. Sometimes I wonder if the news is designed to raise my anxiety level and make me worry more. That would be counterproductive for me, since worry is one of those aspects of thinking I don't need more of. I love to spend my time reading other people's blogs and sticking to books that are uplifting, rather than listening to more doom and gloom.

Plus it's that time of year when everybody seems to concentrate on scary stuff, and I don't find that good for me, or anyone at all. But everyone gets to live their own life; I won't try to fix them, or the universe, for all the good that would do. Trying to find peace, contentment and happiness in my own life is enough of a project for me.

And there are so many aspects of my life that I am grateful for. SG has had a bone marrow extract and a CT scan to try to discover the source of his low blood counts, but so far nothing seems especially scary. He's got no symptoms of lymphoma, which is what the doctor suspects, but from what I've read about it, he either has a very mild case or it's something else. He trusts his doctor and doesn't return for another visit for a few weeks, so in the meantime we are being hopeful that all will turn out well. Of course, this business of getting older means that we are all susceptible at some point to illness. 

Buddha's Five Remembrances help me to remember all this. Do you know them? Now that I am studying Buddhism, I remembered learning these five remembrances long ago. Maybe I should tape them to my bathroom mirror so I won't forget them.

  1. I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old.
  2. I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape having ill health.
  3. I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death.
  4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  5. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

In some ways, this reminder is helpful to keep me grounded in truth and giving me plenty of reasons to give thanks for every day that I am alive and remain a healthy old woman. And every morning in my meditation, I end with a prayer that all living beings will one day be free from disease, pain, and suffering, that we will all eventually attain enlightenment.

Although I only sit for fifteen to twenty minutes, at the end of that time I am really surprised at how centered and grounded I feel. Just following my breath and keeping myself focused on the moment, letting any thoughts that come up pass through, like clouds passing by. And I find myself, after only a short few months of this, craving those moments of peace. That I can find anywhere at any time, if I just go within. I recommend giving it a try. You don't have anything to lose, and much to gain. But then again, everyone has a different path to wholeness. Forest bathing is one direction I love to go in my quest for serenity. 

And you know what? I've managed to finish this post and have every confidence that this week I will be able to publish it without any glitches. It was a good lesson last week to pay attention to what I'm doing and stay out of ruts. I do hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, and that all good things will come your way. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, breathing so quietly that I cannot hear him, but I know he's there. And life will continue to bring us all chances to spread joy and happiness to others. I wish you all the best. Be well until we meet again next week.

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.