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, August 14, 2022

A twenty-year anniversary

Squalicum Harbor on Saturday

We have perhaps a dozen different walks we do on Saturdays. Yesterday Melanie and I took a lovely walk to Squalicum Harbor, on a cloudy and cool day in the middle of August. Weather right up my alley, in fact. I am very happy when I can exercise in this kind of weather, rather than having the hot summer sun beating down on me, making it impossible for me to enjoy myself. This Harbor walk is in full sun, so we don't do it on hot days. We walked over five miles and it was simply lovely. I try to exercise every day, even when it's hot.
Millions of Americans today are taking dietary supplements, practicing yoga and integrating other natural therapies into their lives. These are all preventive measures that will keep them out of the doctor's office and drive down the costs of treating serious problems like heart disease and diabetes. —Andrew Weil

As many of you know, heart disease is rampant in my family. It took my father at 62, and my mother at 69. But the hardest one of all was my son Chris, who died at forty of heart disease. Tomorrow it will be twenty years since that fateful day. Although I was already pretty disciplined to get plenty of exercise and keep my weight in the normal category for my own health, I never expected that Chris would die of heart disease so young. 

Although I don't dwell on my losses, I considered writing a post about all the wonderful things I remember about Chris, but as I pondered how I might do it, I realized that I still, even after all these years, have trouble going there. Although I can recall and enjoy memories of my parents, it's not so easy when I think about Chris. However, over the years that I have been writing this post, I've attempted a few times to make sense of the loss. What follows is from a post I wrote in February 2010.

* * *

Yes, this post is hard to write, but not as bad as if it were still September 2002. That's when I wrote a remembrance to my son Chris at work. He died of what is called "sudden cardiac death" while jogging. Since this happened, I have seen several young people, usually men, written up on the obituary page as having died of the same thing. Part of the difficulty of it is that there is no warning, either for them, or for their loved ones.

I had just returned from Quincy where I had a two-week vacation, if you can call it that, jumping out of airplanes at the World Freefall Convention, tanned and happy to be back at work. I remember the phone ringing at 9:00am in the office and hearing the clicks and pops of a long-distance connection, and then a hysterical woman on the other end, saying things I could not understand. (Chris' wife Silvia was German and didn't speak great English at the best of times.) When I finally put together who she was, I felt a sick feeling and asked her what was wrong. She babbled something about Chris and finally said, "he's dead!" It was like being kicked in the stomach.

Finally Chris' Commanding Officer came on the phone and told me that Chris had died while he was on a three-month tour of duty in Macedonia. He told me in the gentlest way that I was to go home and wait for the soldiers to come to my house and inform me. I have a memory of one of my co-workers driving me home, but I was in shock. Once I got home, three young uniformed soldiers knocked on my door, one of them a young woman holding flowers in her hands and looking scared. They answered my questions, and told me that Chris' wife had asked for him to be buried in Germany, and as the next of kin, she could make that decision.

Then I found that there was no provision from the Army for me to get to Germany to see my son one more time. You see, I was no longer considered the next of kin, Silvia was. But when my boss Mickey heard about this, he presented me with a round-trip ticket to Frankfurt and $500 and told me to just go. I went to Germany.  I learned that Chris had been happy and very well liked, and I spoke to his unit one morning about how glad I was that he had found his place in life.

The funeral was very tough. Nobody had told me about the Army's calling his name three times as if he were to answer, and when he didn't, they played "taps" to honor the fallen soldier. It was truly hard to bear. Some very thoughtful person had recorded it and gave me a copy of the Memorial Service. I have never watched it, but it holds a very special place on my keepsake shelf, along with the triangular box that holds the flag with three spent shells inside.

I was 59 years old when Chris died on August 15, 2002, on the anniversary of the day that his brother Stephen had been born 36 years earlier. The difference between me, the 59-year-old, and that young 22-year-old who lost her child was like night and day. If anyone were to ask me which one was harder to bear, there is no question: the poor young woman who lost her son who never had a chance to live, or the older woman who lost her other son after he had found himself, a career and a wife -- I don't have to tell you, you already know.

I also wrote another post about my two lost sons on my other blog, which I called "Amethyst Remembrance" after a favorite Emily Dickinson poem. It gives more detail, but here I want to talk about who I am today, and how the loss of my children has helped to make me who I am. When Stephen died, I could not bear to be in the same room with a small baby, whose beautiful chubby cheeks or fat arms tore at my heart and made me so aware of my loss. I turned away and avoided touching that place inside that felt like it would never be healed. Chris suffered too, because he reminded me of his brother, and I wouldn't let myself love him unconditionally. I hardened myself in ways I didn't even realize. I think this is one reason why I went from one husband to another: it was impossible for me to reach down inside and be truly authentic with anybody.

But when Chris died, I had found a job, a life I loved, and a man who supported me emotionally. He had helped me work through some of the buried grief and I learned that I was not going to find myself through another person, but through examining my own motives and desires. This is much easier to do when you have a partner who knows how to facilitate this, and I have been very fortunate to have SG, who always asked the right questions.

Because I had healed from my earlier wounds, I was able to grieve properly for Chris. I didn't look away when I went to Germany and met his fellow soldiers, when I went to the PT field and did pushups and jumping jacks in his place. I let it in. And although I miss calling him and hearing from him on Mother's Day and his birthday (he called me then, not on mine), I know that he had found himself before he died. It's all any mother can ask for.

Chris died just before the war in Iraq started. Every one of those young men I met in Germany was deployed to Iraq, and Chris would certainly have gone there too, and would probably have died there instead of in Macedonia. He never had to go to war, and for that I am grateful. His roommate in Macedonia told me how Chris would come back to their room after having been in the heat of the day, guarding the border: he would strip down to his shorts, turn the air conditioning to high, grab a beer out of the fridge, and plop down with a satisfying "ahhhhh!" That's the way I like to think of him, with a hedonistic grin and pleased with a job well done.

* * *

And now, more than a decade has passed since I wrote that, and after having read it again along with all the comments that my followers and family left afterwards, I am both humbled and honored that I was Chris' mother.  As I look forward to celebrating my eightieth birthday this fall, I will always be grateful for the long and interesting life I have lived, with two angels waiting for me to join them.

My beautiful son on his birthday

And I am also so happy that I am still enjoying my life with SG, and as he sleeps next to me, I can only hope for more days and years of joy and fulfillment to surround not only me, but all my readers who still come here on Sunday mornings looking for a little inspiration to lift their spirits. Until we meet again next Sunday, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Finding loving kindness

A forest of kindness in Oriental lilies

I love these beautiful and fragrant lilies. Most days since winter, I've walked past them in a nearby garden, where they have emerged from little green shoots sticking out of the ground to their inevitable fruition as startlingly beautiful tall flowers. Such abundance and smell, too! Did you know that lilies represent kindness and love?
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. —Amelia Earhart

I like to think of how much difference each little act of kindness and generosity can make in the world today. Instead of concentrating on all the terrible news of the world, I will instead make a conscious effort to look out from my eyes at all the wonderful acts of kindness from others that I see all around me.

From the first early light of the day yesterday, I could see that we are indeed entering another phase of warm weather. Not as hot as some places, but warm enough that I need to make an effort to stay comfortable and out of the direct sun. It's interesting to note what a difference I feel between standing in a shady spot or standing in the direct sunlight. If a tree's shade makes that much difference to me, how can I doubt that a small act of kindness might alter the entire world? Like Amelia reminds us in the quote above, it throws out roots in all directions. It just takes time.

Although it seems often like time is standing still, it doesn't ever really stop. Being alive takes us on this journey from one state to the next, with no way to change the trajectory (except for one). Once I was a little girl, and now I am an old woman. There was no discernible boundary between these two very different states, but here I am, unable to return to my former state. But there are many sages that say time is an illusion and doesn't really exist at all. 

Abhijit Naskar, the author of Love, God & Neurons: Memoir of a scientist who found himself by getting lost said, “Time is basically an illusion created by the mind to aid in our sense of temporal presence in the vast ocean of space. Without the neurons to create a virtual perception of the past and the future based on all our experiences, there is no actual existence of the past and the future. All that there is, is the present.” I've only read the first chapter of his book so far, but I find it fascinating.

Okay, then. If there is only the present, if I plant a seed of kindness, how will it come to fruition? Well, that's easy: if the present moment is all that really exists, it's already there in full flower! We cannot help but be in it, and I see that my acts of kindness have already borne fruit. If this sounds confusing to you, you're not alone. I'm again flailing around in search of the meaning of time itself. We've been here before on previous Sunday musings. And every time I find a book that challenges my views, you are the recipient of my mental wanderings. 

In another book I mentioned here recently, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, she tells the story of a young girl who writes a diary that somehow gets into Ruth's hands, and it seems as though the girl might have been a victim of the tsunami that devastated many countries in the Indian Ocean in 2004. More than a quarter of a million people perished, and Ruth finds a freezer bag that washed up on the shore of her Pacific Northwest island. Inside she finds the diary, a watch, and some letters written in Japanese. The story is fascinating to me, because Ruth tells of a dream that altered the past and the future. Now that I have read this book twice, I still find myself remembering and pondering some parts of it. Can we really change the past?

Since nobody really knows what life is truly all about, or whether or not we are stuck in time, or whether it exists at all, my mind goes a little crazy thinking about it. I have always loved stories about time travel, and science fiction, so my imagination is taking me to a world where loving kindness is prevalent and is sending up new shoots of kindness everywhere, creating whole trees of joy. Why not?

A world that I can imagine like that might possibly be one that I can enter in my dreams, or maybe I can make it come into my daily life just by continuing to plant those seeds. It fills me with happiness to concentrate on how I might help this new world come into being, and part of my ability to create it starts from the words I'm writing right here, right now. People have been industriously creating a world that is filled with strife, but what if we could just stop it in its tracks and change it to one filled with rainbows? Oh, right: rainbows appear after a storm, don't they? I guess we'll need a little storm now and then to create rainbows.

Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out. It will wear well and will be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away. —Abraham Lincoln

Everybody needs a challenge now and then, don't you think? I'm going to attempt to change the trajectory of the world just by the power of my mind. Can it be done? There is only one way to find out. When I sit in meditation this morning, I am going to imagine that I am helping to create loving kindness radiating out in all directions. You might actually find yourself caught up in it, too, and if so, by all means come on over and sit next to me. Together we can do anything.

Well, in any event, we will make a difference just by living in love and joy, rather than despair and defeat. My dear husband is still sleeping quietly next to me as I write, and the day ahead is beckoning. How much difference can I make in my day? Let's find out! Whatever your week brings you, I know there will be love surrounding you, because we are creating it. Until next week, dear friends, be well.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Happy 99th birthday to Mama

A toast

This lovely woman was my mother, who would have turned 99 yesterday, if she had lived that long. Unfortunately for her, and for all of us who loved her, she's been gone for thirty years. Gone, but not forgotten.
I feel like there are women who are genuinely born to be mothers, and women who are born to be aunties, and women who really probably not should be allowed near children. The tragedy that happens is when any one of those women ends up in the wrong category. —Elizabeth Gilbert
Mama was one of those who was born to be a mother. She was born in 1923 and managed to raise six children and give birth to seven. (Tina Marie was born prematurely and didn't have fully developed lungs; she only lived one day.) I was the oldest child, one who was blessed to have the undivided attention of both parents for a couple of years, and then who found a kindred spirit in my sister Norma Jean. We grew up together.

Mama was one of those people who was a genuine homemaker, and since we moved around a lot, with Daddy in the Air Force, she had plenty of chances to create a home that helped to nurture all of us who were in her care. Sometimes I wonder what she would have accomplished if she had lived longer; I know some people who are still alive who are 99. I don't think Mama would have liked to see herself grow old and frail; she was vibrant and active long after many souls less determined than she would have given up.

She survived heart attacks and breast cancer, and she raised the six of us to become strong, self-sufficient and productive people. She especially taught me the value of reading: she read constantly and widely. Those who worked in the local libraries always got to know Mama, who would check out so many books at a time that she would need a box to carry them out. And she read them all.

Mama lived to be 69 and died four months prior to her seventieth birthday. I remember talking to her on the phone about the big day, but I think she knew she would not live to see it. Mama had developed breast cancer in her forties and, although she survived it, her heart was damaged from the radiation they gave her. She suffered numerous heart attacks over the years that followed. She always rallied and sometimes came back from her trials seemingly hale and hearty, but she took a massive amount of powerful drugs daily to keep her that way. Mama was a fighter. She was the center of my universe in so many ways, but I didn't know it at the time. It was only when she was gone that I realized how bereft I was.

Mama in Boulder

I took this picture of her one fine summer day when she came to visit me in Boulder. She's wearing my scarf and shirt, which she picked out of my closet, wanting to wear something new that was not her own. It was a lucky capture, which I took once I arranged her posture on the bench, with one of the Flatirons that define Boulder in the background. We went out to breakfast that morning and then drove to the mountains so she could visit them. Her ability to walk very far was gone by this time, and she was very short of breath from the altitude (I think we were above 8,000 feet elevation.) Even  so, she looks the picture of health, and that's how I'm remembering her now, on the occasion of her birthday.

There are moments from my childhood that stand out in my memories, and almost without fail they involve my mother. I remember once when I was very sick and she was taking me to the hospital. I was feverish and felt awful, but she put my head in her lap (someone else was driving) and she stroked my forehead with such love and devotion that I remember it to this day. Once a child from a large family no longer needs that kind of care, it's memorable when it happens again. Mama loved me, and all of her children, I have no doubt whatsoever.

Mama never felt like she accomplished much in her life, since she never brought home a paycheck, never worked outside the home except for volunteer work. I think she had the idea back then that somehow her life was lacking an essential ingredient because she never developed a career. But she was so wrong: the career of motherhood at the center of her life gave every one of us the best possible start in our own lives. And we all end up having our children grow up and away from home in any event.

If I could invite myself to her party to celebrate her birthday, I'd be sure to have her immense fan club be invited, which would include all her children and grandchildren. It would also include Daddy, who was only 62 when he died. She had become a widow at the age of 55. He'd be there, but Mama would be the center of attention because of who she still is to all of us. I would dress her in jeans and jewels, and her hair would be long and tinted auburn, the way she wore it when she was young. We would have plenty of good food and martinis, the drink she and Daddy enjoyed for so many years (and is probably in that first picture). We would tell stories and laugh uproariously, keeping the memory alive of our very fortunate life together, which ended too too soon.

And I'd be sure to tell her that she is still missed, and that of all the possible mothers I might have had, she was the jewel in the crown, and I would not give up even one moment of the time we had together. Happy birthday, dear Mama, and don't forget to smile down on us today, as we raise a glass to you. 

And with that, dear readers, I leave you with a smile on my face, with my dear partner still asleep next to me, and the day to come just emerging from the dawn's early light. I know that many of you do not have mothers still around to celebrate with, but we don't need to let that stop us from having a fabulous day and remembering our one and only mother. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Choosing to remember

Lake Padden yesterday morning

 You know what? I'm actually accomplishing plenty of stuff in a day's time, but for some reason I can't appreciate it and think I should be doing way more. Yesterday I finally chronicled everything I did from waking until I climbed into bed, and it was, surprisingly, quite a lot. Certainly not nothing. But usually when I think of what I do in a single day, it seems inconsequential. Perhaps the passage of time has more to do with paying attention to the present moment than much of anything else. As many sages remind us, the present is all we have: yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not yet.

After all, what is there to be accomplished from one day to the next, other than taking care of our immediate needs and keeping our heads above the waters of discomfort that emerge as we watch and read about the ills of today's world? I can choose to focus on the positive, or allow myself to be pulled into the morass of anxiety that surrounds all of us. Nothing really changes in the world (for the better, at least) if I fall into the trap of unease that is constantly pulling at me. I get to choose!

So, today I am going to allow myself to play, have fun, and think about those I love who brighten my days. Like my sister Norma Jean.

Life is really pretty tricky, and there's a lot of loss, and the longer you stay alive, the more people you lose whom you actually couldn't live without. —Anne Lamott

She has a birthday tomorrow. My baby sister is turning 77, if you can imagine that. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

Me, Mama, Norma Jean with doll

You mean that adorable blond creature is that old now? It seems almost impossible that my baby sister is now an elder, one whom I still talk to and visit on FaceTime once a month. Although I do have other siblings, she and I grew up together and she has become one of those people I can't imagine living without. She, and my dear SG, are essential underpinnings to my mental health, so I cherish every moment of every day that we are still all together on the planet.

When Norma Jean was born, she entered a world where I had already staked out my claim for our parents' undivided love, and she usurped what I felt was a perfect life. Mama used to tell the story of how jealous I was and had to be watched to make sure I didn't harm my sister. I'm sure I must have demanded that they send her back. Fortunately for me, they protected her from her older sister who was in her Terrible Twos and quite spoiled. As the years passed, we grew closer and closer, and all the early pictures of the two of us show that we became inseparable. She taught me how to share.

We were very different from one another: she was shy and reticent, while I was outgoing and extroverted. We only became more so as we grew up. Since my father was in the Air Force and we moved around often, we became dependent on each other for stability. When I was seven, our next sibling was born, PJ, but she was far enough away from us in years that she didn't disrupt our bond. 

In school, Norma Jean would make one close friend when we first arrived in a new environment, while I made several acquaintances. It was very difficult for her when we moved and she would have to leave that friend behind, while I hardly noticed and was happy to be the "new girl" in the next classroom. This didn't change as we grew up, and we both learned to cope with our situation in ways that helped to form our adult selves. Through all our formative years, the one constant friend I had was my sister, and she was always there for me. Looking back, I wish I had learned how to be more like her. I didn't know how to develop close friendships, which I realize now was my own coping mechanism for our lifestyle.

I think that helps to explain how I never was able to have a stable marriage. By the time I had turned thirty, I had been married and divorced three times and pretty much felt that I would never find a true mate. For twenty years, I stayed single (or involved without marriage, anyway) until I met SG. It astounds me that we have now been together for almost thirty years. I am blessed to have him, and love the fact that my dear sister is still available to me for FaceTime visits. In this moment, I am surrounded by all the love and affection that I need. 

I have known more than my share of loss, and I can attest to the fact that as time passes, those losses fade from memory, and what is left behind are many wonderful moments of happiness I had with those who are now gone. I can only hope that this will continue into the future, as I consider a life where one of my anchors has fallen into the depths and left me behind. Or maybe I will be the lucky one and will leave first. Who knows what the future holds? But again, I must remind myself that looking forward into the future is fruitless, since none of us knows what lies ahead.

I am reminded once again that I have the ability to choose what I focus on, and whether I choose happiness and contentment, or allow myself to wallow around in "what ifs" and squander the incredible gifts that I have been given, that's up to me. This Sunday morning meditation, where I focus my mind on something that is foremost in my thoughts, is another gift I cherish. I've made some good friends here in cyberspace and feel the need to give you something to think about in the coming week. Who could have foreseen this incredible gift of instantaneous connection to others we will never meet in person?

My friend John will pick me up at 7:15, and we will make our way to Fairhaven for our usual Sunday morning breakfast. When I come home, I'll greet my guy, who will be up and about by then. Right now, however, he sleeps next to me as I tap the keyboard and think about how to wind up this post. 

How about with a fervent wish for robust good health and happiness to all? That seems like a good idea, since happiness is not in short supply, if I allow myself to have it and give some of it to you. It just spreads outwards like warm sunshine. And with that, I will finish up with the admonition that we all look to the present moment and choose joy. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

It's been a week

Cornwall Park

I walk by this spot several times a week. It's part of my usual path from the Rose Garden where John lets me off after we leave the coffee shop. From here, I can walk home and get the bulk of my steps for the day. The distance between my home and this part of Cornwall Park is about 2.5 miles. That, plus the distance from home to the bus early in the morning, gives me well over three miles of walking and close to 10,000 steps. 

Right at this point on the path, I can hear the pickleball players in the courts off to the left. The pok-pok sound of the ball hitting the rackets, along with groans of a miss, or happy laughter of a good play, makes for an interesting backdrop to the sound of my steps on the gravel. Plenty of birdsong and the raucous cawing of the crows adds to the symphony. 

As usual on a Sunday morning, I rise and make myself some tea and bring it into the bedroom with my laptop and settle in for the task of writing this post. It's become such an ingrained routine that I cannot imagine not sitting here, casting about for the subject of the day to emerge. Today, as most Sundays lately, I'm continuing to look for ways to take care of my hold on serenity and not allowing the world's ills to dominate my outlook. I read somewhere recently that this state of anxiety is not just happening to those of us here in the US, but it's become prevalent worldwide.

Therefore, what this says to me is that I am actually right in the emotional slipstream that many of us are experiencing. But one thing I have learned in recent years is that I am in charge of where I place my state of mind, and that I can choose to be happy or sad. Although many aspects of life's trajectory are not within my power to change, where I place my attention makes all the difference.
I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it. —Groucho Marx

 Truer words were never spoken (or written). It's what I've decided to concentrate on today as I write here: how to be happy in this moment of time. And I've got a head start on it, since I woke from a good long sleep in weather just right for me: cool with a light breeze fluttering the curtains at the open window. We are in one of the few places in the Northern Hemisphere with decent temperatures right now. I read that Europe is experiencing a serious heat wave, as is much of the US. Not us, though: yesterday was cloudy and we never reached 70°F (21°C). I know some people love the heat, but I'm not one of them. So that is another reason for me to be happy: I live in the Pacific Northwest, the place we chose for our retirement years.

Although I am approaching my eightieth birthday, I am still in good enough health to walk and hike in this beautiful environment. My friends and family keep me entertained and provide plenty of intellectual stimulation. I have subscriptions to many different entertainment venues and watch movies and series that I enjoy very much. Recently I re-watched the musical Chicago and really enjoyed seeing it again; after so many years it was like watching it for the first time. I am so happy that I can do that, watch old favorites or new series, with the touch of a button. 

I am also thrilled that the James Webb telescope has been officially considered an enormous success, and last week the first pictures were released, showing astounding images from galaxies, with light reaching us from more than a billion years ago! That reminds me of how much I appreciate being able to learn about our universe and the concepts that are still puzzling our astronomers. A billion light-years is mind boggling, don't you think? The concept of a billion of anything is hard to grasp. If you were to count a billion seconds, it would take 31 years! So a billion light-years is, well, impossible to wrap my brain around. But we now can see galaxies that far away and that long ago.

What else is happening in the world? Well, I could concentrate on the marvels of science, such as that new telescope, or what is available to me through the internet, which is considerable. I hardly remember a world where Google wasn't available to answer any question almost as quickly as I can frame it. And here I am sitting with a laptop that gives me instant results to my queries. Not to mention that once I finish this post, I will be able to publish it and send it into your home, almost instantaneously. I am grateful that I have lived long enough to see and experience the world of today. This also gives me the ability to know about all the ills of the world, and all those who are suffering, but I also get to choose where I place my attention. I think I'll join Groucho Marx is choosing to be happy today. 

My dear husband turned over and is awake, which is unusual for him at this time. But he'll most likely drift off again while I finish this post. My tea is gone, and this Sunday morning I'll head off to breakfast with my friend John. I'm going to take some time to stretch and do some yoga postures to help keep me limber. So far, my quest for a happy day is working out. I do hope you will have a good day and week ahead before we meet here again next week. Until then, please spend some time with me in being happy. I wish you all good things.


Sunday, July 10, 2022

Summertime

California poppies and Dame's rocket

 Although it's not my favorite time of the year, it's certainly the most beautiful, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. I love to see all the flowers after a very wet and cool spring. And we are still having cool weather, although I think we may have begun that period when the rain pretty much stops, and we will continue to warm up, week by week, until we have weather that borders on hot.

But not really hot, not like what is happening in much of the rest of the country, and places around the world that are almost too hot to support human and animal life. With climate change causing disruptions to our weather, too much rain here and scorching droughts there, we are, I fear, going to be forced to get accustomed to change on a large scale. It's scary. I live in a town where home air conditioning is not all that usual, since we have a built-in air conditioner because of onshore flow, breezes that come in off the Pacific Ocean, cool and moist. It happens almost every night; the wind might come from land all day long (offshore flow), and then shifts to onshore flow and give us much cooler temperatures when the sun goes down. I love it!

I've been re-reading a favorite book, partly because I'm lazy and not wanting to start another book that might not deliver what I'm looking for. It wasn't all that long ago that I first read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. While rummaging around in my Kindle looking for something to read, I decided that this book was such a winner the first time around that I'd enjoy a second reading. So far, I am. Ozeki's novel was a finalist for the Pulitzer and the Man Booker Prizes. I then read several more of Ozeki's books, but this was the one that I still think about. It's written from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl who wrote in her diary, and Ozeki herself narrates the present time. Nao (the teenager) wrapped up the diary and a few other things that somehow washed up on the Canadian shore to be discovered by Ruth. It is likely that Nao was washed away by the tsunami that killed tens of thousands in 2011. But the mystery that is gently revealed in the story still comes to mind. Once I'm done, maybe I'll move onto something new, but for now I am in stuck in Ozeki's novel.

It's not all that easy to take care of myself, my mental state, when the world is in such turmoil, but I'm managing. I am very grateful for my friends and dear life partner, so that I don't have to face everything alone. I'm still limiting the amount of news that I consume, since once you've learned the basic stories, the newscasters just repeat the same stuff over and over. And I am fortunate to have a massage therapist and an acupuncturist who both give me plenty of help in navigating through to the other side, where peace and tranquility reside. Or I could just follow Lily Tomlin's advice.

Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it. —Lily Tomlin

I read a wonderful and uplifting article about an elderly blind dog who wandered off from her home in Alaska and was given up for dead, but after three weeks she was found by a construction worker who saw her in a ditch and rescued her. Although she had lost lots of weight and was dehydrated, little by little Lulu is recovering. I found the story so moving, I think, because it has a happy ending for everyone. And her family was worried about the vet bills, but members of the community took care of that. It is inspiring to read about people coming together to help each other.

John is not picking me up for breakfast this morning; a friend who is in town has asked him and my fisherman friend Gene to join him at a favorite restaurant, and although I was invited, I decided not to go. It's uncomfortable for me, still, to go into crowded spaces, and more and more people seem to think that the pandemic is over, not wearing masks or keeping distance. The latest Omicron variant is everywhere, and it's especially worrying to think I might get it and bring it home to My Guy. So I am taking precautions and staying home, mostly. In all indoor situations, I'm wearing a mask except to take a sip or two from my coffee cup. It might seem like overkill to some, but it makes me feel better to be cautious.

I continue to be amazed at how quickly time is passing. The week hardly begins and then it's over. When I was working and had a schedule to keep, it seemed like the week had at least one extra day. These days, no sooner is the weekend over, but it's already halfway to the next one before I have a chance to catch up. Is this just because I'm getting older, or what? At least my days are pleasant, and I know that the seasons are only three months long and summertime will be over before I even get used to it. Fall is my favorite season, and it's up next.

Well, this has been one of those posts where I cannot seem to focus on anything special. That's partly because of trying to avoid all the bad news these days. I'm going to see if I can take Lily Tomlin's advice and avoid reality. It helps to have a book like Ozeki's to get lost in. My tea is gone, my partner still sleeps, and since I don't have to finish this quickly, I just might work the Wordle and mosey out of bed, in no hurry to be anywhere special at all.

I do hope you, my dear readers, will not be too disappointed in me not trying to inspire you, but remember that love and joy are not in short supply, and you are sent plenty of both from my small little corner of the world. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

A life well lived

Eight decades of of life changes you

There is no doubt that I was doted on by my parents. As the firstborn, I think I am the only one who was taken alone for a studio sitting; subsequent photos always have other siblings included. I love looking at how my mother curled my hair into ringlets. So pampered and secure in the love that surrounded me is in every aspect of this brief moment of time, captured in this picture. I was born blessed and surrounded by love.
This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. —Dalai Lama

Kindness. Of course, that small little deed is more important than just about anything else I can think of. When I was a baby, it surrounded me. That, and laughter and plenty to eat, lots of fascinating toys to play with, a world to discover, and the belief that I was the center of the universe. And here I am today, still the center of the universe, since I'm the one who still sees everything through the lens of my own eyes, through the beliefs of my own heart.

I mentioned a while back that I was reading a book called "Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals," by Oliver Burkeman. I finished it recently, and I'm still pondering some of the concepts he introduced that were new to me. One is the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, who wrote a book in the early twentieth century suggesting that we don't actually have time, but instead, we are time. Somehow that makes sense to me, since the time before I was born and the time after I die are both infinite, and I am a finite being.

That, and the sense that if life has any meaning at all, it is only for the short period during which I am alive that it matters to me. If kindness is a philosophy that one can live by, then being happy and spreading joy into the world might be the only thing my life is about. I can live with that.

Yesterday I walked, as usual for a Saturday, with my friend Melanie. It's now summertime in my part of the world, and although it's more sunny than we usually experience here in the Pacific Northwest, it's not terribly hot. Yesterday we made it to 66°F with a brisk cool breeze and fluffy white clouds scudding across the sky. It was just about perfect, weatherwise. We walked for around five miles in Whatcom Falls Park, where the numbers of people out and about surprised me. Usually we see perhaps a dozen others, but yesterday it seemed like most of the town had also joined us outdoors, wearing summer sandals and shorts, mostly. After our cool and wet spring, everyone is anxious to get outdoors and enjoy the change in weather.

You might notice that when I'm at a loss of what to write about that I often throw in a quote or two. (I just spent a few minutes looking for one but deleted it.) I am especially feeling the need to find some direction for this morning, and there is always a need to remind myself of what is important, as I sit here staring off into the darkness of my bedroom. 

To set the scene, most of you know that my dear partner is asleep next to me. At this time of the year, there is light in the sky that slips through the curtained window, and I start the morning with a cup of tea, which is now finished. I have exactly one half-hour to finish this post before I must get out of bed and get ready for the rest of my day. My friend John will pick me up in front of the apartment so that we can head to Fairhaven for breakfast. We have become so predictable that our barista has our coffee ready for us when we arrive.

A change I can live with

I had decided that I would begin the post with that cute little baby and end it with the reality of today. Mel took this picture of me last Thursday, and it shows that the baby has been given the blessing of a long life, which still continues today. Although nothing is guaranteed, I do know that my life won't be snuffed out prematurely. So many people never get a chance to make it to old age, but I have, and I am trying to spend my days making my world a little better place. 

I started eight decades ago being surrounded by love, plenty to eat, a world to discover, and today I have much the same. With so much that has changed in life, one thing is still the same: I am extremely fortunate. Even if this were to be my last day on earth, I would not want to be anywhere else. Or anyone else. And to have this blog to share with my loved ones (I consider you to be in that group), is an incredible gift to me. I am surrounded by miracles.

Okay, with that realization, I will finish up this post by wishing you and your loved ones to also be surrounded by kindness, and that you will find some way to spread your joy out into the world. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Peace and Love

Raindrops on Peace and Love

It's the name of this beautiful rose, which I photographed on Friday, after John dropped me off at the Cornwall Rose Garden. So pretty, don't you think?
Love and peace of mind do protect us. They allow us to overcome the problems that life hands us. They teach us to survive... to live now... to have the courage to confront each day. —Bernie Siegel

This has been quite a week of hard news, and I'm working hard to find some peace and love to bolster me. And the Rose Garden handed me this rose to admire, smell, and appreciate. Wouldn't you know it would be entitled "Peace and Love"?

There are plenty of other events going on in the world, but in my own news cycles, with two January 6 hearings that had me wide-eyed at times, the war in Ukraine not going so well, and then Roe v. Wade being overturned, with many more similar rulings likely in our near future, well, I'm finding it hard to just stop and smell the roses.

But really, what else can I do? Yesterday I just had to turn off the news, since the news anchors just keep going over and over the same facts, and after awhile I could feel myself shutting down, a heaviness coming over me as I reached for a glass of wine. Of course that only helped temporarily, and I knew that I needed to face what is bothering me so much. I'm old enough to know that nothing stays the same, life is constantly changing, in flux, and that nothing lasts forever.

On top of all that, we are also experiencing a warm spell that is allowing us here in the Pacific Northwest to share what most of the rest of the country has already been feeling. Until yesterday, we had not gotten much above our normal temperatures, but now we are under a heat advisory until late tomorrow night. Then we'll return to our normal moderate weather, at least for awhile. My friend Melanie and I decided to walk the Interurban trail yesterday, which is shaded and quite comfortable. It was only when we were out in full sun on city pavement that it really felt hot. Plus I was able to stay inside, with fans and cool drinks, where it was quite nice during most of the afternoon.

Last year at this time we had a very unusual heat wave, setting temperature records for highs all over the area. I remember sitting in the living room with the TV on, fans on full blast everywhere, and barely able to tolerate the heat. We even reached triple digits on one day before it let up. We had never before gotten that hot in Bellingham. So, when I look back, I can be grateful that this heat wave is just normal, not exceptional. I do, however, realize that the discomfort we are dealing with is nothing compared to many parts of the world. So yes, I am grateful.

I looked up online what ways people can use to deal with despair and found this wonderful article on Psychology Today, which I also discovered has numerous blogs on every possible human condition. This one, however, is about how to deal with despair, and lists these five coping mechanisms:

(1) Take your despair for a walk. Good advice. I always feel better once I get outdoors and into the beautiful green environment that is my neighborhood. And after a few minutes, my perspective usually changes for the better.

(2) Give your sorrow words. It always helps me to find other people who are feeling the same as I am, and to read words of wisdom from authors and poets who know how to articulate what it means to be a human experiencing a tough time,

(3) Honor your despair. The article points out how pushing away or avoiding the situation doesn't help, but really makes it worse. Everyone in every life will have moments of despair, and acknowledging it actually helps to make it better.

(4) Seek out fellowship. Finding others who you can share your feelings with will definitely help everyone. I spent some time talking with my neighbor yesterday, and both of us shared tears over a glass of wine. Both of us felt somewhat better afterwards, I think.

(5) Avoid toxic positivity. This was a new one for me. I realize after pondering its meaning that what it is saying is that it doesn't help to put a happy face on it when you're feeling really bad. I cannot hide my despair, and I surely shouldn't even try.

Maybe it's time to start to think about all the wonders that surround me here. First of all, I'm sitting up in my bed, as usual, tapping away at my laptop, and looking forward to purchasing a new one in a month or two. I love my MacBook Air from 2019, but now that Apple has upgraded it, I'll be buying a new one. You wouldn't think that three years is a full lifetime for a laptop, but it really is. I use it every day, and it's become the main way that I watch videos. When I binge-watch a series, it's usually on my laptop with headphones. 

I talk to my sister Norma Jean once a month on here, too, and seeing her face in even more detail on FaceTime will be like she's right here with me. She's still swimming a mile every morning, and she looks good, which makes me very happy. My connection to her is essential to my continuing happiness. Between Norma Jean and SG, I have two wonderful people with whom I can share my ups and downs, and that makes all the difference. So, looking at my life from a new perspective, I realize that I will get through this rough patch without any permanent scars (at least that's what I'm hoping). How about you? How do you deal with... whatever? 

And yes, it's that time again. I am finished with my tea, my dear partner still sleeps next to me, and the sun has already raised the temperature, even early in the morning, by a few degrees. I'll put on my Big Girl shorts and sandals and share a nice breakfast with my friend John, before returning home for some good conversation and hugs with my guy. Yes, life is good, still. I have so much gratitude for everything. That includes you, my dear readers, and I do hope you find a way to experience the wonders that are everywhere, if we just stop to look. 

Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, and that you will find a way to remain comfortable in your own world. Be well.



Sunday, June 19, 2022

Bringing up the past

Norma Jean and me, picture by Daddy

I looked back at previous Father's Day posts, and all of them have pictures I've used before. Maybe it would be fun to remember Daddy from another angle, looking at who he was to those two little girls when we were growing up. For the first seven years of my life, it was just the two of us, and then my sister PJ was born.

He was a big man, especially to us, who were much smaller and dependent on him and Mama for everything. Daddy would often be the one who would send us off to school with our lunch pails, with sandwiches he prepared. He often told me stories of how life was for him when he was a little girl (which of course he wasn't, but I didn't know that then. I thought I'd grow up to be a man like him.)

Daddy was very soft-hearted. He would cry at the drop of a hat and often lost his composure when reading stories to us at bedtime. I don't have any memories of Mama reading to us, but plenty of them when he did. As a child, I didn't wonder about why it was always him, because I thought that it was the same in every family. These days, I do wonder, since I remember that Daddy was a morning person, like I am, and Mama was not. Maybe she had her nose buried in a book she was reading and Daddy preferred reading bedtime stories to us. Who knows?

My parents went on to have a big family of six (seven if you count our sister who died after having been born prematurely and only lived for a few hours), but the second family didn't come along until I was a teenager. My brother Buz was born when I was sixteen, and then the next two sisters were born after I got married and left home myself. I have never been as close to them as I am to Norma Jean, since it was just the two of us for so many years. Daddy looms large in my memories of growing up, although as an officer in the Air Force, he was often absent for months at a time.

Daddy had a darkroom where he developed pictures and was a pretty good photographer. He took many pictures of his two daughters, like the one I've included here, and Mama was always nearby if not prominent in many of them. She was the one who kept us looking presentable and probably sewed those little beach outfits for us. I well remember the smell of the chemicals in the darkroom, although I was only allowed in a few times. It's a very clear memory, flat pages with the images slowly appearing as he carefully worked with them until they were developed to his satisfaction and then placed on a clothesline to dry. I suppose there are still darkrooms like his somewhere, but it's really a relic of the past for most of us. Now I take pictures with a simple click of my camera phone and if I don't like it, off it goes into the ether. No more waiting to see what you captured.

Daddy liked to read, but nothing like the way my mother did. She had reams of books from the library surrounding her, and she would read in bed, while Daddy was asleep next to her. (This was when we were older and no longer had bedtime stories read to us.) The activity never seemed to bother him, and I remember sitting and talking (quietly) to Mama at night while Daddy snored away. As a teenager, Daddy introduced me to his favorite science fiction books, some of which I have reread as an adult. I think he would have loved the way so many of his children became avid readers. He was a philosopher at heart, too. He filled my head with some amazing ideas, mostly when he'd become a little inebriated, which might explain why many of those thoughts are still so vivid in my mind. I blame Daddy for my overactive imagination.

Daddy was only 62 when he died, and I was 36. My sister Fia was only 16. Events like these take a huge toll on us all, but at least I was an adult and had some life experience that helped me put it into perspective. My youngest siblings, Fia  and Markee, were just high school kids. We all suffered through, and gradually, as it always happens, we took up the threads of our lives and moved on. Mama was devastated, having lost her husband of 37 years, but she also managed to establish a good life for herself in the fourteen years she had left on the planet.

Mama was only 69 when she died. It astounds me to realize she was only 55 when she became a widow. To me, at the time, she seemed much older than that. Of course, I realize that as I grow older myself, what once seemed to be ancient is now, well, not so much. Someone who is 55 seems young as I look back at the almost three decades that have transpired since I was that age. When I see in the obituaries that someone died at 85 (for example), it feels a little premature. But it's not, is it? In the Bible (Psalm 90:10) the length of a life is supposedly 70 or 80.  
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Although my father didn't get to be very old, he lived a very full life, filled with love and laughter, family and friends. After he retired from the Air Force, he continued to work at General Dynamics (GD), which is now Lockheed. Although I had left home long before and wasn't around at that time, my brother saw this side of him: he often piloted his boat to work, since GD was located across Lake Worth, where my family lived. It was remarkable watching him take off into a strong wind with lots of white cap waves on the lake, on his way to the office.

That's a memory my brother has of our father that I didn't know anything about. I had started making my own way in the world. And now, here today, many many years later, I'm taking this time to remember and reflect on a wonderful man, my father, who gave me part of my genetic makeup (along with Mama), and who counseled me over the years we had together. The sense of loss is gone, replaced with a deep appreciation and indebtedness for having experienced it at all.
 
Thanks, Daddy, for being my father and giving me so many vivid memories of you. I hope that someday in one of our future lives we will again have a chance to compare notes about what we learned this time around. The bonds of love and happiness are very strong when I think about my childhood, and you are very much a central figure even today. 

If there is a heaven, I like to think my parents are together on the celestial golf course, where long drives and accurate putts are the norm. And that Daddy outdrives Mama most of the time.

And that's it, for this Father's Day remembrance, and me hoping that your week is a good one, with lots of love and laughter in whatever is just right for you. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me as I finish up this post, and I look forward to the rest of my day ahead. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you call good things. Be well.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Roses and rain

Cornwall Rose Garden first blooms

We seem to be stuck in a never-ending loop of rain one day, partial sunshine the next, and cool temperatures overall. We're lucky if we are able to leave our gloves at home. But I do know that I'll be complaining about the heat at some point this summer, the start of which is less than two weeks away. We have yet to see any really warm weather. I've learned that in the local gardens, everything is delayed one to three weeks because of the cooler and wetter weather. 

I really don't mind, since I am not a fan of heat. But there are many people who miss the summer sun and warmth. My favorite temperature is right around 60°F (15°C). Right now my old home state of Colorado is baking in triple-digit temperatures, which is one reason why we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest when I retired from my job at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. We've lived here fourteen years now and we've never been sorry we moved here.

Today I think I'd like to explore some old memories of memorable events that I've experienced in the past. As many of you know, for more than two decades I was an active skydiver, and for many of those years I was an instructor. For years I taught the First Jump Course at Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont, Colorado and took students out on their first jumps. These were not tandem jumps, since I don't think I was ever capable of such feats of strength. Few women are tandem instructors; instead, I became an AFF (accelerated freefall) instructor through a rigorous process. I failed the first time I took the week-long course. But in June 1994, I became licensed to take students on their first jumps.

Looking back, I realize I truly enjoyed that time in my life, and the people I taught were fully capable of saving their own lives in case of an emergency. The first line of defense is always teaching a person what to do in every possible circumstance. Since they would need to land a parachute for the first time, they were given a harness and container system with a large main and reserve parachute and needed to know how to use them. Once they were trained on how to activate the main, and what to do in case it failed, I made sure they had practiced enough to gain muscle memory in that event. I taught hundreds of students.

There is a real sense of accomplishment when you help someone learn a new skill and know that if they needed to, they could carry out the appropriate activity competently. Of course, I had to learn all this myself in my early days of my career. Under my tutelage, few students ever had to use their reserve, but there were plenty of other things that could happen. The way AFF works is this: two instructors are holding on to either side of the harness of the student, right at the center of gravity at the hip. Then the threesome moves to the door of the airplane and jumps out together. The student is taught to give the count and upon exit, thrust their hips forward as they leave the airplane. This helps us keep the threesome stable, and just like that, we're in freefall. The student then has tasks to do: touch the main ripcord handle three times, look at the instructors for instructions, and then to keep looking at the altimeter on their wrist to keep track of their position in freefall. We exited at 13,000 feet and by the time they get to 5,000 (about 30 seconds later), they were to pull the main ripcord. This would then cause the two instructors to let go as the student is pulled out of their hands and is now under a main parachute.

At least 99% of the time, that is exactly what happens on a student's first jump. While the student is left to orient themselves and fly the parachute back to the Drop Zone (DZ), the two instructors track away and open their own mains, locate the student (now above them), and fly back to where we began the adventure. The student had a radio attached to their chest strap, and someone on the ground usually directed them back to the DZ, while we landed ourselves safely. I would take as many as six or seven students in a single day during the long summer season.

It makes me tired just to think of how much work that all was, but I was younger then and could deal with it well. Tired and happy was the way I usually went home after a long day at the DZ. Occasionally a student would twist an ankle or land in an unceremonious heap, but hardly anybody was anything other than ecstatic and happy after having accomplished such a life-changing event. A good number of them returned the following week for another jump.

It was an exciting time in my own life, and I am very glad I never had to deal with a student fatality. One time a student was flying his parachute back to the DZ and hit a barbed-wire fence and ended up with a broken pelvis. That was the worst accident I remember, although other instructors did have students with more serious injuries. Broken bones were the most common, and the student was whisked off to the local hospital. Sometimes they would return to proudly show off their cast and let us know they were all right. But injuries didn't happen often; it was much more usual for the students and instructors to be just fine after a day of jumping out of airplanes.

Today, my excitement comes from more sedate activities: wearing myself out on a long hike or learning a new yoga posture. How grateful I am for those years of such adventure and accomplishment. Those memories will never fade completely, as long as I am alive, and it gives me great pleasure to reminisce with you, and relive those days.

With that, I've gone as far with this digital adventure as I can for today, but perhaps I'll recall more of these activities in the future and share them with you. For now, I've got to begin the rest of my day, now that my tea is gone and my dear partner still sleeps next to me. It's time to move on. I do hope that you will find happiness and love in your week ahead, and when we meet again next week that you will have had some adventures of your own. Until then, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Four thousand weeks

Whatcom Falls on Saturday

Yesterday Melanie, Dianne and I walked just under five miles in Whatcom Falls Park, stopping (as usual) in front of Whatcom Falls to see how the water is running. As we expected, it's totally roaring, with all the rain we've had lately. We were so lucky to have had a dry day on Thursday, when the Senior Trailblazers had their annual Start the Summer potluck and hike. I joined the group, but Mel went out on a solo hike. The group was really large, with around fifty Senior Trailblazers from two different hiking groups all gathered together. It's too many people for comfort on a regular hike these days, but I sure enjoyed myself. You can read all about it on that link.

But today I'm going to talk about time, once again. The title of this post is referring to the number of weeks that a usual mortal gets to spend on earth during one lifetime. One of my blogging friends pointed me towards a book by that name: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. And you know how much I enjoy writing about, and trying to figure out, what the heck the whole concept of time really means.

Although I haven't finished this book yet, I'm finding it fascinating to consider how time has been perceived in earlier civilizations. It's interesting to think what it was like before people had any sort of clocks or need for them. In medieval times, people woke at sunrise and went to bed when the sun went down. Burkeman says that monks had to figure out how to get up before the sunrise, so they assigned a monk to stay awake all night and watch the stars to tell when it they should wake up, but if he fell asleep or it was cloudy, it didn't work. I laughed at that, realizing that something else would have to be considered. We humans are nothing if not a resourceful lot. 

But to come all the way from sleepy monks to thinking of us as being stuck on a conveyor belt that constantly speeds up to help us get everything in our lives done, well, it's a real stretch. When I consider how little actual time we humans have to get anything done before we die, it's amazing that we actually accomplish anything. I am beginning to understand why some people have long to-do lists and are constantly trying to keep up within the constriction of our short lives. Four thousand weeks is surprisingly brief, isn't it?

I looked up on one of my favorite sites, timeanddate.com, how many weeks I've been alive and found that I've already had 4,184 weeks of life and have another 26 weeks or so before I turn eighty (and might have another 500+ weeks after that. Who knows?) It's not much time, but then again, the whole of human civilization is only four to seven million years old. We are definitely a young race, but look at how much we have accomplished, both good and bad. We've changed the entire world, and explored much of the universe beyond, but look at what we have done with time itself. We have become its slave.
There is an alternative: the unfashionable but powerful notion of letting time use you, approaching life not as an opportunity to implement your predetermined plans for success but as a matter of responding to the needs of your place and your moment in history. ― Oliver Burkeman

And we are actually standing at a critical place in history: right at the end of a pandemic and trying to figure out how to use our limited time more appropriately. I know that I am endeavoring to enjoy each day, especially when I consider how lucky I am, having a warm and safe roof over my head, enough food to eat every day (too much sometimes), a partner to share my days with, and friends and family who care about me, and whom I also care about. I can still read, even if my eyesight is not perfect, and I can sit in the dark and type on my laptop and reach out to infinity through the miracle of the internet.

But still, I am also lucky because I can look back on a life well lived, with lots of memories of people and places that I cherish, and it feels like enough to me. I had a productive career as an editor and helped to create many books that now sit on countless shelves; I had a productive avocation as a skydiver, piloting canopies, teaching others how to fly their bodies in freefall, and I am satisfied. Getting up and greeting each day with a sense of wonder and happiness, happy to have another day to find a way to manage time instead of letting it manage me. I'm determined to change my vision of time from being on a conveyor belt into one of being a creature IN time, with infinite possibilities ahead.

Using that calculator on the timeanddate.com website, I realize that I've also been alive for almost 30,000 days (29,040 to be exact), and have breathed in and out for 41,900,000 minutes (almost 42 million!) and find it possible to inspire myself to continue creating many more Sunday posts, one a week here on this blog. Why not? I enjoy it, and some of my followers enjoy it too. While my time might not be infinite, it's enough once I step off the conveyor belt and consider the expanse my consciousness can reach. 

I have all the time I need. And I am hoping that you will consider for yourselves what you would like to accomplish in your own life, hoping that the possibility of rethinking your life to become one filled with infinite possibility will give you another way to ponder how to spend your days. It's possible to find fulfillment with every breath, if we allow it.

It's time (!) to wind up this post and begin the rest of my Sunday. I do hope you will find love and joy in your day, and that you will smile as you consider your options. I am listening to the drum of rain on the roof, and realize that I'll need to wrap myself in some of my rain gear when I go outside to meet my friend John for a breakfast trip to Fairhaven. Until we meet again in another week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Walking into the light

Hiding in the dark

I took this picture last Thursday when Melanie and I hiked up the Chanterelle Trail. The second segment of the trail, after the viewpoint, starts off in dense forest. After we enjoyed a brief respite at the viewpoint, we started up the second part just long enough to experience the darkness of the trail and see the light coming from the open area. It's a little haunting, but also serene to my eyes. I needed to find some serenity.

How do you cope with sorrow and pain? I would bet that all of us have developed coping mechanisms, since everyone alive eventually experiences the dark side of living, even if it's not very often or very difficult. But for some of us, it's simply hellish to wake up every day and have to leave the comfort and forgetfulness of our night's sleep, only to face yet another day of suffering. That's what is happening in so many places in our world today. Whether it's that small town in Texas, in Buffalo, or the entire Ukrainian country. Or Bangladesh's floods, or...

So much suffering that sometimes I wonder how anybody escapes this world without falling into despair. At first I watched the news and read all about the latest mass shootings in our country, two awful ones within a week. Then I began to realize that the news was just repeating the same stuff, over and over and enough to make anybody go a little crazy. So I stopped watching and reading the headlines. It helped me feel better. Yesterday Melanie and I went for a nice five-mile walk in the beautiful forest surrounding us here in Bellingham, no rain, and I began to feel better. Now I'm spending my time watching old Star Trek episodes and enjoying being transported somewhere else, somewhere other than the present world. However, it's a holiday weekend out there.

It is Memorial Day weekend, and I was truly surprised by the numbers of people out and about. Then I remembered that this is the first time in three years that we here in Bellingham get to celebrate the Ski to Sea event! This amazing race will take place today, Sunday, and covers seven different segments: cross country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, downhill running, road biking, canoeing, mountain biking, and ending with kayaks coming into Marine Park in Fairhaven. Each team has three to eight participants, usually one person for each segment except for the canoe segment that requires two paddlers. A few years ago it was decided that one person can participate in up to three segments instead of a different person for each one. Anyway, it takes all day from the starting gun at 7:30am at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, with people coming into the final leg usually by mid- to late afternoon. I've watched the finish a few times, but it's a huge party and way too loud and high energy for me! There's lots of food to buy, beer and wine, and musicians at every corner. If we are lucky and there's not any rain, it will be packed shoulder to shoulder. Yep, I'll be home safe and snug in my apartment, but I'll read all about it online as the day unfolds.

On Memorial Day, I don't want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live. —Eric Burdon

Especially this year, I want to think about all those who are working to make this world a kinder place to live, one with clean water and air, and safe places to gather without fear. I have spent way too much time lately thinking of all that is wrong and scary in the world, and not enough thinking about how one tiny little act can change the world. I remember a quote from the Dalai Lama: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." So I will try to spend the rest of this post spreading around as much of it as I can muster.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

Although I have used this quote from Margaret Mead before, it's the one I originally went looking for, because it reminds me that it doesn't take a massive movement to change the trajectory of fear and despair that many of us have been following lately. It has come to my attention that there are many of us who are ready for a change in direction. We are a divided nation and a divided world, but there are more citizens in the United States who are ready for common-sense gun control than those who think that assault weapons should be able to be purchased by anyone over the age of 18 without even so much as a background check. For the first time, I envy those of you who live in more enlightened countries, like Australia and Europe. We are the only country where these mass shootings with weapons of war occur almost DAILY.

Okay, I'll stop there. I don't usually let politics enter into my posts, but I couldn't pretend like it's not uppermost in my mind. There are solutions, and I will donate to the causes I believe in, and I will join with other like-minded citizens to vote my conscience in the fall. I am confident that we will make a difference, because we are definitely not such a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens, but instead a massive group of mothers and fathers who cherish our children.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and I especially want to remember those in my family who have served in the armed forces, starting with my dad, who retired as a Major in the Air Force. I remember learning about the air-refueling jet (the KC-135) that he navigated, and wondering how the heck it was possible to figure out how to take into account all the variables to allow a skinny little hose to extend from one moving plane into the right spot on another moving plane! My father was able to do that.

And my mother, who raised six kids from infancy into adulthood, all the while teaching us how to cook and clean (and knit and crochet) like she did. Although we moved a lot while I was growing up, I always had a secure home life, and Mama always managed to create a home out of each place we lived. It was hard to find my home after both of my parents died and there was no longer a central place to point to, one where I could come for visits or when times were hard. But eventually I did find a place, and for the last thirty years, my dear partner has been there, creating a home base and sharing his life with me. I am so grateful for his presence in my life, and I want to acknowledge what a difference he has made in my daily existence.

Although circumstances didn't allow me to keep my two beautiful sons, they also gave me so much joy. Chris lived into his early forties before dying of a heart attack, but he was loved and cherished, having found his soulmate before his death. It's been a long time since he died, but he is still alive in memories and there are times when I swear I can hear his distinctive laughter behind me. No, it's only in my head and heart where he still lives. Stephen was just a baby of 13 months when he died, so I have fewer memories of our time together. But they are there nevertheless, and when I stop to remember them, I am content and grateful.

Another place I go when I need solace is to my electronic family, the collection of blogs that I follow, and people who have become as familiar and cherished as my "skin" family and friends. I enjoy learning about your children and grandchildren, and smile at the antics of your furry companions. I love to see your gardens and your homes as you also make your way through the days and weeks of your lives. It gives me great pleasure: you have no idea how often I visit you just to share your peaceful worlds. I know we all have trials and tribulations, it's part of life, but it's also not the only thing we write about.

See? There's so much we can share as we make our way through life, much that gives me perspective and hope. Not to mention how easy it is for me to transport myself to Fresno, Canberra, Seattle, Miami, North Dakota, and many other places in a flash. And to find out how you all are managing your lives and giving me a few pointers when I falter. Yes, it's a good life all right, and I am more than grateful for it, and all the possibilities that await us in the days and years ahead.

My dear partner is still sleeping next to me, and my tea is gone. It's time to wind up this post and remember to give thanks once again for everything that is good, true, and beautiful. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Gifts of friends and memories

Squalicum Harbor

Yesterday it was just Melanie and me walking around the harbor, checking out the flowers and boats, enjoying the cool breeze and delightful views as we covered a little more than five miles in full sunshine. We have finally seemed to make it to an actual springtime season, with the temperature here making it all the way up to the high sixties, and maybe today we'll make it to 70° (21°C) for the first time this year.

I have been reading about the awful heat wave covering the entire northeast of the country, with many places setting new record highs for the date. It seems to me that the weather everywhere is out of whack, and many areas having really weird weather. Take Denver, for example: after hitting 90°F on Thursday, the very next day a snowstorm dropped the temperature by 57 degrees and brought as much as 20 inches of snow to several parts of Colorado. I remember well a May snowstorm in Boulder, when we received three feet of snow overnight, and I and some friends brought out our cross-country skis and enjoyed a wonderful sunny day with lots of slippery ice to navigate. I couldn't seem to find just the right mixture of ski wax, finally ending up using klister, which is almost like slapping chewing gum on your skis in order to be able to make your way up the slopes. Sliding down was easy, but any climbing needed lots more skill than I possessed. It was fun, though, and I remember skiing in a t-shirt and getting sunburned (we weren't as careful in those days).

By late afternoon yesterday, we opened the windows in the kitchen and living room to allow the lovely breeze to cool down our apartment. It was warmer than I am accustomed to, but then again, it is still not anywhere near too warm. Last year in late June we had a terrible heat wave, with Seattle setting an all-time record of 108°F on June 28, hot enough to buckle the roads and close down highways. Here in Bellingham we set a record of 99°F on June 29. We don't know what's in store for us this year, but with all the rain we've had, I don't think we will be in any fire danger for at least a couple of months. But then again, all the rain caused many meadows to proliferate with grasses, which might dry out and become a fire hazard. It's really hard to imagine that, but it used to happen in Boulder frequently in late summer and early fall.

I thought it might be fun to reminisce today over some of my favorite skydives. Most summers during the 1990s I traveled to Quincy, Illinois, to attend the ten-day-long World Freefall Convention (WFFC). After a couple of years, I realized that there was a great need for a place for inexperienced skydivers to gather and make some safer, smaller skydives together. I got permission from the owners of the Convention to do it. So I ended up gathering a bunch of skydiving pals from Colorado to become load organizers and create that space. The more experienced skydivers were glad not to have people who were not ready yet to join larger formations have a community of their own. We specialized in getting groups of four to eight skydivers together to play together in the sky, with some very simple and fun formations as the basic format.

We had a huge tent and got couches and chairs for people to sit in, with lots of room to pack parachutes after a jump. Fans and a portable TV with DVR player helped to give us a way to watch skydives that some of our participants would film. These days, everyone has digital cameras attached to their helmets, but in the 90s, they were not as available. We made sure we had a chance to see and critique our performances in the sky.

Paul, one of our regulars packing his chute

I went looking back in my old archives for any pictures I might have of the WFFC to share with you, so you could get a better idea of the tent. Anyone who has traveled or lived in Illinois in August knows how hot it can get, so any shade was much appreciated. It's hard for me to realize that this picture was taken almost twenty years ago, probably with my little old PowerShot camera. Nowadays I don't take pictures with anything but my phone, but back then we didn't even have smartphones. Did you realize they didn't exist before 2007? How much has changed since then.

Not only did the WFFC have thousands of participants, they also offered plenty of unusual aircraft for us to jump from. I made jumps from helicopters, hot air balloons, King Airs, Cessna Caravans, and the workhorse that took us to altitude most often, the Twin Otter. And much more (check out the link I found to the Convention). From that link:
The World Freefall Convention has seen many successful years, starting with skydiving numbers of 700 to 800 participants in 1990 and rising to a high in 2001 of 5700 jumpers, from 57 countries that made over 70,000 jumps during the event. As the number of annual members in the USPA have decreased, so have those numbers attending the WFFC.

The last one I attended was in 2000. By then I was still skydiving, but the desire to spend so much time in the heat and humidity of Illinois in August had faded. I still have some of my old jackets from the nineties. And boy, do I have a lot of memories! I forgot to mention that for two or three years I jumped from a 727 Boeing JET! That means I have a D.B. Cooper number, which was issued to those who purchased a jump ticket and made the leap. They cost twice as much as a regular jump, but it was more than worth the price.

The jet had the seats removed and held 180 jumpers at a time. This particular model had a rear exit, with the stairs covered with plywood so you could just run down the short ramp and be in freefall. The way it was done was to load up all those jumpers and make two separate passes over the Drop Zone. But first, we had to load up the plane and secure ourselves with the seat belts on the floor. It was so hot that we were sweating buckets as we waited for the loading to be completed. Then once the plane took off, it was only three minutes to altitude! And we were frightened when a dense fog formed almost immediately after takeoff (it looked like smoke at first) from all those sweaty bodies. We relaxed when we realized it was fog.

We lined up when it was time for our exit, holding onto the shoulders of the person in front of us, then we quick-stepped together until we were out the door and in freefall. Since the plane was traveling very fast, we actually slowed down from exit speed to regular freefall speed of 120 miles an hour! It was very disorienting and exciting, but once we were in freefall, it was just a regular skydive. Not to mention that most of us landed off the field, since stringing out that many skydivers (90 per pass) meant it was impossible to have everyone land on the field. There were plenty of volunteer drivers who drove around and picked us up. I was in a pickup and thrilled to have done it.

In going back in time like this, I realize I've had quite an exciting life with plenty of memorable experience. And here I am in 2022, still hiking and walking and doing my yoga, even if I'm no longer skydiving. I know there are a few eighty-year-olds still out there, but the desire faded as I got older and realized I'd done just about everything as I gathered my jump numbers, which ended at 4,201 in 2015.

How can I be sad about having left it behind? In many ways, I can look back at my years and be incredibly grateful for the wonderful experiences I've had. There have been good times and bad, which is typical for most of us, but I realize I can concentrate on the good times. Attitude is everything. As my dear partner still sleeps next to me, I am looking forward to having breakfast with my friend Lily, who will join John and me this morning. This morning, I am filled with gratitude and smiling to think of those skydiving years I enjoyed. So, dear ones, until we meet again next week, I wish you many good memories to wrap yourselves in. Be well.