I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The light has returned

Whatcom Falls bridge

 Ah, spring! It's definitely springing around here. Yesterday Melanie, Chris and I walked around five-ish miles in Whatcom Falls Park, and I captured this picture that shows the filtered sunlight and the gorgeous bridge. It (the bridge) was built by the Works Progress Association (WPA), one of Franklin Roosevelt's attempts to help the country recover from the Great Depression.

From 1939 to 1940, the WPA built the stone bridge and retaining walls that overlook the waterfalls at Whatcom Falls Park. Builders salvaged Chuckanut sandstone arches from Pike Building, an 1891 downtown landmark lost in a fire. The WPA also funded the park’s fish hatchery in 1936 alongside the State Game Commission and Whatcom County Sportsmen’s Association. The bridge continues to provide a viewing platform for one of Bellingham’s most famous natural features. (Whatcom Talk)

I love living here in Bellingham, and to think this beautiful bridge was built even before I was born. I sure hope it remains for many more centuries to come for more people to enjoy its beauty. Although I won't be here in corporeal form anyway, I will have walked across this bridge many, many times before it's all over.

It must have something to do with approaching a major landmark in my life, becoming an octogenarian. I've got lots of friends who are already there and doing quite well, but I keep thinking about how quickly the decade of my seventies flew right on by. Of course, it's possible I'll make it to ninety, but considering the lack of longevity in my family genes, I'm certainly not considering it likely. My dear sister PJ would have turned 72 this week, but she died at 63 of heart disease. My own son died at 40 of the same thing, which reminds me that it's time for me to make an appointment for my annual Wellness checkup. My efforts at exercise and following a reasonably sensible diet have helped me stay relatively healthy.

The two areas of health issues that loom large for me are (1) my eyesight and the macular degeneration that is slowly taking away my ability to see. And (2) whether or not my mind is still functioning properly. I have become so forgetful, and my memory is growing gaps that scare me. What good is a long life if you don't know who you are anymore? When I see my doctor I'll ask her what she thinks, but she's a youngster in comparison to me. It's not an easy thing to measure another person's mental processes, especially early on.

I've got a dear friend who has developed Alzheimer's Disease and no longer can hike or drive or do many of the activities that he enjoyed so much. He needs a companion to be with him whenever he ventures outdoors any more. I haven't seen him around for a few months, and I worry that he's become confined to an indoor existence, which would be awful for him. When I was younger, I speculated that losing your mental faculties wouldn't be so bad, since you probably wouldn't realize it. Now that I'm at that age, I know it would be very hard to cope with.

I've got a whole lifetime of memories, and it would be very hard to try to recall a time in my life and find my ability to remember it just... gone. It's been seven years since I stopped skydiving, but the memories of that quarter-century of activity is precious to me. From that first tandem jump in 1990 to my final leap from an airplane in 2015, those thousands of jumps will always be part of me. I've got logbooks that I can peruse if I want to remember a particular jump, but when I look back to that time, those years define who I have become today. 

Lately I've been wearing an old jacket from the World Freefall Convention in 1998, and I realize that it brings back those years in a way I'd forgotten. At least I can still remember defining moments, such as when we got married in freefall in 1994, when I became a skydiving instructor in 1992 and the hundreds of students I taught in countless first-jump courses, and the myriad lifelong friends I still see on Facebook. There was a time when I would proudly wear skydiving gear and hope that people would ask me about my experiences, but no longer. Now I feel a little bit embarrassed when someone asks me about it. That's not to say that I won't sit down with a skydiving friend and reminisce about the old days, but those memories have all faded as time goes by. But for now, I can still remember that I was once an active and enthusiastic skydiver.

I was also a mother, and the memories of having given birth to my two sons are still there, if I rummage around inside my mind and recall that period of time in my life. But since they are both gone, and since my dream of becoming a grandmother will never come to pass, I pull out those memories much less often. Pictures will sometimes help me to recall how much I loved them, but their memories are overlaid with pain, so I guess it makes sense that I don't try to recall them very much. Another part of my past gone, with only ephemeral waves of recollections surfacing now and then.

Gosh, now that I've gone rummaging around in my mind for memories, I find I have plenty of them still there, still waiting for me to recall them. When I find myself doubting my ability to recall experiences, a quick perusal of the many years of my life are still available, which is very encouraging. Whew! I guess I'll lay that worry aside for awhile yet. 

These years of being a blogger are all retained by Blogspot, and I suppose it would be fun to take a tour of my oldest blogs and see what emerges from memory. I've been writing here since 2009 (and just went back to see when I wrote the first one: February 2009) and think it would be fun to re-read them and see what memories are activated by doing it. I've written more than 2,000 posts over on my other blog, and 650 here, only writing once a week. That's a whole lotta posts to read! Why not? I'm probably going to do that, at least I'm thinking about it.

I realize I have just found a way to make myself feel much better about my memory problems, and that gives me great joy. That, and the fun I have reading your comments through the years, and your own blog posts. My virtual family is only possible because of this wonderful activity of blogging. I am so glad to have such a wonderful resource, and that I can share it with you as well. 

And with that, I've run out of time to write, since John will be here early to pick me up and take me for our Sunday breakfast in Fairhaven. My dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, the tea is gone, and my day ahead beckons. Yes, the light has definitely returned! Until we meet again, dear friends, I wish you the best of weeks ahead.


Far Side of Fifty said...

What a lovely moss covered bridge! I use my blog to recall "stuff" also, it is a great tool. I am certain you will be spry into your eighties:0

Tabor said...

I wonder if aging makes us look back more. I sometimes find I am thinking back years ago. I had a bit of a frightening thing when a long-time high school friend said she came out for a visit a few decades ago and I have no memory of the brief lunch we had!! There are a number of standardized tests that you can take for mental measures and they are easy enough to do in a doctor's office. Hubby has mild dementia and we are working on living with it.

Arkansas Patti said...

I could spend a lot of time on that bridge. It would be a good place to zone out and forget the world's worries.
You and I started about the same time. I started Jan 2009 as the only resolution I have kept.
I do visit my stats and will revisit posts that get recent hits. Amazing how the posts put me right back in that time slot and love rereading the comments, sadly a lot from people no longer blogging.
You worry about losing memory. I saw my grandmother who lived to 93 and who was sharp as a tack but was trapped in a useless body. Not sure which I dread more. Hopefully we won't face either situation.

Elephant's Child said...

That bridge is enchanting. Thank you.
I worry about losing my mental faculties. Big time. And each time I forget something I 'should' have remembered, that worry surfaces.
My body is certainly failing, and I am exercising to help train/retrain my muscle memory. I suppose reading/blogging is my way of trying to keep my brain limber.
Thank you for yet another thoughtful post.
And hooray for the good friends I have found and cherish here in the blogosphere.

Rian said...

Beautiful moss covered bridge! It is wonderful that you have so many places to walk that are filled with the beauty of nature. And wonderful that you are sharing these places with me. I really appreciate it so much.

As for the aging worries... especially mental abilities (and I also am on Macuhealth for possible beginning of Macular Degeneration) it is a concern. Mom, her sister, and my dad's sister all fell victim to Alzheimer's. But we can only hope that they keep researching and will eventually come up with a cure (may not be in our lifetime, but still...)

I was going through some old pics on my computer and saw the ones where my daughter did her one and only SkyDive! I was there watching her and it was so awesome! Told DH yesterday that I would really like to do that (tandem of course)... he's not so sure.

Marie Smith said...

Living in the moments now keep me hopeful in spite of an aging body and mind. Living in the now, enjoying whatever the day brings or things we orchestrate, give me peace. Simple things, a good book, making a nice meal together, a walk in the sunshine or fog, the call of a bird, playing a game with a child, sharing a meal with family, all give me joy. At the end of life, no matter how long it is, these things will be cherished. If I lose my mind, it will be such things as these I will chose to remember as long as I am able.

Linda Reeder said...

As I was updating my memoir a few months ago, I used my blog to help me remember. A lot is stored in my virtual memory, but of course, only for the last decade or so. Way back memories are spotty, but photos help. It's interesting what things, like single incidents, we remember clearly, while other events are faded or gone. I think emotional attachment, good or bad, helps lock in memories.

William Kendall said...

Quite a lovely bridge.

Gigi said...

Thank you for sharing that beautiful bridge with us!

By all means, ask your doctor if you are concerned about your memory. I think the fact that when you start fishing around you find you do recall things is a good sign. Every single day, so very many things happen in our lives that I think we all have some memory gaps as there is just too much to retain at all times.

Have a wonderful week, my friend.

Red said...

Great topic today. I know that many memories of life experiences have faded nd some are gone. It amazes me how many things my wife brings up that I have forgotten. My short term memory is terrible. None of these things worry me. What will happen will happen and as Willie Nelson says. "There's nothin I can do about it now!"

John's Island said...

I just experienced a most enjoyable journey that started right here with this post, the light has returned. As I read through your thoughts about memory, I could not help but think about what a great writer you are. I thought I recalled that you had told us about being a writer in your career. I looked back in the Eye archive and found the post, August 7, 2016, when you told us about working for Mickey at the National Center for Atmospheric Research for thirty years and how he mentored you from secretary to writer/editor. Then I had to look up NCAR. What a fascinating place to work. I would love to visit the NCAR Mesa Laboratory. I wonder if your time at NCAR enhanced your interest in weather and the seasons? And I would really like to know what they are thinking at NCAR about climate change today. The bottom line here is this blogosphere can send us on some fascinating arm-chair journeys. Hope you and SG have a fine week ahead and thanks for sharing Eye on the Edge.

ApacheDug said...

I very much enjoyed reading this, DJan. Loved the title, loved that photo of the bridge built by the WPA. I've often wished I could've been around in FDR's time, he is my favorite president. (And if I had to choose between Eleanor & Michele Obama, it'd be a tie!) I haven't commented here for awhile, as recent posts have felt over my head, your talks of Buddhism and quantum physics. But I liked what you shared today.

Betsy said...

I sure miss Washington and the beautiful springs there. We were only 34F today for the high. Brrrrr.
I worry about my memory now and I'm "only" 62. Some of it is a medication I'm on. I hope if I am every able to stop the meds., my memory will get better.
I'm sure you're going to be spry well into your 80's and maybe 90's because you are so active.

Anvilcloud said...

I would think that making it to 80 must indicate that your genes are somewhat different than the others of your family. I imagine just a few tweaks in the right places is all that it takes.

As for worrying about dementia, I do get it, and we all have fears. But your ability to observe, think and express would indicate that you are doing rather well. Personally, I keep forgetting to use a cup to catch the coffee from our new machine. BUt I take comfort in knowing that it is a rote activity and that I know how to fill the machine and I know what the mug is for. My mind just drifts.

Margaret said...

I've wondered whether it would be "better" to lose my physical or mental faculties and have reached no firm opinion. (not that I have a choice) I've seen it happen either way or sometimes both--utterly miserable for all involved. I also enjoy reading through my old posts and feel like that was a whole different life and person. I was married with teenage kids and now I'm widowed with grown up daughters. My life has changed so much. Happy Almost 80s! It was a good decade for my parents and hope it will be for you!

Rita said...

What a cozy, peaceful bridge to visit!
I never thought about going back and reading all the many years of blog posts but I have thought about what it might be like to deal with losing your memory. What a great thing to have--years of blog posts with pictures. Thanks, Jan! :)
BTW--they say it is one thing to find your keys in the freezer and yet another to find your keys in the freezer and not know what they are. I think you have a long ways to go, but I know how it feels to have gaps you never used to have.