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, 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.


Rian said...

"... 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." I think (hope) this is true, DJan. But how to get control away from the NRA and the politicians seems to be the question. (Vote them out of course- just easy to say, but apparently not easy to do). Stricter background checks, red flags, and more security is possible and maybe it won't stop all the killings, but at least it will stop some. We need to do something! (Sorry, didn't mean to even go there).
I too have stopped watching the news repeating the same thing over and over... now looking to place blame instead of coming up with solutions. I haven't posted recently because my simple blog talking about gardens, cats, etc. seems so trivial when people are really hurting so badly in our world right now. Yet that too is what I want to hear about from other bloggers... their lives, their hopes and dreams, their thoughts...

Marie Smith said...

When I was a child I had pneumonia. I was really sick and Mom and Dad took me into bed with them. I had one of those “out of body” experiences where I was in a dark tunnel-like place and there was a light at the end. I wasn’t afraid at all. I moved towards the light but then woke up. If that is the physical manifestation of the lack of oxygen to the brain, it’s okay with me. I wasn’t afraid. Who knows what lies beyond in the light? I am not afraid anyway.

Getting one newscast a day is enough for me. My time on this side of the grave is too precious to waste on repeated terror and fear. I do what I can and move on…Time is too precious.

Have a great week.

Elephant's Child said...

Oh yes. Seeing/reading the news once is enough for me. Any more and I spiral into despair. I am so grateful for the beauty of the natural world and for the perspective of my blog friends. Have a wonderful day and week dear friend.

Arkansas Patti said...

Love that picture. It just whispers 'hope' and boy do we need it now.
Why do we insist on manufacturing assault weapons for anyone other than the armed forces? They are not hunting rifles for they would ruin the animals meat. They are not target rifles for they would destroy the targets after one burst. They have one purpose, to kill people and should not be sold to civilians. Period.
I know I need to record my wishes at the polls. Wish there were more but at least I have that.

Rita said...

I feel the same way about my blog family...and the news--LOL!
I send my very best--always--when I think of each friend and family member...and this whole entire world. Good and bad--we are all family--whether we like it or not. ;)
Love and hugs from Fargo. :)

Linda Reeder said...

This post made me peaceful even though it addressed the evil among us. Thank you.
Right now I am sitting at the table/desk in our Whidbey cabin. We arrived late morning to join my family - my son, daughter and granddaughter. We watched the end of the Indy 500 together, often talking over each other. We went for walks, some shorter than others, and came together for a photo in the cabin yard on our historic family bench. Jake, Tom and Jill are engineering the installation of a weather station. Later we will cook Mac and cheese for dinner with vegies and salad and then watch the Sounders on TV. Tom and I will go home as darkness falls, knowing we can take our time in the morning as we head into a busy week.
The last two evenings we have found free movies on Netflix that were light and funny and kind. Kindness is how I'm dealing with the world sadness and also with my own issues. Kindness given means kindness returned.

Red said...

You're right that it is difficult to keep your eye on the highroad. Many people agree with you and yet some of the opposition gets much more notice. I've always been hopeful but now I'm not so sure. There are too many negatives going on these days.

Gigi said...

I rarely watch the news and I only skim the local paper because it is all too grim. But I know that there are people in the world who are doing what they can to make the world a better place...even if the news rarely spotlights them.

Have a wonderful week, DJan. Sending hugs.

Anvilcloud said...

Your Sunday morning missives are so thoughtful and charming to read. You have found the positive within the despair.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I wish you all good things too! It was a bad week for so many people. All we can do is pray and be kind in what ever ways we can. I thank you for your friendship!

Betsy said...

It was a week of despair, after a similar one only the week before. I find myself never watching the news because it seems that all they give is opinions. Both sides do the same and attack the other. I long for the days of Walter Cronkite who gave the news, without an opinion. I get my news briefly, online and then I'm done. Otherwise I find myself mired down in the same stories over and over with nothing I can do to help, and find myself in despair. So I pray. A lot. God is always there to listen and I know that He cares more than anyone.
What has changed, I wonder? Assault style rifles have been available for over 100 years. Millions of people own them. Only a few do these horrible deeds and only in the last few decades. What has changed? The breakdown of the home? The isolation of social media, especially in teens? Bullying? Drug abuse? I don't know. I certainly do not love guns, but I don't believe they are the only problem, or more of the millions of owners would be out doing the same thing. We HAVE to figure out the reason for these shootings and all of the anger we seem to have toward each other, because this rage isn't the answer either.
I'm not a political person at all, but something has to change. But what? And how? I know God is a wonderful start. :-)
I hope you have a wonderful week full of God's blessings in your life.

Galen Pearl said...

I know what you mean about all the suffering. A friend remarked that she has started thinking in terms of geologic time -- eons rather than years or eras. An expanded perspective.

Your Ski to Sea sounds like a more complex version of Hood to Coast here in Oregon.

William Kendall said...

When my depression has been at its deepest there have been times where I would dread being awake, because sleep was the only respite.

Tabor said...

I thought of you and my friend Jen who also lost a child when this news came out. I thought of the parents dropping their beautiful children off at school the next morning. I also watch about 15 minutes of the news and then move on to the activities of the day.