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

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

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 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.


Barbara Rogers said...

Thank you for your kind wishes. I've got a few more days before I complete my 80th turn around the sun. Have also been full of wonderings how this life fits into the bigger scheme of things. Feeling supremely grateful. Sending back mirrored wishes.

ApacheDug said...

DJan, that's a sweet baby photo of you at the top and I've just noticed something recently; the more you get to know a person, the more you're able to recognize them in other eras. I could tell that was you right off the bat. Anyway, I think it's great that you've never taken things for granted or let life pass you by. Many of us have much to be thankful for and this was a good reminder of that. :^)

Marie Smith said...

I live with the sense that if this is my last day, all is good. I’d die happy, pleased with my life, family, friends. Enjoy the gift of this day, Jan!

Arkansas Patti said...

Like Doug, I now believe I could probably pick the young you out of a baby lineup. The smile is the same. Of course a sibling might confuse me:)
Your statement about knowing your life won't be snuffed out prematurely hit home. Yep me too and I thought back to all those I knew who never had that blessing. Makes one really want to make the most of each day. Thanks.

Linda Reeder said...

Some mornings are hard. Hard mornings make me cranky. Thanks to your post I will work harder to control my crankiness. Tom doesn't deserve it and he is probably the only other person I will see today.
Practicing kindness really does work as a philosophy of life. It's a truth I have discovered recently.
Now that the morning is half over, it's time to get going on my pie baking. Continuing the tradition from my mother, I have been informed by my daughter, I am now the grandma who makes pies. She was concerned that I had been assigned that task without asking. I assured her that she was correct. Berry and cherry for the 4th of July.

gigi-hawaii said...

And I wish you all good things, too. Gigi hawaii

John's Island said...

Hello DJan, As I read through today’s Eye I felt like the comment I left LAST Sunday was a little bit prescient about today’s: kindness. 😊 Last Sunday I said, “… After reading this post I sat here for a while just thinking about Eye on the Edge and why I’ve enjoyed being here over the last decade or so. I think there are several reasons, but one of the primary ones is kindness. You have an unusually kind way of interacting with your followers.” So, today you’ve done it again. 😊 Love that 8 decades old photo and great Dalai Lami quote. Thanks for mentioning Four Thousand Weeks. I’ve found many interesting books thanks to you. Happy 4th of July to you and SG. John

Elephant's Child said...

I always look forward to your Sunday posts (and indeed all of your posts). I agree. Kindness is hugely important. I cannot change anyone else but can continue to work on myself.
Have a wonderful and kind week ahead dear friend.

Rian said...

Love the 2 pics... from toddler to now! And you are right, not everyone gets to reach old age. My siblings didn't. My older sister died at 51 and older brother at 59. They didn't get to see their grandchildren or share their older wisdom with me. Now I just wish they were here to share what's left of our lives together. But I appreciate this 'gift' - and believe that we create our lives (the good and the bad) and are accountable for our choices. Kindness is more important than most realize.

Tabor said...

The older I get, the harder it is to get my mind around time. My life is not that movie that is slowly coming to an end as the music comes up with the credits. And yes, there are a lot of people who have to get credit for getting me this far.

Red said...

I come from a rural background. The measurements of people is by land. Homesteaders came...lots of them. Many of them failed and left with a piece of land that had their name on it. People struggled into the 1930's and then a large proportion of framers went broke and left their name on some land. I often wonder about these people and their day to day struggle against the elements. They all have a story.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh both of your photos are lovely! I hope you have a very good week and that your kindness is returned to you one hundred fold:)

Rita said...

Sometimes it feels like I have lived an infinity and other times my 71 years seem like the blink of an eye. But I am also happy and have lived a very full life. Have been living my life ready to go at any time for as long as I can remember. Focused on spreading positives--and kindness is a big part of that. Lovely post!! Have a marvelous week, my friend. :)

Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed your thoughtful, kind posts. Hope your year is peaceful.

Mary said...

A book called Denial of Death was suggested on a blog I follow, but I have not read it yet.but a quote from it resounded with me.

Ernest Becker wrote in The Denial of Death: “To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.”

Galen Pearl said...

Loved that baby photo! At least you had hair -- a photo of me at about that age shows the scotch tape my mom used to tape a bow to my head! Ha! And you still have great hair -- I love your silvery white hair. Always enjoy your Sunday musings.

The Liberty Belle said...

Beautiful baby and beautiful lady. Great post.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Your insights are inspiring, and I found this post helpful. As I'm aging, I find myself feeling unsafe about the future because I have watched so many experience illness and be compromised in their ability to take care of themselves. Thank you for sharing.and reminding me to focus on being grateful and experiencing the day.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, your Sunday meditations always touch my heart and open my mind not only to possibilities, but also to the vast sea of life in which I have been swimming for all these years.

And always, it seems to me, you move in your musings each Sunday to a sea--a wellspring--of gratitude. I, too feel, which has deepened as the years have added up and as so many who have touched my life with goodness have gone Beyond.

Your reading enlightens all of us, and I thank you for sharing the titles of the books that have spoken to you. Now, I will look for this latest book. Thank you, DJan, for being yourself with us and for sharing the joy we see in the photo of you as a small child and as a woman of maturity and wisdom. Peace.

William Kendall said...

Very well said.

Linda Myers said...

What a great "now" photo!

Kindness is so, so important. And each of us can do that.