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 26, 2023

Fickle spring weather

Osoberries (Indian Plum) in bloom

Yesterday Melanie and I headed out to Fairhaven to begin our usual Saturday walk in a familiar place: The Interurban trail. It was miserable, to tell you the truth: it rained the night before (and was still spitting) and a stiff wind blew in our faces to make the cold temperature feel even more awful. But we didn't have to go far, we could turn around at any time if we felt the need. So off we went, but it wasn't long before I pleaded with Mel to go inside somewhere, anywhere, to warm up. We ended up going to the train station and ordered ourselves some hot chocolate to get warm inside and out. It was just right.

Before long, we felt the worst of the weather had moderated, so we set out for the trail. It was a good choice; it wasn't long before we were chatting away and forgetting the worst of the weather as our activity continued to warm us up. Not only that, we were also out of the wind and in the trees, admiring the early blooming Osoberry bushes everywhere. I didn't know their other name, only knowing them as Indian Plum for the longest time. Now that using the name "Indian" in most situations has become politically incorrect, I was happy to learn that these pretty bushes do indeed have another name. In the fall, they have red edible berries to harvest. Native Americans made plum jam out of the berries, which need a lot of sweetener to be really tasty, so they are not usually eaten right off the bush. This fall, though, I might just be moved to try them in their natural state.

In other matters, I have grown so accustomed to my hearing aids already, that occasionally I must check my ears to reassure myself they are properly positioned and not actually lost. At first, I was very aware I had something in my ears, and they were not comfortable, but now that they are, I find myself wondering how I got along without them for so long. All the birds! Oh my, the ones I had even forgotten are now back serenading me constantly on my walks. And I can hear the sound of bicycle tires coming up behind me on the trails, as well as the crunch of the path under my feet as I walk. It's a pretty busy world out there, and pre-hearing aids, my auditory environment had become much more muffled. I'm dealing with the sounds of the coffee shop better than I did at first, learning to tune out unwanted conversations a little better each day.

I'm feeling a little unmoored as to where to take this post next. It's always a bit of a crapshoot to sit down in front of a blank page and and try to figure out what's really on my mind, where I might want to go from here.
You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there. —Yogi Berra
Yogi knew what he was talking about, most of the time, anyway. I don't have a clue as to where I'm going next, but it helps to know that a great mind like his was in this predicament first. Now there are "Yogi-isms" that have become part of our everyday lives, such as "it ain't over till it's over," and "when you come to a fork in the road, take it." His mind didn't work like others; he had the gift of saying things in a way that gave us a chance to see things differently. I love that.

And I am back to reading my latest book, the one about quantum physics, and one that talks about the premise that All is One. I was reading in the book about Pythagoras and realized that although he lived thousands of years ago, we are still talking about his theories. He discovered that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. From Wikipedia:
Pythagoras was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, the West in general.
Last week, just by chance, I came across an article in The Guardian about two teens who say they have a new proof to the Pythagorean Theorem which illustrates that the idea of his theorem is still hanging around in the classrooms of today. Thousands of years ago, this interesting man lived and still is being discussed. I find it rather astounding, and the coincidence of my having read about him and then this article showing up in my reading material. I wonder sometimes about whether we are actually are All One Thing. Maybe linear time is truly an illusion and we are not aware of what reality consists of. I seem to remember Einstein saying that linear time is a concept so that everything doesn't happen all at once. Or something like that.

Did you see the movie that ended up winning Best Picture? Everything Everywhere All At Once depicts an absurd world where a woman travels to parallel universes to find an entity in order to keep the world from disintegrating. I saw it in a theater and was mildly amused by it, but I certainly didn't find it to be all that good. And I love most sci-fi movies. The second Avatar movie was far superior, to my mind, and I would have chosen almost any other movie to win than this one. Did you see it? If so, what did you think of it? I am glad the actors won, though, and that Asian characters dominated the awards ceremony.

It's cold outside once again this morning, but we have a warm patch on the horizon, with many sunny days ahead. Like I said, the weather is fickle and creating havoc in many parts of the world. Anyone who once thought that climate change is a distant future event might not feel the same today. Tornadoes in the south of the country and incessant rain in California, just to keep things local. But all over the planet, our weather extremes are becoming increasingly destructive.

Our beautiful planet is in trouble, much of it caused by the explosive growth of humanity. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: there are too many of us and we are continuing to propagate exponentially. Something's gotta give, and soon. There are so many people all over the world suffering and facing unimaginable futures, and there's nothing I can do about it. I guess I should be glad that I'm old and will be gone before too many more years, because the world I grew up in, the one I believed would only get better — is only still around in some parallel universe, I guess.

But then again, what do I know? I don't even know if linear time is real or not, so how can I even speculate about the future? What I do know, without a doubt, is that I am one of the lucky ones, sitting in a dark room with the light of my laptop helping me to create this post. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, with his light breathing quite easily heard with my new ears, and a day of companionship and joy ahead. I still have my health, the ability to think and ponder, my family and friends all close enough to appreciate them. Better to count my blessings and surround myself with love and joy than to let myself be dragged down by speculation.
I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is. —Alan Watts

I think I will end this post with that profound quote by Alan Watts, who was (is) a pioneer in his own world. He was onto something with that, wasn't he? All that I want to do with myself today is Be Here Now and let all the rest of it settle into oblivion. Oh, and remind you, my dear readers, that we do create much of our own reality in the space between our ears. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Almost too much sunshine

Ships in the harbor and blossoms

I did say "almost," didn't I? We have not seen such wonderful warm weather in months, but these past few days have been incredibly beautiful (64°F or 17°C). We are actually experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures, after months of below-normal stuff. I am loving it, but if it were to get much warmer, I think I might be needing to pull out my summer duds. See the beginning blossoms on that branch? First of the season!

We had a fine day yesterday walking around Squalicum Harbor, getting our steps in and looking forward to visiting the final winter Farmers' Market after our walk. In two weeks, the first day of the regular market will begin; Saturdays filled with a chance to peruse the market. I of course bought myself a scone from The Scone Lady, a local bakery that makes scones as fluffy as a cloud. Melanie introduced me to them, but she doesn't get them herself anymore since they have dairy in them and she's staying away. All the wonderful goodies she makes are gluten free and sometimes vegan.

On Friday I had my final interview with Rainier Hearing to get a final adjustment to my hearing aids and find out how I'm doing with them. One thing I had noticed is that traffic sounds had a hollow sound to them, and while I sat in her office, she adjusted them until now if I didn't know better, I'd swear I wasn't even using them!  But I can still hear all the fabulous birdsong and wonder when I stopped hearing the chickadee calls; now I hear them incessantly and they always bring a smile to my face. I am so happy I made the leap to the hearing aids, even if it wasn't an easy process, or cheap. 
What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. —Joseph Addison

Although I am a neophyte octogenarian of only a few months, I am finding myself enjoying life quite a lot and have stopped thinking morose thoughts about how little time I have left in life. At first it was a bit of a shock, to realize that I am now eighty and that most people think of that time as our final years, since only a few people make it much longer than this. My body is still working well (letting me do much of what gives me pleasure) and my mental processes still seem mostly sharp and functional. However much time I still have left is unknown, but I have reached that time of life when one usually ponders about the meaning of it all. At least that's how it has worked out for me.

Today is an odd Sunday, one where I will not be going to breakfast with John. He went to a late-night party and decided to cancel our usual schedule. I ended up sleeping a little later than usual, but it doesn't matter, since once I finish this post, I am able to decide when and where I'll get my morning coffee. That's the one thing I usually need every morning: coffee to start things off in the right direction. And I mean good coffee, not warm brown water like some places serve. We have a French press coffee maker here at home, and we sometimes use it, but I actually have become somewhat of a coffee snob and prefer tasty espresso to start the day.

I have had my friend down in Seattle on my mind, Linda Reeder, who is in recovery from another hip replacement. I'm not sure at all how many surgeries she's endured recently, but I cannot help but put myself in her place and think of how hard it is to get over major operations like that. I know my own ancient knee surgery in 1994 was very hard work, getting back into shape enough to resume my activities. And it was only an ACL replacement using my own patella tendon. It took many months of hard work, but it was worth it. However, I don't think I'll be needing any major joint replacements between now and when I won't need this body anymore.

I dreamed about Linda last night. I was at her home in Seattle (which I have never actually visited) and she and her husband Tom showed me around the place, which I feel I know quite well from all her wonderful blog posts over the years. It was a technicolor dream, everything bright and sunny, but now I've lost the thread of the dream. I think I was there to help somehow, but now I've forgotten it. No need to try and recapture the dream, because it's now gone back to wherever they emerge from.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and the first day of fall south of the equator. It still astounds me that the world is so huge that we don't all have the same climate system at once, when the instant connection we have through the news media makes it feel like a pretty small place. But it's not, and if you really want to have your mind expanded, take a look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day to really get a sense of one's own insignificance. I visit it every morning when I sit propped up in bed, like I am doing right now, writing a post (Sunday) or visiting the news cycle and seeing what's going on in the lives of my fellow bloggers. I usually get out of bed at 6:00am, but on Sunday I only need to be ready for John's arrival at 7:15. Today I am unmoored, cut free from any schedule at all, once this post is written.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened. —Douglas Adams

Whatever. I am feeling pretty good this morning, and I intend to open up my book about quantum mechanics again today, since I seem to have unlimited time to do whatever pleases me. In actuality, I do that almost daily anyway. I love schedules and deadlines to keep me on track, but today is special and I'll find some way to appreciate it. As I climb out of bed with my bionic ears, my eagle eyes (with glasses), I will enjoy whatever comes. Spring is here!

Taken on yesterday's walk

So, dear friends, with that I will call this post finished, and will decide where to get coffee. I do hope today and the coming days will be filled with love, light and happiness, and that all sentient beings will be free from pain and suffering and enjoy robust good health. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Where did that hour go?

Crocus flowers in a random yard

Boy, do I love those pretty crocus flowers! I saw these on my way back from a recent coffee shop excursion, and I could hardly believe my eyes. They are so gorgeous; the next day, however, was cold and rainy and these same beauties were all closed up without any color showing at all.

Although the clock tells me what time it is, I know it's wrong, because this morning I got up and it's still dark outside. Not supposed to be, since just yesterday at this time it was already getting light outside. You know what I'm talking about: it is our annual attempt to change daylight and give ourselves more of it. But snipping that hour from the Quilt of Time and sewing it onto the other end doesn't seem to be working out quite right. There's a possibility that we might not have to keep changing our clocks, if the Congress passes the pending resolution to keep us permanently on DST (Daylight Saving Time). I personally would prefer standard time, if we're going to keep one time year-round, but I'm in the minority, it seems. It would be very lovely not to have to keep switching the clocks, however.
How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? —Dr. Seuss

 Interestingly, I actually overslept by one hour on Friday night. A full hour, I never do that (well, almost never). Was my internal clock beginning to worry about adjusting to the time change? I guess I'll never know the answer to that one, but I slept my regular hours last night and woke up at the normal time, even though the time wasn't the same as the night before. It's so confusing...

Spring, however, is springing along at a faster and faster rate as we get closer to the vernal equinox in just over a week. A week from tomorrow, in fact. I remember hearing the myth that you can balance an egg on its end during the equinox, but it turns out you can do that any time you've got some persistence and time on your hands. The equinox makes no difference. Plus, the equinox is simply the moment in time when the sun passes over the equator, marking the moment when the days and nights are of equal length. Hence "equinox." The days following it will continue to lengthen until we get to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is).

It's been an interesting week with my hearing aids. I found that I had been inserting them incorrectly (actually, not inserting them all the way in) and that is why one kept falling out. Once I learned the right way to put them in, the sound got lots better and I have been enjoying them even more. I already had one hearing aid stop working, so I went to the Rainier Hearing Office during their daily one-hour walk-in period, and in a jiffy it was unclogged and I once again was back in business. I've got to find some way to deal with my earwax, which seems to be more voluminous than most people produce. But all in all, I am very happy I took the step to become better at hearing the world around me. I am thrilled with all the birdsong and realize now I had stopped hearing music from the small songbirds, chickadees, and sparrows.

This week I decided to take up knitting again. I've made plenty of sweaters and vests, scarves and hats, but it's been so long I've forgotten much of what I once knew. My mother was a knitter and crocheter and taught some of her children how to do it. I asked Melanie to pick out a pattern and some yarn, and I'd make her a hat. Of course she picked one with cable stitching, but I did learn to accomplish it a couple of times many years ago. I think it will be good for my brain health to bring that skill back. 

I've still got lots of needles and stitch markers, but the technique of casting on has been forgotten. I looked at YouTube and decided to try a way that I've never done before, where you use a crochet hook and some "scrap yarn" in a different color than your "product" yarn. I spent most of the day Friday messing up and watching the video dozens of times, and I actually got it finished, but I had somehow lost three crucial stitches, so I started over again. The project is sitting there staring at me now. 

Yesterday was such a lovely day here in the Pacific Northwest. Although we had a little rain at the beginning of our usual Saturday walk, in no time it had stopped and the sun came out to brighten the day. There were plenty of other people out on the trail, and lots of dogs walking their owners as well. I don't know if it's the increasing sunlight that is helping my mood, or the incredible sounds I'm hearing once again, but I've been feeling very lucky and pleased with life at the moment. It always helps me to get outdoors to feel better about life, especially when I'm not needing to wrestle with rain gear and trying to stay dry. 

My morning routine was a little disrupted when I first got my hearing aids, trying to figure out a good time to get them in. I decided that it works best once I get my tea water started, then come back to bed with my laptop and insert them at that time in order to hear the teapot's whistle sooner than I did before. I am finding that the world doesn't seem quite as interesting when I am without my improved hearing, and it's only been a bit over a week! I feel very lucky to be living during a time when ordinary people like me can get new eyes (glasses and cataract surgery), new ears (hearing aids), as well as new hips and knees (not yet needed for me). My blogging friend Linda who lives in Seattle just had a hip replacement yesterday, and I am hoping it all went well and that she will be recovering in no time at all.

Since I have made it all the way to eighty without needing major joint replacements, I don't think it will be necessary in the future. When I was around fifty, I had an ACL replacement in my left knee, which was not fun but essential if I wanted to keep using the knee without a brace. It took me some time to find a doctor who would perform it, because most doctors felt the recovery would be too strenuous for someone of my advanced age (!). I have to admit that the recovery period was not fun, but my knee was once again stable and has served me well for the past thirty years. I guess the doctors have decided that old people could indeed manage the recovery period, if their motivation was sufficiently strong. 

Years ago, major joint replacement wasn't very common, but times change, and I do think that sometimes it's because a person can afford it and that the doctors make a pretty penny with the procedures. It's also good to know that if you really need it, a new knee or hip can improve one's quality of life. We only get one of these short lives to enjoy, so it's good to make it as wonderful as possible. When I wake up in the morning, get out of bed and stretch, there are a few aches and pains, but that is to be expected. Nothing out of the ordinary and as I continue my journey into elderhood, I am feeling quite blessed that I am well enough that I can continue my brisk daily walks. When I count my blessings, my continued good health is at the top of the list.

And of course, there is my sweet companion, who sleeps quietly next to me as I write this, who continues to give me plenty of chances to smile (he is always making puns), and he makes sure I have what I need to keep myself in good shape. He's the one who does most of the grocery shopping and always remembers to buy stuff that I like. He's the best, and I am grateful for his continued presence in my life. And there are my friends, both actual and virtual, who continue to brighten my days. I am a very lucky person indeed.

So, with that counting of my blessings, I will wrap up this post and get ready for the rest of the day. Yes, it's still dark outside, but the days will continue to lengthen and soon I will be going to bed when there's still light in the sky. I don't mind a bit; another wonderful season of flowers lies ahead. I wish you, my dear friends, all the best for the coming week, and hope that you will find a moment to appreciate and count your own blessings. Until we meet again next week, be well.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

New beginnings, old memories

Fragrance Lake, taken last Thursday

I'll bet that snow in the foreground is already gone, or almost by now. It's three days since I took that picture, and it's been partly sunny, even if not all that warm. After having learned how the Senior Trailblazers fared on Thursday (not well at all), I think we had the best time, going to Fragrance Lake and traversing the circumference and part of the Two Dollar trail. It would have been a different story without Melanie's forethought to add spikes for our boots. It was a glorious day.
Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. —John Ruskin

 Yesterday three of us ladies walked together down to Squalicum Harbor, feeling the cold wind and then the rain before we were done, reminding me that we are quite lucky to have so many "different kinds of good weather." I was wearing my very own brand-new hearing aids for the first time on a hike of any sort. Although they are "water resistant," I was careful not to let them get too wet, since that's just the sort of thing that ruins hearing aids. My friend John cautioned me to remember to remove them before taking a shower; he forgot once and had to take them in for professionals to dry them. I can see how quickly you can forget you're wearing them. Already my brain has decided that they are vastly superior to my previous world of muffled hearing. When I took them off last night to charge them, I noticed how different the entire world feels when my hearing is not crisp and sharp.

On Friday I had two appointments, one to be introduced to my hearing aids, and the other was to have my eyes checked at an annual exam. I will receive a new prescription for one eye, my good one, while the other is exactly as it was a year ago: not good but not getting any worse. I have managed to maintain my vision for another year, which is good news that I have at least one more year of being able to continue to drive. Age-related macular degeneration is no picnic, but so far I've been able to cope.

Once I have my new vision prescription filled, I'll make an appointment to renew my driver's license, which expires at the end of the year. Now that I am eighty, I wondered if I would be subjected to a driving test, but it turns out that it will only be a vision check in Washington. In some locations around the country, you do need to take a driving test at eighty and beyond, but here I guess it will be at my own discretion as to when to stop driving. I also think I might not be able to get it renewed for more than five years. Hopefully there are checks and balances for the elderly to be safe on the road, not only for ourselves, but for others, too.

I am learning to navigate this new juncture in life: being an octogenarian, and heading quickly toward the third stage of being elderly.  I found this at the National Institute of Health website:

Although there are different ways to classify this population, some studies have classified elderly adults between the ages of 65 and 74 years as youngest-old, those between ages 75 and 84 years as middle-old, and those aged over 85 years as oldest-old.

If the last five years has demonstrated anything to me, it's that I am at the stage of life where every single year brings further changes to my physical self. I am needing to keep exercising and stretching in order to maintain what I have and what I intend to keep for as long as possible. I have been blogging since 2009, and going back and seeing what I once was able to do (this covers a 14-year period), it's rather breathtaking. Back then, I was still skydiving, making less than a hundred or so jumps a year (as compared to thousands when I was in my forties and fifties), and now I can only imagine what it would be like to leap from an airplane. But the memories remain, and the feeling of freefall will always be a magical time; even the memory of those sixty-some hours brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

But now let's talk about those hearing aids. I have what is called a BTE (behind the ear) model, which has some interesting facets. Here's a picture:

Not exactly like mine, but almost

I have a slightly different looking dome; it's more like a tiny dark little horn, but otherwise it's quite similar. I have downloaded an app onto my iPhone that allows me to fiddle with things like volume, directional control, as well as bass and treble control. I found I like mine a little more treble, and can change the volume right on the top of the hearing aids as well as with the phone. The hardest part for me, so far, is getting that little retention wire in the right place. It keeps wanting to pop out on my right ear, but I've found that if I work on getting it into its proper place, it will stay where it belongs.

I have very small ears and teeny little ear canals, so maybe that's part of the problem. But the problem is slight, and I'll get used to it, I'm sure. So far, I am thrilled with the difference in hearing ability, although the coffee shop environment is not as comfortable as it was before, with me being able to pick up loud conversations way too easily. I'm still working on getting that directional control business down pat.

I was worried about how the hearing aids would interact with my glasses, but the earpieces slip right underneath that beige thingie and don't seem to be a problem at all. I guess most people who need hearing aids also need glasses, so they've dealt with those problems already. I've only had the aids since Friday, but already I get up and put them in my ears right away, so the world sounds "right." And I can see how you begin to forget they are there, and you need to pay attention in order not to knock one out by mistake. I can get a replacement if I lose or damage one, but it's pricey ($275).

And I can answer or reject phone calls right on my hearing aids! I hear the sounds in the middle of my head, like I am wearing headphones. I guess in a way I am. I listened to a podcast yesterday with them, because I no longer can use my AirPods with the hearing aids, and it was delightful. I also answered a phone call from my sweetie, who called me so I could feel where the button is. It's pretty cool!

Can you tell that so far I am very happy with them? I remember when I first got my new "eyes" when I had cataract surgery, which gave me so much better vision. It's much the same. And I am also so glad I paid the extra for rechargeable batteries, since all I need to do is put them into the charger at night and they are good to go in the morning. Once I get them paid for, my next purchase will be a new laptop. 

Maybe navigating the new era will be a new beginning for lots of different parts of my life. The good thing is that I can afford all this, because of my health insurance plan. I know I could have gone with the Costco version or over-the-counter aids, but I decided I wanted to have coverage that would include an audiologist and plenty of help if I need it. Plus I get a three-year warranty and periodic cleanings during that period.

It's getting lighter outside earlier every day, since we are gaining more than three minutes of daylight each day,  until we reach the spring equinox on March 20. Not so far away now, and I am already looking forward to the Tulip Festival next month. And all the other spring flowers! Melanie and I should be seeing the first signs of trillium any day now, while we are on our weekly mountain hikes.

Well, after hearing my sweetheart's breathing next to me (amplified!) and having finished my tea, it's time to begin the rest of my day. I will let you know next week if I am still happy with my new hearing aids, and what else might happen during the coming days. I do hope you will be finding good things to enjoy, and that you will be surrounded by love and happiness. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A long week is over

Beautiful clouds

 We've had some interesting weather this week: incredible cold and an unremitting frigid blast from the Canadian Frasier Gap, where often in the winter we get this long period of strong northwesterly winds that just keep howling, until some of us feel like we're ready to move away, to anywhere that isn't blowing like this. 

And then, like magic, it stops. One day it all stops and we return to placid days with sunshine and I tend to forget pretty quickly how much I hated the wind. By and large, I am very fortunate to live somewhere that the weather takes care of itself, and I can begin to think of spring, not too far away now. But what do we have coming, after a lovely day with high overcast skies?

Front porch watering can (with a previous year's snow)

Snow is forecast for the entire area, pretty much, but we might luck out and have temperatures warm enough to give us rain instead. We, however, have not seen anything approaching freezing for well over a week. (That did change overnight.) Even with plentiful sunshine, it was still very cold. It has helped me to develop a grumpy attitude. I decided midweek that I needed to do something about it.

I called my acupuncturist for an emergency session, since he can help get me back on track more quickly than anything else I have found. And sure enough, it did help a great deal. Then on Friday, I had a pre-scheduled massage session, and that was enough to help me over the edge of my ill temper towards a little bit of cheerfulness, even feeling a smile spread across my face as I drove home from her studio.

Two good things happened this week: first of all, we got our taxes prepared and mailed off to the IRS, with help from the Senior Center's AARP volunteers. For the first time, we won't get anything back and had to pay a small amount. I've been withholding a small percentage from my annuities, and it always has given us a couple hundred dollars in return. But this year, with the Social Security increase, we had to pay. So I'll make sure that next year's amount to be withheld will be sufficient to give us a small return. It's amazing what a psychological difference it makes to get something back instead of having to pay.

The other good thing is that I went to my hearing provider's office to be fitted with hearing aids. I had the results from the tests, and all I had to do was decide whether I wanted to order the "advanced" version or the "premium" ones. My co-pay ended up being $2000, for two top of the line devices. I asked what the difference is between them, and she told me mostly is how much she, the professional, could tweak them to mimic natural hearing. They are bluetooth enabled, meaning I will be able to control them with my iPhone and listen to phone calls, TV programs, music or podcasts through my hearing aids. I know that is what John has, because sometimes he begins to talk to nobody (it seems to me) when he answers a phone call (which I never heard) with a quick tap on his ear. I also learned that if I had to buy them myself, I would have had to pay $6000 for them. You can rest assured that I wouldn't have gotten them at that price!

I don't know if I will have them yet when I write this post next week, but you will know exactly what I think of this investment. I have a 60-day return window and a three-year warranty. I also chose to pay a little more for rechargeable batteries. Once these are paid for, my next purchase will be a new laptop. I've grown accustomed to the one I have and know there is always a learning curve when I get a new one. So that is in the future, after I have grown accustomed to my new ears.

Once you appreciate one of your blessings, one of your senses, your sense of hearing, then you begin to respect the sense of seeing and touching and tasting, you learn to respect all the senses. —Maya Angelou

Christine, my hearing specialist, carefully entered all the information she got from my hearing evaluation into a spreadsheet showing my own particular pattern of hearing loss. She told me she thought I would be very happy with my hearing aids, once I get used to them. I am a little ambivalent; I really hoped she would tell me my hearing was not that bad. But trying to differentiate the words deft, death, deck, or debt from each other is impossible. I realize I often use context to determine words, and that should all change once my new ears are familiar to me.

On my other blog I asked the question of whether most people think of Sunday as the last day of the week, or the first. I asked because I am confused by how I feel about this day, but finally with help, I decided to think of it as the last day of the week, with Monday being the first. Even long into retirement, I need to remember what day of the week it is, since I do have appointments and classes to attend. 

I've decided to take up knitting again, starting with making a warm hat for my friend Melanie. It came to me as something I need to do while I was soaking in the ministrations from my massage therapist. Realizing that there was a time when I enjoyed creating things from yarn, and that I need to move away from constantly being tied to my computer, it seems like just the perfect thing to take up as I begin my journey into becoming an octogenarian. Long ago, I made sweaters, socks (I didn't like making those at all), hats, and vests. I remember learning how to make complicated cable stitches, and I figure it will all come back to me fairly quickly. 

And then, as the spring flowers begin to emerge from the ground, I will once again enjoy the beautiful environment that surrounds me. I also enjoy seeing what others who have grown old along with me find to do with their time. And I will again pick up my Kindle and finish the book I started about quantum mechanics. Who ever thought that would be such an interesting concept? Not exactly a page-turner, but it stimulates my thoughts about what is real, who we are, gives my mind something interesting to contemplate, and helps to expand my sense of the universe. Moving from the esoteric to digging in the dirt should help me to regain some balance in my life, don't you think?

Pretty primroses

My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me as I compose this, and I can feel myself beginning to emerge from the cocoon of my bed and think of how much I will enjoy the day ahead. I do truly hope that the coming week will surround you with lots of love and joy, and I wish the same for myself. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, be well.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Worrying worldwide trends

Eagle's eye view

Where we live here in the Pacific Northwest, we see a great number of eagles, like this one keeping an eye on the hikers below. I just finished reading a disturbing article in The Atlantic, entitled "Eagles are Falling, Bears are Going Blind," about a strain of avian virus that has become much more virulent than any known heretofore, and it has jumped from birds to other animals, and some of them are mammals, like bears. We have known about the avian flu virus for a long time.

The largest outbreak of bird flu in American history was an H5N2 virus, which led to the deaths of 17 million domestic birds and cost the nation more than $400 million during an outbreak in Pennsylvania that started in 1983. —Michael Greger

What we have going on worldwide right now is, in the words of an avian immunologist:  "I would use one word to describe it: unprecedented. We have never seen anything like this before" (Shayan Sharif). We have already lost more than 58 million avian animals, and now it's spread to new and very scary hosts, like seals, minks, foxes, bears, and whales. We will be hearing more about this virus in days, months, and years to come, I fear.

So far, humans who have been infected by this virus work closely with fowl and other birds, but it has only made them sick; they recovered and have not passed the virus from human to human. However, after we have recently (and not completely) dealt with the suspected bat virus, Covid-19, which ended up killing millions of humans and is still not done with us, it doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy to think of what might lie ahead.

However. It doesn't do any good to stress about possible virus epidemics in our future. We have plenty to worry about already, with climate change causing incredible numbers of unprecedented events, such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and major climate catastrophes around the world. What should a person who is aware of the trends and wanting to do something positive about the situation, do?

The only thing we have that we can actually do something about, is our own mental attitude. I've tried to avoid the news, but I keep coming back to hear what the current situation is with all this, and I read many opinion articles daily, because it just doesn't seem right to stick my head in the sand and pretend it's not happening. It does help to get some perspective on current events, by reading positive as well as negative news.

I also must remind myself, often, that we are all in this together. Nobody is alive right now who is not affected by what is happening worldwide. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor (other than one's personal comfort), we cannot escape the difficulties we face every day. Some people choose to ignore it and put on a brave face, but I can't do that anymore. I wake with the heaviness of grief, not because of any personal loss, but because life itself has become a reminder that we are not being good stewards of our planet. 

So, obviously, I am in need of an attitude adjustment. I'd like it to be a permanent fix, but since I can't have that, I'll muddle through, looking for those little anodynes that help relieve pain. One very positive method is to look it straight in the face and acknowledge what is going on inside of my head. How is it possible that one day I wake feeling filled with optimism for the day ahead, and the next I wake like this, fearful of what's to come? What is different, really?

My mental state. That's the only difference. And that state is as ephemeral and changeable as the weather, the wind shifts and I'm happy, then sad. But the good thing is that it's under my control.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. —Jack Layton

I choose to be loving, hopeful and optimistic. Although I may need to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and repeat those words to myself over and over, I can change what I think and the way that I respond. People have been finding ways to do this since, well, since we came into the world. I went online and found an interesting article, "How to Be Optimistic When the World Around You Isn't." It gives some tips on how to become more positive, which obviously I need right now. It's not a panacea, the world is still going to be a dangerous place to visit, but it's my home, and it's where I can make the tiniest bit of difference by changing my own mind.

Just the smallest little push towards happiness, just thinking about it all, has made me feel better. It's better that I am able to think about it and write it down than letting it fester like a wound inside my head. I have applied the balm of love and respect for my state and acknowledging it, and it's already better. I feel the lines in my face soften and the barest hint of a smile tug at my lips. 

I think of my mantra, the one I repeat many times a day, "May all sentient beings be free from pain and suffering and enjoy robust good health." I sometimes forget to include myself when I say it, so today my goal is to give this dear person, me, some loving kindness and compassion. And I know for a fact that it works, when I change my own mind from looking into the darkness to looking upwards toward the light.

I suspect I'll be in a much better frame of mind when we meet again next week. I will be here, and I hope you will be, too. I feel love spilling up and out of my body, and it's a much nicer place to live in. Yep, it's already better. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things and lots of love and compassion surrounding you.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Love and loss

Bellingham Bay at Marine Park

On the calendar, this coming week is one where we celebrate love, with Valentine's Day, and seeing the bare beginnings of spring on its way. It was partly cloudy when we went out for our five-mile-long walk yesterday, Melanie and me.
You get older. In the end, you end up accepting everything in your life — suffering, horror, love, loss, hate — all of it. —Harry Dean Stanton

Today I'm thinking of what I've gained and lost during the long years of my life. I don't believe that most would consider my life as one they might want to have, instead of their own, unless perhaps they are in Turkey or Syria right now and have lost everything: family, home, safety. The loss of loved ones can be borne with enough time and space from the event, but living through an apocalypse like the earthquake that has killed a minimum of 28,000 people, with probably many more bodies to be unearthed before it's all over, is horrific. Anyone who has lost even a modicum of what these people are enduring can identify and relate to their suffering.

When I was growing up, I was incredibly fortunate in my early life, well fed and taken care of, with no idea what my life would be as I matured. I gave birth to my firstborn just before my nineteenth birthday, just a kid myself, but I loved so much being a mother and caring for my infant son. I gave him what I experienced in my own early life: safety, comfort, food, shelter. By his third birthday, all that had changed. I had given birth to another son, but Stephen died just after his first birthday, of spinal meningitis. Chris not only lost his brother, but his mother as well. I was a basket case for many years and did not give him the love he deserved. And it was the beginning of many years of strife in my own world. 

But that was then. Nobody continues to go through such painful periods forever; you eventually pull yourself together and pick up the threads of life and do the best you can. I suppose that is also true when enduring natural disasters: eventually life morphs into a new normal. Although I have had my share of loss, and then some, I have also been blessed to experience much love from my wonderful family and friends.

Most of us have the same sort of lives: a lot of good times and bad times, hard moments and delightful ones. I have noticed that sometimes an event will stand out in my memory and can be remembered again and again. Not only happy ones, but awful ones as well. With each remembering, the event subtly changes, as memory is not very dependable. But there are moments that stand out, hardly change when I recall them, such as those moments when my two sons came into the world. Both times I was ecstatic and felt incredibly lucky. On the other side, I also remember the moment I hit the ground when I broke my pelvis in six places during a botched parachute landing. I remember that moment very well, although it was almost a quarter century back in time. My life took a serious turn into injury, followed by many months of recovery.

These days, I am busy enjoying the later years of my life, with a wonderful partner who helps me navigate every day, sometimes with laughter and sometimes with tears. We love each other, more today than when we first got together, which is such a bonus, and one we could not have imagined as we gazed into our future life together. Marriage always has its ups and downs, but after I had experienced three failed marriages before we got together, it was in no way guaranteed. But here we are, proving that love and affection can rise above all the tribulations that we have faced together.

Today we also face the loss of our faculties, as we move into our eighties. I finally got my hearing test, through the local university which has a training program for new audiologists. I had two trainees and one experienced teacher who put me through extensive tests before showing me the results. I had hoped that my hearing loss would be minimal, but I learned that I definitely have lost my high-frequency hearing, and cannot distinguish many consonants from one other. It was not a surprise, but I held out hope that I wouldn't need hearing aids. Not so. In a week or so, I have an appointment to receive them, and although my medicare advantage plan pays for some of the expense, I will also have to fork over $2,000. I will receive a 60-day trial period, a three-year warranty, and 150 batteries, each of which only last about a week, as I understand it. Plus I get an advocate who will work with me for several months; I don't want to make such an investment and then end up with them living in a dresser drawer rather than being used.

We have five senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight. Three of those five are compromised in my case (everything but touch and taste), and I could be very discouraged if I decided to let myself go there. But what good would that do? Growing older is a gift, not one without thorns, but a gift nonetheless. I am still able to take a brisk walk for up to seven or eight miles, thanks to my trekking poles, and I can still manage most of the postures in yoga, even now. I have plenty of friends who are in the same boat as me, and we commiserate with one another and give each other useful tips for navigating the choppy waters of The Eighties.

I cannot expressing adequately how much I appreciate having this other community, the virtual one that puts me in touch with so many others around the world who have joined me on this journey. Some live nearby, in my state and many in Canada, and some on the other side of the world. As we live our lives and blog about our adventures, as well as our trials and tribulations, I realize that I would be lost without your kindness and love. I hope you will be surrounded with lots of love today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Moving into February

John T. Rus capture

I am again snagging a photo from the Seeing Bellingham group on Facebook, since the pictures I've taken recently just aren't as beautiful or inspiring. John Rus has lately been taking and posting lots of pictures of owls, which we have so many of around these parts. I often hear one hooting from the trees on my walks, not sure what kind it is, but I know the call very well. In this shot, I love the intense bead of the owl's laser-like focus on capturing its next meal.

We have such incredible birds around here, not just owls, but eagles, hawks, crows and ravens, sparrows, hummingbirds, and more. Just yesterday morning I saw my first-of-the-season robin! There were four of us ladies walking yesterday, and although we only covered around four miles, we had a really good time together. The bitter cold has receded for awhile at least, and in just a short time I was able to take off my gloves. And for a few moments, we actually had some sunshine! It left quickly, but it was sure pleasant to enjoy while we had it. 

What to write about this morning? Well, I've recently started to read another book on quantum mechanics, published just last month, by Heinrich Päs: The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics. I read an article about the recent release of this book, which holds many fascinating ideas to ponder. It's interesting to consider that what Päs is postulating is exactly what the Ancients have been teaching for thousands of years: that all is one, everything that makes us think otherwise is an illusion. And I do think that, even though I'm only part way through the book, I am beginning to have more of an understanding of the concept of quantum entanglement a little better than before I began to read it. 
Since everything is an illusion, perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, One may burst into laughter. —Longchenpa, Zen Master, 1350 AD

Heinrich explains the relation between the quantum world and our classical world by using the example of the film projector: is reality the film seen on the screen or is this simply derived from the roll of film in the projector? If everything really is just One Thing, and we are creating all the rest of reality through projection, we're doing a pretty good job of making it all look fantastic and mind-blowing. The concept of monism has been around for as long as human have been. It's the idea that All is One.

I don't know why I've become so fascinated with quantum physics, but everything I have learned tends to bring me a sense of hope that perhaps we can consider another and better reality than the one we wake up to every day. That perhaps even time and space are illusions. Even so, we need to find a alternate way of thinking about life and our place in the Universe that makes more sense than what we accept as reality today.

Heinrich is a mere youth who was born in 1971 and garnered many different degrees at prestigious universities before starting to write books about what he has learned as a particle physicist. He spent years learning to surf in Hawaii, with his first book being called "The Perfect Wave,"about neutrinos, which he says are some of the most puzzling particles in the universe. Not to mention his passion for surfing being part of his story. 

In this new book he says that, once quantum mechanics is applied to the entire cosmos, it uncovers a three-thousand-year-old idea: that underlying everything we experience there is only one single, all-encompassing thing —that everything else we see around us is some kind of illusion. I found an excellent article about all this on a website called "The Big Think," interviewing people in the news. Check this out, written by Heinrich:

The One is the story of both a serious crisis in physics and the half-forgotten concept that has the potential to resolve it. It explores the idea that “all is One,” that matter, space, time, and mind are all just artifacts of our coarse-grained perspective onto the universe. Along the way it narrates how the concept evolved and shaped the course of history, from ancient times to modern physics. Not only did monism inspire the art of Botticelli, Mozart, and Goethe, but it also informed the science of Newton, Faraday, and Einstein. Even now, monism is becoming a tacit assumption underlying our most advanced theories about space and time. This is a story full of love and devotion, fear and violence—and cutting-edge science. In no small way, this is the story of how humanity became what it is.

He writes about stuff in ways that pull me right in, and as I'm immersed in his book, his worldview, I am feeling quite happy to be alive in this moment, when we have people like Heinrich discovering new avenues to discover in quantum physics, and when the James Webb telescope is showing us what the universe was like at its beginning, and much, much more. How can anybody take a look around and not be excited about what we have already uncovered?

With all that, I think I will need to bring myself back down to earth and consider that you might not be all that interested in what I'm learning. But I'll bet that you, along with many of us, want to find a way to appreciate the natural world and enjoy some peace and serenity in your everyday life. It might seem unproductive to sit and follow one's breath for a few minutes every day, but I have to tell you that it seems to be working for me. I have carved out a small amount of time from my morning routine to include it, and now I think I am beginning to reap the benefits. I feel more centered and am often filled with awe when I look at the world around me.

Of course that thought sent me to the internet to discover ways to have more awe in my life, and I'll share these tips with you. These are taken from another interesting website. Here are six ways to incorporate awe into your daily life:

Linger. When you catch yourself in awe, sit with that feeling for as long as possible. Though you may be tempted to move quickly onto the next thing, such as taking a photo or responding to a notification, try pausing first to soak in the surroundings for a bit longer.

Slow down. Create space for awe to emerge in the mundane. While you water your plants, tenderly check for new leaves and buds. While eating, consider the time and energy that went into the food in front of you.

Appreciate your senses. Tune in deeply to your awareness of color, texture, scent, and sound. What do you hear? What do you see? While on a walk, stretching, or taking deep breaths, allow yourself to sink into the senses that connect us to the world, and be in awe of what we find.

Unplug. While many of us are dependent on technology for work or for communicating with others, it’s good to intentionally step away from the screen and give yourself the opportunity to connect with yourself. 

Awe walks. Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature lowers stress and improves our physical and mental health by decreasing blood pressure, enhancing focus, and strengthening our immune system. 

Awe journaling. Think back to our most awe-inspiring vacations, events, and moments, and take the time to document them. Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel? This simple practice may decrease your sense of time pressure, and make you more generous, as well.

Well, I'd better start wrapping up this long post, and find my way into the rest of my day. My sweet partner still sleeps next to me, my tea is gone, and I've spent altogether too much time in my head! Time to jump out of bed and get ready for what's next in my day. John will be here soon to take me to breakfast, so I'd better get started. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I hope you will find a way to spend part of your day awestruck! Until then, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Generating a post

Lake Padden yesterday

I had a hard time deciding what to write about today, because my head is simply brimming with possibilities. Should I write about the burgeoning windstorm that we here in the Pacific Northwest will endure for the next few days? Or what about the murder of that poor man in Memphis? Or maybe about, wait for it, the advances in artificial intelligence (AI)  that have recently taken over the internet, as well as all possible uses and misuses of the next new big thing, Chat GPT?

One of my blogging friends suggested that I consider using it to assist in writing my post, just to see what might emerge. I am tempted, really I am, but when I just now went over to the OpenAI website, I got as far as to learn that, at the very least, I would need to give out my email address and phone number in order to set up an account. There might be more, but I didn't go further into it to find out. 
Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. —Stephen Hawking

Well, Stephen, we've done the first part by creating it, and now it's up to us to make sure that it is going to be developed to assist and aid humanity, rather than (thinking of the Terminator movie) it becoming self-aware and deciding that humanity is a nuisance. 

Chat GPT is the latest exciting bot to emerge, after having become available to the public at the end of last year. For now, signing up to use the service is free, but everybody thinks it will soon become only available for a price. Who knows? I found plenty on the internet to tell me about it, and the article I linked above will tell you everything you need to know to get started, if you want to try it yourself. I also read a good article on PC Guide that tells you even more about it.

Chat GPT has become a viral phenomenon – and it is no surprise. The online AI chatbot has blown the minds of the public and it seems that everyone is trying to check it out. As a result, Chat GPT servers have been struggling to handle all their user’s requests. Resulting in some people being temporarily blocked from using the service.

Well, that's one more reason to leave it alone for now. I am curious, because my friend in Seattle who mentioned it to me, sent me a comment on my other blog with a question that he generated from Chat GPT, asking where might be a good small city in which to retire in the Pacific Northwest, and it chose Bellingham and described it perfectly!

I then went to YouTube and watched a 30-minute video about how to use it with Chrome extensions, which was fascinating, but again I got a chill thinking about how much our world will be changed by this technology. I wonder what you might think about it, and whether or not you have ventured into its use. In any event, this post is generated completely from my fevered brain after a good night's sleep.

Yesterday Mel and I walked two times around Lake Padden, which is where I took that picture. It was still, almost, as you can see from the glassy surface of the lake. We saw a heron in a tree near the water and watched it for awhile. Plenty of people were out and about, enjoying the weather and, I suspect, wanting to get out before the forecasted wind hit. And it did: I listened to it howl through the trees all night long. A twenty-mile-an-hour cold wind from the northeast made it unpleasant to even think about being outdoors last night. It's moderated a little at this time before dawn, but it's still blowing. At least it's perfectly clear and cold, which means I'll be able to get a good walk in this afternoon, bundled up and watching my breath steam up the air as I walk. I have a nice three-mile walk that is mostly away from traffic, and I'll enjoy myself, I'm sure.

I can usually find ways to bring happiness into my life, but out of curiosity I looked online to see what others think are necessary to be happy. I found this:

  • Practice Daily Gratitude. Expressing gratitude has been shown to do more than improve your mood. 
  • Surround Yourself with Positive People. 
  • Do Regular Acts of Kindness. 
  • Spend More Time with Family and Friends. 
  • Spend Money on Experiences Instead of Things.

Most of these are regular occurrences in my own life. It's always uplifting to spend time with my guy, or with other friends, like my friend John who will pick me up this morning for our usual Sunday breakfast. I would also add to that list the importance of exercise, which always improves my mood, and my day.

And that will wrap up my post for this Sunday morning at the end of January 2023. The wind still blows but the day beckons and is pulling me out of my warm cocoon in bed, with my dear partner sleeping quietly next to me. I do hope this week will bring you happiness, dear friends, and until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Existential thinking

Taken on a December morn
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true: the other is to refuse to believe what is true. —Soren Kierkegaard

When I was in my twenties, I became obsessed with learning what happened during the Holocaust, and I ended up reading volumes of books that chronicled the atrocities that were carried out against more than six million souls, mostly Jewish, during the 1930s and 1940s. I don't know why I got so focused on that period in history, but I suspect it might have been because I stumbled upon a book that simply fascinated me: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, written in 1948 about his experiences in a concentration camp.

It was a long time ago, and I know that I was pregnant with my first son during that time and was rather unhappy in my personal life. I was only eighteen and forced to get married when I found myself "in a family way" with someone I barely knew. But it was 1961, there weren't a lot of options for me at the time. So I immersed myself in the suffering of others, I suspect. Within a few months, my husband was transferred to an Air Force Base in Puerto Rico, and I was pretty much by myself as I waited to join him there. I read incessantly until I flew to Puerto Rico, six months pregnant.

When I look back at that time in my life, and in the historical period itself, I think that I needed to find a way to think about things that made sense. It was a difficult time for me, but there were also the events surrounding me: the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and I was living in Puerto Rico when it happened. Then JFK being assassinated, and then so many other leaders being lost as well. I was just a kid, I realize now, trying to make sense of life. I continued to read incessantly, and after having studied the Holocaust, I turned to books that might help me understand how to think about things. I went in several different directions over the years, but I know now that the concept of existential thinking has brought me to my present belief system.

Existentialism: a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the issue of human existence. Existentialist philosophers explore the problems related to the meaning, purpose, and value of human existence, and personal agency. An individual person's phenomenological starting point is direct experience of life. (Wikipedia)

By the time I turned thirty, I had been married and divorced, lost my infant son to meningitis, and was the mother of a young boy who was forced to endure all those upheavals along with me. He is now also gone, but he lived to the age of forty before dying of heart disease. We became good friends, but I still live with the knowledge that I was not a good mother to him. When he was a teenager, he dropped out of high school and nothing I said or did would change his mind. I sent him to live with his father, and that helped somewhat. He went into business with his dad and I think it was the best path for him at that time. But as I said, I still feel a great deal of guilt for the trials and tribulations we both faced during those years.

Now I am old, and looking back on my life, I realize that I had to make an attempt at understanding what it is all about in order to stay sane. During all those years, I never stopped reading and went through several different periods of interest. I read long involved novels that would allow me to forget my current circumstances. I had to work all during those years, and I also went to community college to earn an associate's degree (but I didn't finish). It was surprising to me to find that I really liked chemistry, but it only served to give me another direction in which to focus my reading. 

When I discovered quantum mechanics and Buddhism, more recently, many of the concepts that had been swirling in my mind began to come into focus. To learn that all the precepts of Buddhism dovetail so perfectly into the ideas of quantum mechanics has been a revelation, and it makes me feel much more confident in continuing to read about both of them with an eye towards better understanding the world as I perceive it.

And now, today, my world is feeling pretty stable, with a dear partner who shared those skydiving years with me, and I continue to read quite a lot. These days, I usually read books on my Kindle, since my eyes are no longer able to spend endless hours over hard copy. But I still read and realize and am grateful for how much I have learned, and continue to learn, as I make my way towards the exit.

None of us knows for certain what the future holds, but I feel quite content in the life I have today. Of course, it could all be altered in a few minutes, but for the present moment I wouldn't change a thing. I wonder if the fabled earthquake will occur while I am still alive, or if we'll have our current political situation go kablooey, as it has in so many places around the world, or if it will continue along pretty much as it has for so many years now. Who knows? 

Since I have learned that my happiness does not come from external circumstances, but from how I perceive my life, it has made me feel much more serene in daily existence. I've had a lot of it now, many years to ponder and experience the vicissitudes of life. I've had many wonderful people over the years to share my life and thoughts with, and through the magic of the internet, I no longer feel the need to be present in corporeal form to have an entire community of friends.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me as I begin to wrap up this post and look to the day ahead. As usual, John will pick me up for breakfast in Fairhaven, and then I'll go bowling with my dear friends Lily and Lamont. It's shaping up to become another wonderful day. I do hope you will have a lovely week ahead. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Respite from the rain

Bellingham Bay yesterday

Melanie and I lucked out once again during our Saturday walk. We decided to head to Squalicum Harbor and make our usual five-mile walk through the area. It was simply a superb day, with mild temperatures and lots of sunshine. It felt like weather more reminiscent of late fall, rather than mid-winter. And it won't last all that long, since the rain is supposed to return tonight and be light but persistent on Monday.

The weather is so much worse in California, and I was actually hoping that we would receive part of that atmospheric river, to mitigate the effects in Northern California, but no, it's looking bad throughout much of the state. What an incredible amount of rain they have received: 
Mother Nature delivered 12.9 inches of rain to Oakland between Dec. 26 and Jan. 10, setting a new record for any 16-day period, according to the National Weather Service. San Francisco International Airport (11.59 inches) and Stockton (8.10 inches) also set new 16-day rainfall records. (NBC Bay Area, 11 Jan 23)

People have asked whether all this rain will end the decades-long drought the state has experienced, but everything I read says it will not. Although they have received massive amounts of rainfall in recent weeks, and has given some places more rain than ever before, it will mostly run off into the ocean, since it has no place left to go. It's not clear what will happen after these torrential rivers of water stop. One thing everyone recognizes is that extremes like this are becoming more common all across the globe. Most experts attribute it to climate change.

I myself think that one unremarked-upon situation has exacerbated the crisis: overpopulation. So many people are crowding out the natural habitats of most other species. In my own lifetime, we have added more than five billion people to the planet, growing from 2.3 billion to 8 billion. That has a massive effect on everything, and is the driving cause of climate change. How can anyone doubt it? 

During the mid-1300s, the Black Plague killed 75-200 million people in Europe, which was around half the population. This all happened within four years. It must have been a really horrific time to be alive and to cope with the disease. In comparison, we have had a pretty mild pandemic with Covid, with 6.7 million worldwide deaths estimated as of today. I guess pandemics are one of Nature's ways to cope with the planet being overrun. 

The natural lifespan of humans also helps control overpopulation, since we have such a limited time to spend here, a century being a long time, but in any case most people live long enough to experience the vicissitudes of aging as the years pass. I feel fortunate to have lived to eighty, and know that it's just a matter of time before I begin to lose my health and mobility. When I think of the massive numbers of fellow humans who are on the planet here with me, it makes me wonder whether it's really a good idea to think of extending our life spans. We need to make room for the young and vigorous, it seems to me at least.

Life is a gift, and a happy, safe and secure life is a gift given only to a small number of us. When I see the suffering in the world through the news, I always take a moment to be grateful for all my good fortune. Just to have a roof over my head and food to eat is not within reach of the vast majority of us, and it makes me very sad to realize it doesn't have to be this way. If we really cared about others, we could help so many more than we do. The Federal Reserve data indicates that as of the end of 2021, the top 1% of households in the United States have 32.3% of the country's wealth, while the bottom 50% have 2.6%. 

I really didn't mean to go off on this tangent this morning, but it's what is on my mind today as I wake to another beautiful Pacific Northwest morning, with my friend John taking me to Fairhaven as usual for our Sunday breakfast. It really does make a difference in one's life to think about the positive aspects of everyday existence, rather than looking at the world's woes and lamenting our inability to change much for the better.

I keep forgetting that there is only one place I can make a meaningful difference: right here in my own head, in my own surroundings. Instead of thinking about all that is wrong in the world, I can think about everything that is right, all around me. Why, just realizing that I am sitting in a warm bed, typing away on my laptop, ready to reach out to the entire electronic universe with these words, how can I not believe that the world is in a beautiful and perfect place? My dear partner sleeps next to me, and we will continue to laugh and cry together as we make our way into the days ahead. I wouldn't change much, if I look at what I can actually alter and have control over. 

Whew! I think I have finished this post, which started with the disasters in California and ends with this paragraph, realizing that the only thing I can actually change is my attitude. I hope that next Sunday we will be together again, looking at the world together, with love and hope for better days ahead. Until then, I wish you all good things, dear friends. Be well.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The years fly by so quickly

Me, Wordle, and John

I didn't realize it's been more than a year since I started playing the New York Times game, Wordle, but here is a picture taken in February 2022, almost a year ago, and there I am, playing the game that I now enjoy once a day, usually in the morning. I'm now on a streak of 76 tries without a miss! (I hope I'm not jinxing it, but this streak does need to end somewhere.) I've learned that you if you miss a day of playing you lose the streak, and of course you can't miss the word or, well, you start over the next day at 1. John is obviously solving all the problems of the universe, judging by his expression in this picture.

I've gotten so obsessed with the game that if I cannot figure it out by the fifth try (you get six tries in total), I'll put it aside and hope that I can look at it again later and possibly figure it out. I have also learned that another regular coffee shop customer, Dave, has a really good eye for the solution. He figured out one that I couldn't get ("cynic") with just a quick look. John is always interested in seeing the word once I get it, but he's not a player himself.

Anyway, it's a nice pastime, and it joins several others that take me through the day. I am definitely a creature of habit, and really like to find ways each day feels similar to the day before. I don't know whether I've always been like this, or if it's because I have become more of a fan of routine as I age. I do know that when we lived in Colorado, I would get up each morning to bring in the newspaper, bring it back to bed and peruse it with a cup of tea as I began my day. These days, it's the laptop that joins me to read the news of the day. I've always been an early riser and early-to-bed person. Most nights I manage to get close to eight hours of sleep and really enjoy snuggling into my warm bed for a good night's sleep.

I stayed up a little later than usual last night to watch a special on CNN about January 6. It was probably delayed from its usual air time because of the four days that we watched the House of Representatives try over and over to elect a speaker. Finally, Kevin McCarthy wore down the rebels who didn't want him to win. Now the task of governing begins, and I sure hope that was the hard part, and now they will work together with one another and the Dems to make policies and laws for the good of the country.

Yesterday Melanie, Chris and I walked in the rain at Whatcom Falls Park for our usual Saturday morning exercise. It has been a while since we actually got seriously wet, but yesterday we sure did. Although only a quarter-inch of rain fell, and we were all dressed in appropriate gear, I had forgotten how much of a difference it makes to walk in serious rain. Nowhere near as nice as without it. However, in this part of the country you cannot wait for dry days; they come and go and make for a nice break from the usual winter precipitation. At least it's a warm rain right now, so I'll smile and be grateful for what I have, and be glad I have such good rain gear. And friends who also are willing to walk in the rain with me.
You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don't want to face. —Bai Ling

Without the contrast of rainy days, the sunshine doesn't seem nearly as bright and cheerful, so I'll keep on looking for the rainbows that accompany the rain. It sometimes comes down to an internal conversation I have with myself: what is good right now in my life? Can I accept that I have so much more comfort and privilege than the majority of humanity without feeling bad about it? Of course I can, so that will be my mantra for the day: enjoy the soft rainfall that makes our Pacific Northwest such a green paradise in summer and enjoy whatever else the day might bring.

Plus, it seems like I barely get used to one year passing, and another has flown right by while I wasn't paying attention. It' already 2023, can you believe it? Since so few of my family members have lived as long as I have, I didn't expect to be around, but here I am, not only still happily living each day, but filled with gratitude for having my health, my dear partner, and all my friends, virtual and actual. It is a gift that I will enjoy for as long as I can. And I am also beginning to enjoy my status as an elder.

There's a silver lining somewhere in there

It won't be long now before we will start seeing little signs of spring popping up through the forest floor. Well, okay, maybe it won't be tomorrow, but with the ways the days, months and years have been flying by, it will happen that one day, while I'm out walking. I'll see the first primrose rise up to remind me that it's constantly changing from winter to spring, then summer and fall, and back once again to start it all over. It's a dynamic process, and I'm glad to have the ability to appreciate it, and to share the days with you and that special person sleeping next to me as I write this morning.

I got a late start, since I was up later than usual and woke a bit after my usual time, so I am feeling a little bit of time crunch. Before John gets here, I need to get out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, get my morning exercises in, and spend a little time in meditation. So that means I won't get to spend as much time as usual sitting here and pondering what to write. In any event, I am confident that by next Sunday, I will have caught up and will be back to my normal routine and will spend more time with you, my dear virtual friends. 

I do hope the coming week will bring you happiness, a bit of life's joy to remind you to smile and find the silver lining that is definitely there somewhere. Sometimes we just need to change our attitude to see it, but it's there. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

A new year begins

Our beautiful mountains

I've visited these lovely mountain views for many years now, and they never fail to inspire me as I contemplate their enduring beauty. I went looking for an inspiring picture among the hundreds I have stored on my laptop. Sadly, for me, I got caught up in trying to find just the right one to usher in our brand-new year. The time flew by, and now here I am trying to regain the time lost to reminiscence. Can't be done, so I'll just pick up the attempt from here.
Before we took down the tree each year, Dad would always say a prayer that we would be together the next Christmas. I cling to that prayer, which serves as a reminder that it's important to be grateful in the present for the people you love because, well, you never know. —Catherine Hicks

That's what is on my mind this morning: how many wonderful friends and acquaintances, as well as the celebrities, we have lost this past year. And as Catherine says, "it's important to be grateful in the present for the people you love because, well, you never know."

On this past Friday, as I was watching Judy Woodruff's final show as the long-time anchor of the PBS Newshour, I learned that Barbara Walters has died at 93. And just a few minutes later, the news flash came across the screen that Pope Benedict had also died. All at once, it sort of hit me about the brevity of life and how little we know about what is to come. The year 2022 was difficult in so many ways, but 2023 looks to be one where we might be able to pick up some of the lost days that the pandemic changed for all of us.

My resolution for the new year is to find a new yoga studio and actually attend the classes. I had gotten so accustomed to my familiar teacher and using Zoom to take the classes in my living room, that I realize how little I want to be in a crowded studio with others. I am still not feeling all that safe with the viruses circulating everywhere right now. I've narrowed my search to a couple that seem right up my alley, and one of them has a very extensive Zoom repertoire. But first I have to go in person and "feel the vibes." As I've said before, it's not that I don't know WHAT to do to keep myself fit from yoga, but I really like the yoga environment with others in the room to inspire me.

I'm thinking that I might also join a gym, since I miss the classes I attended at the Y, but the teachers I enjoyed are no longer there, and they have never reopened the women's locker room. A new place seems to be the answer, so that's my resolution for the new year as well. Writing it down helps me to follow through, you know?

I guess one shouldn't be surprised when dear hiking friends pass away, when you are already a senior, but it is still jarring to hear about old friends who are not only not hiking any more, but who have debilitating illnesses or worse. Of course it's part of life, but I keep forgetting that while I'm not paying attention, people are getting older and (in some cases) are no longer with us. 

You just never know what a new year has in store, both the good and the bad of our journey through life. Now that I have entered my ninth decade, I feel really fortunate that I am still able to do most of what I really want to do. Of course, that changes as one ages, too: I no longer feel the need to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, but I sure did for many decades. In fact, there was a time when I couldn't even imagine giving it up. It has become a distant memory, a fond one but from another era.

What I truly cherish and hope I can maintain for the rest of my time on earth, is my ability to remember and reminisce. I didn't know it until she died, but Barbara Walters had become very ill from advanced dementia. She joins the many celebrities whom I have admired who eventually became unable to continue their normal life because of it. I wonder what it is like, feeling yourself begin to slip away, little by little. One of my favorite books that describes the journey is Still Alice, written in 2007 by Lisa Genova. It was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore as Alice. It's well worth your time to read the book or see the movie, if you want to learn more about the illness that has taken so many wonderful people away from us.

It is one more thing to remind myself to be grateful not only for my physical health, but my mental and emotional health as well. The other day I couldn't remember the name of an old hiking friend who recently died, and after searching around in the nooks and crannies of my memory, feeling it almost emerge and then disappear again, I gave up. It made me realize that this particular event happens to me more and more often, which is normal as one's brain ages, but it's very disconcerting. I never did remember the person's name, until I asked my friend Melanie, who also knew him. Ah! The relief as I felt the name slip into place, feeling the blank spot in my memory become whole again.

We don't know what this new year will bring us, but I do have some real wishes and desires for what's to come. First and foremost, I hope that the war in Ukraine will come to an end, hopefully culminating in a just peace. Those people have endured so much suffering but continue to inspire the world with their resilience.

And here in this country, I wish that all who are suffering from homelessness can find their own way to safety. If our economy was not driven by so much greed, we would be able to feed and clothe the entire country. So I can add my own wish to those of many others, to find a way towards economic equity, or at least to make a start in that direction. Let's do it! I am reminded of a wonderful Margaret Mead quote that says it perfectly:

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

With that hopeful note, I will leave you once again as we start a brand new year with hope and joy in our hearts. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and it's time for me to begin the next phase in my own journey: out of bed and into the world. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.