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, 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.


Marie Smith said...

Looking forward to the new year with hope is the only way to do it! Here’s to hope for a better world for 2023, Jan.

gigi-hawaii said...

One life ends, and another one begins. Happy New Year, DJan.

Rita said...

Hope and gratitude keep me going,
Welcome to 2023! :)

Barbara Rogers said...

This dementia thing is worse than considering one is just dying. It's a bit of a big monster over my shoulders that I need to look at more seriously.

Rian said...

DJan, I have no hopes of doing great things... but do hope that I can do little things with great love. So little sometimes that I wonder if it helps, but I hope it does. (I read "Still Alive" years ago... such a sad scary scenario) But it is what it is... and with the grace of God, we can handle it. Happy 2023!!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy New Year! I believe my Mother has the beginnings of Dementia after spending three days with her. It is hard to tell if it is just being so tired or grieving or medications. I do not wish Dementia on anyone and wonder why we cannot come up with a cure. I heard there is one in the pipes...seven years away.
I wish you the best in this New Year!

Elephant's Child said...

A Happy Hopeful Year to you dear friend. 'Knowing you' though the internet has definitely been a blessing for me.

ApacheDug said...

Happy New Year DJan; I wanted you to know, I think you're a real inspiration for the living. Who says numbers (like one's age) determines what a person can & cannot do? You prove that cliche wrong every week. But I can understand you questioning life's frailties too (I had no idea Barbara Walters was living with dementia) and all we can do is keep on keeping on. Here's to a healthy, enlightened 2023 my friend.

aurora said...

The world would benefit from more inspirational and kind people, like you. Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy 2023!

Anvilcloud said...

Golly, those names are getting elusive. I searched for one recently. I found it, but now I can't remember what it was. lol

Gigi said...

Happy New Year, DJan! May 2023 brings us all peace and joy. xo

Red said...

One day at a time is the way it works. We plan for the future and keep looking ahead not knowing when the end might come. You are setting up some activities and looking forward to participation. Yes, things slip our mind sometimes but that's not a big issue.

Galen Pearl said...

Happy New Year, DJan. Like you and otheres, I hear you about the name retrieval. Yikes, I've forgotten some pretty easy ones lately. I had a lovely weekend at the cabin -- that's how I always like to end and begin a year. I also want to get back into a better health routine this year. I've slacked off a bit. Thanks for continuing your weekly dose of compassionate inspiration.

Glenda Beall said...

This past year was a tough one for me in several ways and I look to a more uplifting year with more positives than negatives. I will start the year with knee surgery and recovery which is not going to be fun, but being able to walk without pain is worth it. Having been diagnosed with a heart problem in 2022, was a real downer, but I am going to live each day as it comes and look for positive aspects of my life. In this stage of life, I fear the medical world doesn't have much for me, so I must concentrate on living a healthy lifestyle as well as I can and, important to me, improve my social life which will improve my mental health. All this time of being isolated and living like a recluse is not good for me. But, I pray for our world to find peace and to love more than hate. May your 2023 be healthy and happy, DJan. Thanks for your comment on my blog. I can't seem to leave a comment on my own blog. I don't know how to fix it.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you once again for ever and always writing what abides deep in the hearts of all of us--whether that's immediately recognized or not. You have the gift of assimilating what is happening and drawing forth from those events the kernel of truth we all seek. Thank you for being the philosopher of the blogging world! At least that is how I think of you postings on this blog. Do you read the daily free newsletter from the historian Heather Cox Richardson? I think you would fine it enlightening. It puts what happening in our country in perspective for ma and all her readers. Happy New Year, DJan, from Dee and the cats.

John's Island said...

Your opening photo is great and I can see how that view inspires you. I love the way your dad offered a prayer each Christmas that you would all be together again the next Christmas. The death of 3 highly accomplished individuals, all within one day, was just difficult to fathom and I’m so with you about how that made me think about the brevity of life and how little we know about what is to come. I wish you good luck on your resolution for the new year … finding a new yoga studio and attending classes. I appreciated your mention of Barbara Walters having advanced dementia and how brain health can wreck our later years. Like you, I have those little memory slips that are so annoying, yet, as we are told, are completely normal. As far as what’s to come … yes, let’s pray for the end of the war in Ukraine. And, for those who are suffering from homelessness, let’s hope they can find their own way to safety. Happy New Year to you and SG and best wishes for 2023! John

Linda Reeder said...

The sunlight is already beginning to fade on this second day of the new year as I finally find my way to your Sunday post. I tried a little walking out on the street yesterday and this morning. Now the .75 mile has me so stiff and sore that I have not made much progress in taking down Christmas. But there is tomorrow, and then another tomorrow. By the weekend we should have everything put away, put back, and a clean house.
I will do what I can to keep moving. I can live vicariously through you.