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.