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

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

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Things are looking up

Looking up

Yes, just a bit of a joke here. I was looking up at these lovely trees while on my hike last Thursday, and noticed how beautiful it is up there above eye level. The entire eight miles (well, four out and back) is filled with gorgeous trees and green splendor. And it wasn't too hot, since I tend to wilt pretty quickly in the heat, so I made it without incident.

I am feeling better about how I will adjust to Melanie's move, now that I've made the leap into the other hiking group. They stop more often and don't always travel as far as Group 1, which is all I knew about them before I took up with these hikers. I've slowed down a lot and appreciate the slower pace. And I still get to walk with Melanie on Saturday mornings. Her house goes on the market on Wednesday, and how long she will stay in town depends on how fast or slow it sells. Then she will move south of Portland to be closer to her relatives in California. 

As I mentioned in last week's post, two weeks ago we had our annual gathering of all three hiking groups, getting ready to start the summer season of travels into the High Country. I'm not sure how many of these I will attend, since last year one of my favorite hikes just about did me in and warned me I might need to skip them, especially if it's hot and sunny. Most climb at least 2,000 feet in elevation, much of it in full sun. Not my idea of fun any more. But we'll see. I am optimistic and will take it one week at a time.

One thing about hiking with other seniors, everyone is dealing with health issues now and then. Since we cover the gamut from mid-fifties to mid-eighties in age, there's quite a difference in abilities, which is why there are three groups. You can check them out here if you're interested. Between my two regular hiking days, I also walk every morning to the bus stop, about a half-mile from my front porch. After visiting the coffee shop, my friend John drops me off at Cornwall Rose Garden for a two-and-a-half mile walk home. That gives me three miles for the morning, which is very much needed to keep myself in shape. But let's face it: there is a price to pay for accumulating so many years on the planet, and nothing will change the trajectory of aging. Well, one thing, but I'm not going there quite yet!
The aging process is not gradual or gentle. It rushes up, pushes you over, and runs off laughing. No one should grow old who isn't ready to appear ridiculous. —John Mortimer

 Yeah, I know. Now I am old enough to know the truth of this statement, and I intend to get older yet, I am braced for all that comes next. The only real problem I have with my aging process is the gradual loss of my eyesight. I have been experiencing AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and am dealing with a darkness that has appeared in both eyes. Fortunately for me, what is missing in one eye is mostly covered by the same area in my other eye. But it makes for a darkening landscape, since there are really and truly visual holes, and nothing I do will change that fact. Wet MD actually has some ability to be slowed down, but dry, which I have. is not. I take lots of vitamins for my eyes and wear broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses that might slow down the progression, but I see changes from one eye appointment to the next. I've also lost a good bit of depth perception, so sunglasses in dappled sunlight make it even harder to see where I'm going. But I'm optimistic, and my eyes have helped to get me this far. 

It's Memorial Day weekend, and here in Bellingham we have the annual Ski to Sea team relay race which, if you're not in it, means lots of disruption throughout the entire town. The race has seven segments, starting at the Mt. Baker Ski Area (with both cross-country and downhill legs) and ending with kayaks pulling into Marine Park in Fairhaven. In past years, I've gone to the finish line (taking a designated bus from downtown) and watched some of the finishers drag their kayaks out of the water. I probably won't do that this year, because with good weather it means it will be packed tight with raucous people, drinking and carousing around. Just not my thing, but I will enjoy reading about it in the local paper tomorrow. Hope it goes without incident and everybody is safe.

I'm thinking about all those in my family who have served in the military, although nobody in my family actually died in a war. My son died while serving, but he died of a heart attack while jogging, more than twenty years ago now. My niece Allison retired from the Army as a Colonel, the highest rank anyone in our family ever reached. Daddy was a Major, and my son was a soldier with a couple stripes. We have, over the years, given plenty of days and years of service to our country. I am grateful.

In re-reading my latest book, I was reminded of the ancient sages of Buddhism, Hinduism, and other Asian cultures. And also curious about the language that many ancient scrolls were written in, Sanskrit. It's a beautiful language, and I love to see it written. Nobody speaks it as their own native language today, but it still exists and is used in many cultures as a sacred language. Many sages wrote scriptures in it that are studied today. Here's a name you probably never heard before: Padmasambhava. In modern Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava is considered to be a Buddha that was foretold by Buddha Shakyamuni. I was fascinated to learn that he made some astounding prophecies, among them foretelling today's world. He lived more than a twelve hundred years ago, and he made this prediction:

When the iron bird flies and the horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world, and the Dharma will come to the land of the red men (western countries).

How did he know about airplanes and automobiles? Or about the Chinese invasion of Tibet? It makes me wonder whether the ancient sages were actually clairvoyant and able to see the future so clearly. Many books I've read say that is so, and this gives credibility to that fact. It also makes me wonder whether reincarnation and rebirth is also real; I'm still a skeptic when it comes to that concept. One thing I know for sure: we don't actually know very much about the true nature of reality. Maybe that's one reason why I am so fascinated with quantum physics and Buddhism: it feels like the answers lie in there somewhere. Plus it gives me something to study and fill my mind with; it's a very useful way to pass the time and fills me with wonder.

Life is full and my days pass quickly. Too quickly, mostly, and I'm often totally taken by surprise to look up from my laptop and see it's grown late. Looking up is the theme for me on this Memorial Day in 2023. But for now, as I look over at my dear sweet partner sleeping away, I'm thinking about whether when John picks me up for breakfast in Fairhaven, we'll be disrupted by the festival that will take place later today. Tomorrow should be a quiet day for me, since everything will be closed, and I'll go for a nice walk in the park and afterwards sit down, open my laptop and learn more about Sanskrit and ancient sages. 

I am truly blessed to have such a good life, and if it were to end today, it's been a very full ride, all the way to this present moment. I am filled with gratitude for so many different aspects of life to appreciate and enjoy. Hopefully you will also have a wonderful day and will remember to look up. You never know what you might see. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Rita said...

I am also fascinated by and take comfort in the idea that there is so much more to life than what we can even grasp or understand. Knowing I have lived my life the best way I have been able to and being grateful for it all if I died today--also gives me great comfort and joy. Your post today--all of that has been with me since I was a girl and has helped me through many traumatic times in my life...and through these last couple years with cancer. I've been given a reprieve and am soooo grateful. So sorry you have vision problems to deal with. Thank goodness there are audio books galore, my friend. I know you are a survivor and will find ways to adapt to live your best life no matter what comes up. Love and hugs from Fargo.

Rian said...

I took a pic very similar once when on retreat... looking up into a circle of trees. I think finding a smaller hiking group that works well for you is a good adjustment... and although you will miss Melanie, having new friends to walk with will help you adjust.

As for the Ski to Sea Festival - I'm like you. Used to love things like Mardi Gras, etc. - but now don't want to be around the crowds and drinkers. Enjoy seeing bits of it on TV... and that's enough.

Hoping your eye problems will be slow progressing, age does have it's drawbacks, but we need to appreciate what we do have. My uncle was retired Military (General) and my son-in-law served. Dad tried to sign up for WW2, but he was married, had 2 babies, and although a naturalized US Citizen (born in London), they wouldn't take him. I know he was disappointed and wanted to do his bit.

Elephant's Child said...

Being filled with wonder is an excellent way to be. Enjoy your week dear friend. Your wonder filled week.

William Kendall said...

A beautiful shot.

There have been some minor disruptions in my city this weekend- a big marathon race weekend.

Marcia LaRue said...

Are those trees a grove of redwoods? So majestic! Having lived on the North coast of California, I have seen more then a few of those beauties!
Your Buddha fellow sounds a lot like Nostradamus ... how did he foretell so much into the future, as well!

Linda Reeder said...

We all have our aging issues but you have now made me more aware of your vision issues and that made my heart sink. People in my life have suffered loss of vision and it is hard to deal with. Yes, look up, and down, and all around as long as you can.
I was looking up into the tall firs this past week when we visited Rhododendron Park on Whidbey Island. Replanted closely after a log off many years ago, they grew very straight and tall. They were not allowed to spread their wings, i.e. branches, wide. It is a beautiful forest now, but what will their future be?
Change happens.

John's Island said...

Hello DJan, Sooner or later SG (Smart Gal) and I will be moving out of Seattle and one possible destination is near or in Bellingham. Part of the challenge is finding a place we like and we are in no rush. So, as long as we are looking, and Melanie is selling, what do you think … might we be interested in her place? If you think there’s a chance, you know how to get in touch with some info to help me find her listing. Next, you continue to fascinate me with historical info such as that about Padmasambhava. His prophecy about the iron bird doesn’t surprise me but merely confirms my belief that all of us (every single human) has a soul that came from somewhere and will go back to somewhere after the body we are in reaches what we call death. In that “somewhere” there is probably much more insight about what’s happened in the past and will be in the future. Slowly, but surely, I’m believing Buddhism has a lot more “reality” than most western philosophies/religions. Keep up the good studies! Respectful regards for Memorial Day. John

Anvilcloud said...

You are doing amazingly well with all your hiking at your age. I hope the eyes stay well enough for you.

Red said...

I really like the third sentence in your last paragraph. You are a very positive person and positive people do well in this world. We have Remembrance day every Nov. 11 when those who lost their lives are remembered. It used to be called Armistice Day.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Always look up///and forward...I will add that nit. The trees are so majestic:) I hope you have a wonderful week. I do hope you find someone else to hike with after Mel moves. I am sad to see her go...because I know how much you will miss her. :)

Marie Smith said...

Jan, you continue to inspire me to be physically and intellectually active as I age. I admire how you adapt with the changes in life! Have a wonderful week, my friend!