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, June 25, 2023

Summer 2023 has begun

I could smell these roses

I took this picture inside the lovely home I visited last Tuesday. The juxtaposition of these flowers with the ones seen outside caught my eye. It was raining lightly as we walked for most of the time, but I didn't mind, the coolness made it very comfortable for me. I'd much rather have clouds and a little rain than sunshine without any relief. However, as the summer wears on, I will adapt at least a little to the heat. Or, I should add, I always have so far.

This past week, I finally finished paying for my hearing aids, which I charged on my credit card, and now I'm thinking about the laptop I will be purchasing soon. It will be the same thing I've been using for awhile now, but upgraded and hopefully faster and easier to type on. This one has the blasted "butterfly" keyboard that has caused me some grief; the keys want to stick and I've found a way to fix them when it happens, but it's an annoying keyboard and I'll be happy to get a new replacement. The only bad part is that since it's an upgrade, there will be lots of new bells and whistles, with new and different ports and whatnot. They always do that whether you want them to or not. I'm in no hurry, obviously. I've had this laptop for three years now and can go a little longer with it.

I received my monthly massage on Friday, and the therapist told me she will be raising her rates soon, but doesn't know by how much. Although she doesn't really want to do it, her studio rent is doubling and just like the rest of us, other essentials in her world are increasing in price. I will continue to get my regular massage whatever the cost, however long I can afford to do so.

I ran across this quote and found it to be inspiring and perfect:
Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don't forget when you leave why you came. —Adlai Stevenson II

 Ah, yes, dear Adlai, you are right. I didn't know what I wanted to say next, but after  quick visit to brainyquote.com, you were right there to say it for me.  I especially love the line about touching the depths of truth and feeling the hem of Heaven. One wonderful part of having lived a long life is that I know exactly what that means. Just for fun, I went to Wikipedia and read the biography of Stevenson. He was someone I had heard about when I was young, and I would have voted for him when he ran  against Eisenhower if I had been old enough. But I wasn't; the first vote I ever cast was for Kennedy in 1961. I think Adlai Stevenson would have made a great president. Eleanor Roosevelt was a close friend of his and a believer in his abilities.

The politics of the world have been weighing me down as I visit the newspapers I follow daily. First the loss of those five men in the Titanic sub disaster, and now the situation going on in Russia, which is so fluid and unsettling that by the time I finish this post it might have changed again. So I'll leave it and concentrate on trying to keep myself on an even keel. That's really all we have any control over — our own internal equilibrium. I can't change anything outside of my own situation, and if I think of what the Buddhists say, it's all illusory and constantly changing anyway.

I was really fortunate in my early childhood, believing that I was the center of the universe and that everything revolved around me. My parents doted on me, and until my baby sister was born, I truly felt invincible. Then she became the one they doted on, and I was relegated to big sister status, no longer the only one they loved. I think I turned into a little bit of a brat, until I grew accustomed to the enormous change in my status. I did learn to appreciate and love the interloper, but it took me awhile. Firstborn children are the only ones I think who might have understood this toddler's dilemma.

These days, I spend most of my time following a pretty strict routine. Each day of the week has its own makeup, and Sundays always start here, with this post. I've been doing this long enough that it's very disconcerting if I cannot sit propped up in bed and ruminate about life during this time. Then, after having gone to breakfast with my friend John, the rest of the day is varied, depending on the weather. Since the pandemic altered my daily routine and made me seek out new avenues to satisfy my need for companionship, things have changed but are now settled into a new pattern that suits me quite well. Losing my friend Melanie due to her moving away has caused me to rejoin the Senior Trailblazers, and I've already made some new friends there.

I do sometimes let myself fall into what I think of as the "old age doldrums," when I awake in a grumpy mood and don't feel my usual ebullient joy at facing a new day. There are many ways that I choose to change things up, mostly by looking for serenity in the world around me. There are so many wonderful things to focus on, if I allow myself to do so. And there's of course the internet, which gives me a chance to see what Dr. Google says about how to find serenity. Here's what I found just now:
  • Accept what you can't change or control. You can't actually control your mind and simply tell it, “Be more peaceful” — just as you can't control life. 
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation. 
  • Make time for yourself. 
  • Keep a journal. 
  • Get back to nature.
Oh, yeah! I do most of those activities already, and I just needed to be reminded of all these delightful ways to rediscover my own personal serenity. How about you? Do you have ways to buoy yourself up from the doldrums? If so, I'd love to hear them. 

For now, I think I'll wrap up this eclectic post and get on with my day. I have enough time before I need to get out of bed to visit my virtual family and see what you've been up to lately. And then a quick perusal of the news of the day, and I'm ready to spring out of bed and see what this irreplaceable special day has in store for me! I do hope that the coming week will bring peace and serenity into your life, and that you will continue to be well. I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Fun with old friends

Baat, me, SG, and Alan

We had a wonderful treat this past Friday, when a couple of old friends (also skydivers) came to visit us for the day. Baat and Alan returned from Israel not too long ago, and have decided to live in Boulder, Colorado, where the four of us were fast friends for around seven years. We had not seen them for almost two decades, and they brought two of their three kids along with them. (They, the young ones, were out doing whatever young adults do these days. Ever heard of an Escape Room? Me neither.) We grownups spent quite a bit of time catching up with our lives since we were last together. 

The two of them are involved in the esoteric computer world. Alan writes programs that I cannot begin to understand, and Baat designs conferences that are intended to help women become more involved in computer science and related fields. They are both, in a few words, fantastically talented and we are blessed to have them as friends. But when we knew them, they were just regular folks who jumped out of airplanes for fun, like us. 

I was afraid that enough time had passed to make our lives no longer relevant to one another, but that was not the case. After getting over the shock of seeing them with two grown young men (their daughter is off at a summer camp somewhere), we settled down to the long conversations that helped us reconnect to our old lives. None of us are actively skydiving right now, although Baat has just gotten recurrent after eight years away, so that she can participate in an upcoming activity. Other than that, we didn't spend much time talking about the one thing that initially brought us together.

I was fascinated to spend some time talking with their eldest son, Kai, who went to school in Israel and became proficient in Hebrew and learned Arabic as well. So he's got three languages under his belt and is going to be a real asset to the world as he matures. His brother is three years younger and didn't interact much with the adults before they both took off to that Escape Room. Once we said goodbye for now, the family set off for the Canadian border, since it looks like Kai will attend college in Vancouver. He was accepted at both Simon Frasier and the University of British Columbia. So they are off checking out the schools after having visited us in Bellingham.

Boulevard Park walk

We took them for a leisurely walk along Boulevard Park so that we could talk, as well as let me spend quite a bit of time grabbing Baat for a hug (she's so eminently huggable). I have to say this is the most I've seen SG without a mask in ages. He got so caught up in talk that he forgot to put it back on! Once the boys returned from their adventure, we made our goodbyes (for now) and we returned to our old lives. But both of us have been feeling amazingly buoyed up by the interaction and the act of bringing the past into the present and realizing how much we love them. And learning that they still love us, too. My heart is full.
In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. —Albert Schweitzer
*  *  *

And here we are, today, experiencing another Father's Day. My own dad has been on the other side of the grass for more than forty years. But it doesn't change the fact that we are still, and forever, connected to one another. I idolized my father, to the chagrin of my mother, who warned me that he had many faults that I would discover as I grew older. But what happened instead is that I left home at an early age, pregnant at eighteen and moved to Puerto Rico with my then-husband. I didn't get to spend much time with Daddy after that. He was also an alcoholic, so many of my adult memories of Daddy were of him "in his cups," and as often happens with drink, he was not really himself much of the time, but instead became loquacious and ended up leaving the conversations early as he sank into a place where I could not follow. 

I didn't realize that all parents weren't like that, having impromptu parties every night after dinner. When I visited my parents, I spent more time with Mama, so my memories of interactions with Daddy are infused with a sense of unreality. Plus I don't actually have all that many memories that come up into my mind, when I think of him.

Daddy when he was young

But I loved him and was devastated when he died at 62, of a heart attack, along with so many other family members who also died of the same fate. Including, of course, my son who died at forty of a heart attack. It's one reason that I exercise all the time, in order to stave off the family curse of heart disease. I have a distant memory of Daddy's large hand and my own small one nestling inside, feeling protected and safe.

Now that I am old, I realize that the illusion of safety was just that; life is full of ups and downs, and we all know that eventually we will slip away, leaving the world for the young, who will also move through time to themselves grow old and continue the cycle of life and death. It's an elegant world, and once you allow yourself to enjoy it as it is, there are so many times when just simply finding ways to spread loving kindness will make everything better. And since we have a choice, I choose love and beauty.

And with that, my Sunday post is almost finished, with just a few reminders to take care of: remembering my dear extended family, you who visit me weekly, who leave a few words that always make me feel so incredibly fortunate to have found you. And my dear sweet partner who still sleeps next to me as I write this. Soon I will rise from my bed and will spend another wonderful day in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, happy to have another week to spread and receive joy and happiness. Until we meet again, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Finally a little rain

Mountain scene with fog

 I live in one of the prettiest places on earth, if you ask me. This was taken a few years ago on a mountain hike with the Trailblazers. I don't know if I will ever again be strong enough to see this view again, but there are so many that are similar, and I am still able to be out there, even if "there" is not quite as high or as strenuous as in earlier days. It doesn't matter, really; I have so many chances to take a nice forest bath whenever I want. The term "forest bathing" comes from Japan:

The term emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”). The purpose was twofold: to offer an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country's forests (National Geographic).

We were very pleased to see the rain return Friday night. We got close to half an inch here in Bellingham, when we expected next to nothing.  We are still at least six inches shy of the normal rainfall we receive in the spring, with the normally dry summer season fast approaching. I am happy that it's wet outside again. I never thought I'd be such a fan of mist and fog. But I sure am.

I have accomplished quite a few interesting feats during my life, and sometimes I see how one activity emerges from an earlier one. In 2000, I had a life-changing parachuting accident when I broke my pelvis in six places, shattering the right sacrum and losing an artery in my right leg. After a long recovery of several months, I again returned to skydiving, but also became familiar with the need to take up long, brisk walks to regain circulation in the injured area.

It was one of the reasons to find a place to retire that would offer plenty of opportunities to get outside and learn about the local hikes in the Pacific Northwest. I decided to retire in 2008 with a pretty good annuity package and we moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Bellingham, Washington. (SG was already retired and collecting Social Security.) It was a fortuitous move, one that has given us both everything we need to continue to thrive.

And now it is fifteen years later, and we are finally through the pandemic years, with our lives substantially changed, but still quite functional. I no longer have daily classes at the Y, where I went for so many years, but have become more active with the local Senior Center, which offers many activities that I've taken advantage of. The Senior Trailblazers offer three different levels of hikes, one of which I began to attend every Thursday back in 2009. Now I've moved over to the next level of hikes, and am considering attending the easiest of the three groups this year. Many of my friends have already made the switch. The Senior Center also offers yoga and zumba classes, which I am enjoying very much. During the pandemic, my long-time yoga studio closed, so it was nice to try this very different yoga practice. It's not the same, but then again, neither am I.

It's been eight years since I last made a skydive, but I still think of myself as being a skydiver. That's where I met my dear partner back in the last century, and we've now been together for thirty years. That's an almost unbelievable feat for someone who didn't think it was possible for her to find a partner who could still bring her so much joy for so long, even though our skydiving days are far behind us. As I age, I notice how important it is to allow what's next to emerge without trying to direct or cause it to flow in any particular direction. I don't know what's best for me and am happy to let go and let whatever happens, happen. I am so fortunate.

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it with another. —Thomas Merton 

Feeding a wild friend

I was looking for inspiration for this post and went browsing in my digital photo album and came across this picture. Although it was years ago now, I still remember the feeling of the bird's claws holding onto my fingers. Very strong and determined, always looking for food in that white landscape. These "camp robbers" are very bold, and if you are eating a sandwich and put it beside you for any reason, it will be gone in a flash, carried off by a hungry bird. I was happily sharing my trail mix with this guy.

I've had many memorable moments while hiking in the mountains, in spring, summer and fall. I don't venture out in the winter any more, and although this looks like it is taken in the middle of winter, it was actually in July. The snow at that altitude doesn't leave quickly, making for a scene like this in the middle of summer. The animals who make their home up there are strong because they must be to survive.

Because of the pandemic, my life has narrowed over the years, and I have lost a few friends who have either moved into other activities, or actually moved away. I am losing my long-time hiking partner Melanie next month, as she has successfully sold her home and signed the final papers this week. I was hoping she might change her mind, but now it's official. Fortunately for me, I've got other options and new friends to make in that hiking group. Last Thursday it was eight women, all new acquaintances, but fast becoming friends. 

I am also fortunate that I don't need to drive myself up into the mountains to enjoy the hikes, since we carpool and with my ancient car and failing eyesight, I am grateful that others can take over that task. Plus I really like sitting next to someone new and finding out all about her life as we drive to our destination. As long as I can continue to forest bathe and make new friends, I'll be fine.

Oh, and I almost forgot one of the most important aspects of today's existence: my virtual family. Who would have believed that people I will never meet in person but know intimately through their blogs could be such as important part of my life? And it's not likely to be going anywhere, since all I need is a good laptop and internet connection. Surely even when I can no longer hike, I will be able to continue this activity and maybe even expand it. But as I said earlier, I don't know where the future will lead me, and I will not try to make any predictions. What I do know is that I am a fortunate and very grateful person for all that life has brought me over the years. Thank you for being a part of that.

And with that, I will leave you for another week. My partner still sleeps quietly next to me, that dear sweet piece of my heart. My tea is gone, and my friend John will soon arrive to transport me to our Sunday morning breakfast. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things, and offer up sincere gratitude for your presence in my life. Be well.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

June is here already

You don't say!

The little leprechaun actually didn't say anything as he sat inside one of the sandstone hollows on the Rock trail. I remember the first time we saw those holes, and somebody decided to yell inside to see what happened. I was surprised to find that they are quite deep, and once we trekked by to see lots of feet sticking out, which turned out to be a bunch of teenagers daring each other to check out the depressions. In the picture, one of the Trailblazers last week carried the little guy with her and set him up for the photo shoot. I didn't know the photographer took it and captured the moment so well.

This was my third excursion with Group 2 of the Senior Trailblazers, and I am pleased to have learned that I will not have to stop hiking completely, once Melanie moves away. She put her home on the market last Wednesday, and she already has two offers above her asking price. She has signed a pending agreement with one of them, and once home inspection has been made and signed off on, she will need to be out of there by the end of July at the latest. She figures it will probably be in the middle of the month by the time she gets everything all sorted out and packed up.

We walked yesterday morning as she told me all about it, and she is happy that I am doing so well with the new group, but I realized as we talked how much I am going to miss her. She reminded me that she will be back to visit often, and that she will be much closer to her family, which makes her happy too. It won't be the same, but change is inevitable and unavoidable.

I figure after she leaves, I will still do the same Saturday walks, probably by myself or maybe with one other friend. But it is now part of my weekly routine, and I won't want to leave the activity behind, just because she's not there. She suggested that I rejoin the Saturday walking group of ladies, but they start an hour earlier, and she's shown me how nice it is to enjoy the morning in a more leisurely way. Plus, they walk way too fast for me these days. 

I pondered last night what I might write about this morning, and nothing much came to mind. First I thought about books I've recently finished, but they are all the same stuff, some Buddhist nonfiction, and a few others that are not all that interesting to write about. Maybe it would be fun to recall some of my more exciting adventures over the years, but nothing seems to be popping out to present itself. So I guess I'll just riff on one of my favorite themes: gratitude.

As a healthy senior living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I have plenty to be grateful for. I have countless places within walking distance that are lovely and majestic, forests and parks with ancient trees, shady and filled with birds of every sort. And squirrels. I noticed on my last walk that there seem to be way more of them than this time last year, chasing each other and somehow mostly managing to evade the cars as they cross the streets. And I often share the trails with deer, who also seem quite healthy and robust in an urban environment.

I am also happy to have found some new friends in various avenues of my daily life. At the coffee shop, I've made a new friend who sits at the table next to John and me. Steve is a science instructor at the local college and sits with papers to grade most mornings, and we've gotten to know each other over coffee and conversation. By the time he arrives, he has already worked the daily Wordle, so as I sit there pondering what the solution might be, he keeps the solution to himself until I solve it. Then we discuss it. Our friend RJ sometimes shows up to join in the fun. He usually has coffee and a breakfast sandwich, so we have established a new and enjoyable routine at our newest coffee shop adventure. 

I walk to the bus on weekday mornings and catch it to downtown, and I know all the usual people who ride the same bus, but I don't talk with any of them. It's partly because I still wear a mask on the bus, along with a few others. I wonder where they are going, to work probably, since they are there almost every day. A few of them are students going off to school, I suspect. School is still in session here, but it must be just about time for summer break, so I should stop seeing them soon. So many people on the bus never look up from their phones, and I sometimes wonder what is so interesting and absorbing. Occasionally I can look over the seat at the person in front of me, and mostly it seems like endless scrolling through some app or other.

Although it's later than usual for me, I finally finished potting all the flowers in my front porch garden. And I also decided that I will not plant anything in our community garden this year, because I am really tired of dealing with the slugs for not much gain. John grows asparagus and has gifted us with plenty of it, and there are so many expensive but abundant veggies at our local store that I just don't feel like doing it any more. Perhaps if money were tighter for us, I'd be happy to continue digging around in the community garden. For now, we're doing fine.

This year's front porch garden

I just now went out to the front porch to take a picture of the flowers, so you can see them. They should continue to grow and expand a bit more, but I didn't get any geraniums this year and will be content with petunias and pansies, along with some other pretty gems. In any event, I am very happy to be enjoying the perfect spring weather as we move into June.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and my tea is gone and I'll thinking about getting up for good and starting my daily routine, now that this gentle and rather rambling post is finished. I do hope the coming week will bring you something to be happy and grateful for. If you look, I'm sure you will find there are plenty of reasons to say THANK YOU for your life. You certainly do add much to mine, and I am definitely grateful for your friendship. Be well, dear friends.