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, December 3, 2023

Holiday activities ahead

The view from Eagle Cliff

Well, I can now say that I had the best birthday week of my life. Or that I can remember, at least. It started on Monday with a new class, strength training, that will continue until December 22. Twice a week I will get instructed, along with my other classmates, on the correct operation of the fifteen exercise stations in the Senior Center's gym. I have already used a couple of machines that I've never been on before: the abdominal crunch and the low back extender. I started on low weights, since I have plenty of "stuff" going on in those areas. It's also fun learning new skills. 

As the week went on, I got a good acupuncture treatment, a fabulous massage from my regular therapist, and a super-wonderful hike on Wednesday, to a place new to me: Cypress Island in the San Juans. That picture was taken from the high point of our several hikes. It's a thousand feet above the water, and we traversed it in just over a mile's distance. That means, yes, it was steep. I couldn't have done it without my trekking poles. But all twelve of us made it to the top, before turning around and carefully descending to get to our pickup spot with our water taxi boat.

And now I am well and truly into my eighties. I cannot help but wonder how I managed to be in such good shape at this time in my life, and although I've got pins in my back and knees, I still seem to be able to hike nine miles! It must be all the years I've continued to exercise, but I don't know for sure what might be the reason. Good genes? My parents didn't manage to make it out of their sixties, but they didn't have statins and died of heart disease. I sometimes wonder how long they might have lasted if their hearts had been healthy. All I know for sure is that I must continue to be vigilant and take care of my physical self for as long as I can. We all do end at some point not too far into the future. I won't know until I get there.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. —Soren Kierkegaard
Perhaps it's normal, but since I've never been this old before, I do begin to wonder how it will all finish up. Not having grandchildren, or even living children, there is nobody who will grieve too terribly when my demise finally comes. At this age, there are only a few options that I can think of: physical illness, an accident, dementia perhaps. Now that my birthday has passed for the year, I intend to enjoy all the holiday hoopla. Sedately, that is. I will probably attend two or three holiday parties and will see good friends, but for the most part SG and I will just continue to carry on our daily activities as usual. We have a particularly soggy forecast for the next week or so, with as much as three or four inches of rain coming our way through an atmospheric river. At least that means it will be warm and not freezing. At this moment, early in the morning, it's already 41°F with a light rain. Being a Pacific Northwesterner, I have lots of raincoats and rain pants. It is truly amazing what a difference it makes to have proper gear for the weather. I almost look forward to it.

I keep thinking about that hike we did last Wednesday and what a beautiful place Cypress Island is. While the days will continue to get even shorter over the next few weeks, it will not be long before we turn the corner and begin to see more light in the morning sky. By the end of January, it will be very noticeable. That picture above was taken at the end of November with the sun low on the horizon at around 2:30 in the afternoon, but soon we will have reached the nadir. I believe the first day of winter starts on December 21, with it also being the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. I love seeing the changing seasons, and still am amazed that we have summer beginning somewhere on the planet, while some of us begin our winter. It seems that 12% of the human population lives Down Under. 

Yesterday I enjoyed a nice five-mile walk from the coffee shop, with friends Steve and Don. We were ready for the rain, which continued all night, but just for us the sun came out and we saw blue skies. Today will begin with "sprinkles" and change to actual rain by noon or so. I do hope I will be able to get out for at least a short walk, and that I can put on all my rain gear and pretend I'm related to the ducks. When I was a young girl, I remember wearing galoshes and carrying an umbrella. Although I own an umbrella, I rarely use it here, because when it rains, it usually blows as well. You don't see many umbrellas around these parts; mostly used by transplants to the region, I suspect. Just a time or two of having your umbrella blown inside out will discourage its use. 

Taking stock of where I am in the scheme of things makes me ponder once again how it might all change. After all, change is inevitable, and when I look back at the long arc of my life, I'm thinking that there must be a rainbow somewhere that will show the pot of gold at the ending point. I do like to think that instead of dreary grey skies, I'll be looking at rainbows. I am determined to live every moment of my life in love and gratitude for all that I've been blessed with. Counting one's blessings is always a happy task, no matter what your circumstances might be. (There are exceptions, of course, but attitude does make a huge difference in our perception.)

I feel myself beginning to think ahead to the day's activities: John will be coming around in his truck to take me to Fairhaven for our usual Sunday breakfast. Then I'll return home and spend some time talking with SG about the day ahead. He is busy researching what his next computer will be, while I will spend some time watching a few episodes of The Crown on Netflix. It is currently in its sixth season, and I stopped watching it awhile back and have to finish season five before starting on the current season. Since I was young, I've watched the royal drama, and remember well when William and Harry were born. Now they are parents themselves, and Harry wrote a book about what it was like for him being a member of the royal family. It really does seem odd that we still have kings and queens in some parts of the world, doesn't it? It seems an anachronism to me, but then again, we still have never figured out the best way to govern ourselves. I suppose I won't ever see what the future holds in that regard, but I'm content to imagine a future where we all live in harmony with one another.

And with that lovely thought, I think I'll wrap up this holiday gift to my readers, imperfect as it is. When I was a kid, I sometimes created homemade gifts for my parents and family, and I suspect they are just as fondly remembered as anything that could be purchased. The season is upon us, and I wish my dear virtual family all good things in the weeks ahead, and that you will also find a way to count your blessings and share the love. Until we meet again next week, I wish you health, wealth, and happiness.


gigi-hawaii said...

Happy 81st Birthday, DJan!!! I hope I make it to 81. You are in better shape than I am, that's for sure. Congratulations.

Marty said...

Thank you, DJan, for another soothingly contemplative post. You always cause me to stop and think for a moment.
Good for you (!) continuing your walks and hiking. I'm a bit younger but trying to keep myself moving with exercise class, occasional pickleball, and walks (although nothing on your scale). My husband is my cautionary tale, and example of what happens when you don't get up and move. Our travel and activities together have been severely curtailed due to his fading mobility.
Oh, and Happy Birthday!! Your celebratory week proves how little we need "stuff" as gifts.

Anvilcloud said...

Genetics and luck favour some. When Sue's grandfather was buried at the age of 105, he was buried beside his brother who only lived for 2 years.

Linda Reeder said...

I thought of you on your birthday and tried to send you an email birthday greeting. I don't know if you got it.
That pic from Cypress Island is beautiful, so typical of San Juan Islands.
We have been watching "The Crown" in it's newest season. I think the second half of Season 6 has just opened up. It's sad, though, with the death of Diana.
We've already been partying, with our teacher group holiday brunch on Friday and our garden club holiday lunch on Saturday. Now we'll be home until my next round of appointments starts up again. I'd rather be hiking. Sigh.
Today we'll finish decorating the big tree, with all the memories the ornaments hold as they come out of their packing. Then cookie baking will begin.
A crew is coming tomorrow to begin the clean up in our front year where our neighbor's alder tree came crashing down Friday night. Thankfully he is a great guy and is taking full responsibility for the project.
Have a good week, Happy rain trekking.

Rian said...

I'm so glad you had a good 81st birthday week, DJan. If anyone should live to be 100, you should. You are so careful about your health... and exercise. You may not have children or grandchildren, but I can tell you that your fellow bloggers will grieve to lose you (if we make it that long). Hopefully we all have a few years left in us.

DH and I watched the new season of The Crown... (mostly about Diana). I've heard criticism, but I enjoyed it. Having never lived in England (did visit), but beings my dad was born there and his parents as well, I've always been fascinated by the Royal Family. I agree that it's odd that Kings and Queens still exist today - but I kind of like that.

Wishing you another great week and a wonderful Sunday!!

Marie Smith said...

The photo has an incredible view, Jan. Worth the climb if one can do it. You amaze me! The strength training is a great gift to yourself for this birthday. Belated best wishes, my friend!

Elephant's Child said...

I am so very glad that you had an excellent birthday week. And hope that the week to come is also excellent. Strength training? You are incredible.

Far Side of Fifty said...

That is one beautiful view! So glad you are healthy enough to hike ! It is wonderful that you had a week full of fun things! I have not watched the Crown yet, maybe this winter, I am still working on Call the Midwife. I also watched Lincoln Lawyer and really enjoyed it and Virgin River there are some new episodes of that one out! We are pretty much settled in Up North, I slept in this morning, off to a craft shop this afternoon :)

Gigi said...

I am so happy to hear that you had a wonderful birthday week! If anyone deserves it; that would be you!

Red said...

Well, happy birthday. The numbers get big but what you mention is the most important. We live our life to the max and help others along the way. We know that our future is short. Most of us have accepted our end.

Glenda Beall said...

Happy Birthday. You and my sister handle the 80s very well. She just danced in a competition over a weekend and she is 82. If you keep moving as you and she does, you stay healthy. I am not good at exercising. I am a writer and I sit too much. Now, I have to get up every 20 minutes or I start having pain in my back and legs. I loved this energetic post. Keep hiking and having fun.

John's Island said...

I enjoy your reflections on this business of getting older. I'd say you're doing really well. Thanks for sharing your blogs. John

Rita said...

I never thought about why people don't use umbrellas much here, either--lol! Yup! That wind!

Happy birthday and hope you have many, many more!