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, April 21, 2024

Observation from my vantage point

A perfect trillium

You know, I am beginning to realize that the world does indeed look different from an octogenarian's point of view. Last Thursday, as I struggled on the more than 1,000-foot upward trek from where we started to our destination, I saw many beautiful sights that I've been privileged to see many times before. This spring's trillium are beginning to emerge from the dense forest, and they once again remind me of the beauty of spring and summer in the Pacific Northwest. I realized that not so long ago, after we moved here in the spring of 2008, before the pandemic changed so much of our daily lives. Also, how many times I've gone through the seasons with the Senior Trailblazers over the years, and how many friends have come and gone. Some of them permanently. through death and/or disease. It's one of the concomitant problems of hiking with fellow oldsters. We don't have the luxury of keeping the vicissitudes of aging and becoming debilitated out of sight of our daily activities.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. —Lao Tzu

I may have used this quote before; I love noticing the many times this ancient Chinese philosopher's words reach through the sands of time to my own heart and mind, alive and current today. He lived in the sixth century BC and still today gives me words to ponder and reflect upon. 

Lao Tzu was a semi-legendary ancient Chinese philosopher, author of the Tao Te Ching, the foundational text of Taoism along with the Zhuangzi (Wikipedia).

 I am now eighty-one years old, an age that few in my family have reached. Most of my relatives have died because of heart disease, but my siblings and I are all taking statins, which makes a huge difference in those born with hyperlipidemia, which runs all throughout my family. My son Chris has already died of it, at the young age of forty; one of my sisters also died at 63 of diabetes and heart disease. And I have been taking statins and staying away from certain foods in hopes of prolonging my own life. I guess it's working, since I am in my ninth decade and don't seem to have any signs of it. My aunt Quetita, my mother's sister, lived to be 93, the oldest in my immediate family. I wasn't born with good genes for longevity. We also don't know whether Alzheimer's Disease runs in our family, because until now, nobody in our family has lived long enough to find out.

On our last hike, we had three new members. Since we carpool to the trailhead, I sat in a car next to one of them, Eric. I listened as he told some of his life story to us, and I kept glancing at him, wondering if I had already met him; he looked vaguely familiar but finally decided that I didn't. When we finished the hike and drove back to the Senior Center, he told me that we had already met; he was my partner in the eight-week-long Senior Center strength-training class, and I had seen him several times each week in that setting. Once he told me that, I realized that I did indeed remember him, but I was chagrined that it had taken me so long to put it all together. I know my memory is not as strong as it once was, but am I beginning to lose my ability to remember, as in mild cognitive impairment? It's a little scary to think that.

Growing older means losing much of my ability to function as I did in my earlier years. My eyes are failing with AMD (age-related macular degeneration), I wear hearing aids every day, and I cannot smell certain odors at all, and those I do smell are sometimes distorted. Chemical smells can be overwhelming, such as some perfumes, while other natural odors are simply absent. I can smell roses when they are sitting in sunshine, but the sweet smell of lilacs no longer makes it to my nose. 

A few nights ago, I dreamt that I was surrounded by strong smells, and I could recognize many that have long been missing. I remember in the dream thinking that those smells are always there, whether I am aware of them or not. When I woke and pondered the dream, I could almost still smell the fragrances. I find that mysterious and reassuring; they are not gone at all but simply unavailable to my nose in daily life. 

Yesterday, I went for my usual Saturday walk from the coffee shop, and my friend Don joined me. We walked more than five miles down to the harbor, a favorite place to visit, and the cloudless sky meant it was cold to start but quickly warmed up to a delightful temperature. We chatted as we walked, and the miles flew by. I am so happy to be able to exercise like that, and I must say it gives me great pleasure to know that I am in good enough shape to keep up with my fellow seniors, even if we aren't going to set any track records. So, instead of lamenting the losses as I age, I think I will instead concentrate on what is such a blessing: being able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors as we begin yet another spring here in the Pacific Northwest.

Peaceful Squalicum Harbor

I will not be joining my fellow Senior Trailblazers on many of the harder and longer hikes in the mountains this year. I will be more selective and remember to pace myself as I hike the trails through the myriad flowers and streams and take in the vistas. Life is good and it looks possible I might make it through yet another summer of forest delights. I take none of it for granted, but continue to be grateful for all my blessings. 

I still have my dear partner sleeping next to me in bed, my tea is gone, and my post is pretty much finished. Now I will think of the day ahead and what I might accomplish before the sun goes down tonight. I am so fortunate to virtually know many of you dear friends, and your day ahead will also be on my mind as I read your posts. I hope it is a good one, filled with love and light and happy thoughts. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Tulips 2024, not war

River of blue

Another April is here, and yesterday I made another trip to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I've been doing this every year for more than a decade. I only missed one, when they didn't plant any tulips because of the pandemic. I just went back and looked at posts from previous years and realized that 2011 was my first tulip visit, and I've come out to see them with many different friends over the years, but lately it's been my friend Lily and me spending time tiptoeing through the tulips (no, not really; they frown on it). I will do a post with lots of pictures, maybe on Monday, but for now it's time to consider what else is on my mind.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. —Albert Einstein
I am truly concerned with the direction of world events, which seems to be moving us closer and closer to World War III. Everywhere I look, there is another indication that things are not getting any better, and just because we can watch missiles being blown up on my TV screen as one hostile nation pummels another nation and innocent people continue to suffer, it does not make me feel safer. I offer a prayer every morning after my meditation, part of which asks that all sentient beings may be free from pain and suffering and enjoy robust good health. Wishing for peace on earth has been a constant hope for as long as I can remember, but the entire world seems to be getting closer to outright war with every day that passes.

I was born in 1942 and have known relative peace here in the US during my entire lifetime. Even though my father was in World War II, and we had all those other wars afterward, Vietnam and Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, just to name a few, I always felt they were outliers and that we were moving into the possibility of peace becoming a worldwide phenomenon. I guess I was just kidding myself, or at least not being honest with the facts as I consider them. I don't know what will happen in the near future, but I do know that the illusion of worldwide peace and prosperity grows ever more distant.

I am afraid that this last barrage of drones and missiles from Iran to Israel will not be the last of it during this latest war. I have been more than a little distressed at what Israel is doing in Gaza, but the only thing I know to do, other than to pray for peace, is to give money to Doctors Without Borders and hope that some of the much-needed food and supplies will make it to those starving and displaced people. I know I am not alone in my wishes for some kind of meaningful resolution to all of this horror. It is hard to sit down to eat a wonderful meal when I know that so many people in Gaza, innocent people, are dying of starvation and deprivation. One politician who has gained my appreciation is Bernie Sanders, who continues to demand, over and over, that it is wrong for Israel to do what it is doing and suggests that the US do whatever it can to get humanitarian aid to Gaza. I wonder what the escalation of the war with Iran will do to Israel now. But I cannot sit around and wail over it; I must petition my lawmakers to do the right thing. But what is that? I just don't know.

So I am determined to find something positive to consider instead. It does absolutely no good to allow my distress over the world situation to engulf my spirit and take me away from the wonders all around me. Just yesterday when I was taking in all those beautiful flowers, my eyes were surrounded by nothing but loveliness. I could instead concentrate on that, look at my pictures once again, and let the ugliness of war and strife slip away. Another way of being in the world is to concentrate on the grace and elegance of the Pacific Northwest in springtime. Why not do that instead? I can choose, and that is also one of the wonderful benefits of becoming an octogenarian: that much of the world's pain is put into a wider perspective as part of being human, but it is only part of the journey. I also have so much to be thankful for, and I am not alone as I put one foot in front of the other, as I walk to the top of mountains, as I allow love to prevail in my heart.

Tulips smiling back at the sunshine

I do hope you, my dear friends, will find some way to let love win, and let the beauty of being alive overtake your troubles. I am now finishing up this morning's post, and I have to say I do feel better than I did when I began, and I sincerely hope some of the positivity is finding its way into your life. My tea is gone, my dear partner is snuggling back under the covers, and I am ready to continue my day. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Daffodils and blooming trees

Steve's photo taken on Western's campus

 Yesterday, my friend Steve and I walked from the coffee shop up to the Arboretum lookout on Western Washington University's campus. Although I was there a few weeks ago with the Senior Trailblazers, we went a different route and I seem to have forgotten quickly just how steep it is to climb to the lookout. Or perhaps my legs are not quite recovered from Thursday's ascent and descent on the Chanterelle trail. I keep forgetting that I am not young anymore and think I can do whatever I put my mind to. Still. Sometimes I just need to rest more and slow down a little, but I forget.

When I set out from home, I checked the weather and it told me there was no rain expected, so I didn't take a raincoat. Big mistake. You'd think that someone who has an entire closet full of different raincoats would take one, just in case. When we were on our way up the trail to the Arboretum, it began to rain. And it didn't stop for the rest of the duration of our walk. The funny thing is, I didn't really mind the rain and kept smiling and enjoying being outdoors in nature. It helps to have a good friend along who is willing to lend an arm and tell some good stories as we walk.

In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours. —Mark Twain

I just re-read an article in the New York Times about a new discovery in cosmology: that dark energy, which makes up around 70% of the Universe, may have different properties than previously understood. The term "dark energy" relates to this odd substance that doesn't act like anything else, and since it doesn't emit light, we cannot see it. But there are some ideas about it:

The only real answer to the question "what is dark energy?" currently is "we don't know" as unsatisfactory as that may be. Scientists aren't completely in the dark, however. There are some leading candidates to account for dark energy. These include the vacuum energy of space  —  particles literally popping in and out of existence in empty space — and a "fifth force" responsible for the negative pressure that might cause the accelerated expansion of the universe.  (Space.com)

You might need to have a subscription to the NYT to read the first article, but in looking around I found Space.com that has lots of explanations about the cosmos that I didn't already know about, and it's free. It's so fascinating to me to consider that we know so little about the Universe, which is, of course, everything. If I had my life to live over again, I think I might have wanted to become an astrophysicist, since that whole area of astronomy has always drawn me in. It's the reason I've always loved to read science fiction, since it provides so much fodder for my imagination. 

We live in a time when we can learn just about anything we want to know by opening our laptop and asking Google to point us in a direction to learn more about anything that appeals to us. I'm one of those people who uses Wikipedia often enough that I feel I should help pay for it, so I do. Modestly, of course, but still.

View of Bellingham from the lookout

Finally, I think I have figured out why I am such a fan of routine. I don't want to believe that things change over time, and that if I do the same things every morning, and that every afternoon has its own pattern, I'm simply repeating one day after the next, and somehow I can keep in my own groove and continue on like this for the foreseeable future. But it doesn't work that way, does it? Every breath is its own, every dawn comes after the long night and does its own thing. The days come and go, the weeks and months slide by without much difference, but when I look around at the blooming trees and burgeoning leaves, I know that spring is here, and summer is not far behind. Life flows and changes constantly.

I am also reminded that I didn't wake up one day with white hair. Very gradually my light brown hair changed, one strand at a time, to become a colorless silver. I've certainly used my body over the years, some might say abused, but it's held up pretty well. I can still walk and even run a little, if necessary, and I am grateful for all that still is within my reach. But there's that word again, "still."

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. There is nothing permanent except change. —Heraclitus

Heraclitus lived around 2,500 years ago, wasn't very old when he died, and only wrote one little book, which didn't survive the passage of time, but many quotes from it still exist. I knew of Heraclitus as an ancient Greek philosopher, but not much more. But few have not heard that phrase about impermanence, I think. 

When I ponder the immensity of the Universe, much of which we know nothing about, and then I think about someone like Heraclitus, who graced this planet for a short while thousands of years ago, I am quite sure that he is right: nothing is permanent except change. Nothing in our power can change that, nor would we even want to. I will continue to watch my breath, appreciate the burgeoning springtime, and keep on enjoying the procession of the seasons and the gentle rain that continues to fall. Why not? What else do I have to accomplish while time passes?

And that, my friends, is the foam that arises from my brain on this early Sunday morning. It won't be around in a thousand years, I assure you, so I'm not trying to create a philosophy or even much of a worldview, just fulfilling my self-imposed duty of a weekly post before getting up from my bed and starting my day. My dear partner still (that word again) sleeps quietly next to me, the tea is long gone, and it's time to sign off and continue the cycle that repeats... until it doesn't any more. I do hope the coming week will be a good one for you, and that you will find yourself smiling often. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things, dear friends. Be well.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Sunday 2024

Daffodils for miles

This was taken a few years ago when I visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and there were still plenty of pretty daffodil fields to see, like this one, as well as tulips emerging. But this year, the fields of tulips are still to come, and my friend Lily and I will go sometime during the month of April, but right now we're not sure when peak blooms will happen. We'll be watching the bloom map closely.

When I think back on the incredible number of Easter Sundays I've had, dozens and dozens of them, most of them fade into the background except for a few images, experiences, and tastes that still resonate with me today. The first that comes to mind are those pretty Easter baskets we always found at the table when we came to breakfast. Something about that shiny green "grass," with little treats hidden here and there, like colorful jelly beans and individually wrapped chocolate truffles, sticks in my memory. There was often a big chocolate bunny, and of course we dyed hard-boiled eggs. I don't remember exactly when we did that, was it the night before or the day of? My sister Norma Jean probably remembers, but my memories revolve mostly around eggs, a big decorated ham, and of course, chocolate. We were not a church-going family, so I haven't any memories of church or the reason why Easter is, well, Easter. That all came much later in life than during my early childhood.

Wondering how bunnies laying eggs got mixed up with Easter, I found an interesting article in Time Magazine that tells the tale:
According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests.

Fascinating! I now have a different feeling about all those traditions as they emerged from my childhood and how they became the norm for my generation. It doesn't take away from the innocence and happy Easter morning feelings I remember from back then. 

Yesterday, my friend Steve joined me for part of my walk along Boulevard Park, and we noticed several dozen little wooden Easter eggs nestled here and there along the trail. Someone decided to give us a little Easter treat, I guess.

Pretty wooden egg

Now that I know where the idea of Easter eggs came from, I have a new appreciation for all those Easter egg hunts going on today, all around the country. Maybe the world, who knows? Not everyone knows about Oschter Haws, or cares to celebrate an egg-laying hare. I always enjoy learning about how traditions come about.

One of my favorite memories of Easter as a grownup comes from one long-ago year when I was a skydiver. I went on an Easter egg hunt early on Sunday morning, since we skydivers had been told there were plastic eggs hidden around the Drop Zone, with treats of varying value inside. I found one, and inside was a slip of paper telling me I had won a free skydive. I don't remember the jump, but I sure remember my sense of delight when I opened the egg and found out what I had won. I think the big prize was a parachute, worth many times the price of the jump, but I felt so happy with my little prize.

I promise I won't be making a habit of writing posts like last Sunday's, where I chronicled the pain and loss of those loved ones. It was good for me, though, since it cleansed my heart and gave me a sense of peace afterwards. But I cannot go back and read it again, because it doesn't seem very helpful to me or my readers to wallow around in sadness. I appreciate all the thoughtful comments you left for me; those I will read again, since your heartfelt condolences fill me with gratitude for your caring. Life is filled with so many wonderful moments that we can share with one another, it doesn't seem right to concentrate on past losses. There are instead so many delights surrounding me right now, with the magic of the internet and my connection to you, for one. And the presence of my beloved partner, who sleeps next to me on this Easter Sunday, for another. I am filled with love and joyful anticipation for the day ahead.

Happy Easter!

Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things, and that you will find yourself surrounded with love. Be well.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Lost children

Top: Chris; bottom: Stephen and me

 I don't often write about my two sons who have passed away, but I was looking at pictures of all sorts, and I realized that I still have a great deal of sadness around not having them in my life any more, even after all these years. I stumbled upon a scrapbook filled with pictures of Chris' wedding, and I realized I couldn't even open the cover and look at them. I like to think that I am completely over their loss, but it's not true. I guess you never are really healed of such loss, you just learn how to cope.

Another thing I have lately come to realize is that I owe it to my lost babies to keep their memories alive. Although it's been more than half a century since Stephen died, he still continues to be a part of me, an infant whom I loved immeasurably.

He was a perfectly healthy year-old child until he contracted spinal meningitis. It killed him within hours, and within a day, my life had changed forever, along with Chris' life (he was not even four at the time), and my husband Derald's life. I fell into a huge pit of grief and felt as though my own life has ended. But of course it didn't. I have a memory of Chris telling me not to cry, he would go up to heaven to get Stephen and bring him back. Looking back on that time, which ended with me divorcing Derald and me trying to get back to some semblance of normal life and not doing it very well. I still regret that I was unable to mother my remaining child properly and how much he also suffered because of my grief. Somehow Chris turned out just fine, in spite of how much he went through. 

I have a memory of Chris waiting in front of our home for the school bus to take him away for the first day of kindergarten. He wore of look of stoicism, dressed in his new clothes and shoes, and I cried as he boarded the huge yellow bus. These days kids don't do that anymore; I would have driven him to school and waited for him to disappear behind the school walls.

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have: life itself. —Walter Anderson

Chris was forty when his wife, Silvia, called me from Germany to tell me he had died. He had been jogging with his squadron when he fell over with a heart attack. He died right there in sight of his fellow soldiers, but they were unable to revive him. I like to think he didn't suffer but lost consciousness quickly. 

I traveled to Germany to attend his memorial service and spent some time with Silvia, whom I had never met before. She had been married previously and had a young son, but he didn't speak any English, so I didn't get to know him well. Silvia, however, was wonderful to me and we spent some sad time together. I was there for almost a week, I believe, and was able to address his fellow soldiers and get to know them a little, too. I was almost sixty when he died, and now I am an octogenarian filled with old memories.

Not only have I outlived my two sons, but also my parents and one sister. Neither of my parents made it out of their sixties; Daddy died at 62, and Mama at 69. It was heart disease that took both of them, too. Chris got bad genes from both sides of his family, but he seemed healthy and had recently passed a physical. He died in 2002, so it's been almost a quarter century, but I still cannot open an old scrapbook and look at pictures of that happy day when he married Silvia.

My life has not followed the path I expected it to follow, back when I was a young mother of two beautiful young boys. In my life I have amassed many regrets, but none as large as the failure I brought into my son Chris's life. I wish I had been a stronger person, but I was only 22 and not very cognizant of any alternatives I might have had. There was no such thing as a support group for grieving parents, not where I lived anyway, and I managed to muddle through. 

I retired from my job and career in 2008 and moved to the Pacific Northwest from Colorado and fell in love with the beautiful green, lush countryside. We have always been happy that we made the move, and I am still able to enjoy getting out and hiking around the area. As long as that is true, I know where I will be spending many of my days. The Senior Center here in Bellingham is one of the best, and it offers many activities for older people, so I think I will be fine for however much time I might have left. You cannot escape the inevitable decline of physical abilities, but you can find ways to continue to be engaged and involved in life's pleasures.

So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good. —Helen Keller

And I continue to be inspired by Helen Keller's incredible life story. Her ability to find joy and peace, even missing what most of us consider to be life's greatest pleasures, to be able to see and hear, is inspiring. How can I continue to harbor grief when so much of life calls to me to be grateful? Gratitude is taking a moment to reflect on how lucky you are when something good happens, whether it's small or big.

And the magic of the internet allows me to spread gratitude far and wide, to my beloved virtual family, and to all others who share life's joys with one another, and with me. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

More than a quarter century ago

Machu Picchu

It was in 1981 when I went to Peru, my first international trip. I had always wanted to visit Machu Picchu, but I had never gone farther afield than Mexico before I spent six weeks in Peru, adventuring in what was supposed to be a solo trip. My friends were horrified that I would even contemplate doing such a thing, so they hooked me up with another young woman who was looking for a traveling companion: Marla (I have forgotten her last name). She knew little to no Spanish and was a strict vegetarian to boot. This was a long time ago, before cellphones, before even the internet communities that we rely on these days were even around. 

Me and Marla, high in the Andes

It was on the flight to Peru that I first realized that we were very different people, with different ideas of what we would be experiencing in Peru. The one thing I wanted (other than to see Machu Picchu) was a chance to get into the Andes and walk among those magnificent mountains. Marla was looking for adventure, and someone who would help her navigate a foreign country (which I had never been to, so why she was so determined that I was the perfect traveling companion, I will never know).

Anyway, I just looked back in my old posts and found that I've written about this Peruvian trip before, so I'm going to lift some of the text from 2011 and 2021 posts, since in re-reading them, I can't make them better. But then I'll return to the current moment to finish the post. Is it considered plagiarizing when you lift from your own stuff? 


Marla knew not one word of Spanish and needed someone to help her with the language. Although certainly not fluent, I knew enough Spanish to get by. And so, in October 1981, we flew to Lima and stayed at a hostel, before deciding to travel to Cusco, where we would be able to take a train to the beginning of the trail. Most people took three or four days to travel through the minor Incan ruins before coming to the main attraction, Machu Picchu. 

I have learned since then that traveling to Machu Picchu is entirely different today. Now there is a luxury hotel near the site, and a cable car takes tourists from there to the main ruins. A friend went there a few years ago, and the pictures he showed me looked nothing like the place I visited so long ago. You even have to queue in long lines to get in. Totally different from my experience.

Marla and I took a local train to Kilometer 88, where we began the 26-mile-long trip. We got off the train with about a dozen other hikers from all over the world. I think we were the only Americans and nobody else spoke any English. Everybody strapped on their backpacks and took off at a fast pace. We waited until the last, and then when we were on the trail itself, we saw very few other hikers during the next days. I found this site that tells about the trip.
The trip begins in the town of Qorihuayrachina, at kilometer 88 of the Quillabamba railway - Cusco and takes 3 to 4 days of strenuous hiking, it is the road that takes tourists to Machu Picchu. The route consists of an impressive variety of altitudes, climates and ecosystems ranging from the Andean plain to the cloud forest.
Today, you are expected to stay in the campgrounds that exist along the trail, but in those days you just had to find a place to camp on your own. There were no porta-potties or even water sources that seemed safe. We used iodine drops in our water to keep from picking up bacteria. It was a very memorable adventure, and it reminds me that I have been making long and difficult hikes for much longer than I remembered. I made this trip a full decade before I discovered skydiving and stopped everything else, including backpacking and strenuous hikes. 

During the two months I spent in Peru, I made four different trips into the mountains, two with Marla, and two with other solo hikers I met while staying in hostels that catered to tourists like me. These days, I am actually a bit surprised and impressed with the adventurous spirit that I seemed to have back then. And so much has transpired in my life since that time. Looking back, I am so glad that I was able to have such exciting events and still have a few memories that recall such a distant adventure.

Although I am much older now and my hair is white and my body much used and abused, I can still walk several miles at a time and enjoy being outdoors, breathing fresh air and taking in the sunshine. I will continue to do all this until the day comes when I must stop. Fortunately, it is not happening today or tomorrow, I hope. I will give it all I have until that day comes.
If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. —Jim Rohn
We carried a tent and iodine drops to treat whatever water we might find. After those three days of hiking, we crested a hill and looked down on Machu Picchu, with Huayna Picchu (the big mountain behind the ruins) resplendent in all its glory. 

When we arrived early in the morning, there were only a few fellow hikers there, but as the day went on, busload after busload of tourists arrived from Cusco so they could walk around the ruins and then be transported back to town. I climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu after touring through the ruins. I felt that the bused tourists' experience of the place could not be anywhere like mine, since I had actually WALKED there.

I don't even remember what kind of camera I had with me, but of course it had film back then and I didn't see my pictures until I arrived back home in Boulder. Funny, now that seems so strange since I'm used to seeing my pictures instantaneously. Life has changed a great deal, in ways that no one could have predicted. But one that is the same today, I'm still hiking.


Okay, back to the present moment. It's odd to re-read what I wrote about this trip so many years ago, but the memory is still very strong and continues to be a bright spot in all my years of living. I also realized, in finding this information, that I have been hiking for longer than I had recalled earlier. I was going on week-long backpacks in the mid-1970s, so it's been at least a half century of hiking, with a brief quarter-century interlude with skydiving, which caused everything I'd been obsessed with before that fateful day in September 1990 to disappear, when I made my first jump.

But now, in my early eighties, I am back to the original passion of my life: hiking. Now that I have the Senior Trailblazers from the Senior Center to hike with, I've continued to enjoy that exercise. And I continue to meet new like-minded friends. Although I miss my old hiking partner, Melanie, when she moved away, we spent the entire pandemic hiking together. Now I am again in a couple of groups, the "Happy Wanderers" and the "Relaxed" hikers. I've left the "Half Fast" group, because they tend to hike faster than I'm comfortable with these days. I no longer feel any need to be completely worn out after a hike.

My tea is finished, my post is written, and my dear partner still sleeps next to me. It's dark outside, but not for long. We are just a few days away from the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun is expected to shine unremittingly all day long, just as it did yesterday. The trees are flowering, the daffodils are up, and soon it will be time to visit the tulip gardens in Skagit Valley. We made it through another winter, and I am happy to report that my aging bones are still able to carry me out the door and into the Pacific Northwest paradise. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I hope you have a wonderful few days, too. Be well.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Another week just flew by

Me, Mt Shuksan, and bird

I'm finding it almost impossible to believe that yet another week has gone by, and here I am once again trying to decide what to write about. I found this picture among my collection, and I thought it's worth another view. I was on a snowshoe trip in the High Country one February day a few years ago, when we were inundated with these camp robber birds, also known as gray jays, who were trying to eat our lunch before we had a chance to ourselves. I had some trail mix in my hand, and the bird confidently landed on my fingers and chose a couple of almonds (if I remember correctly) before flying off again. I remember the strength of his talons; he wasn't going anywhere until he got his treat.

I've been taking winter trips to this area for many years. This was one particularly beautiful sunny day with no wind, and we enjoyed ourselves before heading back down. I was at least as happy to be there as the bird was. I had to return to sea level, but the jay was in his element. One time years ago, I remember one of our hikers lost an entire half of his sandwich to a hungry bird! If you were so careless as to put it aside while you took a sip of water, for example, you might turn back to see that you had indeed been robbed.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. —Albert Einstein

I have spent much of my life in the presence of natural beauty. When I was a girl, moving around from place to place with my family, I didn't much appreciate my surroundings. I was living my extroverted life, making lots of friends everywhere, and believing in the tight-knit family nade up of my parents, my sister Norma Jean, and then my sister PJ, born when I was seven. I never doubted my place in the world, and as I grew older and began to experience the enjoyment of physical exercise, I learned to dance and became a high school cheerleader, my first real foray into pushing myself to do hard tasks that didn't come easily. I rode my bike all around our neighborhoods, and spent more time outdoors than inside. 

It's really different for kids today, who spend so much time in their heads and not playing like we did as kids. We used our imaginations as we played together, Statue, Hide and Seek, Hopscotch, the game of jacks, and Norma Jean and I played with our dolls together a lot in Mama's flower garden. We also read books to one another and sometimes, for fun, we would pull out the dictionary and pick out words to learn. But the main thing is that we were very comfortable being outdoors in all kinds of weather.

These days, because of technology, so much has changed. That, and the fear of children being abducted or accosted by weirdos. Now many kids don't walk to school, even if they live close by, and if they ride bikes to school, they don't go alone very often. And just like their parents, they usually have smartphones in their hands, unaware of their surroundings. They live their lives in what feels like a different universe from the one I had while growing up. I wonder what the children of today will experience with their own kids one day. 

What I was looking for in those last few paragraphs is trying to find out when I began to spend so much time outdoors. It seems I always did. Do the parents of today's kids still tell them to "go outside and play" like I heard all the time? Or do they just sit somewhere inside or close by and play on their phones? Hard for me to say, since I don't spend much time with little ones any more. My young friend I met at the coffee shop years ago, Leo, grew up, and I haven't seen him in years. He and I spent many hours at the coffee shop playing together, but now he's a teenager and nowhere to be found in my own daily life. I miss those days.

This past week I went on two different hikes with the Senior Trailblazers, and on the other days I walked from Cornwall Park home, covering a few miles each day. There are only a few days when I don't get outdoors and enjoy the greenery all around me. And I don't take it for granted; my life would be very much less enjoyable if I didn't have the ability to walk around outdoors. That may come one day, but it's not today.

We lost an hour of sleep last night because of the time change. When I woke this morning, not feeling quite rested, I knew I wouldn't have as much time as usual to write this post, and sure enough, the minutes are slipping by and I still hadn't decided exactly what to write about. I always like to think of something positive and uplifting, since that's what I need for myself to begin my day. I think today's positivity comes from realizing that I am a happy octogenarian on the brink of true old age, but still mentally feeling like the youngster I once was. There's still a spring in my step, even if the feet are now a little arthritic. Where did that bunion come from? I'll just put on a bunion guard and pull my socks over it and keep on going. One day I might need to use a cane to walk, but I will still go outdoors and feel the wind in my thinning hair and raise my face to the morning sun. Or rain, whatever, and be grateful for the many years of time I've had to become who I am today.

There are so many things for me to be grateful for, but one that I haven't mentioned in awhile is you, my dear virtual friends. I look forward every week to reading your blog posts and finding out what you are doing in your own part of the world. From my many Canadian friends to those on the other side of our beautiful planet, I am so very grateful for the technology that allows me to connect with you like this. The world has changed, it's true, but some things never change: the need to connect with like-minded people, however we do it these days, will always be an integral part of my life.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. —Albert Schweitzer

Yes, dear friends, that is what this post is about: keeping our own lights shining brightly for as long as we have breath, and helping our fellow travelers find their own light when the need arises. So, until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Head still above water

Don and Jane at Bellingham Bay

Yesterday, Don and Jane and I walked along the Boulevard Park path for a nice morning outing. It rained a little, not much, but the cool temperatures and stiff breeze meant we didn't shed our jackets quickly. Jane turned around at this point and went back to her car, while Don and I continued on to the Ferry Terminal and ended up getting six miles in all. 

I really needed this walk. Steve is still sick, but I think he'll be back next week. I've got a need to change my unsettled state of mind. I have been watching too much news, and I again woke in the middle of the night in distress, unable to rid myself of the images and stories from the news and allow my mind to quiet.

The best way I know to change my state of mind is with a walk. I went to the coffee shop and met Don and Jane, drank coffee and shared some muffins (Jane always buys something to share) and set out in the blustery wind. Before long, I realized that I was feeling better, more centered and happy to be outdoors with good friends. My spirits lifted and I was feeling grateful for the surroundings, the company, and the ability to raise my body temperature to stave off cold hands and actually begin to feel warm as we continued our brisk walk.

Last night I slept much better, and I think I got at least a half hour of deep sleep and more than an hour longer in restful sleep than the night before. A good night's sleep is really important for me. Another way I have of changing my mood is to pull myself out of my concentration on the immediate world around me and look at the longer view. Insead of thinking about what body parts hurt this morning, I take a look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day to see what amazing picture it has to show me. My favorites are distant galaxies, millions of light-years away from this tiny insignificant blue ball in the outer reaches of the Milky Way, our own galaxy in the vast universe of stars and nebulae and black holes. It never fails to uplift and changes my perspective for the better. 

Sunday is the only day in the week that feels different to me, more like a holiday from routine, although I have a quite specific routine for the day, it's significantly different from other days. If I haven't been getting my usual exercise during the week, I know I will get a longer walk in the afternoon, if the weather cooperates and isn't blowing or raining too hard. I know that my friend John will pick me up to take me to breakfast in Fairhaven, and I know that I will spend some quality time with SG later in the day. Although it is definitely part of my usual routine, it feels different on Sundays. And very much needed to round out the week, giving me a chance to step back from my usual activities and take a look around at how my life has evolved in today's world. Having been born halfway through the last century, I realize that pretty much everything around me could not have been imagined back then. 

I remember the days when I would come rushing home from school to listen to a program on the radio with my family. We gathered around a huge box and listened to programs like Baby Snooks or Fibber McGee and Molly, which were very popular and something that we enjoyed experiencing together. Today, everyone is lost in their own smartphone, separated from everyone else and not having a shared moment. In 1950, I could not have even begun to imagine the world of today, and I'm pretty sure that many of my readers were not even born when these radio shows were popular and available. If you want to learn more about that era, check out this Wikipedia link, The Golden Age of Radio. It's fascinating to realize how different social media was back then. And now look where we are.

That's another thing I would never have imagined: Wikipedia. When I was young, door-to-door salesmen sold massive volumes of encyclopedias to the population. We had an Encyclopedia Brittanica set, and I spent many hours perusing the information about subjects that interested me. It is still in existence. I learned this today:
The encyclopaedia is maintained by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors. The 2010 version of the 15th edition, which spans 32 volumes and 32,640 pages, was the last printed edition. Since 2016, it has been published exclusively as an online encyclopaedia.
I'm surprised that it lasted for so long in print, since our world is now almost completely digital. I visit Wikipedia almost daily, for something or other than I am curious about. I also pay them for the privilege, although it's a pittance when I consider how expensive our brown encyclopedia volumes must have been. Just thinking about the enormous changes that have occurred in our world during the time I've been alive, it does make me wonder what the next century will bring. I won't be around to see it, but I can certainly imagine it. I hope we will learn how to exist on this tiny planet together without war. That is my fervent hope.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yes to Dr. King. Yes a hundred times over. And now it's time for me to begin the rest of my Sunday routine, now that my post has been written, and I'm feeling ready to spring out of bed (well, maybe not spring) and enjoy whatever is coming my way. I do hope that you will find a good way to spend your day ahead, and that you will be surrounded with unconditional love. Why not? Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Present day moments

Our water taxi at rest in the harbor

Yesterday my friend Don and I walked around Squalicum Harbor under cloudy skies with the occasional spit of rain, covering around five miles. But it was actually quite mild and very nice to be there. Friend Steve is under the weather so he didn't join us. We saw the water taxi that has become such a great source of new adventures, moored in the harbor. We had heard that it has two new propellers; they do look sort of new and shiny. I've gone on three separate excursions into the San Juan islands with them and expect to enjoy many more.

After last week's look back into past adventures, I realize how lucky I am to continue to be able to experience so many new exploits. My new acquaintances made through the Bellingham Senior Center continue to add new excitement to present day moments. After having considered what seniors like me need to have in their lives to continue to be healthy, engaged in the world, and willing to embrace every day, I realize once again how important it is to keep a positive outlook on life.

And looking forward to my next phase of being alive, I realize once again how fortunate I am to have my health and the ability to walk unaided at my age. While on the harbor, I see many older people exercising with the aid of a walker, or a cane, or being pulled along by a frisky dog. I also realize that one of these days, it might be me out there needing assistance of one sort or another. If so, I do hope I can remember to be grateful for that ability and not moan about what I've lost. When you are an octogenarian, you need to remember that every single day is a gift, and being able to have a brisk walk is not guaranteed to anyone at any age.

It also makes me think about that next and final adventure I have ahead: going into the long night. Of laying down in my bed for the last time and closing my eyes to the world I've known for so long. What's ahead in that journey? Will I be suffering from ill health, will I be hoping for release from pain, or will I just fade away? You don't get to my age without thinking about these things, unless you are pretending that it won't happen to you. Everything and everyone that lives must one day transition into its opposite. Some people face it with grace and beauty, while others are angry and bitter that it is happening to them. 

What occurs to me this fine Sunday morning is to ponder what can I accomplish with whatever number of days, years, decades I have ahead of me? I'm not at all sure that I want to live for decades longer, since I'm losing my eyesight and my walks and adventures have become more circumspect. When I looked back last week at my hikes up mountains in Colorado, I was reminded that I cannot do such things any more. But until I thought about it, I didn't feel any sense of being different today than I was half a century ago. Slow attrition brought about by all these years of living an active life, perfectly normal and expected, unnoticed day to day, but nevertheless a one-way journey we all experience, if we're lucky.

There is one thing that hasn't changed: my ability to think and reflect on life. I love to read, which is becoming quite difficult while trying to read books, but I can use my Kindle on its "low vision" setting and read just fine. I can also, I notice, see to read on my laptop and iPad because the light is coming from behind the text, and it's much easier on my eyes that way. 

There is so much to continue to learn and discover, and I intend to spend the rest of my days doing just that. I want to learn how sages navigate their final years and emulate them. As you know, I am a fan of Buddhist literature, and I also enjoy studying how those who have not been given my advantages learn to cope with adversity. Just learning about the journey Helen Keller traveled through life, after having lost her eyesight and hearing at 19 months, inspires me every day. She lived to be in her late eighties and was grateful for all her life, ending up writing dozens of books and learning to read (through Braille) four different languages, reading books in all of them.  She made an indelible imprint on the lives of so many, including me and others who read her books today. Not many authors continue to have books in print for more than a century, but she has accomplished that; her books continue to inspire others to remember the importance of living a good and honest life.
Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained. —Lao Tzu

 Today I will have an extra hour in the morning, before John comes to pick me up and take me to a different restaurant than usual. He is being treated to a special breakfast by our friends Lily and Lamont to celebrate his 84th birthday. I am also going along because I am usually with John on Sundays, I guess, and they invited me. They have been doing this for several years now, and it's become a tradition. In any event, I don't need to hurry this morning, with an extra hour that will evaporate quickly. It amazes me how just sitting and reading blogs and the news gobbles up time, and as I looked just now at the time I realize that I've already been dawdling and that extra hour is almost gone! Oh well, it happens when you're having fun and not paying attention to time.

I do hope that you will have a good week ahead, and that you'll spend some part of it thinking about your life as it exists today, and consider what you might be able to accomplish during the week. Remember to spread some of your goodness and honesty into the world around you, and I'll do the same. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Remembering adventures

Mama and me in 1943 (or 1944)

This cheeky little girl was me, long ago. I didn't know what the world would hold for me, but I knew I was loved and cherished by my parents. Daddy must have taken the picture, and since I was still in diapers, I figure it must have been my first or second year. Mama had created the outfit, probably even knit that adorable beret. And of course Daddy had to get his car in the picture, too. Is it a Packard? I have no idea, but it sure needed a bath.

I went rummaging around in my pictures, looking for some inspiration for today's post, and it occurred to me that I have always been an active person, looking for adventure. Although I grew up as an Air Force brat (as we were called by those who stayed put in their lives, while we moved all the time), I never doubted that my parents loved me and would provide me with everything I needed. When you're born in such an environment, there is no uncertainty clouding your days. When I think of those children born in a war zone today, filled with uncertainty in every respect, I feel bad for them. What a different world. If I were Queen of the World, it wouldn't be like that for anyone.

But I'm not and now that I'm on the other end of life, I am remembering some of the wonderful moments of exhilaration and discovery that I've experienced. When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, before I got pulled into the skydiving world, I spent plenty of time in the Colorado mountains, hiking many of the fourteeners with friends. "Fourteeners" is the epithet used for the numerous Colorado peaks that are at least 14,000 feet high. There are, I believe, 52 of them. I've climbed exactly half: 26. Some I have climbed more than once, like Longs Peak, which has a direct route (the Keyhole Route) that doesn't require technical skill, and a climber's route on the East Face where you need ropes and at least one other person. I ran into a group of climbers in Boulder who were willing to train me to use crampons and ropes, and we did climb what is called Kiener's Route once many years ago. I found those two links and in reading the descriptions of the routes, I am simply amazed at what we accomplished.

On top of Long's Peak

Of course, I was young then, and in looking at that picture of me I don't remember having long hair but I did, although I remember very well that yellow and blue hat. The Keyhole Route is 15 miles, and I remember starting before dawn to be able to get up and back before the usual thunderstorms formed. I remember the Boulder Field that seemed endless, and the scary part where you hug a sheer cliff with a long drop down on the other side. But I did it, and I remember feeling really exhilarated when we reached the summit. It's almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

On the other route, the technical one (Kieners Route), we roped up often as we ascended. I well remember looking at what is called "Broadway," a long stretch below the Diamond shape of the wall, where of course we were roped. You might get a bit of the heeby-jeebies when you look at the picture of it because of all that exposure.

Climbers on Kieners Route, from internet

These days, thinking of completing such a long and arduous climb under those conditions simply amazes me, but reminds me that I have indeed gotten much more circumspect in what I attempt these days. More than 70 people have died on those Longs Peak routes, the last one in 2022 when the weather turned bad and the guy got lost. 

I am not done with adventures, but I have had more than my share already. Now that I am getting towards the last years, or months, or days (who knows?), I realize that many of my adventures have never really left me. They are still there to be remembered, shared and enjoyed. And if I am lucky enough to experience in retrospect once again the fearful moments, I'll consider that to be a bonus! A frisson of fear courses through me now and then, but these days it's for more mundane reasons, like stumbling on an uneven spot on  the sidewalk. 
Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. —Thich Nhat Hanh
Some of us seek out those fearful moments, because they remind us of just that: we are still alive, and we can see and hear just like always. Well, maybe some of us need some help in that regard, like needing eyeglasses and hearing aids. But still, we can continue to live each day with an adventurous spirit. It is so much more fun to approach each day that way, so much better than to be fearful of everything around us. Even if we are not in the best shape of our lives, we are still able to have lots of adventures, different from our youthful days perhaps, but still adventures.

Why, just thinking about this post has been an adventure for me. When I went back and refreshed my memory of those strenuous hikes of yesteryear, I experienced the same sense of accomplishment that I felt decades ago. I look forward to what the day ahead will bring, and I look forward to spending some time with family and friends, reading all your blogs and learning what's going on in your lives today. I am hoping also that perhaps you will look at your life with a sense of adventure as you move through the moments, realizing once again how incredibly lucky we are to have another day to enjoy being alive. 

Soon I will climb out of bed and begin the rest of my day. My dear partner, as usual, still sleeps quietly next to me as I type, and now that we are approaching springtime, the light in the morning sky greets me, instead of the darkness of winter. The magic of writing this Sunday morning post has once again catapulted me from drowsy dreams to looking forward to what the day will bring. And of course, my dear friends, I hope it will bring you whatever adventures you desire. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Mixed emotions today

At the Great Wall of China 2003

So much time has passed in life since this picture was taken, both SG and I in China visiting the Great Wall. I was in attendance at a conference that my boss Mickey had arranged, and we were taken by our Chinese hosts to see the sights. Of course this was included, and we were so lucky to see it and have a chance to walk along part of it.

I was looking for a picture among the thousands I've amassed, one that would be relevant to our history, as well as part of our present-day life. We are fast coming up on our thirtieth wedding anniversary, one that felt impossible when we first met, both of us in our fifties. Who would have been able to predict that here in 2024 we would be happily growing old together? Certainly not the two of us. But here we are, octogenarians with a rich life of adventure and travel behind us, and settled into our daily lives with joy in the present and hopes for many more years ahead. But who knows what the future will bring?

I have been following the news, as much as I can stomach anyway, because it has a tendency to make me sad or angry, and there's not much I can do to change things. But I can express myself in this blog, say what's on my mind, and know that many of us are in the same situation. What is happening in Israel and Gaza keeps me awake at night. What is happening in the political arena here in the US also makes me fearful for the future. But again, there is little I can do other than give a few dollars to those organizations I feel can make a difference. 

I am just ten days younger than Joe Biden. When he was first running for President four years ago, I felt he was too old. After all, I couldn't fathom myself having the energy to do that incredibly difficult job. And if there was anyone else who might run, I would definitely consider supporting a viable candidate. But nobody has come forth yet, and I will vote for Biden and Harris again, if I have the chance. And he has done a really good job during  his first term, in my opinion. But to have another five years in the cauldron that is American politics today? It is worrisome. However...
A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning. —Carl Jung

 The entire conversation about age and ability is everywhere right now. And of course, as one who is already well into old age, it sure looks like "ageism" to me. That because of some verbal slips by Biden and Trump, they are not cognitively fit for the difficult job of the presidency. And they may be right. We will only know after the fact, but I find it very troubling that this is the metric that many are using to make their decision about who to vote for. Both of them are old! But one of them has made tremendous positive strides forward for the country, while the other has been just plain wacko. How can so many people feel he is not a threat to democracy but a good idea? It boggles my mind. So I'll get off this contentious subject and turn to more positive thoughts. 

I feel very fortunate to have such a great place to live, and having moved to the Pacific Northwest when I retired in 2008 has been one of the best moves I've ever made. I am so glad to be here, and even if it is a little rainy, the result is plenty of vegetation, flowers, and trees that flourish everywhere. We even have lots of domestic wildlife, such as birds, deer, and squirrels that also enjoy the mild weather. It's true that we get the occasional snowstorm during the winters, and the occasional windstorm as well, but there is no place in the world that has better weather for someone like me. And I have a plethora of rain gear for the wet days, like today.

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, and we have entered the Year of the Wood Dragon, whatever that means. From what I can surmise, for those born in the Year of the Horse, like me, it portends a chance to create our own stories this year and carve our own path. Our natural charismatic and optimistic nature will benefit us in this endeavor, according to astrologers. That sounds pretty good to me. I hope we will all have a good year ahead.

It's also Super Bowl Sunday, the annual celebration of the two football leagues having it out with each other. I am rooting for one of the teams, but I really don't care all that much about the game. I don't usually watch it because I get all wound up in it and it's not good for my ability to stay neutral. I just hope nobody gets hurt and that everyone enjoys themselves. How anybody can afford to actually be there in person astounds me. I think the cheapest tickets cost more than most people can afford. But then again, if you've got the money, it's yours to decide how to spend it, right? Many years ago, I would watch the game and felt very invested in it, but now I am wiser and have better things to do with my time.

Today after I have breakfast with John, I'll call my friend Lily and we'll make plans to spend some time together. We were going to go for a nice walk, but she's not keen to walk in the rain, so maybe we'll go to a movie, or who knows? The main thing is to be together. She is a dear friend whom I don't see often enough. 

And friendships and loving relationships are central to having a good life. It's worth spending some of my time just hanging out with good friends, as well as my partner, who of course still sleeps next to me this morning. I laughed at one blogger who wonders how he deals with the incessant tapping of the keys as I write, so I asked him once again how he feels about it. He says he not only doesn't mind, but he finds it soothing, unless he's just trying to make me feel okay about it.

Well, that wraps up this Sunday morning post. I am filled with all sort of emotions, some good and some not so good, but I am also happy to be alive and in good health, for an old bird like me, anyway. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Halfway to spring

Lake Padden on a winter's day

We here in the US have finally visited the rodent who predicts the weather,  Punxsutawney Phil, on February 2, to see if he will be predicting that we'll have an early spring or not. It's the day when we have reached the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Apparently he doesn't have a very good track record, since he's only been right 39% of the time. Maybe we should be considering that, since he's predicts an early spring this year, it will be late.

Whatever. It's fun to speculate and spend some time with such antics, but one thing I know for sure: the days are getting longer, there's a bit of light in the sky when I walk to the bus in the early mornings, and that soon I'll be seeing sprouts of emerging daffodils and primroses beginning to show the change of the season. It's been a confusing winter so far, with extreme cold and snow, followed by extreme warmth and rain. At one point last week, we had a warm front come through where the day's heat just kept on rising, long after sunset. We reached a record of 68°F (20°C) at 7:00pm on the 29th! And I saw on TV that Seattle had three nights of record-breaking high low temperatures during that same period. Very strange weather indeed, and it seems like just a few days ago we were buried in more than a foot of snow and extreme cold. Now we're almost back to a normal weather pattern, but there's no question that things are definitely not following the usual norms.

I really didn't know what I wanted to write about today, so I went over to my favorite quote library, brainyquote.com, and I got interested in reading about Helen Keller once I found this quote by her:

Once I knew only darkness and stillness... my life was without past or future... but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living. —Helen Keller

 Many years ago I saw The Miracle Worker (1962) movie and enjoyed it very much. I actually might have seen it a time or two later, but I don't remember much from it except Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in two memorable performances. What I didn't relate to at the time was what it must have been like to be both deaf and blind and unable to understand the world around me. Not only did Helen overcome her handicaps, with help from her teacher and others, she ended up attending Radcliffe College and graduating cum laude in 1904. She wrote 14 books and her biography is still in print.

Helen on her 80th birthday

It's almost impossible for me to imagine how Helen became so proficient in everything she attempted. To only know the world around you by the tapping of someone's fingers into your palm, and having that be enough to open the doors of perception so wide that you could become a world-renowned author. She traveled to dozens of countries and gave interviews with many world leaders. She was acquainted with many famous people, including Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, and so many more. She helped to create the American Foundation for the Blind, which offers an archive of her works, which is available here

And I was pleased to learn that she lived a good long life, dying at the age of 87, a few days short of her 88th birthday. Until she suffered a stroke in her 80th year, she continued to be active and engaged in many pursuits. Afterwards, she lived a quiet life and probably spent her time reading, but I don't know for sure. She died in 1968.

To each one of us is given in some degree the power to create and distribute happiness, and that is about the best thing any one of us can do. There is no surer way to keep the fire of happiness burning in our own hearts than by sharing its brightness with others. —Helen Keller, 1924 speech

When I think about all the wonderful people who are alive today, carrying on the work that Helen started, to reach those who were not given the abilities we take for granted, I am truly humbled. But she is right: we are all given to "some degree the power to create and distribute happiness," which is what I attempt to create every Sunday morning with these posts. Helen came alive for me today and has reached through the mists of time to inspire me, a fellow traveler. And I will purchase a copy of her biography to read on my Kindle.

Are there people who inspire you to become a better version of who you already are? I know that now that I am old, I am impressed with others my own age who have found ways to do that. We are at a crossroads in our lives today, with so many of us becoming frail and aged, just when we are getting ready for more upheaval and strife all around the world. But I refuse to give up my pursuit of happiness and will try to keep Helen's words uppermost in my thoughts: that there "is no surer way to keep the fire of happiness burning in our own hearts than by sharing its brightness with others."

As I sit here with my laptop, typing these words into a device that can carry them to the farthest reaches of the globe, it's important for me to realize the gifts that I already have, and take advantage of them in the moment. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and I know that John will be coming to take me to breakfast soon. It is quiet and serene in my world, as I prepare to wind this post up and send it out into the world. For you, my dear virtual family, I am hoping that you will find some way to share the brightness of happiness with others. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Rain and more rain

Steve, me, Don

I guess I really am sort of short, as I look at this selfie of the three of us. I am pretty wet in the picture (maybe I shrunk!), although I'm wearing a usually quite capable rain slicker. The rain started out as a light sprinkle but then picked up to remain a drizzle or a light rain for the entire five miles we walked at Squalicum Harbor. 

But I am back to my old workout routine, getting five miles with the Happy Wanderers on Tuesday, around seven miles with lots of elevation on Thursday, and five miles on Saturday with my two regular partners. And on none of these excursions did I have to deal with snow! Warm temperatures and rain have taken care of all of it. Now it's back to normal puddles as we face a trio of atmospheric rivers coming up from the coastal waters of warm Hawaii. You might wonder what an atmospheric river is. Well, since you asked:
Atmospheric rivers bring moderate to heavy precipitation into the region, sometimes for days on end. This first atmospheric river is anticipated to bring between 0.5 inches to 1.5 inches to the lowlands through Saturday afternoon, with a potential for 2 to 4 inches of rain in the mountains and up to 2 inches in coastal areas. The system is also expected to usher in milder temperatures, raising snow levels between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, leading to some snowmelt. Temperatures may be as much as 10 degrees higher than normal by Sunday. (KING5 Hydrological Outlook)

That was issued on Friday, and sure enough, we got more than an inch of rain yesterday (Saturday). I even discovered that my waterproof rain shoes are also no longer keeping all the moisture from reaching my feet. However, it was so warm that I never had a problem staying comfortable. I wonder if there is some way to get the Gore-Tex lining back to its original state, or whether it's time to just bite the bullet and buy another pair of what have been my favorite shoes for the past year. They weren't terribly expensive, and they were comfy from the first step I took. For those who might be interested, they are Hoka's Clifton 9 GTX brand. And for months they have kept my feet dry as well.  

On Thursday, I took a spill on a wet log and scraped my right forearm quite severely. Even though it didn't tear the coat material, it certainly took a good bit of skin off my arm.  I knew that I had broken the skin in a couple places, but it wasn't until we stopped for lunch that I inspected the damage.

Three pretty good scrapes

Two of those scraped spots show broken skin, so my trusty friends pulled out some antibiotic cream and a couple of good-sized bandages, and then I was good to go. It actually stung awhile after treatment, but then there was no longer any discomfort at all. This picture was taken Friday morning after a good sleep and after a shower, before re-bandaging the affected areas. It makes me happy to see how well it is healing up. I got a massage later on Friday, and I learned that it wasn't only the arm that took some of the beating, but my entire area from shoulder to waist was sensitive. Otherwise, the massage was just what the doctor ordered. She of course skipped my forearm.

It has occurred to me that it might be because I have "old-lady skin" that it tore like that. I notice that when one's skin gets old and rather fragile, it doesn't take much for it to be injured in such a manner. It was a glancing blow, so I was not in danger of breaking any bones. Fortunately I do have a strong constitution, but I don't want to jinx myself by saying I am indestructible or anything like that, because it's not true. I have taken many a spill on hikes before, but the last bones I broke were because of a bad landing under my parachute, almost two decades ago.

As I rouse myself to begin another Sunday here in the Pacific Northwest, I just checked the weather and we are expecting another bout of rain, but nothing like we received yesterday. By tonight the second atmospheric river should bring more warm rain, so I'll check my wardrobe of rain gear and figure out what might work better to keep me dry. I feel so much better when I can get out and about, so I won't let a little rain stop me. Or puddles! 

Last night I dreamed about my grandmother, who has been gone for quite awhile, but she was there, being her normal self in my dream, and it sometimes makes me wonder just whether our loved ones hang around in the corridors of our minds forever, or if it's just an illusion. Then I remember that it's ALL an illusion, that what we think of as reality is made up in our minds and has no intrinsic meaning. At least that is what I believe right now. But it sure was somehow reassuring to visit my granny in seemingly concrete form last night.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. —Lao Tzu

 Friendship and loved ones are the staples of my existence. Without my circle of friends and my dear family, I would be quite bereft and lonely as well. But I am very fortunate not to have to try to exist without them, but I realize that it's important to value and cherish those who give me such love. It starts with my partner, who lies asleep beside me right now, who is journeying with me through the travails and joys of life. I am quite aware that as octogenarians, we will not always be as lucky as we are in this moment of time, so I need to bring my gratitude into the present moment and acknowledge it. 

There are only a few things I need to remember in order to find serenity, but probably the most important one is that we are all on this little lifeboat together, trying hard to find a way to peace and happiness. It sure helps me to visit my blogging family and see how each one is doing, and your efforts at dealing with the vicissitudes of your own lives. I like that quote from Lao Tzu, reminding me to "let reality be reality." I'm just glad that reality also includes visits from long-departed loved ones.

John's "chariot" will be coming to get me so we can head to Fairhaven for our Sunday breakfast in just a little over an hour from now. Before then, I will have done my Tibetan rites (five daily exercises I've been doing for well more than a decade now), spent a few minutes following my breath in meditation, and take all my morning vitamins. Then I'll head out to the front porch, enjoying the mild weather, and watch for his arrival. We'll have a nice breakfast together in the only place open so early, and then come back home to my sweet partner and look forward to the day ahead.

And with that, my Sunday morning post is finished. I have already inserted my "ears" and find that life is qualitatively better when I can hear. Thanks, hearing aids! I wish there was a way to slip on my eyeglasses and see the way I used to before AMD (age-related macular degeneration), but it's good enough. And of course, I'll read today's posts that you will have written, and enjoy visiting my virtual family. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.