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, July 7, 2024

First weekend of July

Foxgloves galore

I wasn't able to capture the beauty of the foxgloves on our Independence Day hike, but I was not shy about snagging this picture from fellow hiker Joe's Facebook post. Even this wonderful picture does not show what I saw with my own eyes, but it does show it so much better than anything I took. Fourteen of us hiked just under nine miles and several thousand feet of up and down, so Friday I took the day off, just a short walk to the bus and the coffee shop, and then home again the same way. I was the only one of our usual coffee shop crowd who showed up, so it was easy to saunter back to the bus without anybody to even say hello to.

Yesterday was a much different story. I drove to the coffee shop and met Steve there, and the two of us walked to Squalicum Harbor, one of our favorites, because it would be near the water and cooler. It turned out to be a perfect walk, with temperatures feeling even cooler than they were because of a light breeze off the water. Once we returned to our cars and said our goodbyes, I felt much, much lighter and better in every way. Right now I am refusing to so much as turn on the news, since it never fails to bring me down, and I need all the help I can get to keep myself feeling positive. Nothing I can do or say will make a difference in the outcome, and I've given way too much time and money to political campaigns already.

On the way back, we stopped at the Marine Life Center so I could take a look at the giant Pacific octopus that was captured a few months ago. It won't be caged for a very long time, as it will be returned to the ocean before too long. They only live for three to five years, and they require plenty of care. When we arrived, the cage was being cleaned, but I was able to get close enough to snap this picture.

This is Sherlock

That round brown thing in the center is the head of the octopus, and many of its eight tentacles are visible as well. I think that is one of his two eyes on the right side of the mound, but I can't be sure; they are really strange looking creatures. I was curious about all the signs, admonishing people not to point at him, or stomp your feet, as it scares him. He can feel the vibration through the cage and the water, I guess.

I remember years ago watching a wonderful documentary called "My Octopus Teacher" on Netflix. I just checked; if you subscribe, you can still watch it, even four years after it was released. It's a wonderful way to learn about these amazing animals. And they are intelligent as well. This is from Wikipedia:
Octopuses are ranked as the most intelligent invertebrates. Giant Pacific octopuses are commonly kept on display at aquariums due to their size and interesting physiology, and have demonstrated the ability to recognize humans with whom they frequently come in contact. These responses include jetting water, changing body texture, and other behaviors that are consistently demonstrated to specific individuals. They have the ability to solve simple puzzles, open childproof bottles, and use tools. The octopus brain has folded lobes (a distinct characteristic of complexity) and visual and tactile memory centers. They have about 300 million neurons. They have been known to open tank valves, disassemble expensive equipment, and generally wreak havoc in labs and aquaria. Some researchers even claim that they are capable of motor play and having personalities.

 I think I will re-watch it myself, having just been introduced to Sherlock and enjoying learning so much more about the species. It is also one way I have found to give myself some positive input so that I can think about life with a more inclusive perspective. That, and looking every day at the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Today's selection shows rainbow-colored clouds at sunset over Sweden. 

The world is filled with wonders, and every time I lift my head and look out at what surrounds me, I am grateful. I am also grateful that, even if my sight is compromised, I can still see well enough to read and write, even if it is limited and not perfect. It's so much better than I feared, and fortunately there is some treatment to slow the progression. I get my next eye jab in August. Summer has arrived in this part of the world, too. We are under a heat advisory until late Tuesday, with our temperature expecting to reach almost 90°F. I know that sounds pretty lame to those of you experiencing triple digits every day, but for us it's, well, hot. We are in the Pacific Northwest and only occasionally see it get this hot. Homes rarely have air conditioning, but the stores and coffee shops do, thank goodness.

Steve took this yesterday

Steve asked me to take off my hat and sunglasses, but I couldn't bear the bright sun on my delicate eyes; I did take off the hat at least. Standing in front of the ice machine also made me feel a bit cooler, just seeing the sign was a reminder that ICE is not so far away.

I do hope you will find a way to stay rather comfortable during this heat wave, which is covering most of the country right now. And I also wish you might find your own way to happiness and contentment. It's there, if you look for it. I know I will be staying indoors in A/C for most of the really hot days. Until we meet again next week, I truly hope you will discover your serenity. I will be looking for mine and being good to myself. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

An eventful week

Daisies, stuffed mouse, and me

Yesterday I went for a wonderful six-mile walk with my friend Steve, and instead of our usual routes either to the harbor or to Fairhaven, we walked east to the Barkley neighborhood. It turns out that we saw at least seven or eight yard sales as we walked, and we did stop to check out a few of them. He purchased this cute little stuffed mouse, which he says is part of a story that he would read to his son when he was little. 

As you can see, it was a sunny day and I am wearing a new hat I bought on Amazon a week or so ago. It was perfect forthe weather, and when I saw these pretty daisies along the side of our trail, I asked Steve to let me take a picture of him. He demurred and suggested I hold onto the mouse while he took the above picture. I like it, so I decided to share it with you.

I didn't go on the Tuesday hike, because it was a long drive and I'd recently visited the area, and also we intended to go into the same vicinity on Thursday. I'm glad I didn't go because there were 22 people who did go! At it was, on Thursday we had twelve of us drive to Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island. I had never visited the park or the World War II-vintage fort. I wrote about it on my other blog, if you're interested. It's such a long drive I'm not sure I'll be going back there any time soon. But it was a beautiful day, cloudy and threatening rain (but not raining). We had patches of sunlight instead.

Then there was Thursday's presidential debate, and I watched it, which was a mistake. I was so upset by seeing both of our options for president seeming to be rather distressing choices. I then listened to the spin doctors and their commentary, which meant I couldn't get to sleep until very late. And in a state that was anything but calm. By the next morning, when I got up after little sleep, I had gained a bit of perspective and was able to have a really good restful sleep on Saturday. Things always look much different when I'm not trying to solve the woes of the world and can see things with a better frame of mind. Whatever is going to happen has little to do with me, and I really need to take care of myself. Walking this morning with a good friend was all I needed to complete the transition from despair to serenity.

And, surprisingly, this coming Thursday is our national holiday: Independence Day, the Fourth of July (already!). We don't usually have a hike scheduled for that day, but one of our leaders, Barb, has decided to do a rather long and challenging hike and I will be one of many to join her. It looks like it will be sunny and warm, so I'll be taking precautions to keep myself comfortable. I've already heard early fireworks going off, reminding me of what's to come.

Yesterday while we were checking out yard sales, I saw a lovely rather vintage recliner (you know, one of those with a handle to bring up the feet) that was in really good shape. And after I sat down in it, I couldn't resist buying it. I made the purchase and we headed off back to the coffee shop. I called my friend John and arranged for him to help me get the chair to my home. And then I went looking for some strong backs to help me get it up the stairs to my second-floor apartment. It all went without a hitch, and I must say I am thrilled with my chair. I named her "Alice" but I actually think she told me her name and I simply acceded. It's a smallish chair, just right for someone my size, and it fits right where my easy chair has lived for years. I thought about sharing a picture, and maybe I will, but not today. I am happily ensconced in my bed, propped up with the laptop as usual, and listening to the sounds of the new day's beginning. Birds awakening, chirping and lazy. I think of them as brushing the sleep out of their eyes, just as I do.

We have a lot of crows around here, and I wondered why at this time of year they make such different calls. I read up on them and found that this is the season when the young ones fledge. Once they leave the nest, it takes some time before they learn to fly.
Fledgling crows can take 1-2 weeks to learn to fly and self-feed with the help of their parents. In fact, young fledgling crows will spend approximately one to two weeks on the ground as they go through this essential learning process with their parents. (Wikipedia)

Well, that explains the crows I see walking around on lawns, and the plaintive cry of what looks like a full-sized crow begging another one for food. It's simply a baby learning how to be a crow. The entire corvid family of birds are extremely intelligent and well adapted to urban environments. They include blue jays, ravens, and crows of every sort. Maybe I should take up birding. So many things to explore and learn about in my old age, but I think maybe it would help to have better eyesight than mine. Fortunately, much of what there is to learn is available audibly. And thanks to my trusty hearing aids, I can hear everything. And then some. The only problem I have with them is that ambient sounds are often too loud, like when I'm traveling in a car and trying to have a conversation with someone. The noise of the car can be a problem. There are downsides to all our helpful devices, it seems. But it sure is nice to have them, I'm not really complaining.

What else is going on in my busy mind? Oh yes, there is the problem of not being able to think of a word that is right on the tip of my tongue. Yesterday I couldn't think of the name of the app on my phone that allows me to navigate to places I don't know how to get to. You know, the Google Maps app. I tried so hard to think of it as I was talking on the phone, but it just wouldn't come. Now I begin to understand when someone uses a word that doesn't quite fit. It's called anomia.

Word-finding difficulty, also known as anomia or word-retrieval difficulty, is a common experience that can affect people of all ages. It can feel like the "tip-of-the-tongue" sensation and can be made worse by certain emotions or lack of sleep. However, if the difficulty becomes persistent or severe, it could be a sign of a more serious condition.

Yes, I have experienced this many times, but somehow becoming an octogenarian has increased the frequency of my frustration with finding the right words. I am unused to it and hope it doesn't get any worse. Do you have the same problem? I wonder.

That pretty much describes the week I just had. This is the last day of the month, and July's heat will soon make me try everything I can to keep cool. Fortunately, we don't live in one of those parts of the country where it gets super hot. I couldn't deal with it very well. We don't have or need air conditioning at the moment; fans do the trick, but it sure looks like the world is getting much warmer. That's another thing I probably won't live long enough to be inconvenienced by. But who knows what lies ahead?

 Well, this turned out to be a rambling post, going nowhere in particular, but simply a chronicle of my week. The good part of my day today, after breakfast with John, is getting to know Alice better. I'll probably take a walk at some point, and I am determined to enjoy every moment of the coming week. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I hear the birds incessantly chirping outside, and life is good. I do hope that you will enjoy your week ahead, too. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Picking and choosing

Fifteen years ago

Yes, I am still able to go on most of the hikes I could accomplish fifteen years ago, like this one to Winchester Mountain in 2009. I did, however, skip the trip the Trailblazers took last week to Noisy Creek, a more than ten-mile hike after a long car trip. Nine people did go, and apparently they had a great time. Other than feeling a little bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I realize that I have now reached the place in my life where it's possible to pick and choose, rather than keep myself reaching for new heights at every turn of the calendar. It's summer, and the next few months will be spent going into the High Country, as in this picture. And yes, I will pick and choose carefully. Full sunshine as in this picture is not my favorite hiking condition. I seem to wilt in the sun and certainly don't want to be a drag on my fellow hikers.

There is little doubt in my mind that, if I continue to listen to my body and take it slowly, I can still climb almost every mountain that we have on our schedule. However, it makes no sense to push myself as hard as I have in the past, since there are so many other ways to keep myself fit in my later years. I am enjoying the yoga classes at the Senior Center, as well as the Fitness Center there, and keeping the routine for the upper body that I've worked out as necessary to maintain my strength. At present I am only doing that once a week, before yoga on Mondays, but I'll try to find one more day during the week to work that in.

I don't see the retina specialist for any more eyeball jabs until August. We both decided it's unnecessary to try to salvage any central vision for the right eye, since it's gone and unable to be retrieved, but instead continue to concentrate on trying to slow the progression of the geographic atrophy in the left eye, which still maintains its central vision. I'm definitely losing the ability to distinguish the distance between objects, and sometimes when I'm gazing at a photograph, it takes awhile before I can figure out what it is, exactly. But eventually I do. And I am still very grateful that it's not happening all at once, but gradually so I can find ways to adapt. 

When I reminisce about all the different hurdles I've managed to clear during my long life,  I know that this one, my eyesight, is probably the most difficult task I've faced. Well, that might not be quite true: the fact that I've survived the death of both my children, one in 1965 when I was just 22, and the other when I was 59, in 2002, both of those events seemed insurmountable when they happened. By the time I had recovered from that first one, an entire decade had passed, and I have few memories from that time period. Perhaps it's a survival mechanism to forget the hardest of the hard times in one's life.

And although I've had many hard times in my life, I don't think they are that different from what other people endure as we grow older. We lose faculties we once took for granted; we lose family and friends to illness and circumstances that take once central characters out of our sphere; our cars start to break down and require replacements; our jobs change and finally end when we retire. All those inevitable moments in a long life are milestones we reach as we look back at where we have come from, to who we have become today.

It occurred to me to list all those numerous life events, to look back at them from the vantage point of Summer 2024, but when I pondered creating that list, it felt daunting, as well as possibly leaving out some important milestones that I prefer to forget. And that wouldn't be fair to my desire for accuracy. As I sit here in the dark, I can look out the window at the burgeoning daylight and think about what's ahead for this summer day: first, a trip in John's truck to Fairhaven for our weekly breakfast, solving the Wordle puzzle and Connections on the New York Times while we wait for and then consume our breakfast. I'll then come home and spend some time chatting with SG, who will be up and out of bed by then. I'll probably go for a nice walk to Cornwall Park and perhaps listen to a podcast while I walk. I'll do a little puttering (isn't that an interesting word?), read the posts that show up in my news feed, and then turn on the TV and watch as much of the world news as I can tolerate. The big task on my schedule for the day is to get my laundry done. Since it's Sunday, the Senior Center is closed, or I might have ventured there for some activity. 

Pretty boring stuff, when I think about it. There are plenty of tasks I could take on here at home, but I know I probably won't. I might eventually get to REI to buy myself some new pants, but it's not something I particularly look forward to. I remember the days when shopping for new clothes was something I enjoyed, but now it's just another chore. Last Sunday I went bowling with my friends, and although we played two games, I only got one strike and one spare, with a smattering of gutter balls. Nevertheless, it was fun to be with them and spend some time together. I never considered that my life would become so mundane, but frankly, it's just the way I prefer it. I know that just living will cause many changes to come about, and anything I can do to keep our lives on an even keel is a good thing.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. —Desmond Tutu

When I think about how so many innocent people in the world today are facing dire straits, through no fault of their own, I teeter on the edge of despair. And then I remember what the enlightened among us, like Desmond Tutu, remind me: there is light despite all of the darkness. It matters where I place my attention, and so today I will make an effort to think only positive thoughts, surround myself with only positive energy, and remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones: I can pick and choose what I will make of today and who I will spend it with. And just like that, I can feel gratitude beginning to surface in my heart, and as the light grows in the sky outdoors, I can feel it taking shape all around me. 

My dear friends, I hope that today, and this coming week, will bring you all that you desire, and that you will also surround yourself with positive energy. It's there if we just look for it. Until we meet again next week, be well.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Leaving languishing behind

Sitting in the feathered seat

Earlier this month, I went with the Senior Trailblazers on a long-ish hike (nine miles and plenty of elevation gain and loss), and when we reached our lunch spot, this wonderful carved seat awaited us. I am sitting in the eagle spot, with two carved ravens on my shoulders. It's a beautiful thing to see, and I was more than happy to sit down and enjoy my lunch with friends before heading back.

This day was the beginning of a bit of a slide into a state that I have learned is labeled as "languishing." Not depressed exactly, but also not in a happy place, either. The other day I listened to a podcast on Hidden Brain about "Why You Feel Empty." It's all about a book written by Corey Keyes, a sociologist at Emory University, on what languishing and flourishing are all about. The full title of the book is "Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World that Wears Us Down." It sure made sense to me when I listened to the podcast. I will order the audio version of the book, once I've finished watching the TED talk that Corey gave earlier this year. It's all available at this website, which I hope works for you, from Penguin Random House, his publisher.

I think the beginning of slipping into this mental state started when I turned eighty. It's a landmark I never actually felt I would reach, since neither of my parents lived anywhere that long, and heart disease is rampant in my family's history. Of course, I was blessed to have been given statins long ago, and I've managed with them, along with diet and exercise, to keep it in check. But I never dreamed about the one health issue I had not given much thought to: going blind. Although I've been dealing with AMD (age-related macular degeneration) for years, it never really bothered me until I lost the central vision in my right eye. I am now legally blind in that eye, but a new treatment has emerged in the past year to slow the progression of the disease. I have now received one injection into each of my eyes, and if all goes well, the left eye will not become blind in the same manner. Or at least not as soon as it would if I didn't get these injections. Nothing can be done to bring back what I've lost, but I am hoping that in seven weeks, when I see the doctor again, there will be signs that it's slowed and he'll give me another left eye jab.

As I've written in here before, it has brought a major change in my life. I am so accustomed to reading and writing that it became hard to imagine that life might still be worth living if I become unable to continue pursuits that feel central to my sense of self. No more blogging, no reading the news, no connecting with my virtual family, so much gone. That began to wear on me, and I fell into a state of languishing. What good would I be to the world? To myself? What would be the point of an octogenarian writer who has become blind?

And then I discovered that there are ways to overcome almost every single one of my concerns, maybe not having things the same, but there is a real challenge here, one I think I can use to my advantage. In his book, Corey lists some things that people who are languishing can do; he calls them "The Five Vitamins of Flourishing."

Vitamin 1: Following your curiosity to learn something new. Well, learning to post a blog without being able to do it directly can be accomplished in several ways. Before the end of this year, I hope to have learned enough to submit at least one Sunday morning post using other methods than typing on my laptop.

Vitamin 2: Build warm and trusting relationships. I already have a fairly good beginning here, since my partner and I have a thirty-year head start on this one. I also have other meaningful relationships filled with mutual trust. Some are fairly new, but others are of long standing. I will work on finding others as needed,

Vitamin 3: Move closer to the sacred, the divine, and the infinite. This vitamin comes rather naturally to me. I have begun a morning meditation practice, now going into a third year, and I will continue to study Buddhist philosophy to augment what I already know, and will remember the wonderful lessons I have learned from Christianity. All sacred texts bring the same message.

Vitamin 4: Have and live your purpose. This one needs some work, since having been retired and no longer being part of any organization that requires my presence, I have become disengaged in ways that can be solved by becoming a volunteer in something that appeals to me. I was a volunteer for more than five years helping people to write their Advance Directive for End-of-Life care. I need to find something else like that.

Vitamin 5: Play! Make time for activities where you enjoy the process, not the outcome. Doesn't that sound like fun? I enjoy Wordle (although I sure want to find the word of the day) and Connections, a game on the New York Times website that gives me lots of pleasure to play. I wonder if these games can be translated into something that a blind person can do, and play. I'll find out. If not, there are others that can serve the same purpose.

So now you know my current situation as well as I do. If you have any ideas of how I might continue to flourish as I navigate another one of life's many dramas, I am certainly willing to listen and ponder how I might move into a more positive frame of mind. Many of us who make it to this age must have come up with some solutions that I haven't thought of quite yet. We octogenarians are resourceful, after all, or we wouldn't have gotten this far, right?

And today is Father's Day here in the US. I'm not sure whether it is observed in other countries, but I have so many memories of my dad that still live in my heart and mind. He died in 1979, so long ago at the age of 62. He was a good father, and when I think of his presence, I remember that he was the one who would get up early and send my sister and me off to school, often with a lunch that he prepared. He was an early riser, like me, while my mother slept in after going to bed much later than he. Daddy was often the one who would wash our hair in the kitchen sink, comb it out, and make us presentable before we caught the bus to school.
If there is any immortality to be had among us human beings, it is certainly only in the love that we leave behind. Fathers like mine don't ever die. —Leo Buscaglia
I will always have memories of my parents, as long as I live. And I was tremendously blessed to have had them raise me to adulthood. Now I am feeling the love for all human beings, and grateful that I had such a good start in life. And with that, I will sign off for today and look forward to another wonderful day where I can still see the sun shine. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

My latest adventure

Low tide at harbor (Steve's picture)

Yesterday my friend Steve and I walked from the coffee shop to Squalicum Harbor, one of my favorite walks. I felt pretty good, physically, when we started out, but I lost some of my energy as we made our six miles around the harbor. I think I am not completely recovered from my long and rather strenuous hike on Thursday. Although there was a time when such a hike would not have bothered me, I am feeling my age and lack of ability to bounce back quickly.

I apologized to Steve for whining, when we were on our way back from the harbor and almost to the Farmers' Market. I felt like I might not be able to make it without stopping to rest. But I did eventually, and I enjoyed a scone and a Shave Ice treat at the end. The cold snow-cone-like frosty treat revived me. Although it wasn't all that hot for some people, the temperature in the mid-70s and full sun sure felt hot to me. Each one of these excursions will help to acclimatize me to warmer temperatures. I must say, though, I much prefer cool temps and partly cloudy skies.

Looking at the rest of the country, however, we are not under that awful heat dome that many are experiencing at the moment. I saw that the temperatures in the Southwest have reached into the triple digits, while we are having what would feel like a cold snap for many. I like this much better! My friends in California are doing their best to stay comfortable during this period. And I do hope that the electricity grid in Texas will manage to stay in operation, since many family and friends rely on it. And it's not even summer yet. It does look like we'll be having a warmer than normal summer season.

It's now been more than a week since I had my first eye treatment, and tomorrow, Monday the 10th, I'll have my second one. It took a few days for the redness and swelling to settle down, but I didn't have any other untoward reaction, so I suppose it will be a repeat of last week's adventure this time. 

And that is the main thing on my mind these days: what is happening with my eyes and whether or not I will be able to slow the progression of the deterioration of my vision. Although I have been dealing with AMD (age-related macular degeneration) for years, it's only recently become a real problem and making it hard to read for any length of time, even with my device's low vision settings, but it's far better than no sight at all. And yes, it is an adventure that I have been dealing with, and how it goes from here is not clear at all. If this treatment slows things down, I will be happy, but it might not, and I will be looking at being legally blind within the next year or two at the outside.

I have already begun to make plans for how I might proceed, and several of my friends have offered suggestions that I will definitely follow. You would think that someone who has jumped out of airplanes for decades wouldn't be afraid of a little thing like this, but yeah, I am. Under the best circumstances, I'll find ways to work around the loss of vision and still carry out everything that I enjoy today. But I will probably have to give up reading and following the blogs you write. That's in the future, though, and for now I can still use my "good" eye to see your creations and pictures, etc. There are so many wonderful people in my universe, and I feel very fortunate to have this moment of life-affirming beauty.
Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something. —Ralph Marston

 Although it's hard to see in that picture, the tide in the harbor was lower than I had ever seen it. We've been having what is called a "spring tide," which occurs during full moons and new moons. (It has nothing to do with it being springtime, they occur year round.) During spring tides, the high and low tides are more extreme. This has been going on all the time, but I only recently (like yesterday) noticed how far out the beach continued in the harbor. People who live near the coast usually already know about tides. 

I remember years ago, when I lived in California and decided to hitchhike down the coast to get to Big Sur. Since I was living at that time in Sacramento, it was not a long ways to go, a few hours ride in a car, and I had no fear of hitchhiking back in those days. I was a young and not-too-bright hippie who never thought anything could happen to her. One driver gave me a ride to the coast not too far from Big Sur, and I decided to camp out on the beach.

I had a small backpack with a sleeping bag and some clothes, and I found a lovely place in the warm sand to set up my makeshift camp. I snuggled into the bag and fell asleep, only to be awakened in the middle of the night by the tide coming in, and suddenly I was surrounded by water! I didn't know anything about tides, but I found a rock that jutted out above the beach and scrambled onto it. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, just stay there until the tide receded. That was my first adventure with tides, and I soon learned that they rise and fall twice a day. Bellingham is located at 48.75 North Latitude, near the Canadian border.  It also means that our tides are higher and lower at this distance from the equator.

When I was sitting on that rock, surrounded by water, I watched a seal playing nearby. He was so at home there and seemed to realize that I was not a threat to him, but instead found me to be a captive audience. That seal lives on in my memory of that fateful day. Once the tide receded, I packed up, walked to the highway and hitched the rest of the way to Big Sur. It was something I never forgot, and now that I am living in a coastal city, I am much more aware of the vast ocean at my doorstep and its characteristics.  

We are not far from the summer solstice, the day when the nights are shortest and the days the longest. That is when I learned about how different it is so far north, with Bellingham being so far north that we don't get completely dark at the summer solstice. If you go even farther north, to the Land of the Midnight Sun, it never gets dark at all at this time of the year. I am grateful for my sleep mask that makes it dark for me whenever I'm ready for bed, no matter what time of year it is.

I managed to get more than eight hours of sleep last night, and this morning I feel much more like myself, with a spring in my step and no longer feeling so tired from Thursday's hike. I guess even though it didn't seem as though I am recovering as quickly as I'd like, I have to remind myself that I am doing quite well for an octogenarian. For that I am eternally grateful, and for however long I can continue to be active, I will also enjoy these days in the sun. But I will not mind one bit as the days begin to grow shorter and the sun will set at a reasonable time. 

Well, I managed to write a post without bemoaning my eye situation for too long. It is truly wonderful to be alive in this day and age, and my gratitude for my life, with its ups and downs and challenges to be met, is boundless. I will also not forget my dear virtual friends, and I will enjoy every moment that we have together here in the Blogosphere, knowing that they will change with the days, weeks, perhaps years that we have ahead. I do hope that the coming week will bring you lots of joy and delight, and that you will be surrounded by love. That's what I wish for myself as well. Until we meet here next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Not yet legally blind

Beautiful lawn display

I took this picture while on my regular Saturday morning walk with my friend Steve. We met at the coffee shop, I did the Wordle (he had already done it) and we then solved the Connections puzzle together. And then we walked to Fairhaven along the Boulevard Park walkway. I felt so much better after we spent time together, even though when I climbed into bed Friday night, I didn't know how I might be feeling about doing much of anything on Saturday.

I saw the retina specialist Friday afternoon, which took quite a bit of time, mostly waiting in different rooms to have my eyes dilated again, pictures of my retinas taken, and waiting to see the doctor. This is the same doctor I saw a few years ago, who told me there was no reason to keep seeing him, as there was nothing they could do to slow my geographic atrophy caused by macular degeneration. Last year, a new treatment became available, and my eye doctor suggested I see him again.

Of course the first thing I did was go online to research these treatments and learned that they are intra-ocular injections. That means getting a needle stuck in your eyeball, numerous times over the months to come. If I'm lucky, that is.

Finally I got to spend some time with Dr Subong to discuss my situation. I asked him which of the two treatments he might use, and he said he uses the one that has been around longer, almost a year now. I asked if he would give me a shot in my good eye, the left one, so that the progression might slow right away. But he said no, he would be giving me my first injection in the right eye, because if I end up being allergic or having problems, there would be less trauma. He said I could lose the eye in a worst-case scenario. I reluctantly agreed that he was right, and then the procedure began, first by numbing the eye with both drops and a gel. Then they came in a short time later and did the same thing all over again. By the time they did that, I only felt the coolness on my eyelids, no sensation in the eye at all.

Then came the injection itself. The doctor used his fingers and a q-tip to hold my eye open, while he injected the stuff. It's very thick and viscous and took about ten seconds for the entire injection. Once he finished, he asked me to open my eye and tell him what I saw: nothing! Dark black nothingness. He said he would have to "release the pressure," but before he got going, I began to see some light, and then gradually my vision, such as it is in that eye, returned. The eye had been treated with several antibiotic creams prior to the injection, and the assistant began to flush my eye with warm soothing water. My eye did not feel right, but then again, I had just had viscous liquid inserted in it! It wasn't fun but necessary and not as bad as I feared.

I was so glad that my guy was with me through it all, though he was in the waiting room until I was done, and then he drove me home. Now I am glad that the doctor started with the bad eye and left my functioning eye alone for now. I did ask him how long he thought my good eye was likely to continue to let me see central vision. He looked at the pictures carefully and said, "maybe a year, or a little more." So even though I am not at all happy about having to go through this, I will do what I can to keep some central vision. Once it's gone, like it already is in my right eye, there is no getting it back. So I am hoping that this procedure will give me more time to read and write.

Dr Subong said that each injection seems to delay the progression by about 20%, and that they seem to be cumulative in their effect on the atrophy. Of course, this is speculative, because everyone is different and responds differently. I am happy to say that I don't seem to have become one of those unlucky ones who are allergic or react negatively to it. The white part of my eye is filled with red and is swollen out, but there is no pain or discomfort, other than a slight ache in the eye, as if I had just finished a marathon crying jag.

If and when the progression becomes complete, I will no longer be able to see anything with my central (focal) vision. I will still have all my peripheral vision, but will no longer be able to continue with the activities I have grown to rely on, and this Sunday blog post will stop. I will still be able to hear podcasts and "read" the news the same way as any legally blind person does. If I am still able to see because of these injections, even just for a few more years, I will be very grateful.

So, that is a warning to all my visual friends, who will still be there but I will not be able to "talk" with you like I am doing right now. When I thought of how I would come to stop blogging, this outcome never occurred to me. Blindness and relying even more on my ears is definitely in my future, if I live that long. I can still type, but I cannot find or fix any typos or read what I have written once that comes to pass.
Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. —Helen Keller

I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to walk this path. I am still in the throes of grief and have a bit of melancholy when I think of where I am headed, but I trust that my inherent optimism will eventually prevail. Being able to be physical becomes even more important to me. I can always walk in the woods, even if I have to take a bus to get there, even if I cannot see the leaves on the trees, I can still hear the abundant birdsong of the feathered denizens that live among them.

When I think of my blessings, I sometimes forget to include the ability I still have to ponder and reason, and need to give thanks for my intellect, which still seems to be intact. It's almost like a sixth sense, and since it's ubiquitous, I forget to be grateful for its continued presence in my life. That, and my sweet partner who might soon augment my eyes as well, give me hope for the future.

With that, dear friends, I look forward to the rest of my day. My friend John will soon come to take me to breakfast, and afterwards I will be watching the torrential rain we are expecting for the next couple of days from the warmth and comfort of my home. I might even decide to walk in it, who knows? It's not that I need any more adventure in my life, but I will rejoice in being able to, if I choose. 

I hope that you will have a wonderful week ahead, and that you will not forget to look around you for the blessings that surround you. I will certainly being doing just that. And I give thanks for you. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Feeling purple

Purple flags

 I suppose I should probably put up a flag or banner to mark Memorial Day, but instead I'll just share here a picture of some purple iris flags instead, hoping that maybe it will be sufficient to convey my current state of mind. Yes, Memorial Day is an important holiday, one that should be marked with plenty of fanfare, but I live in a town that is completely taken over this weekend by the Ski to Sea race, a multi-sport relay race that starts at the Mt. Baker ski area and ends at Marine Park in Fairhaven. I have never joined the race, but a couple of times I volunteered to put packets together and went twice to the finish line, watching the kayakers (the final leg) pull their kayaks out of the water and stagger to the finish in order to clang the bell to end the race for their team.

Usually each team has one participant for each of the seven events, with two canoe paddlers, but the others race individually in their segment. It has the following events, following a race map that shows the entire race:

A Ski to Sea team consists of three to eight racers competing in seven different sports: Cross Country Ski, Downhill Ski/Snowboard, Running, Road Bike, Canoe (2 paddlers), Cyclocross Bike, and Sea Kayak. Beginning in 2018, racers will be allowed to participate in up to three legs on race day, for one team or multiple teams. Teams will have a minimum of three racers and a maximum of eight. The Race course runs through the towns of Glacier, Maple Falls, Kendall, Everson, Lynden, and Ferndale, finishing at Marine Park in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham.

When I first moved to Bellingham, I was an active skydiver and would leave town early Sunday and drive south to Snohomish, where I could spend the day playing in the air with fellow skydivers. I saw the enormous number of cars filled with race participants heading the opposite direction on the highway. That is almost a decade ago, since I made my last skydive in 2015. Since then, I've mostly stayed away from the incredible crowds of revelers. Blasting music, lots of beer, and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds just never have been my thing. If you want to see what it's like, you can check it all out by mid-week on this link.

 This year's event sold out in March, with 500 teams competing at all levels, from recreational to elite competition. The same teams seem to win year after year, and they have come up with some delightful team names, which I enjoy perusing online. I found these gems: Kicked in the Nooksack, Gang Green, Lumberjills, Beer Runs Downhill, Dukes of Haphazard, and many more. (The Nooksack River is part of the race course.)

These days, I do my best to skirt around the mayhem and stay close to home. This past week I spent many hours mourning the loss of my right eye's central vision, and will be seeing a retina specialist before I write here next week. I have researched the two different treatments that are now available for geographic atrophy, which is the end stage of macular degeneration. I am so hoping that the injections will be available to me to save my other eye, and that my insurance will cover at least part of the expense. Both require monthly eye injections but work in different ways. Neither treatment can restore what has been lost, but the hope is that the shots will slow the progression. This treatment has been around for less than a year, but there is no time to waste if I am not going to become completely, legally blind. Left eye, I am crossing my fingers for a good outcome for you!

And thinking of my family and friends who are no longer with us, on this weekend when we remember those who served and paid the ultimate price, I salute you. And I am very happy to still be around to celebrate the holiday this year. I found this quote from Obama that says it all for me:

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense. —Barack Obama

 There are so many things to be grateful for today, and I should focus on those things rather than what I am losing. There are many worse situations that people find themselves in, and I am not the first person to go blind, my probable future. I can hike and walk in the beautiful environment in which I live, and I have a warm place to shelter in and a wonderful partner to share my life with. A place with a great bus system, and ways to get almost anywhere I need to go without driving. A really outstanding Senior Center with plenty of activities, people to interact with, and a plethora of hiking buddies to join me at every level. When I look at all my blessings, I definitely feel appreciative.

I also acknowledge that nothing stays the same, we all are a week older than when we met here last week, and that everything moves on through the river of time in which we exist. I am grateful for it all, and I wish there was some way to expand my own good life to encompass the entire world. And even if this environment were to change for the worse, I have been incredibly lucky so far. My heart is full, and I am almost ready to spring from my bed and begin the rest of my day, looking forward to a visit with my friend John during our Sunday breakfast, and coming home and visiting with my life partner. What's not to like? I wish you, my dear virtual family, every good thing that life has to offer. Be well until we meet again.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Losing faculties one by one

Brilliant pink flowers at the harbor

I needed a good mood elevator yesterday morning, when I went for a nice walk at the harbor with my friend Steve. He left early so he could get to a breakfast meeting, and Don was obviously busy elsewhere, so I was alone for much of the time. It was really quite cool, with the temperature not reaching 50°F and a cold wind blowing off the water made it seem even colder.

That said, I ended up walking more than five miles, and it really did make me feel better. As I mentioned before, my AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is continuing to progress. I went on Friday to have my eyes dilated and checked, and it was the first time since I have been going annually that, with my right eye, I couldn't even see the image on the screen at all. I am definitely legally blind in that one, but my left eye is still 20/20. The atrophy has not yet reached my central vision there. My eye doctor said I am still capable of driving and continuing my activities, as long as I have one good eye. For now, that is what I have. It does explain why my depth perception doesn't work any longer: I essentially only have one good eye. Peripheral vision is not affected in either eye by this disease, but it's distressing to learn about the progression.

I knew it was happening; it's been gradually getting worse over the years, and with dry AMD, there has been no treatment. Until now, it seems: he told me he would refer me to a retina specialist, one I saw for years until they decided it wasn't useful, as they couldn't help me. Just recently a treatment has become available for dry AMD, to slow the progression of the atrophy. I will call them next week to see if they can set up an appointment. I also need to find out if my insurance will cover some part of it as well. With new stuff like this, it's possible it's not yet available. I'll find out. 

If I lose the ability to focus in my left eye, I will no longer be able to read anything at all, recognize faces, drive (obviously), or continue writing my blogs. That is a possible and probable future, but it's not inevitable. I spent some time walking around looking at things with just the one bad eye, and I realized that I could not be reading this at all, or typing without being able to check my spelling. I looked online for some possible magnifiers that can help me to some extent. Anyway, I managed to let myself get pretty discouraged yesterday, but yesterday morning's walk certainly helped my mood.

Let's see: hearing aids for my dwindling ability to hear, going blind, and the damaged ability to smell that came about because of a medication I took for years. I do have some things I can smell very well, mostly chemical aromas (unfortunately), but I  always stop to smell the flowers anyway, because I can still smell some of them, especially if they are in the sun. Roses, my favorite flower, are still able to delight my nose.

That leaves two senses still intact: my sensory and tactile ability, and my ability to taste. But one by one, I'm losing those wonderful senses, and it's really a little bit unsettling. Is this Nature's way of gently helping me to let go? Sometimes I do wonder.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. —Brian Tracy

Yes, I am in the process of trying to master the enormous change that I seem to be facing at the moment. And I know that I'm not the only one who has to figure out how to continue one's daily life when something happens that changes everything. There is a young woman I see who rides the bus daily. She is obviously completely blind and has a lovely support dog who helps her get around. I'm probably not going to live long enough to get to that state, but you never know what's ahead. A dog would not allow me to continue to read and write, though; and that is what I will miss the most, if it comes to that. 

I learned awhile ago that Judi Dench, the 88-year-old actor, continues to work, even with advanced AMD that no longer allows her to read scripts. She just finds a way to work around it, but she has a photographic memory, which helps. You know what they say about "where there's a will, there's a way." And yes, I can also control my attitude and learn to appreciate what's still possible. Once again, I researched all the ways one can slow the progression of AMD, and I have been doing them all for years now. Who knows what my eyesight would be if I hadn't done them? There's only one of me, so I can't do a study to learn the answer to that question.

As I sit here in the dark, with the illumination of the room that comes from my laptop screen, I can see well enough to be quite happy and content. But I also realize that nothing stays the same, and hopefully I can find a way to stop it. Having injections in my eyes (yes, that's how the new drug is administered) might be in my future, and if it helps I will endure it. If I get the chance, that is. Yesterday I had no idea that a treatment has come out, and I look forward to seeing if I qualify. You'll be one of the first to know. I can still read and write and will do everything I can to keep it that way.

What else is happening in my life? The days are growing longer and longer, and I now need the eye mask I bought last year in order to sleep before it gets dark. I have grown more tolerant of the sounds of summer that waft through the open windows, with the distant sound of playing children actually rather soothing. There's one kid who loves to scream, and that's a bit of a problem, but it doesn't happen every night. These kids, though, love to play until we can't see anything at all. I remember doing that as a kid, not wanting to stop and being reluctant to go inside.

This morning I will head to Fairhaven with John to have our Sunday breakfast together. I will continue to work the Wordle puzzle and Connections, two ways I have grown to enjoy the New York Times subscription I pay for every month. I also read several articles every day, and I really appreciate their Sunday offerings. There is always at least one good read. So that is what I will do once I return home after breakfast. I feel incredibly fortunate to have these activities available to me in the near future, and I'll do what I can to make that a reality for as long as possible.

My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and my tea is long gone. I will spend some time before I get out of bed to read the dozen blogs that have appeared in my news feed, and then I will begin the rest of my day. I do hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, and I look forward to finding out what's happening in your lives. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

A turbulent week

A pink trillium, almost gone

In the middle of this picture is a pink (dying) trillium, captured last Thursday on our hike to Lookout Mountain. They are pretty and white, these three-petaled flowers, until they are on their last legs, and they turn pink, then purple, and after that drop those petals onto the ground, waiting for next year's springtime to rejuvenate the next batch of three-petaled flowers. It takes a minimum of seven years for a trillium plant to finally flower at all, once they begin their journey to reproduce themselves, and each plant has only one flower each year.

It was truly a lovely week hiking in the wilderness this past week. On Tuesday, we went on a five-ish mile hike in the Hundred Acre Woods and over to the Chuckanut Falls overlook, in mild temperatures and in great company. Then, on Thursday, I joined the Senior Trailblazers Happy Wanderers group to hike around at least eight miles on Lookout Mountain. Both hikes did two things for my health: one, some elevation and exercise, and two, wonderful companions to visit with, enjoy and (in some cases) commiserate with. Both nighttime sleeps afterwards allowed me plenty of deep sleep to repair my aging body for yet more exercise in the late springtime environs around town.

I am happy and content in my life, although the world news brings me down if I let myself get too wrapped up in it. I try to keep myself engaged in positive pursuits so I don't lose perspective of all the wonderful moments I can enjoy every day.

And you know what today is? Mother's Day! Although my mother has been gone for more than thirty years, she is still very much present in my daily life. I think of her often and sometimes feel like I can even hear her voice, her laugh. And sometimes I realize it's just me laughing in the same way she did.
I want to say a little something that's long overdue, the disrespect to women has got to be through. To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends, I wanna offer my love and respect till the end. —Adam Yauch

My mother was a force to be reckoned with. She bore seven children and took care of us all, over the years, and must have read almost every book in every library we lived near. She literally would bring boxes of books home after each visit, and she would then sit down and go through each one, sometimes reading just a little of it (if it wasn't all that interesting) and other times read every single word and absorb every picture. I learned to appreciate how important reading is to one's education.

These days, my reading is mostly on my Kindle, because as my eyes age with macular degeneration, I can only spend a short time reading before words blur and I must stop for awhile. I can read on laptop and computer screens for longer, because the bright light behind the letters seems to help. Even then, I must stop for longer and longer periods of time to let my eyes recover. This is not a complaint, just an observation. I am an octogenarian, after all. The fact that I am still very active and my brain seems to be intact are causes for celebration.

Last week, I discovered a glitch on my other blog. Apparently I have a "corrupt post" that has caused my right sidebar to navigate to the bottom of my posts. I read everything about how to fix it, but so far I am unsuccessful. If you are reading my DJan-ity blog and want to "fix" it for the moment, you can click on the blog's title and the sidebar will magically appear where it's supposed to be. I will get this fixed, but it's not high on my to-do list. If anybody has any ideas, I'm listening. In the meantime, it's just another one of those little nuisances that tend to crop up when you're least expecting it.

And then there is that magnetic storm from the Sun that has caused incredible auroras to be visible much farther south on the continent than usual. I went to my favorite Facebook page, Seeing Bellingham, and marveled over the pictures that many regular readers captured of the last two nights of magnificent auroras. I didn't even try to stay up myself, because I was busy catching up on my sleep! And I figured that others would be up snapping pictures to share; I was right.

My mama and me

And on this wonderful, sunny, beautiful Mother's Day 2024. I can say that I am so happy to be alive right now, relatively healthy and active, and know that without a doubt the world will one day settle down into peace and tranquility. Until that day comes, I will do my best to facilitate it, from my own little corner of the world. And that world radiates out to so many places through this post, into your own little corner of the world, and we can surely feel the love we share. Dear friends, I wish you every good thing and hope to "see" you here again next week. Until then, be well.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Feeling gratitude

Crossing a small stream

 Helen took this picture of me as we were crossing a stream on our Blanchard Mountain hike last Thursday. It was a pretty hard hike for me, for some reason. Sometimes they seem fairly easy, and I've done this one dozens of times. During those pandemic years when I was only hiking with Melanie, we skipped the North Butte section, which is steep and adds a bit more elevation gain but rewards with a great view of Samish Bay. I wrote about it with pictures here, on my other blog. 

I was surprised to see this picture of myself, since it is nothing like what I think I look like. This could just as easily been a picture of a man, but it's really an elderly woman who no longer wears the trappings of femininity to accent her femaleness. What difference does it make anyway? Today, my guy and I will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. When we got married in freefall thirty years ago today, neither of us believed we would make it this far. Both of us were in our fifties, it just didn't seem likely that three decades later we would still be together, and doing really well in the life we have created.

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. —Simone Signoret

We met through skydiving. I was at the beginning of my journey, with only a few hundred jumps under my belt, and he had retired (he thought) after thousands of them. He was writing about his experiences on a newsgroup about skydiving, which I had recently discovered. When I read some of his writing, I knew I wanted to meet this person, thinking he might be able to help me understand this new thrilling activity that consumed me so completely. We began an email correspondence, which continued to evolve, until one day we began calling each other on the phone. We happened to be the same age, and during the time when we learned so much about each other, we still had not met.

One day he made the decision to fly from his home in San Francisco to mine in Boulder, Colorado. We were so sure we would know the person that we passed each other as people exited the plane, not realizing we had such different ideas of who we were. But we finally connected and spent three days together, getting to know one another. It was not the romantic encounter I expected, but we did learn that we both wanted to continue our exploration of the long-distance relationship. These days, lots of people met their partners online, but we were ahead of our time. 

Eventually, he made the decision to quit his job and move to Colorado. Our early days were very rocky; he moved into the home of a friend of mine as we learned more about each other. He began to skydive again, and he joined me in freefall and taught me everything he knew, much of which I think made me a much safer skydiver. When I think back to those early days, I could not have imagined that thirty years later, we would be so completely content, and to have managed to craft such a wonderful relationship out of our bond.

On our ten-year anniversary, we jumped out of an airplane together to celebrate. And between our first ten-year anniversary and our second, we moved away from Colorado and found our new lives in retirement in the Pacific Northwest. I was still skydiving, occasionally, but he had stopped once again. By the time skydiving was all behind us, I had made over four thousand skydives, and he had around the same number, most of which were before we met.

When we moved here in 2008, I took up hiking once again, as I had been very involved in the outdoors before skydiving took me on such a tangent, and for the past sixteen years, I have continued to enjoy the beautiful countryside and made many friends through the local Senior Center. It has never been a passion of his, but on our second ten-year anniversary, we hiked to Fragrance Lake, one of my favorite places. We gazed out over Bellingham Bay from the viewpoint, and then headed back home. Today I have ordered a couple of pizzas from one of my favorite restaurants, and we will enjoy a repast together in our own kitchen.

Thirty years ago today

And we will continued to enjoy our life together for as many more years as we can. But the possibility of another ten-year anniversary is quite dubious, since we are now both well into our eighties. And my eyesight continues to deteriorate, which means that one of these days I will become legally blind. He continues to maintain his health after having had a stroke and developed a blood cancer, which is currently stable. But it's not likely that we will still be in such good shape as we are today. But who knows? More unlikely things have happened. In the meantime, I will cherish each day, each year that passes that I share with my dear partner. Life is such an adventure, isn't it?

And now I have completed this Sunday task of writing a post and sharing it with you, my dear virtual family. He still sleeps quietly next to me, and I sit here composing this post in the dark, thinking of the day ahead. My friend John will soon come to take me off to breakfast, and when I return home for the first of several heartfelt hugs with my honey, I'll be once again feeling gratitude for all my incredible good fortune. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Rain for days

Carpet of pink

We were on track to have the driest April on record, or close to it, when it began to rain on Thursday, which caused me to skip my usual hike. We now have had plenty of rain, for days on end, with more to come. I guess somewhere around an inch has fallen here, bringing some of the flower petals down from these lovely pink blossoming trees. It makes for a pretty scene.

Yesterday, I went to the coffee shop and found my two hiking friends unwilling to venture out into the heavy rain. So, I decided too that maybe it was a better idea to stay inside myself, rather than walking in it. I went grocery shopping and then headed home. By around 2:00 in the afternoon, the rain had dwindled to just a few sprinkles, so I went out for a nice three-mile walk. Since I was alone, I listened to a podcast, one of my favorites, Hidden Brain, the latest episode of which was about how children need to have some time to play without parental supervision. The host brought up some interesting research that shows how important it is for kids to be allowed to play in their own ways, not necessarily following the rules set up by others.

He reminded us of the book written by William Golding in 1954, Lord of the Flies, a classic novel about a group of British schoolboys stranded on an uninhabited island and their descent into savagery. It explores themes of power, human nature, and the dangers of mob mentality. Then, in 1965, a real situation occurred with six young Tonga boys stranded on a desert island for 15 months. Their full story is told here.
In June 1965, six Tongan teenage boys set out on an adventure that turned into a real-life version of “Lord of the Flies.” The boys, stranded on the uninhabited island of ‘Ata for more than a year, survived by relying on primitive instincts, teamwork, and an innate desire to live.

 It seems that the desire for cooperation and to survive is more likely to happen when all involved are willing to work together and find a way than the more pessimistic view that young people without supervision are likely to turn into savages. In any event, the podcast host suggests that children need to find ways to play that allows for creative thinking. 

It made me think back to my own childhood, spent playing unsupervised with my sister Norma Jean, who is more than two years younger than me. We were often told to "go outside and play" when doesn't happen much these days. Apparently children are supposed to be supervised by an adult at all times in most settings, not allowed to have unsupervised playtime. I think this is caused partly by the fact that there are so many more people now than when I was young a half-century ago. And there is now a fear of "stranger danger" that might have existed when I was young, but nothing like today's situation, with sick predators seeming to concentrate on kidnapping young children.

Life is definitely more complicated for kids today than it was when I was young, but I think it's important for parents to find ways to allow their children to find out what they are best at, what makes them happy. One researcher said he believes that many of today's unhappy children need to learn to play, and that the opposite of happy play is depression. That explains to me something I've wondered about: why are so many kids today filled with anxiety? Perhaps the remedy is finding ways to let them express themselves with one another without an adult telling them how to do it.

My memories are full of happy times that the two of us, me and my sister, would explore the neighborhood, finding what lay ahead in the next street. We had each other, and that was enough. Back then it was acceptable to tell your kids to "go outside and play."

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.  —Graham Greene

I am not fortunate to have any young children around me these days. Those grandparents who are able to be around theirs are very lucky indeed. I am not in situations where kids hang out, but I suppose if I wanted to, I could volunteer at an elementary school. But I don't think that's what I'd most like to do with the remaining days and years I might have ahead of me. Instead, I am happy to hang out with my fellow hikers, most of whom are a bit younger than me, even though they are seniors. I am quickly growing into the "really old" category, not just someone in her sixties, or even seventies, but dipping into the category of someone in her eighties. It's a different place, let me tell you. If you're lucky, one day you'll find out yourself. The chasm between a toddler and someone like me is vast. Maybe that's why grandparents were invented, eh?

It's still raining. As I sit here in the dark, I can hear the rain drumming on the roof, but I know that John will be here in a short while to take me to our breakfast place. When I come home, my dear partner will be up and about, and we'll probably spend some time talking about what we intend to do with the day ahead. I give thanks for his presence in my life every day. Just like my sister was my childhood companion, he is my current confidant and friend. 

I am quickly running out of time to be sitting here writing. It's time to start getting out of bed, finishing up this post, and getting on with my day. And I always give thanks for the presence in my life of you, my virtual family. It is much less lonely to have your virtual hand to hold when I'm in need. I do hope the coming week will be a good one for you, and that you will be surrounded with love and light. Until we meet again, be well.

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.