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, 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.

Sunday, January 21, 2024


Our driveway four days later

On Wednesday of last week, we got a bit of snow. In fact, more snow for the date than we had ever before received here in Bellingham and surrounding towns. We don't do well driving in snow, since we rarely have any. But this was more than scary: after all that exceptionally cold weather, the ground was frozen, and eight or more inches of snow fell all during the day and into the night. By midday, the bus authority stopped all buses, with several stuck in snowdrifts. It's been more than thirty years since we lost bus service throughout town, but they really had no choice. Anybody who had come to town that morning could get a ride home through the WTA website, and apparently hundreds did just that. I had taken the bus to the coffee shop that morning, but I headed home before the buses stopped running. The next morning, Thursday, bus schedules were back to normal, with buses using chains.

And on Friday, I didn't go to the coffee shop because, although it had warmed up above freezing, we had an event that anybody who drives knows to avoid: freezing rain. Friday morning my front porch steps had a half-inch of ice and driving anywhere was beyond my ability. Fortunately, it warmed up considerably by noon, and I was able to careen down the driveway to plowed and navigable streets. Unfortunately, I had to come back, and I couldn't use any downward momentum to help me, so I got stuck in the slush and ice and snow. At least I was almost home. 

After much soul searching and getting help from SG (and our neighbors), we were able to get my car into a relatively safe place, and I once again gave up on trying to get any exercise at all for a few days. At least I have a safe and warm place to hang out until I can drive on actual pavement once again. On Friday, the Senior Center opened up again after being closed for two days, two hours late, but still. I didn't try to get there. 

Yesterday, Saturday, John came and picked me up in his big truck that has 4WD, to take me to the coffee shop. Obviously there would be no walk, however, since where would I go that was safe? That coffee sure tasted good, though. I miss my routine, but I will cope with this however I can. I'll survive, for awhile at least.

[Sorry for font size, I can't seem to fix it.]

I am not yet willing to give up on my exercise, just because of a little white slippery stuff on all the available surfaces. However, for the time being, I am staying away from any attempt at driving in that slush. I think just walking to the bus tomorrow morning will be exercise enough. I just need to be patient.

Life is not so easy sometimes, and especially when I allow myself to get pulled into all the drama and problems of the world. You'd think I have enough to worry about in my own life that I wouldn't want to take on the weight of the world, but I continue to forget that and fall into worry and sadness about where we are right now. I know I am not alone in this. But it really, truly doesn't help anything to get better to worry about it. So the right thing to do is to raise my eyes from the horizon and take a nice full body stretch, and start over.

I have plenty of ways to feel gratitude, and I need to put those front and center to keep myself from falling into the darkness. Remembering how many people around me are available to help, if I just ask, is an essential element in moving toward the light. It is really amazing how different things look when I change my mind about how to see the world around me. I have no reason to be unhappy: I have a roof over my head, warmth inside it, a dear partner who loves me and I love him, and enough monthly income to pay the bills, even if I will never be rich. Who needs that? With my trusty laptop connected to the wide world, I have infinite opportunities to explore.

And I know without doubt that whatever I might be experiencing right now, it will pass. Everything does, and change is inevitable. When I think of all the various stages of life I have already passed through, why in the world would I think that this snowy and slippery landscape is all there is? It embarrasses me a little to think of how easy it is to forget all my wonderful and precious fellow beings who travel this path with me. Mary Oliver says it perfectly with this quote:
To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go. —Mary Oliver
This is true no matter what life throws at us, or what life takes away from us. We just need to remember that we are not alone, we are surrounded by others who love us, who wish only the best for us, and for whom we wish only the best of life's bounty. 

Taking it one day at a time

I find myself once again apologizing to my readers for a post that is not uplifting but filled with angst. Unfortunately, it's all that I seem to be feeling these days, as I make my way back to wholeness. It seems that the theme of my life these days is learning how to let it go, let it go. 

And with that, I will wrap up this post and think about how to have a more uplifting and better post next Sunday. My love for you is undiminished, and I will give it another try next week. Until then, I wish only the best for you and hope that all good things come your way.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

The coldest part is behind us

On Western Washington campus yesterday

I know it doesn't look all that cold in the picture, since the sun was shining and the wind was minimal. But while on a walk with Steve, I saw that lovely rose and went over to check it out, only to find that it was frozen solid! It felt like a brick instead of a rose. We got down to 5°F (-15°C) on Thursday night, and the wind blew very hard all night. We didn't lose power again, thankfully. (We lost it for four hours early on Tuesday morning, but the cold air had not yet reached us.)

By Friday, I was not willing to walk to the bus just to get some coffee in 5°F weather, and you know how unusual that is for me. Then John called me to see if I was going out, and I told him that I would go only if he would come by and pick me up. Which is just what he did, and we enjoyed coffee and a treat at the coffee shop, before he brought me back home, where I spent the entire day indoors, no desire to walk in that weather. The wind was less, but still there were occasional strong gusts.

However, yesterday (Saturday), we made it through the night without losing power, and the wind had pretty much stopped. But it was still very cold, not enough to stop me two days in a row, however. I dressed as warmly as I could and went out to my car, hoping it would start. My first problem is that I couldn't get the key to unlock the driver's side door. Finally I was able to get inside the car by entering through the passenger side door, crawling over to the other side (not all that easy with a manual transmission to navigate) and opening the driver's side door that way. Whew! I turned the key and the car started right up. I allowed it to sit for awhile and warm up a little before heading to the coffee shop. The roads were dry and the sun was just coming up when I arrived without incident. Steve was already there, so I pulled out my iPad and got the Wordle (in three!) and drank my own welcome coffee. 

I was in no hurry to venture out in such cold temperatures, but we agreed that we'd walk to Western University campus and back, which turned out to be around six miles. By the time we got to the waterfront, it had warmed all the way up to 11°F, and we saw three young people on a dock, getting ready to take a jump into the water! We stayed long enough to watch one young lady strip to her bra and leggings and ease herself into the water. She kept her winter cap on, and swam around for a bit. She was still in the water when we left.

Grace on ice

For those of you who don't know the story about Grace, she just showed up one day on that pile of metal shavings in Bellingham Bay many years ago. She then mysteriously disappeared from the rock, and the artist must have gone through the proper channels and then she appeared again. I've seen birds nesting on the rock and yesterday she was standing on icicles of salt water. I was able to capture this with the sun shining right on the statue. 

It's still cold, but this morning the temperature is in the low teens, not single digits, so we seem to be through the coldest and most difficult part of our cold snap. The rest of the country is not so lucky, though. In the Midwest today it will be horribly cold and windy. What do you do when you have no heat and you cannot go anywhere to escape it? I am so glad we are warm and safe here, but I worry about the others who are not so fortunate. If that might be you, or someone you love, please try to find a safe place and hang in there. It will get better, but it might be some time before that happens. It would be a good idea to stay out of the water, unless you are a young adventurer.

In this period of cold and ice, we need to take some advice from the birds: stick together and huddle somewhere out of the wind. Life is full of challenges, but we usually don't have to deal with such life-threatening situations. Until this passes, we must stick together and help one another get through it. 
It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.—Epictetus

And here I sit, in the dark January morning, with my dear partner sleeping next to me, the light of my laptop screen lighting the shadows, and enjoying feeling warm and cozy as I write. I don't have much to say this morning, it seems, as I cast about for some words of wisdom before starting my day. Every Sunday morning at this time I am usually wrapping up my post, but today I haven't been able to mine any great thoughts from my recalcitrant brain. Well, there's always next week, right? I don't have anything to prove, but I do want to give you, my dear reader, something to take away from this moment. Therefore, I will let Confucius say it:

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.—Confucius

So, dear friends, until we meet again next week, I hope you are able to stay warm and safe, and huddle together with your loved ones. I wish you all good things and lots of virtual (or actual) hugs and kisses. Be well.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

First Sunday of the new year

"Safe Return" statue at Zuanich Point Park

 My first Saturday walk of the new year was to the harbor, and I ended up going by myself. My two regular guys were otherwise occupied, and John didn't even show up for coffee. Don showed up with his wife Jane, and when he learned that Steve wasn't coming, he offered to change his plans in order to join me for the walk. I declined and really delighted in my solo walk. I was forced to find my own way to 5+ miles on a fine January day. It wasn't hard, and I did enjoy myself as the skies cleared and it warmed all the way up to 40°F. 

I have always admired that statue, and I learned it was first installed on Memorial Day 1999 at Zuanich Point Park to commemorate local fishermen who had died or been lost at sea.

The 16-foot statue is topped by a bronze fisherman casting a line, and the names are carved below on the 19-ton block of red granite. In total, it weighs 38,000 pounds and includes relief panels depicting various fishing industry scenes. (Cascadia Daily News)

 As I walked, I saw lots of people out with their dogs, or couples on brisk walks together, as well as the occasional solo walker like myself. It was a lovely day to be out in the fresh, rather brisk, air. We've got some cold weather coming soon, within a day or two, but you would never have known, if you didn't look at the weather forecasts. Tonight we might have some snow flurries, the first of the season. Or not.

Okay, now onto the main subject I intend to write about today. You have heard it before, and you'll probably hear it again before these posts end: growing older and wondering how and when I will finally come to my own personal end. Everything changes, everything grows older and eventually... stops. Even our solar system and our sun will grow old and die. Contrast that with our teeny-tiny little instances of existence and one realizes that it's important to cherish every moment. Here, in the current moment, I am alive and taking stock of what I learn as I read new books and watch educational programs and even as I watch the news of the day.

For the moment, I have a functioning brain and nervous system, I am able to enjoy however much food I desire, and every night I get between six and nine hours of restful sleep. I exercise (some might say to excess) and have a rich and varied social life, with good friends and a partner with whom I share my days. What's not to like?

And yet. As I move through the days, one is not very different from the one before, or the one to come tomorrow. But time appears to be still flowing on by, and we change from day to day in imperceptible ways. It's always a good idea to step back now and then and look around. I found this collage I put together more than a decade ago, and I was amazed at how much I have changed over the years.

Long ago and far away

Now I am an octogenarian, a state that none of those previous iterations of myself would have recognized. I could probably update that collage with some more recent photos, but I no longer have the software that helped me put it together. Plus I am really not all that interested in looking too closely at the current version of me.

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. —Rabindranath Tagore

If I were to die today, nobody would think it was a premature death. I've lived longer than both of my parents, and I never really expected to be so old one day, but here I am. And happy to still be active and able to do stuff that gives me pleasure, like a daily walk and a weekly hike, hanging out with my fellow octogenarian, and being an active participant at our local Senior Center. There was a time, long ago now, that I wouldn't have been happy to be surrounded by old people. Now I am one of them, and very glad to still be active and engaged in life.

That final act of our lives, that one where we are finally getting ready to move on to the next phase of existence, if there is one, is getting closer every day. I am curious as to how it might come about: illness (either sudden or chronic), accident (either sudden like a car wreck, or maybe something that makes me incapacitated but still around for awhile), or maybe even dementia, old age, or by my own hand. I can't think of any others, although it might be because I don't spend all that much time thinking about it. I do notice that other people around my age are dying and nobody remarks much about it, like it's a normal occurrence. That is probably one reason I'm thinking about it more often these days. Whatever. It's part of the human experience, nothing to be alarmed about. People have been being born, growing old, and dying ever since we got here. We didn't ask to be here, but here we are anyway.

There are different kinds of people, and I've noticed that optimism comes naturally to me, while others never seem to be happy and always find fault with life and other people. You know who I mean: pessimists. It takes all kinds, but I am sure glad to be someone who sees goodness all around me. Sometimes it takes a real effort to keep being optimistic if I allow myself to be sucked into darkness. But it's a choice I get to make, and I choose the light, and compassion, and happiness wherever I can find it.

Remember when we first entered into the new millennium, back in 2000? I worried about what would happen when Y2K finally came about, and whether I'd even make it through the next decade. Well, here we are now and a quarter-century has passed! (Almost, anyway. One more year.) During that time, I retired from my job of three decades, we moved to the Pacific Northwest, and I started the next phase of my life. I don't think I could have chosen a more perfect place to live, where we have moderate temperatures most of the time (not too hot, not too cold) and plenty of places to explore, with good friends I've made through the Senior Center. Oh, I almost forgot that we have plenty of rain, meaning I've learned all about rain gear and ways to stay mostly dry while out and about. Every day is an adventure, and I intend to keep on like this for as long as I can. Why not? Why not enjoy myself? Why not look for the silver lining behind that dark cloud?

I never even fathomed how life would change, how the internet would bring me a brand-new family of like-minded people whose lives I follow with interest. That would be YOU, dear friends. I follow several dozen different blogs, most of whom don't post all that often (thank goodness), but others who post daily and whose family members are also dear to me. Some of you have chronic illnesses, and I spend some time every morning after my meditation thinking about you and surrounding you with healing light and love. Some of it spills out and over me, too. 

Well, that about does it this morning. I will soon get up and do my daily exercises and meditation, and then John will pick me up and we'll head to Fairhaven for our Sunday breakfast. When I come home, I'll spend some time with SG, and then I'll read your blogs and find out what's going on in your lives, too. I might stream a movie to watch later today, but maybe not. I'm in the middle of a good book on my Kindle as well. So, life is good, and I wish that whatever you choose to do with your one precious life, it will bring you joy and happiness. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.