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, February 25, 2024

Present day moments

Our water taxi at rest in the harbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Marty said...

Good morning! Your words, as usual, trigger reflections for me. Watching my husband's struggle with the simplest things like going to the mailbox, has taught me the dangers of a sedentary life. As a result, our options - going to a ball game, taking any kind of a walk - are very limited. And yes, like you, I want to keep moving, learning, producing. You're now the third person in as many days who has caused me to move forward and begin writing my fifth book.

John's Island said...


Reading your reflective stroll through Squalicum Harbor felt like a gentle breeze carrying wisdom and contemplation. Your ability to find joy in the simplest of moments, despite the cloudiness above and the occasional spit of rain, is truly inspiring. It's a testament to the richness of life that can be found when we choose to embrace each day with gratitude.

Your musings on aging gracefully and the inevitability of the final journey are poignant reminders of the fragility and beauty of existence. It's rare to encounter such candid reflections on mortality, yet your words carry a sense of peace and acceptance that is both comforting and thought-provoking.

I admire your determination to continue learning and discovering, even as the physical limitations of age may pose challenges. Your exploration of Buddhist literature and the resilience of figures like Helen Keller speaks volumes about the power of the human spirit to transcend adversity.

The tradition of Sunday breakfast with friends, celebrating birthdays and cherishing each other's company, encapsulates the essence of community and connection. It's heartwarming to hear about the rituals that bring joy and meaning to your life, even as time seems to slip away unnoticed.

Thank you for sharing your reflections and insights with such openness and sincerity. Your words serve as a gentle reminder to cherish the present moment and to approach each day with kindness and honesty. May your week ahead be filled with moments of joy, discovery, and connection.


gigi-hawaii said...

Enjoy the birthday breakfast with your friends. Sounds good. I like your water taxi adventures to the islands. What fun!

Anvilcloud said...

Your extra hour must have meant that your partner wasn't sleeping beside you. I mean, you would mention if he were. Right?

Marie Smith said...

I’ve written a post as you describe about the realization of the gift of life and time while acknowledging the limitations that come with age. We must embrace every day! Life is a precious gift!

Rita said...

I LOVE that quote by Lao Tzu!
I have no doubt you will have had a wonderful time celebrating John's birthday. :)

Chris said...

I use a walking aid now but it means I can walk further and I don't fear tripping over, my greatest fear. I do think of what's ahead of me especially as 4 of my friends have died, but what will be will be, so no point worrying about it. You're doing so well with your walking.

Linda Reeder said...

Your talking about walking makes me want to go out for a walk right now, with my "walking aid" of course, but it's windy and rainy and I have much to catch up with inside so I'll settle for a turn on the stationary bike later.
One thing I'm doing is organizing my daughter's 51st birthday celebration. That makes me think back to the summer I planned a party for my 50th birthday and Jill's graduation from college at age 21. That was 30 years ago! This summer I'll be 80!
Yes, age is taking it's toll. My knee surgery won't happen until at least August. Meanwhile I will muddle through, doing my best to keep a positive attitude. Yes. I think about death too, and realize that some day I will most likely welcome it. But not yet!

Red said...

What you're talking about here is a balancing act. How much should we dwell on our end. How much time should we spend living the good life. Sooner or later we have to accept our end but keep living a good life. You live good life.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Don't waste time thinking about what might be, stay present in the moment! Everything will be okay. I have said that just a few times over the past couple of weeks:)

Tabor said...

Being active IS the key. I am running 3 miles on the elliptical about 3 or 4 times weekly as well as weights. I push myself with caution as I know I can injure even with exercise. I do think I am in better shape strength-wise than many my age. I also think running helps push blood to the brain for better function. I like your curiosity and desire to learn!

Glenda Beall said...

You are so fortunate to be able to walk as you do. I recently fell and broke my shoulder. Keep on moving.