Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brave women

I found this image on Eons (this link will take you to the page). I was just visiting the blog of a new follower, and I am now a follower of hers. She put in her statement about herself a lovely little aside about "having had a little blip on the health horizon" in the form of breast cancer. Well, we have quite a bit in common, but not in the way you might think. I wanted to find a picture of some women who have found a way to celebrate what so many of us fear deeply. If I knew who these women are, I would surely contact them and tell them so!

I've shared a lot of pretty personal thoughts here on this blog, but this is probably the most personal. A bit of background: when my mother was in her mid-forties, she got breast cancer. A really bad form of it, too: inflammatory breast cancer. It doesn't form a lump, but instead you turn sort of red somewhere on your breast. She thought she had burned herself. It wasn't until she developed a lump under her arm that she went to the doctor. Well, long story short, she recovered, after a fashion. Very radical mastectomy, cobalt treatment (more than three times the maximum dose, she discovered later), and consequently developed serious scarring in her heart. This courageous woman, my mother, survived the treatment but died at 69 of heart disease.

In her mid-forties, my sister, two years younger than me, developed breast cancer. It was the usual kind (I forget the name), the kind almost all women get. Since she also was pre-menopausal, she took tamoxifen with radiation and surgery.

Hmmm. Two first-order relatives with breast cancer in their forties. At one of my annual checkups, after giving my doctor the family history, she said, "how do you feel about having those two time bombs on your chest?" I was floored. She asked me to see a breast cancer specialist in Denver (I was living in Boulder), who informed me that I had such scary breast cancer history in my family, he wanted me to either get a double mastectomy or start on tamoxifen in his ongoing study.

I ran out of his office with my husband, who had accompanied me through the ordeal. We discussed all this at length. I was at the time only 52 years old and just could not face the mutilation of still-healthy breast tissue.

But that was then. In 2005, after two suspicious mammograms and complete fear of the disease, I decided to go ahead and do it. On April 19, 2005, I went from a double-D to zip. And I have never been sorry, not once. There were complications I didn't expect, and I don't look all smooth like these women do, but still I am glad I did it.

My husband loves me as much as he ever did, I don't need to wear two bras over each other when I work out to control the bounce, and with strap-on B cups nobody thinks twice about my shape. When I first moved to Bellingham and began to take showers at the gym, I was initially shy. But after a few weeks I realized, looking at the incredible variety of sizes and shapes of us beautiful women, it just didn't matter.

What matters is that not once since April 2005 have I worried about getting breast cancer. Until then, I didn't realize how much time I spent in fear of the future. I am glad to be healthy and without them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Farmers' Market

In response to SquirrelQueen's June Farmers' Market Challenge, I am putting up some pictures I've taken at the Bellingham Market this year. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera when I went there last week, where I bought strawberries for the third time, flowers, and kale. And this last Saturday I bought soap, lavender sachets, and a sniffy pouch to clear your sinuses, which I presented to the hubby, who sniffs it regularly. (See the maker of the pouch at her website at Good Natured Earthling. Go to the store, then aromatherapy for more information.)
This was a particularly sweet arrangement of early spring flowers, which I loved, and I just had to buy some. Notice a band playing in the background. This was taken on Opening Day of the 2009 Farmers' Market, which I attended specifically to see this:
On Opening Day, the Bellingham Mayor threw out the First Cabbage, which was caught by the young lady in the right-hand corner of the picture. This auspicious beginning to the 2009 Market, which is held every Saturday in downtown Bellingham, and every Wednesday at the Village Square in Fairhaven, has just about everything anybody could wish for: homemade cheeses, milk, the tastiest eggs I've ever had, jewelry, food vendors, and, of course, in-season veggies. I was shocked when I saw my first kale at least two weeks earlier than I expected. The vendor had grown it in her greenhouse and worried about it every day. And I can truly say I loved it.
The Market is very well attended by many in Bellingham, as you can see. It's really fun to walk through the aisles to greet friends and after a good long while, lug all my purchases home. Bellingham has many things to recommend it, but the Market is one of my favorites.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a new camera. Although I went online and checked out the Panasonic with the 18X zoom that the Retired One uses, I simply could not afford to spend that much. So after some agonizing, I bought a Canon PowerShot SX 110 IS (with a 10X optical zoom). It is perfectly adequate for me. The picture above was taken from my front window (through the window) of a hummingbird backlit by the morning sun, using the zoom. (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge. Hey! I just noticed that you can see his tongue in the larger shot!) Those flowers are in a box secured to my front porch railing, purchased expressly to capture the interest of hummers. Directly above the flowers is a hummingbird feeder, but they do seem to love the flowers.
My upside-down feeder here has two goldfinches on it, the Washington state bird. On the top is the brilliantly colored male, with a black patch on his head, and below the more sedately colored female, with no black on her head. There are currently as many as four males on the feeders at one time, and they fight with each other (but not with the ladies). Pine siskins and goldfinches are the only ones that feed upside down like that through the tiny little holes in the feeder, so it keeps the other birds off. I have a sock and this vertical feeder that have thistle and tiny pieces of sunflower seeds in them (finch blend).

Here's the transparent platform feeder with a black-capped grosbeak (corrected by a friend; I thought this was a spotted towhee, which we also have around here). He looks more fierce than usual because of the sunflower seed in his mouth. I keep shelled sunflower chips in this feeder so the sparrows and other birds can eat there. The cover keeps the jays out, and my beautiful northern flicker has learned to use it anyway, with his long beak and agility. He has knocked it down, though, since he's so big (no pictures yet).

And last, my favorite guy, the chickadee, at my feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds. At least I think this is a chickadee, but I could be wrong, because he's got more brown than he should, although I'm looking at him from a different angle than I usually do. They are so curious, and I was sitting in a chair on the front porch with my new camera eager to capture the birds on film and he flew up, grabbed a seed and posed for me. I swear he did.

So that's it for my first batch of bird pictures. I have plenty of the pine siskins, if anybody wants to see one of them, and I also have a couple pictures of the flicker with his head buried in the feeder, not great shots. I'm still working on getting him to pose for me, but he's a lot more shy than the chickadees.

Well, the sun has unexpectedly come out here in Bellingham. Yesterday was gorgeous, but then the rain showed up late last night and I thought it would hang around all day. It's clearing up, so I'm heading down to Snohomish to hopefully get my knees in the breeze at the Drop Zone! Have a great day!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Horseshoe Bend

Old growth forests, how amazing! We had such a wonderful time hiking to Horseshoe Bend and then spending some time in the presence of these old trees. I tried my best in the picture to show how incredible this Old Treebeard is, but it was pretty difficult. But if you can imagine that the trunk actually is the same size all the way up to the top, you can see it's a big'un. I learned that these trees are probably 500 years old, so it was a seedling when the Ottoman Empire was young.

We Seniors thought that the Horseshoe Bend trail was three miles out and three miles back, but we discovered (as we earned our name "Trailblazers" while we bushwhacked around looking for the trail going farther in) that the trail is a loop of only three miles total. So we headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to see these old growth trees, and then stopped at Nooksack Falls.
Some of us (especially Mike) can be a bit, well, eccentric in our hiking gear. Mike likes to pretend he's the male version of Mary Poppins, and it works pretty well in the rain, most times, but I do remember seeing his umbrella turn inside out in a big windstorm.

Anyway, I spent all day away from my new friends in the blogosphere, so I'll spend some time catching up with everybody and then get horizontal. I don't think we walked more than five miles total today, but for some reason I'm tired and ready to call it a day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yep, it's hot

I just downloaded this temperature forecast from Wunderground for today across the US. The reds are 90s, and the lighter colors in the middle are 100s and 110s. Yikes! In Boulder where I used to live, it shows 90s and 100s. But if you look in the upper left-hand corner of this picture, almost to the border and above Puget Sound, you'll see that it will be in the 60s here in Bellingham. (We are 18 miles from the border, on the coast.) Washington state gets hot sometimes, but usually on the other side of the Cascades. See that yellow vertical line? That's where those mountains are; I can see them from my front window.

Our tradeoff? Rain. The wettest city in the country is here in Washington state, Quillayute. See the list below of the top ten wettest cities in the United States:
1) Quillayute, Washington State - - 105"
2) Highlands, North Carolina - - 86"
3) Astoria, Oregon - - 66"
4) Tallahassee, Florida - - 65"
5) Mobile, Alabama - - 64"
6) Pensacola, Florida - - 63"
7) New Orleans, Louisiana - - 62"
8) Baton Rouge, Louisiana - - 61"
9) West Palm Beach, Florida - - 60"
10) Meridian, Mississippi - - 57"
Quillayute is on the Olympic Peninsula, that little finger sticking up on the left side of the state. But, as you can see, Florida is a lot wetter than we are: Bellingham's average annual rainfall is 35 inches, so you can see it's a LOT wetter in other parts of the country.

I was just amazed when we decided to move here and began to study the area. Our decision to retire on the west coast meant an excursion out west (which we made in the summer of 2006) and learning something about the lore. Lots of Indian tribes live here; there are reservations everywhere (and, consequently, casinos). We love the climate and the proximity of two large cities, Seattle (85 miles south) and Vancouver, BC (30 miles north). Bellingham has a college (Western Washington University) and a small-town feel.

Check out the Wikipedia page about the state of Washington, for more information about our chosen home. My husband decided to come up here in February 2008 to find our first "jumping-off place" to our retired life, and he found an apartment that so far has been wonderful. It's a small 24-unit complex on three acres. The people in the home behind us planted organic garlic last spring and I get to see the wildlife around here digging it up (the non-human kind).

I started this post to affirm what many of my fellow bloggers have been saying: it's hot out there. But I also wanted to say, with all my heart, thank you to all who responded to my last post with ideas about how to increase traffic. I added my followers to my page, now that I have a respectable 6 instead of 3 (one of whom was my husband). I also added a counter and I now know that, even if people are not leaving comments, a fair number of people do come here to see what I might have to say.

One thing I know: we are a talented bunch, we bloggers, and I am constantly impressed with the twists and turns of daily life out there. I especially like to learn about history, birds, and to remember what it was like to have small children around (and with a sense of humor at that!). Even though I had two children, one died as an infant, and the other died in 2002 while serving in the Army. He left me no grandchildren, so I am now looking at your pictures and hearing stories that fill a void I didn't even know I had.

My heart is full. Oh, and one more thing: if any of you have a Facebook page, let me know so we can become friends!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Summer Solstice (or Winter Solstice). Father's Day. Memories. Spontaneity. And (click on picture for full effect) objet trouve, or found art. I was just minding my own business, walking along the beach at Teddy Bear Cove here in Bellingham, and looked down to see this lovely shot, which has grown on me with each viewing.

Father's Day is filled with memories, which have been unleashed by my latest foray through my favorite blogs. Sometimes I feel a little sad for the man I called "Daddy" -- and who was idolized by my young mind. I remember when I was in my early teens wishing my mother would die so I could take her place. That youngster did not realize what the word "incestuous" meant. Now both of my parents have passed away and in my now-much-wiser imagination, are together looking down at me and smiling indulgently at their progeny. But my father and his memory are distant, since he died thirty years ago.

Both of my parents died of cardiovascular disease in their sixties. All five of my siblings (as well as me) take statins, which were not available to our parents. I keep my genetics in check with simvastatin, but of course something will come along to help me join with them at some future time. Until then, I can be thankful for the health that allows me to play, jump, skip, and dance.

The Summer Solstice marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Last night, here in Bellingham at 49 degrees latitude, I went to bed at 9:30 (with my latest book) and noticed that it was still light outside. Now the days will begin to shorten, and by the harvest moon the days will be equal in length to the nights.

The other thing I have noticed is how hot it is around the country. So many people in the southern states and southwest are complaining in their blogs about the heat, while here in Bellingham today we have clouds and sun, the possibility but not probability of showers, and a temperature of 57 deg F (14 deg C). The windows are open and a sweater is required in the house for comfort. We moved away from Boulder because we wanted the ocean environment and no more 90-degree days. So far, after 14 months, I can say we have gotten just what we wanted in so many ways.

Now there is one more thing I'd like to add. Why am I having such trouble getting people to follow and read my blog? Is there something I should be doing differently? Are my posts lacking in some way I can't see? What do I need to change? The reason I ask is that I notice how much I enjoy reading the comments on other posts, and how encouraging it is to have someone care enough to say something about my ruminations. Because of this, any time I feel moved by somebody's blog, I comment. Just asking.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My new BFFs

I've been hiking with the Senior Trailblazers for nine months. I started last September when it became obvious I needed something more than my daily workouts at the gym to get ready to walk 13.1 miles (in the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon) with my family last December. And I was right! What a way to get in shape and to learn about the hikes in and around Bellingham.

Our group has had around 15 people each week for the last month. In the winter, the numbers were smaller, and the people do vary from time to time. Yesterday we trudged on an old road rather than trail, gaining 2,500 feet in elevation -- a good hike, but nothing like last week's 3,000-foot gain in less than three miles. I have begun to notice a change in my feeling about these people: they no longer seem like strangers, and now I consider them to be my friends.

I know a lot about their lives now; last week when we did Welcome Pass, we had 67 switchbacks to climb, and we passed the time by talking about things that happened in our lives after we passed the 40-switchback mark. At 43, Marjan remarked that was the year (1943) her father lost his car. Another said, "I was in kindergarten." I watched one couple who quietly remarked, "1955, the year we got married." We went through the war years (not always the same war), then moved on to high school graduations, weddings, world events: "Dien Bien Phu!" "Kennedy Assassinated!" "Tail fins!" We trudged through at least three different types of foliage and, finally, into snow. Some of us climbed to the top of the ridge while we had lunch on the snow:
Those tiny little spots in the middle of the picture show our lunch spot, and look at those mountains in the distance! (Click on any picture to enlarge.) If you compare this picture with yesterday's hike (last picture), you can see that the incredible variation in our hikes makes for some really interesting contrasts. Yesterday, mist and fog and no view; last week, sunshine, views, snow.

The subtle shift in my experience of the group was evident yesterday, when I stumbled on the way down and fell, hard, on my knee and right side. It stunned me so I lay there until the pain in my knee subsided a bit. I had been walking toward the trail end of the group on the way down, and once we figured I was okay and continued on, I was touched by their concern. By the time we had all arrived back at the Center (in three different cars), everyone seemed to be aware of my mishap and wished me well before we went our own ways.
This picture was taken yesterday on our 9-mile hike up the Middle Fork of the Nooksack. With an average age of 69 or 70 (depending on who is on the hike), I did think it would be an easy thing to hike with the group, but I have been challenged on almost every hike, and those who are much older than me who live by the adage "use it or lose it" will be joining me for many years to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Still Alice

Another book, another post. Yesterday I finished Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a novel about an accomplished professor at Harvard who comes down with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease at the age of fifty. It's written from the point of view of the woman, and I simply could not put the book down. Another night of reading until midnight, and then I got up in the morning and finished it.

A few years ago I went to my primary care physician to have a simple test to determine if I had any obvious problems with my memory, because I had begun to forget names and was having that "it's on the tip of my tongue" event happening more and more often. The test she administered to me is the same one that was given to Alice in the book. (My doctor didn't think I had anything more dangerous than age-related decline.) It turned out that Alice was diagnosed with a genetic form of the illness, handed down from her father, and that her three adult children had a fifty percent chance of having it too.

I remember once knowing a woman whose mother had died of early-onset Alzheimers at 55, and I asked her if she had been tested to see if she had it too. My friend chose not to be tested. In the book, two of Alice's three children were tested, with one having it and one not, the other, like my friend, choosing not to know.

Now, we all know that as we get older, memory is not as reliable as when we are on the top of our game in our twenties and thirties. But lately I have noticed that "tip of my tongue" happening much more often. I know some name or some place, but I just cannot think of it. When I stop trying so hard, it usually begins to emerge from my mind, and if I really care enough, I might try to snatch it out and lose it again. Or, it might pop into my mind. I find myself using wikipedia and the online dictionary/thesaurus to find the answer sometimes.

I cannot recommend the book highly enough. I think I can say I now have a much clearer idea of what might be "normal" memory loss and what might be important to pay closer attention to. I remember when I first had the test, one of the exercises was to count backwards from 100 by 7. I had a really difficult time doing it, until I realized that I could go backwards by 10 (easy) and then add 3, which is what I did. Sometimes I will lie in bed and count backwards by either 7 or 6, just for fun, because it's a good memory exercise and once seemed terrifically hard to do. I was so convinced that nobody could do it easily that I asked a friend if she could do it, and she said, "sure: 93, 86, 79, 72, 65..." And she did it that fast!!

I was worried that I had a problem with one of my memory circuits. I think I'm not someone who thinks that way very often, and that it might be one of my memory pathways I should exercise, just like I exercise my biceps. I'd be interested in what any of my readers here might have to add to this, since it's a very interesting concept: can I exercise mental pathways that will keep them toned up? I know they say that doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, etc. is good for the brain, is this the same thing?

(News flash: a comment from Kathy gave me a link about Alzheimers that is worth checking out: www.knowitalz.com, and Still Alice author Lisa Genova left a comment and a website: www.actionalz.blogspot.com.)

In the novel about Alice, as she began to lose her ability to use language effectively (and she was a psychology professor who studied language!), she began to gain the ability to gauge people's emotional states through visual clues, becoming more attuned to emotions (and probably to another part of her brain). The reason butterflies are on the cover of the book relates to a story that Alice's mother told her when she was little:
She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn't mean they were tragic. Watching them flying in the warm sun among the daisies in her garden, her mother had said to her, See, they have a beautiful life. Alice liked remembering that (p. 111).
By the time you reach your seventh decade, you can't die a premature death any more. At the age of 66, I think sometimes how short a time our lifespan is, but when I think of all that I have experienced in these years, it seems a very long time. In fact, if I were to develop Alzheimer's now, it wouldn't even be considered early onset. These are facts that give one pause.

And I still seem to have time left in my life to write blog posts, read my favorites, and surround myself with the blessings of health, abundance (not massive amounts of it, but enough), a good mind, and my community of friends and family. It is enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Being alive

I laid in bed last night reading, long after my usual bedtime, because I got involved in a story (Sebastian Faulk's On Green Dolphin Street). I got the book used a few months back because I had enjoyed his books Charlotte Grey and Birdsong. Somehow, though, I laid it aside after reading a few chapters and the other day I picked it up again. This time, however, I got caught. After finishing it near midnight, I pondered the emotions it has stirred up in me. This post is my attempt at understanding, writing for edification.

What does it mean to be alive? Does it mean anything since it doesn't last? Everything that is born must die, and time travels linearly in one direction. Doesn't it? I remember my parents and my children who are gone from this earth, and they sometimes return to me in dreams. Their essence is still within me. But are they no longer valid to the world because they are dead? Are they only alive inside my mind?

Here is an excerpt from page 222 in Dolphin Street. Bear with me, because I cannot say this as well as Faulks. Mary is married with two children and is having an affair with Frank:
Frank's face looked suddenly exhausted, shot with the fatigue of his life's exertion. He paused in his dressing.

"What do you want from me, Mary?"

"I want you to prove to me..." she spoke slowly, taking his question literally, "that time doesn't matter."

"What do you mean?"

"If you say that only what lasts is worthwhile, then nothing is valuable, because everything passes. Isn't it enough that something should have existed, just once? Don't you think it continues to exist in some world where the pettiness of time is not so important?"

"I don't think I understand."

"I love you so much that I can't believe that what we feel began only when I met you and will end when I stop seeing you."

Frank nodded. "That I understand."

"Therefore the idea of a starting point or an end is in some way mistaken. Therefore, therefore... There is a world outside time, which..." She trailed away.

"Where we can be together but you can still have your other life?"

"Something like that, but not just a convenient solution. An explanation, a way of properly ordering value. An eternity that is more than just time without ending. A place where time runs a different way."
A place where time runs a different way. In our dreams, time is not linear. In my thoughts about my loved ones, my love is not linear; that is, it was not more or less at different times, it just is. The Bible tells us that love is eternal. Emily Dickinson says, "That Love is all there is / Is all we know of Love." As far as I know, I am in pretty good health, but there is no guarantee that I will be around tomorrow to write another post. In fact, all over the world people are dying right now, being born into the world right now, and pretty much experiencing the entire gamut that Life offers us. Right now is also all we have. I can think about the past and imagine the future, but right now, this instant, is really all there is, unless... unless, as Mary says, we can find a better way of "properly ordering value," or in my words, valuing the whole enchilada.

And this brings me back again to my favorite existential dilemma: am I simply the sum of my experiences and my genes? Or is there something else that my little brain cannot even fathom in its finiteness? (That's what I believe deep down, and hope that will be revealed to me when I pass over, if there's any justice in the universe.)

Yesterday at the optometrist's office I found that my eyesight may be going. Age-related macular degeneration and some missing vision fields in my right eye. I'll be heading to a neurologist for some tests one of these days, but it's not a comfortable thing to contemplate. I use these eyes every day, almost every minute, and wonder: if I go blind, will I dream in the same way as I do now?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Only in Bellingham

That's an aerial picture of Bellingham, with the bay in the foreground and Mt. Baker behind. The city of Bellingham lies in between, with I-5 running north-south right through the middle. It doesn't usually look like this picture, however. Bellingham is an unusual place. With the Canadian border just a few minutes to the north, and the Cascades coming right up to within a few miles to the east, and Bellingham Bay to the west with lots of interesting islands and points, there really is nowhere else quite like this place.

Most of the time when you look out your window (in the winter, spring, and fall anyway), there are many more clouds than seen here. Great clouds, actually; big fluffy ones, low clouds with spots of blue peeking through, and sometimes high cirrus. Rarely is there just clear sky day after day.

However, we just finished a three-week period of sunshine, no clouds except for one day when we had a few sprinkles. This is highly unusual! Today and yesterday the constant sunshine broke, and we awoke to low clouds, and although it may seem strange to some people, it was a relief to me. Last Thursday I hiked 11 miles with the Senior Trailblazers, when a new high temperature for the date was set for Bellingham: 84 degrees F. I have never felt so dehydrated and tired, although almost the entire hike was in shade (the Chuckanut Ridge). I drank all the water I brought with me, and when I returned home, a shower and two cold beers finally made me feel a little like a human being again.

Looking out the window just now, I saw an interesting sight: a northern flicker (a beautiful bird on the large side) come to my feeder. I have stopped putting seeds in the large platform feeder for the summer, since it's quite hard to keep clean, and I figured the big birds would be okay at this time of year. He managed to hop onto the smaller transparent feeder and use his tail to wrap himself around it (it has a movable dome to keep the larger birds out) and used his long beak to snarf down sunflower seeds.

When I lived in Boulder, the was a saying, "only in Boulder." But I'm learning that the "only in" part pertains to many different things. Only in Bellingham would you find the kinds of things I've learned about. The Ski to Sea race, which has 7 segments over 90 miles, encompassing skiing, bicycling, and water sports. Only in Bellingham does the mayor of the town toss out the First Cabbage on opening day of the Farmer's Market. The market has plenty of wonderful local veggies, homemade cheese, performers, and local arts and crafts. Boulder has a pretty nice Farmer's Market too, but it has become so commercialized that I stopped going there are few years back. Maybe this is what the Boulder market used to be like. If so, I hope we can keep this ambience going for a while.

The other thing Bellingham has that I didn't have in Boulder is a much smaller town feeling, even though they are comparable in size. Both cities have a university, so you have lots of young people here who enjoy night life (not something I can stay awake long enough to appreciate). I know there is a Senior Center in Boulder, but I didn't need one until I retired, and Bellingham's center is quite a wonderful place for me to meet my peers. Between the YMCA (where I attend classes and use the workout room) and the Senior Center's Trailblazers, I've become quite familiar with and feel a part of several social groups. At some point I will start to volunteer in a capacity I haven't yet identified, but right now there's not a lot of room in my life for that. Here's a picture of some of the Trailblazers with one of the Twin Sisters behind us.

That's me smiling in front, with Fred, Sally, Carol, and Linda looking quite fit and snazzy for a bunch of old folks, don't you think? We took a poll last week about the average age of the group, and it turned out to be 68.

I found Bellingham on the internet, while looking for a place on the west coast to use as a jumping-off place in retirement. We visited once in the summer of 2006, spending a month looking around the area. For now, we don't see any reason to move from here. My life is full and the future... who knows what the future holds? I certainly don't, but the future needs to be experienced somewhere as long as one is still alive, and this seems to be the place for me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June gloom?

June gloom? Not with these flowers to look at!

Cliff Mass, meteorologist extraordinaire at the University of Washington in Seattle, has a weather blog that is very interesting if someone cares about what happens up here in the Pacific Northwest weatherwise. Skydivers care very much, since you need clear skies to get altitude (the FAA says you can't jump through clouds) and there are usually lots of clouds around here all year long. But not lately. Cliff has been talking about the usual "June gloom" that sets up around here like this (a quote from his May 18 post):
Additional showers will roll in tomorrow...but the remainder of the week and Memorial Day weekend looks good. But June gloom is threatening as the atmosphere over the Pacific become more stable as high pressure builds northward. A stable atmosphere allows the lower atmosphere to moisten and saturate... producing a huge stretch of low clouds that invades western Washington.
Well, Memorial Day came and went a week ago, and although we did have a couple of sprinkles last Tuesday, it's been nonstop beautiful around here. Today is bordering on TOO HOT, at 83 degrees F. Almost Colorado-like blue skies.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to Snohomish and I made some wonderful skydives with some wonderful people; Skratch jumped too, and then we came home, feeling tired in a good way. Because our finances are limited, I wouldn't have gone jumping for a third weekend in a row, but the June gloom is threatening at some point to limit our skydiving. I just now looked at the long-range forecast and it looks like next weekend it will also be beautiful! Today is only the first day of June, so who knows what the weather gods have in store? Gotta take your fun when it's offered, right?

I'm a little sore after yesterday, with some mysterious bruises which always seem to show up after a day of skydiving, usually on my arms or shins. Today I got my usual tea and read the electronic news in bed and saw that a plane with 228 souls went down. Nothing shocks me quite as much as a plane going down, since I travel a fair amount. The whole problem of not having any control over one's fate bothers me. This Air France plane apparently didn't even have time to send out a distress signal. I look at the faces of those grieving for their lost family and get angry at the photographers who stick their cameras into the faces of the bereaved in order to give us a vicarious hit. But I look, I imagine: if it were me, either gone or left behind.

When the Romans threw Christians to the lions in front of a crowd, or watched gladiators fight each other to the death, it was the same: to give the onlookers a vicarious thrill. What is it about the human psyche that does that? I don't know. But here's another point of view: last week I was watching one of my favorite scenes, the eagle's nest in Sidney, Vancouver Island. A camera was put in there before the eaglets hatched. This year there are three, and they are almost ready to be fledged. I watched the downy babies grow, watched them being fed mice and fish and other small catches, but they are now almost all three the size of their parents.

Mom and Dad Eagle are now bringing pretty big game up to the eaglets, and last week they caught a rabbit and brought it up. Well, unfortunately for me, the rabbit was alive as it was devoured by the eagles, and it didn't die soon enough for me. I don't think I'll be watching much any more.

Plus I've learned that the eagle parents will just stop feeding their young soon, and once they get hungry enough they will need to learn for themselves how to fly, how to hunt, how to be eagles. Only 50% grow to be adults. This means that my favorite, Tink (who was born a week after the others), will probably not make it, and I just don't want to see it. I still find myself guiltily checking out the nest. They were just recently given names by birth order, Breeze (born on a windy day), Hero (helped Tink), and Tink. Apparently all the humans who have been watching every day had a contest to name them. You can see that they are just about ready to fledge, trying out their wings and almost getting out of the nest by mistake.

Life is not so easy, is it? I wonder sometimes about us humans. I guess we, with all our myriad emotional reactions to the world are a legitimate part of it... aren't we?