Sunday, August 30, 2009

Joy's ride

We decided to head on up to Pacific Skydivers to make some jumps outside of Vancouver today, since our reserves are due for repack. We met Joy while we were there. She came up from Prince George, BC, to make a tandem skydive (click any picture to enlarge). Joy is 88 years old and lost her husband last year. What a go-getter she is! This was not her first jump; she made her first tandem seven years ago, and returned with her entourage to make this one. No one else who came with her made a skydive, but she did!
Just look at her striding to the plane. I mean, STRIDING at 88 is exactly where I want to be, and this woman is simply, well, fearless. She and Rob are walking to the "big airplane" (the King Air) which goes to 12,000 feet, not the wimpy 10,000 in the smaller plane she did on her earlier tandem. "I want to go all the way this time," she said, and was willing to wait until the plane could be filled.
This picture shows their return to the planet, after the jump. Rob is the consummate professional, which is why he was her tandem master. But she was calm, cool, and collected in the plane, smiling hugely the whole time. The young woman she used to be is still present; she told me she is 28 inside, not 88. And I believe her!
This is her family who came out to watch her make the jump. There are sixteen in this picture, if you count the pregnant woman twice who is two days overdue, and at the Drop Zone with Auntie Joy. All of these relatives are inherited from her late husband, she told me. I couldn't help but wonder why she was the only one making a tandem... they were all heading home to celebrate. She only drinks scotch and gin, she said, because years ago she developed gout and the doctor told her no wine or beer, just the hard stuff. Her family said she makes (and enjoys) a mean martini!
And here is the featured foursome: Rob (tandem master), me, Joy, and my husband Skratch walking back from the landing area. It was a beautiful, magical day, and Joy is my latest BFF! Blue skies, and many more years to enjoy your exceptional life, wonderful lady!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August market

You know what this is, right? It's the bottom of an heirloom tomato, just in case you didn't know. I bought this at the Farmers' Market and was enchanted with the design, and I'm still trying to get myself to eat it instead of just admire it. (Click any picture to enlarge and admire.) SquirrelQueen at The Road to Here has a Farmers' Market Challenge going on today, so this is my entry.
The Bellingham Farmers' Market is held every Saturday downtown, with luscious veggies and tomatoes like these. Look at that amazing tomato just above the blackberries! Every Wednesday a smaller market is held in Fairhaven for a few hours. The downtown market will continue until sometime in December, moving inside and concentrating on other things than just food, but root veggies and pumpkins will be there as well.
This was taken this Saturday (today) with little to no direct sunlight, which allowed me to show the detail in all these beautiful fruits. The vendors take the time to make their wares very attractively displayed, just like these.
Garlic, anyone? These cloves look like something you might want to hang in your kitchen to ward off vampires. Or is it demons? Certainly to my mind garlic breath might do the trick all by itself!
Mushrooms too! I love these exotic looking 'shrooms and bought some shitake mushrooms from this vendor last year. They are not out yet, I guess, but hey! Let's try some of these oyster mushrooms now.
Chele of Henna Moon painted a beautiful henna mandala on her hand, which I captured last week, her first day back from vacation. I asked about these henna art projects, how long they last, and she said the paste stains your skin (or hair or nails) and deepens to a dark shade of brown permanently and must grow out to disappear completely. Cool, huh?
And of course, late August flower bouquets were everywhere. Fruit, veggies, clothes, jewelry, henna, massage, food, and much much more grace the Bellingham Farmers' Market. Am I lucky to live here, or what??

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunny Herman Saddle

This trip to Herman Saddle (click any picture to enlarge) could not be more different than the trip last year, when it rained all day, except when it was snowing and blowing. We had warm temperatures, and we stopped for lunch here at Iceberg Lake. This hike takes us up over Herman Saddle and then down past several lakes (the Chain Lakes, the largest of which is Iceberg), then back up the other side around Table Mountain, and back down to the start. Since this is a loop, you don't cover the same ground and go back a different way.
Here I am at the top of Table Mountain, and in the background you can see a forest fire and Mt. Shuksan to the right. We had been told this fire has been going for a couple of weeks, almost getting under control, and then starting up again. Other than that, the scenery was gorgeous, and I'm not sure I will be able to keep my excitement up there at maximum if I get too used to this! (Oh wait, it was only two weeks ago that I was in the rain all day long, so scratch that.)
Our view this time included a slightly different angle of Mt. Baker. I was humming along as I walked, "I've looked at Baker from all sides now, from up and down..." because I definitely have been treated to this beautiful mountain from so many different viewpoints that it is beginning to feel like an old friend.
This beautiful person here is Karen (also featured in other pictures), allowing me to try out my fill-in flash feature, which worked wonderfully! The bright sunlight was obscuring people's faces, so I tried it and was so pleased to see how well it works. It does help sometimes to read the manual.
Fred is sporting his new headband, a present from me. He was complaining that my new hat doesn't sparkle enough, like the old one, so I brought this for him and told him it's now his job to be our sparkly one. Several people on the trail commented on it, so I took this picture so he could see how great he looks. Twenty of us made this trip yesterday, and all I can say is, thanks, Senior Trailblazers, for the fabulous memories we're building together!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The comments on my last post have given me a great deal to think about. In asking what people use as possible avenues to serenity, most have mentioned prayer or meditation. That got me to thinking about my own religious background.

I grew up in a home without any religious education at all. My father was agnostic, and Mama was a lapsed Catholic when they married. Since she was so young when I was born (just 19), I think the difficulty of being the wife of a military officer and the mother of two young children (which eventually became six) caused it to just fall by the wayside. We moved around my whole childhood. Religion was never an issue; in fact, I never felt the lack of it when I was a youngster.

There are pictures of my sister and me dressed up for Easter when we were 4 and 7, and I guess we went to church, but maybe we just went to somebody's home and searched for Easter eggs in a backyard. It's a mystery to me -- and nobody ever told me what Easter was really about. But when I was 17 or 18, somewhere in there, I discovered religion. I read St. John of the Cross who was a Spanish mystic in the 16th century. He wrote "Dark Night of the Soul" and I was attracted to the title. Interesting what pulls us into major life shifts, isn't it? Here's a quote from my favorite source, Wikipedia:
St. John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to less than 2500 verses, two of them—the Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul are widely considered to be among the best poems ever written in Spanish, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery.
I immediately began to look for a church and was drawn to the Episcopal Church when we were living in Albany, Georgia. The vicar, Father Shipps, came to our home and eventually I and all my siblings were regular attendees. I then got married and moved away, but the religious seed that had been planted in my family continued to grow, and I believe all of my siblings are either Christians or agnostics (claim neither faith nor disbelief in a higher power).

As an impressionable young woman, I was always seeking out some form of spiritual guidance. I have the dubious honor of having been saved four times by Billy Graham. I went to Catholic churches, charismatic ones, Southern Baptist, you name it. I learned a lot, but I never found anything that I felt was my journey, not someone else's.

During my hippie years, I meditated and went in several different directions: Ram Dass for awhile, week-long vision quests, retreats. When I lived in Boulder I got involved with the Urantia brotherhood and read that long book. A Course in Miracles was my path for awhile and I went through the entire series. And then I started skydiving, and everything else fell by the wayside, except my job, which I needed just to keep jumping. I was no longer a hippie, I had a job, a career, and an avocation that took all my energy and extra time. That was in 1990.

Today, I jump occasionally for fun. It no longer has the central place in my life it occupied for almost two decades. I am now retired from my career. That's gone, too. But all those years as a seeker have left within me a deep and abiding faith. I call on it daily, and I also pray and believe that I am heard. No, I actually believe that God is everywhere, and that when I pray I attune myself to hear God. And now I am drawn to read books like The Intention Experiment and other books considered to be the current new-age equivalent.

What brought you to your present state? Have I got any fellow travelers who arrived here, but took another path?

Monday, August 24, 2009


I'm enjoying myself at the Drop Zone with my friends, and we're getting ready to plan our next jump. I smooth my jeans, and suddenly I notice that my wallet is not in my back pocket where it usually is. What happened to it, I think. I reach back there again as if I had just missed it, but it's still not there. I feel a familiar sensation: a tightening around my heart, a squeeze, and all my attention is now focused not on the jump I am getting ready to make with my friends, but the lost wallet.

First I go through all my things: my purse, the car, every place I can think of where it might be. My hand continues to go to the spot where I expect it to be, hoping that I had put it somewhere else by mistake. After awhile I realize that it might be at home, as I was unsure about which pants I would wear, and I tentatively let it go and begin to concentrate on other things. But in the back of my mind, the nagging worry about where it might be continues to bother me.

Does this sound familiar? Isn't it interesting that I can be living my life, enjoying myself, and suddenly something like this happens and all my energy is focused elsewhere?

I am reading an interesting book right now: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, which discusses the state of serenity and the lack of it. What is happening to cause this? Do I identify myself with the missing wallet? Fortunately, this wallet is not where I keep my credit cards and crucial identification, but some cash, bus pass, business cards, and various replaceable punch cards. In order to regain my serenity, I consciously let everything in that wallet go, and I immediately felt better. The tightness around my heart lessened, and I went on with my day.

In my purse I carry a larger wallet, with checks, credit cards, driver's license, the whole enchilada. Sometimes when I am getting ready to pay for something I'll reach inside my purse and root around for it. Not finding it right away, thinking to myself that maybe it's gone, I left it somewhere, oh no! and then I find it. I've been known to take it out and kiss it fervently in thanks for it being there.

What I am learning in reading this book is that I am at the mercy of these storms of emotion, and I'd like to find some serenity, some real serenity, in these cases. The reason is obvious: life is filled with these events, and I want to learn how to deal with them in ways that are healing and not gripped with paralysis. What will I do when the day comes when I have to deal with something much more life changing than losing a wallet?

Now I've been through a bit of this already. For those who don't know about the loss of my two children, read this. Or the terrible accident I experienced in 2000. But! I am on a journey of exploration, how to find my way to serenity within this life of constant change. At the age of 66, although right now I'm able to jump, hike, play, work out and blog, something could happen tomorrow to change all that.

I want to find the way to serenity. Any ideas?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sparrows and squirrels

Girls! Girls! You're making a huge mess! These are the female house sparrows doing what they do best, taking a bath and splashing everything within three feet, top to bottom. This is just a small fraction of them; the others are waiting until they see an opening. Meanwhile, the guys are bellying up to the bar, making short work of the sunflower seeds in the feeder.
When I began this post I was thinking about how difficult I find these sparrows to be. They crowd out the other birds and pretty much take over in some cases. Their young have now fledged, and there seem to be hundreds on my front porch sometimes. I have put them on a diet, not filling the feeder too quickly and only three times a day (it's clean within minutes). I also have a vertical feeder with sunflower seeds, but they prefer this feeder with shelled seeds in order to take their meal as quickly as possible. When it's empty, over to the other one they go.

The sparrows are also flockers: when one comes, they all come, and when one takes off, the flurry of wings can be heard throughout the apartment. The goldfinch are not as numerous, but they have also fledged and I now have more than 30, I think. When the sparrows come to the vertical feeder, they knock sunflower seeds to the porch, and this attracts the other bane of my existence: these guys (no offense, SquirrelQueen).
I wouldn't mind if there were just one, or two. But they also have had their young, and when the teenagers come onto the porch looking for a quick meal, they tend to pass along the word to the others (hey, if you get there quick you might find some seeds!). Say hello to the youngster above. The adult squirrels are so well fed they actually waddle!

I try to sweep the porch at least three times a day, and now the goldfinch are beginning to eat us out of house and home! I fill the sock and their upside-down feeder twice a day, spending way too much at the Wild Bird Chalet.
You can see the new ones; they are softly colored and sort of fuzzy (click to enlarge). I think all of them except the central one here are new babies. The sparrows are not interested in this sock filled with thistle, so they leave it alone. I love these guys, the goldfinch and the chickadees are so much better mannered than the sparrows. They don't make such messes, and they don't crowd the others out. Chickadees zip up to the feeder and look for a seed, zoom off to the tree and eat the seed, then come back for more.

I love watching the birds, but sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing. In nature, most of these fledglings wouldn't make it. I found out that the feed is helping the young to get enough to eat, but when they migrate (the goldfinch will move to California when it gets cold), I won't be able to pack them a lunch, will I? Is it the right thing to do?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lake Ann

We did it! Fourteen Trailblazers made it to Lake Ann and watched some calves coming off the glaciers. As you can see (click to enlarge), it was sunny and hot, nothing like last week's slog through the rain. Linda and Ward are standing in front of Lake Ann. The thing that makes this a hard hike is not only that you gain and lose 2,000 feet of elevation, but you start out going down into a valley for 1,000 feet and then hiking up to Lake Ann for another 1,000. This of course means that we reverse it for the return, with the last part being uphill!! I'm pretty tired today.
Here we are at our lunch spot, with the Shuksan ridge behind us through the trees. After lunch, some of us decided to hike over to take a look at the glacier on Mt. Shuksan. Here's a closeup with me in the foreground (below), my fellow gawkers looking at the glacier behind us. We walked about a quarter mile, and while we were hiking, we heard the glacier making noise! Losing parts of itself!
This is a closeup (below) taken with my trusty telephoto of the glacier just over my shoulder in the picture above. It was amazing to see the huge streams of water coming down from them, and I couldn't help but wonder when they would be gone, no longer a glacier, but just rock. Not too long, I suspect, but it was such a privilege to see it now!
Four distinct times we heard what sounded like thunder, but it was the glacier "calving" (losing parts of itself). I didn't actually get a picture of one in process, but this one (below) was obviously pretty recently calving. One wag (Bob) said it's not often that you get to see a glacier giving birth!
When I returned home after a very long day, I discovered that my internet connectivity was gone, as Clearwire's tower has lost its signal. After two hours on the phone with them, and a promise that they will try to get out by Tuesday (!). I gave up trying to post this and went to bed. When I got up this morning, hoping for a connection and being disappointed, I headed out to an Internet cafe (thanks, Swan Cafe!) to download some pictures and write this post. I may be here later today in order to read all my blogging friends, but for now I'm heading off to the gym and the sauna to soak my sore muscles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Julie and Julia

Last night I went to see Julie & Julia, which has been out for maybe a week. My expectations were high, because I had read a good deal about Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. My memories of Julia were from when I was a young housewife in the 1960s watching her television show. Even then I wasn't much of a cook, but I watched for the fun of watching her, the famous Julia Child.

I also think I saw the Saturday Night Live spoof of Julia by Dan Akroyd (which I found on Hulu and can be watched here or you can just watch it in the movie, since it's played there). The movie also told me so much about Julia's life, how she started cooking, and how she came to write her now-famous book about French cooking (still being published and now in its 46th printing).
What I remembered about Julia was how much fun she seemed to be having. Meryl captures her essence so incredibly well, since I've spent most of today learning about Julia Child and finding out that the movie portrays her life pretty much as it was. Here's Meryl as Julia:
Julie Powell, in 2004, decided to try to cook all 524 recipes in Julia's book in one year, and she was determined to write a blog about her experience. Well, it became famous, as she wrote about her adventures, which in turn became a book. An excerpt from the publisher about the book is here:
With the humor of Bridget Jones and the vitality of Augusten Burroughs, Julie Powell recounts how she conquered every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and saved her soul.
And then Nora Ephron, one of my favorite humorists and authors, produced, wrote, and directed the movie, using the story of Julia and the interest in Julie's blog and book as a parallel thread. One of the things that I found fascinating is her description of the comparison between the 1960s and the 21st century.

The world is definitely not the same place any more, and not all of that is bad. I read a wonderful review by Russ Parsons from the LA Times that answered the question of the plot twist in the movie. This review is well worth reading, but I'd wait to read it until after I saw the movie, if I were you. He says it has "more spoilers than an unplugged refrigerator in August," and I have to agree. But it was so satisfying after having seen it! I hope you go. And tell me what you think!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gravity gear

Yesterday I used the above equipment three times to jump at Skydive Snohomish and play in the air with some friends. Because of the apparent interest in why and how I do this activity, consider this to be a short introduction to what you really need when you jump out of an airplane. This "rig" (what we call our harness/container system) has two parachutes in it, the main and the reserve. There are also three handles visible. The one I use every time is a black hackey on the bottom of the container, in reach of my right hand. It deploys a pilot chute, which in turn deploys my main parachute, 135 square feet of beautiful nylon.

But because any piece of equipment can malfunction, I am required by the FAA to carry a secondary parachute on my back. In 4,033 jumps, I have been under my reserve three times. The most recent (knock wood) was several thousand jumps ago. If I need to jettison my main, I pull the red pillow handle located on the right side just under my chest strap, which causes me to go back into freefall. (I am held into my rig by the two leg straps and the chest strap.) Then I pull the silver handle, located on the left side under the chest strap. If all goes as it should, I will then be under my reserve, which is 150 square feet of nylon.
This is what the back side of my rig looks like. The brand is called a Mirage. They all look a little different, but all modern skydiving rigs function similarly: on the bottom, just above the hackey, is a curved pin that is pulled when I throw the pilot chute (attached to the hackey) into the airstream. That deploys the parachute, and I look up to see if everything looks right and then get ahold of the steering toggles and start my way back to where we took off.
Laying the rig sideways and uncovering the pins, you can see the curved pin on the right, which is released when I throw out the pilot chute, and on the left you can see the straight pin that holds down the reserve. The reserve has a spring-loaded pilot chute, which launches straight out if needed, increasing your chances of having a good parachute no matter what your body position might be. All skydivers intend to deploy with their belly toward the earth, since that is the position in which they were designed to work best. Here's a picture from Skydive Orange's website, showing the parts of the parachute:
People tend to think of skydivers as young adrenaline-charged men, but frankly, we cover the whole gamut of humanity: yes, there are young men and women, but also old ones, even some old women (I am 66 and still jumping, my friend Linny is 61). The guy in the picture above is more typical: just a guy who likes to skydive. There aren't a lot of older women who are still active, for many reasons. The typical time in the sport is around seven years, and most people start when they are young. I was 47 when I made a tandem jump for the first time, so I am atypical to begin with. In the old days, women were less common, and most have not continued, but every year there are more who are still jumping and still getting older. The first time I was in the SOS record attempt (Skydivers Over Sixty), I was the only woman, and now there are more than a dozen.

But skydiving is evolving, as does almost every activity known to humans. With the advent of parachutes that allow you to touch down softly, as compared to round parachutes, more people from all walks of life became skydivers. And there is another wrinkle of late: wind tunnels. These allow people to practice skydiving without skydiving, and to practice other than belly-to-earth positions. When I first started, people pretty much stayed with belly flying and made formations, but now all that has changed. I have not learned how to do these maneuvers. Here is a link to a video showing how one would begin to practice head-down skydiving.
And finally, in the last few years wingsuits have become common at almost any Drop Zone. These suits are designed for maximum coverage over the ground. Where I might spend a minute in freefall, these suits allow as much as three to four minutes zipping across the ground before it's time to pull. (We usually exit the plane at around 13,000 feet above the ground and deploy our main at around 3,000 feet.)

I am a dinosaur in the skydiving world: I don't do all that stuff, I look for people who want to play in the sky with me making different formations. It's a wonderful and very satisfying thing to do, and if I were younger, I might decide to try some of that. I've spent some time in the tunnel and find it to be fun, but it's not skydiving.

If anyone has any particular questions you'd like answered, just send me a comment and I'm happy to respond. Skydiving is still my passion, but I'm expanding into the also-exciting world of blogging!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fat city

Note to readers: my photo challenge post is here!
Do you notice that when you see a picture like this of fat people their faces are almost never shown? I wonder if this is to preserve a sense of their privacy or whether it's to make me feel like maybe this could be me. Here's a thought I'd like to run by you: Are advertising, economics, and obesity related? If so, how?

Advertising: on the one hand, svelte, young, attractive women are shown in ad after ad on TV, because they know that you will pay attention and look. But food ads are, more and more often, using overweight men and humor to pull you in to buy their product. If you notice, beautiful women are used to sell everything but food. Notice how seldom you see an overweight woman in an advertisement for anything except diet aids. If you're a fat woman, you feel discounted. On the other hand, we are seduced into eating food we don't need and we don't really want, but subtle cues pull us in. Oh, they're good.

I moved to Bellingham, Washington from Boulder, Colorado. One of the first things I noticed is that the people here are definitely larger than they are in Boulder. Of course, Boulder has more athletic and outdoorsy people than most places. And up here the winters are long and people are not as active as they might be. But there's something more: there seems to be a greater acceptance of being bigger. You just don't see really big people walking around the streets in Boulder. Here, it's an everyday occurrence. My "what is normal" meter has been recalibrated.

Economics: Another reason more people are obese is that almost all fast food is extremely fattening and unhealthy, and people on the lower economic rungs of society cannot afford to eat as well. They eat at McDonald's and Taco Bell, while affluent people buy more healthy (and expensive) food. Anyone who has seen the movie Super Size Me knows what a diet of McDonald's food did to that poor man in just one month. It's very expensive to live in Boulder, so maybe people are more well off. I know we couldn't afford to retire there.

Obesity: Anyone who reads these days knows it's become an epidemic. To qualify as being obese, you need to have a BMI over 30. To calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI), several different websites are available, but this one is my favorite, because it allows to you compare yourself to other people who are the same age and sex as you. At 5'3", I would need to weigh 170 lbs. to be considered obese (my current BMI is 23, and boy do I work at it!).

When you don't feel good about yourself, it's so tempting to reward yourself with food, and so begins the vicious cycle that keeps so many of us in prisons of our own making. But there is a way out: take one small step. Start exercising, just a little bit to start, like walking around the block. And become willing to feel your feelings and allow yourself to see what a little hunger feels like. Just a little bit. My tendency is to try to fix things by doing too much too soon, and then getting discouraged. A little exercise and a little hunger can go a long way.

This has all been on my mind lately because I'm trying to lose a few pounds in order to get into a pair of jeans that stubbornly won't fit. I refuse to buy new ones, and every couple of weeks I take my favorite jeans out of the closet and try them on, to see if I am any closer. It's a good incentive builder. Still have a ways to go.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Soggy Scott Paul

The above picture shows pretty much what last Thursday was like hiking on the Scott Paul trail in the Mt. Baker Recreation Area (click any to enlarge). That's our intrepid Senior Trailblazer Mike (also known as Mary Poppins because of the huge umbrella) who was the driest person on this soggy hike today. Eighteen of us started out in clouds and a little light rain. It was dark enough when I took this picture (below) that I had to use my flash to get any picture at all. I guess we should have known it would deteriorate from there. I discovered that my supposedly waterproof hiking boots are not, which means they are going back to the store for another try to find waterproof foot gear. This was the first real test they've had, since we've been in a really dry period, up to now.
This was another of those hikes where I kept hearing, "this is a really great view of Mt. Shuksan, when you can see it." The first several hikes I went on last fall with the Seniors were like that, but lately the views have been wonderful. Here's a picture of our lunch spot on the Scott Paul trail. We didn't stay long, since there was nothing to do but try to keep your sandwich in one piece. It was raining so hard at this point that there was nothing for it but grin and bear it.
We had an exciting stream crossing, with this rickety bridge that was pretty stable except when there was someone on it crossing in front of you. Then it would sway back and forth, making for some pretty exciting moments. I enjoyed it, once I was across.
I did stop and take a picture of a monkey flower. Last week these were just beginning to come out. And, of course, they are covered with lots of rain. It made for a nice picture, though. This was as bright as it was all day, during a short period of relative calm in the storm. Occasionally we would hear thunder in the distance, but otherwise it was just, well, wet.
The long term forecast shows better weather next week, when we will tackle Lake Ann. I understand this is a hard hike, starting out downhill and then trekking up to the lake, and the return means a fairly long uphill at the end. More later; my camera was supposed to be encased in a waterproof container, and it wasn't, but apparently it's still working.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

View from above

Charmine over on her Travel blog has a challenge coming up for this Saturday, called "A View From Above." I have a few I'd like to add into this group, starting with the picture above (click to enlarge). This was taken in 2007, a group of skydivers, all of whom are over sixty (I'm in there too), taken over Lake Wales in Florida. I am in the upper left quadrant, in a line of three, on the end with a white helmet and black jumpsuit. The picture was taken by the photographer who jumped out with a camera on his head, snapping pictures with a bite switch (biting down when he wants to take a picture).
This picture is of Mt. Shuksan, taken last week by me, showing the mountain sticking up above the clouds in the valley. I especially like the way the misty clouds are pushing up against the meadow. Although I am standing on the ground, the picture has the feeling of being situated on top of the world, looking down.
And this final picture was taken last Sunday of a dear friend of mine, Emily, celebrating her 1,000th jump at Mile-Hi Skydiving in Longmont, Colorado. It was taken by another friend, Chris Pope, while he was under his own canopy, snapping this picture of her. Chris is a freefall photographer by trade. Emily was a student of mine, and I am so proud of her accomplishments. I guess it's the way the world works: you teach somebody how to do something, and the instructor watches with pride and joy while the student flies up, up and away.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I once was a beautiful young mother. I have proof. In this picture I was in my twenties, the mother of a young and also very beautiful young boy. We lived in Michigan, and the picture was taken by my then-husband. I am enchanted by the expressions, the head scarf (I don't remember wearing them), and my young and sort of pudgy hand on his shoulder. Where are they now?

Well, Chris is in a grave in Bamberg, Germany, and I am now an old woman. I have proof. In this picture, taken a week ago in Snohomish, I am smiling, wearing no makeup of course, but there is no doubt that this woman is, well, old. Do I care? Of course I do!

In early 2008, when I retired from my job and moved to Bellingham, I also decided to stop wearing makeup. I remember very well a day in Boulder when I ran into a friend in a bookstore and I hadn't put any makeup on. I felt naked, like it wasn't appropriate for me to smile or face the person directly. I actually don't think he noticed, but I did. My "face" was something I always felt it necessary to put forward when I was out in public. I felt better about myself.

I made a few first attempts to wear makeup when I stepped out here in Bellingham, but going to the gym and working out, taking a shower afterward, made it seem necessary to apply the makeup later. And so that meant walking around "naked" first, and before long, it was no longer a necessary part of my life to wear makeup.

Sometimes I see a woman around my age obviously wearing makeup, looking good in a way I don't any more, but I wonder: I know she is wearing it, I can see the lipstick, the foundation, the eyeshadow. It doesn't make her look any younger, but does she need it the way I used to need it? Does she think of it as her "face" like I did?

As women age, they become more and more invisible. That I have also noticed. Young women draw the eye, and old women just sort of fade into invisibility. I have read articles about this phenomenon and experience its reality firsthand.

But do I care? Of course I do! Do I think for even one minute that going back to wearing makeup will make me more visible? No. I am finding new exciting opportunities in invisibility, watching from another vantage point, no longer the center of attention. I care very much about the human condition, and because I have this blog to mull and contemplate, also along with some now very good online friends, I am content.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I watched two movies in the past month, both of which impacted me in different ways. They are related to each other in the sense that they both illustrate what happens to people as they make decisions in their lives. The Lives of Others, a wonderful German movie made in 2006 that won the best foreign language Oscar in 2007, is set in East Berlin during the early 1980s, when the Stasi, the East German police, controlled the movements of all the people in the State. The director's parents lived in East Berlin before the Berlin Wall fell, and he said he could sense the fear they had as subjects of the state.

In the movie, Weisler is a Stasi member who is told to bug the apartment of a prominent artist. As he listens in, little by little we see how he is changed by the decisions he makes. On Wikipedia, here is a telling quote:
At another point in the movie, the main character, Wiesler, becomes enchanted by and sympathetic to the couple he is listening in on. "Wiesler's response to those feelings [...] move in on him imperceptibly, with very little telegraphing, making them that much more convincing," Zacharek writes. Podhoretz, reviewing the movie in The Weekly Standard, ascribes the subtleness of Wiesler's response to Mühe, the actor playing him: "That scene [...] is limned with extraordinary stillness and compressed emotion by Ulrich Mühe, an actor heretofore unknown outside Germany who gives a performance so perfect in this, and every other moment in the film, that it's almost beyond words."
He becomes a transformed person, all because of dilemmas of conscience and decisions made one by one. And you have no doubt by the end that he is a really good person.

In The Talented Mr. Ripley, just the opposite happens when Tom Ripley makes one decision after another that finally end up in his becoming a very evil person. I am sorry I watched this movie, because for days afterward I felt sick every time I would think of it. This movie also depicts a person who begins with decisions to make that change him, but in this case, for the worse. A quote from Wikipedia:
In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "On balance, The Talented Mr. Ripley is worth seeing more for its undeniably delightful journey than its final destination. Perhaps wall-to-wall amorality and triumphant evil leave too sour an aftertaste even for the most sophisticated anti-Hollywood palate."
I wanted to see the movie because of Matt Damon, who played this person so well that I knew why he made the decisions he did, but I wished he hadn't. And I wished I had not seen the movie, for the reasons described in the above quote.

My rationale for writing this post is that these two movies told me, without any doubt, the decisions we make every day lead us to become good or evil. Just a few minutes ago, I saw a ripple in the birdbath and thought it was a moth that had become caught. I went out to save it, and saw instead that it was a fly. I almost walked away. I swat flies! But thinking of the decisions you make, I went back and fished out the creature and watched it soar away. A little tiny moral decision, but nonetheless one that caused me to think.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heavenly High Divide

When we left Bellingham, all 21 of us Seniors, it was cloudy. Very cloudy, so we were sure we would have no view on our hike to the High Divide. But as you can see, in the picture above (click to enlarge), we hiked up to the heavens, to have our lunch with a wonderful view of Mt. Baker and a bed of clouds below us. Yes, we hiked above the clouds!
Our leader separated us into a faster group and a slower group. Although I was lagging pretty far behind on the faster group, I spied the other group down below us on the trail, and with the help of my trusty telephoto lens, was able to get a picture of them hiking through a meadow.
At the trail junction, we waited for the slower group, and when these guys saw that I was heading to a rise to take a picture, I heard someone say, "let's all point in different directions!" and that is what they were doing while I snapped this picture. At this point, it was time to take it right to the top for maximum view and have lunch.

Although this hike seemed easy and short in terms of what we have been doing on previous hikes, we gained (and lost) 1,500 feet in elevation, and hiked something around 7 miles out and back. The temperature, when compared with last week's hike, was incredibly cool. Maybe around 60 F or 16 C. Perfect!! And there were few flies and mosquitoes, although I was ready with my new insect repellent and long sleeves, but that will be tested on subsequent hikes. Today was, well, absolutely gorgeous.
On the way back down, I saw those incredible clouds pushing up against the side of the mountain, and some beautiful fireweed in the foreground. I snapped this picture as quickly as I could and then hurried to catch up with the others. To have this in my back yard again makes me realize how prescient we were to choose this part of the country in which to retire and call home.