Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bellingham loves Halloween

I went down to the Farmers' Market this morning to pick up my weekly veggies, and since Monday is Halloween and I remembered last year everybody was in costume, I hoped to find some fun pictures to share. This adorable young lady was hoping I'd take a picture of her dress, she looks so cute in it, and her mother (?) is also in costume. But I'm afraid the flower child stole my heart.
This vendor has an entire costume for a party she's attending, but this morning wore only the headdress, which I must say is quite beautiful. Obviously she's going as a unicorn; she told me she made this and is quite happy to find her horn isn't going to fall off. This morning the festive atmosphere was heightened by sunny skies (at least partly sunny) and no rain! It rained all day long yesterday and is forecast to do the same tomorrow. Sort of like our hiking group noticed, lately we've had one nice day interspersed with a not-so-nice one.
Here's an organic farmer who shares a hippie background with me, I'd say. Love her glasses! She and her partner are both in costume today. Too bad I need glasses to see; I can never wear this kind of cool eyewear because they don't fit over the ones I need to keep from bumping into things.

After Thursday's wonderful hike, I've come down with a head cold that makes me wonder if it's because I did so much last week. I skipped the walk and swim today and will go to the movies instead and sit inside. My friend Judy and I are going to see 50/50 -- everybody needs a good cry now and then, right? (For those of you who don't know the premise, it's about a 27-year-old guy who learns he has cancer. They say it's not only a tear-jerker but also humorous.) I'll wait to read the reviews (in the link above) until after I've seen the movie.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Goat of the season

This is the fourth time this season we have gone up Goat Mountain. By this time of the year, we are usually relegated to the Chuckanuts (not that they are awful or anything, but once the snow flies, we stay close to home) but not this year. Although our season started out slowly, we are still able to get to the High Country. Today ten Senior Trailblazers made our way through the magical trek in the forest, with some residual morning fog still hanging around and giving us this beautiful view.
Before we had gone very far, however, the beautiful restful (although pretty darn uphill) trees were beginning to be covered with this white stuff. From this point onwards, it only got whiter and more slippery. Although we had full sunshine today, remember we are somewhere around 4,000 feet elevation in this picture, and we are headed up to around 5,500 feet. So you KNOW we are going to hit more snow.
By the time we reached the viewpoint showing Sefrit Mountain here, we could see Shuksan and Baker (our old friends) too. The blueberry bushes had a few little offerings here and there, but mostly we basked in the sunshine that warmed us as we ate our lunch. Although it was relatively warm in the sun, one of our hikers gave out before we got to this viewpoint, so we didn't dawdle but quickly went back down to join the others.
Kathy and Karen are enjoying a quick lunch before we headed back, and you can see all the fresh snow on the ground and trees behind them. It was a beautiful day, a perfect one to end the High Country season (I've said that before, haven't I?). But one thing will end today for sure: our dear friend Jonelle who first joined us on Goat Mountain on September 1 will be heading back to the desert to lead hikes there. We won't see her again until she returns in May. She's one of those "rainbirds" who head south when the weather begins to turn, but she has wiggled her way into our hearts and we'll be looking forward to her return. Blue skies and fair sailing, Jonelle!
Here she smiles along with Al, our fearless leader, with Sefrit also smiling behind them. The weather blessed us once again, and we will, as you know, be heading down to the Low Country any day now, with lots of rain in our future. But today, well, this entire week has been outstanding. Today we covered almost eight miles and 2,600 feet, to add to Tuesday's numbers, giving us more than 5,000 feet up and down, and almost sixteen miles of wilderness, adding together both treks. I'm feeling quite... accomplished!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chain Lakes

I know I said we were all done with our High Country hikes, and this was a few weeks ago. But yesterday I got an email from Al saying that, with the weather promising full sunshine on Tuesday, we should take advantage of the opportunity to get up there at least one more time before the Forest Service closes the road. We met early on this frosty morning, five of us, and headed up as far as we could go on the Mt. Baker highway to the Chain Lakes trailhead. For most of us, it was cold. Mikey hiked in shorts and t-shirt the entire way, but then again, it's Mikey.
The beginning of the hike took us past Bagley Lake, which as you can see here, is mostly frozen. We had snow and some ice underfoot, but we were prepared with Yak Trax in case we needed them (we didn't). The shadows were long, and we trekked past plenty of red-leafed blueberry bushes, some of which had ripe berries that we enjoyed. It wasn't warm, but as we toiled upwards toward Herman Saddle, we stayed very warm in the sunshine. We figured we could get to the saddle and probably would not make the entire loop, but would turn back and retrace our steps after lunch. It was pretty snowy at the Saddle, as you can see.
Here you see Al at the high point of the hike at 5,400 feet (1,650 meters). We had plenty of snow and slick spots to contend with, so we descended down a bit to a sunny spot to have lunch and thought we would turn around afterwards and head back the way we had come (just under three miles). And then while we were having lunch, a couple of women hikers who had started the hike in the opposite direction from the parking lot passed us by at right about noon. That was all it took for us to decide to attempt the loop, as we had their footprints to follow in the snow.
We headed down from the pass, with Iceberg Lake showing its beauty on the way as we headed up toward Artist Point. That road is closed, but we had the Wild Goose Trail to follow from there, which we used to get back to the cars. The Chain Lakes loop took us along a south-facing slope that displayed amazing color. If you look just above halfway in the picture below, you can see the faint trail that leads to Artist Point.
The five of us reached our car after five hours or so of splendid time in the wilderness, with almost eight miles covered, and 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Tired and happy, we climbed in our car and wondered if by any chance we might have such a stellar day again on Thursday (our regular Senior Trailblazers hiking day). Between now and then, we have a good chance of rain in Bellingham and more snow in the High Country, so... we'll see. I had so many wonderful pictures that I will put a bunch more of them on the Senior Trailblazers Fall 2011 site. Enjoy! We sure did!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Aunt Quetita

My mother's older sister, Quetita, is going to be ninety next week. She sent me this picture of herself working in her garden a few years ago, when she was in her mid-eighties. I suspect she doesn't look much different today than she did then. She and her husband Jack are residing in an assisted living facility in Visalia, California. I don't get to California very often these days and haven't visited her, although my sister Norma Jean did a few years ago.

After Norma Jean found her address and phone number and sent them to me, I decided to call her. It was strange in the beginning, when a small voice said, "Hello?" I identified myself as Jan, you know, your sister's oldest daughter? "Who?" Once she finally realized who I was and I told her I wanted to send her a card to mark her birthday next week, she said disconsolately, "Oh. Yeah. I know. Ninety." She doesn't sound happy about it, but I suspect I wouldn't be either. I said that the store where I found a card also has booklets with the happenings of different years, starting with 1930. I asked her if she has some special year after 1930 that would mean something to her (thinking maybe their wedding anniversary).
"Oh, well... there's the year I had my back surgery. I was 31. You do the math." 
"Well, you were born in 1921 and adding 31 years would make it 1952, right?" 
"If you say so." She said this with a giggle. 
"Okay. I'll find 1952 and send it to you." 
"That would be nice. I don't have your address!" 
"I'll send it with the card, Aunt Quetita. It's been great talking with you. Bye now." 
We said a bit more about health concerns, but mostly it's the whole turning ninety that amazes me. Since neither of my parents made it out of their sixties, I do hope I inherited Aunt Quetita's genetic makeup, but there's no way to know. I think if my mother hadn't gotten breast cancer and then been treated with massive doses of cobalt, scarring her heart muscle, she might be alive today. Sometimes you can survive the disease but die from the treatment. But I still have one first-order relative alive who is of my parent's generation: my wonderful Aunt Quetita. I'll celebrate this most excellent milestone with real happiness!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wildlife and Aldo Leopold

Wolf_Kolm√•rden.jpgDaniel Mott from Stockholm, Sweden
How could I NOT have heard about Aldo Leopold before now? When I won the book from Far Side of Fifty last week (A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold), I entered a new and exciting part of the universe that I didn't know anything about. That first link will tell you everything about Leopold, but here's the short version. He was born in 1887 and lived to the age of 61; he died in 1948. The book for which he is famous was published posthumously by his son in 1949. Leopold died of a heart attack while helping a neighbor fight a wildfire.

In the early 1920s, he was assigned to hunt and kill bears, wolves, and mountain lions in New Mexico. He learned to respect these animals and came to realize their important place in the ecosystem. From that link:
In 1935 he helped found the Wilderness Society, dedicated to expanding and protecting the nation's wilderness areas. He regarded the society as "one of the focal points of a new attitude—an intelligent humility toward man's place in nature."
In the book, he talks about killing a wolf, and how it changed him. This is from pp. 138-139:
We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed the way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock. 
In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide rocks. 
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes  something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
It took awhile, but Leopold began to realize that the integrity of the ecosystem in which we live requires wildlife.  There is now an Aldo Leopold Foundation, and his children and grandchildren have become naturalists and educators. He was truly a great man. Another quote from the Wikipedia link is from Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior:
In January of 1995 I helped carry the first grey wolf into Yellowstone, where they had been eradicated by federal predator control policy only six decades earlier. Looking through the crate into her eyes, I reflected on how Aldo Leopold once took part in that policy, then eloquently challenged it. By illuminating for us how wolves play a critical role in the whole of creation, he expressed the ethic and the laws which would reintroduce them nearly a half-century after his death.
I have never seen a Grey Wolf but I have certainly heard them in the wild, and I'll bet you have, too. Thank you, Connie, for introducing me to Leopold's book. I am enjoying it immensely. She also sent me two lovely cards and said that she couldn't resist sending along a little bit of Minnesota too: both are pictures that she took, mounted on cards with included envelopes I can use to send to special people.
Raspberries and Yellow Lady Slipper
And then there's the book, a treasure indeed, that I will slip into and enjoy every second. The book is, as it says on the cover, "the classic statement of the joy and beauty found in a style of life that protects the environment." For someone who has seen only two bears (magnificent as they were) and mountain goats twice, I can attest to the feeling of majesty they impart to the wilderness. Here's a picture of the entire package I received:
I didn't go for a hike today because of the possibility of getting in to see the doctor about my allergies, which have been driving me crazy. Instead, I'm sitting here in the middle of the afternoon writing this post, and enjoying "A Sand County Almanac." I didn't realize how lucky I was, and I'm so happy to be able to share it with my blogging friends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rainbow Ridge

Fred, Mike, Aspen, Mary, DJan, Diane, and Al
Just in case anybody thought we wouldn't take advantage of wonderful weather in the Pacific Northwest, the Senior Trailblazers did an extra-extra Monday hike today (I know it's Tuesday). Since the weather was so gorgeous, seven of us decided to make a final Monday hike, this time to Rainbow Ridge. Last week we did our "last" Monday hike on Sunday, but lest you get confused, I'll help you figure it out. All this past summer we decided to have an extra hike every other Monday, but because of weather and scheduling conflicts, we didn't follow the schedule very closely. Fred (the guy on the left) picked out some juicy hikes and we started them in July. Now it's October. Today was supposed to be a stupendous weather day and, as you can see by these pictures, we were not disappointed.
A new Trailblazer, Aspen, joined us today. Very interesting and definitely a character. That's her making a heart with her hands (I'm on the left) and Mary is kicking out her leg, inadvertently creating a mastodon. We had a lot of fun with this group today, and Aspen amazed me by hiking for the last half of the hike back down to the cars barefoot! This muddy and difficult descent was impossible for me to accomplish without shoes, I'm convinced, but my feet were rather envious when I saw her squishing the mud between her toes like a kid. She made it back to the cars without ever needing her shoes.
Aspen took this picture of me, Mary and Diane, with the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Baker behind us. The sunshine just didn't stop all day long, and it was downright warm, with me unable to test out my new jacket except when we stopped for lunch. I'm wearing it in the first picture, but I didn't really need it. While we were hiking, I had to take off clothes to stay comfortable.
The moon was setting behind these rocks, and I used my telephoto to make it larger. I was so pleased with this picture, since it's the first time I've tried to capture the moon. I'll do more of these now that I know how cool they can look. We had the moon, the sunshine, Mt. Baker, and the always beautiful Shuksan to gaze at all day. Here's Fred in front of Mt. Shuksan.
On the way home, we stopped for dinner at Annie's outside of the town of Concrete. It was a wonderful meal with good friends, and I neglected to take a picture as we chowed down our meals, but we will be back to this wonderful place again next year. We decided to rate this hike today among the top seven of the season, for obvious reasons.

Oh, and today when I got home I found a package from Far Side in my mailbox, with my prize from last week's contest, the Sand County Almanac. I'm too tired to even open it tonight, but soon I'll share it with everyone. Thanks, Connie!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rain protection quest

In the endless saga of trying to stay dry in the Pacific Northwest rain, I've just made another purchase, because these two (Fred and Diane) had an advantage over me in the second half of last week's hike: jackets made from eVent fabric. In this picture we are all dry and not wearing any rain gear, because the first half of the day was pretty darn perfect hiking weather. However, the second half was another story. I had a raincoat and poncho with me in that backpack, and before we had returned to the cars, I was drenched from one end to the other. Fred and Diane stayed relatively dry. She's wearing rain pants in this picture, which she wore from start to finish, but when the rain began she put on her eVent jacket and stayed dry. Not only from the outside rain, but she also didn't sweat so much that she got wet inside from trapped perspiration. I know, I know; this is what Gore-Tex is supposed to keep from happening, but I've never had a raincoat that really worked as advertised. The eVent fabric is designed differently, and they explain here about how we sweat. I read the specs and went to REI to purchase a very pricy raincoat.
Maybe I can try it out here in the shower to see if it works. No, I suspect I'll have plenty of chances coming up soon. This is REI's Kulshan Jacket. I had to order it from the warehouse so that I didn't have to choose the neon lime green one, the only Medium in the store. It's got a nice hood and there's enough room underneath for me to add a fleece lining. I read the reviews and most people liked it, but some weren't happy with the zipper. I mentioned that to the salesperson as I checked out, and he told me he thinks that was last year's design. The good thing about REI is if I don't like it, or if it doesn't work as advertised, I can take it back and get a full refund. Other reviews of the fabric were very positive.

I'll let you know how it works in future posts. I didn't think I would ever be anxious for more rain, but...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bright and beautiful Lake Ann

We didn't go where we were scheduled today, us Senior Trailblazers. The day dawned clear and cold, and we decided to head up to Lake Ann, which has been unavailable all year because of the late snow. But some friends had successfully reached the lake, so eight of us headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to the end of the road. We couldn't get all the way to the trailhead, so that added an extra mile to the hike, but it was worth it. Look at the clear sky! When we got to the parking lot, it was so slippery that we had to take precautions not to fall, but once we got into the sunshine, most of the ice melted away (most, not all; we had to watch every step).
This trek covers more than four miles before you reach the lake, but it's an interesting one: you start and end at the same elevation, descending almost a thousand feet from the trailhead, cross a beautiful and wet valley, and then begin a rocky ascent to Lake Ann. Here you can see the lake, and it's already frozen, mid-October. It looks like it never cleared completely all year. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that the middle of the lake has last year's snow still present. What an unusual year it's been: we saw fall colors as well as summer lupines that had just surfaced from the snow.
We had several exciting stream crossings, and sometimes we got a bit damp, but nobody got hurt. We were careful to take our time. The snow in the above picture behind the hikers is left over from last year, and it is obviously not going to melt, since this year's snow was already fresh on the trail. In the summertime, when we've done this hike before, it's so exposed to the sun that it tends to be very hot and uncomfortable as you navigate the rocks when you are gaining elevation. Today, every time we were in the sun it felt great.
This picture of Diane and me, taken by Peggy, shows our lunch spot, with two glaciers on Mt. Shuksan behind us: about even with the top of Diane's head and to the right is the Lower Curtis Glacier, and the Upper Curtis Glacier is visible just below the peaks in the middle. Several long-time hikers noticed the decrease we can see in the glaciers, just in the last decade or so. The first time I came here two years ago, I was able to hear glaciers breaking away (calving), and they are disappearing amazingly rapidly.
The eight of us spread out and sat in the brilliant sunshine, no breeze at all, and enjoyed our lunches. I was pretty tired by the time we got here, and I knew that we had another four-and-a-half miles and plenty of elevation loss and gain to travel before we reached the cars, but at this point it was a magnificent place to be, filled with laughter and camaraderie. I was happy and content as we began our descent.
If I didn't know better, looking at this picture, I'd think we were a bunch of intrepid explorers in the trackless wilderness. However, every time we weren't sure of the trail, we asked Steve, who has more experience in this environment than all of us put together. He has climbed all the peaks many times, camped here more times than I can count, and told us he was very happy to be out and about with us today. It was a bright and beautiful day, one that I will remember for a long, long time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A little bit of everything

Al sent out an email to all the Senior Trailblazers on Saturday to see if anyone might be interested in one last "extra" hike into the southern part of the North Cascades. South to us here in Bellingham, anyway. Another long day with two hours of driving to get there and two hours back, and the daylight hours getting shorter and shorter. Four of us decided that Sunday (instead of Monday) would give us the best possibility of decent weather, so we headed past Marblemount to Hidden Lake Peaks. This picture shows the tantalizing first views we got as we ascended into a meadow after climbing in mist, with occasional punctuations of sun. We were hopeful.
The higher we climbed, the more spectacular the views. We had crossed the meadow in the lower right to see some magnificent vistas. But the higher we got, the more the trail changed to rocky outcroppings, and then we saw it: where we were headed, a Forest Service lookout cabin on the tippy-top of a huge pile of rocks!
Taken with my telephoto lens, this pile of rocks looks impossible to climb, but we followed helpful cairns and wrestled with vertigo as we got closer and closer. Al took the next picture, and it was so incredibly dramatic and showed what we were dealing with that I asked him to send it to me.
On the right is the "trail" we followed to the cabin, and although the sky looks like it is clearing, we were at more than 6,000 feet of elevation (we were just below 7,000 at the summit) and looks can be deceiving at this altitude. And yes, that is a rather uncomfortable drop-off to the left. It was important to go slow and carefully. A look to the left of this picture and you could see Hidden Lake (my picture).
We were all finally at the lookout and had a quick lunch in the sheltered cabin. It's another one of those "first come first serve" places where the first group to arrive can spend the night, while others would need to descend somewhere else, like around the lake. Here's Al coming in the door:
Just after he came in to sit down, another hiking group of two entered to join us. One of them was a six-year-old kid (almost seven, he told me) with his father. He is quite an experienced hiker to have gotten up here, as we were all a little nervous about the descent and had pretty much reached our limit of our exertion, along with chills and thrills!

When we started back down, the clouds enveloped us and it began to snow. This made our descent even more harrowing and we hoped to be down off the rocks before it got worse, but as we climbed carefully downwards, it turned to rain. Before long we were all soaked, even with all our rain gear. After about an hour of this, the rain stopped and the sun tried to break through now and then. It never did, and just a half hour before we reached the car, I learned how HARD it can rain in the mountains. Reaching the car and getting warm again never felt so good.

Four soggy Trailblazers had covered nine miles and experienced clouds, mist, fog, rain, snow, exposure to the elements, being scared, being exhilarated, and around 3,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. That's why it was a "little bit of everything," but over our wonderful dinner in Marblemount, we decided we were glad we had missed out on sleet and hail. Okay, almost everything! In spite of it all, it was a great day, and I would go back in a minute... next year.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One of those unsettled days

This was taken from my front porch this morning. If you compare it to this picture taken last week from almost the exact same spot, you might be able to understand why I was just SURE that the weather forecast for today (fog, then rain) was spot on. I was wrong. The sun is shining gloriously out there right now (3:00pm), but it barely made it into the sixty-degree range (15 degrees C). The sun shining through the fog gave me a good silhouette for the flicker who was dining on the suet feeder.
He's got a bit of suet in his beak. We listen for his call nowadays and keep out of sight through the window so we won't scare him when he comes for breakfast. I do love seeing all the birds who come to visit on our porch. This one (I believe he's the one) was taught how to use the feeder last year by his parent, and I tried unsuccessfully to get a picture of the two of them; he's a bit smaller than the others who visit, which is why I think he's the young one.

After deciding to skip the last swimming class but head to the Farmers' Market for some veggies and then swim afterwards, the sun came out and lifted my spirits. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and I captured this picture while waiting in line for my collards and kale.
The beauty of the fractalish cauliflower in the middle, surrounded by a pink strain of cauliflower, created a picture I couldn't resist. There was a bit of sunshine lighting up the center spiral. Now I am at home, looking out at the same front porch scene that was so foggy earlier. The brilliant sunshine makes me just the tiniest bit sorry I didn't go take my chances at Snohomish, hoping for a skydive, but today is turning out to be a very satisfying one, nevertheless.

After my purchases at the market, I walked over to the YMCA and met two of my fellow classmates in the swimming class, who were just finishing up. I got what I wanted out of the class; I now am able to keep kicking when I breathe and it will eventually become second nature. I decided that the flip turn at the end of the lane is not for me, since I'm not trying to set any records and really don't like all that water going up my nose. And I now can swim the backstroke. It was good to have a professional watch me, but all of those drills are not my style at all.

It's looking like we might be able to get together tomorrow, the Trailblazers that is, and maybe make one last "extra" hike before the snow flies. Al is suggesting possibly heading down past Marblemount and trying for Hidden Lake Peak. Sounds just right to me (9 miles and 3,300 feet elevation gain to a lookout) if the weather cooperates. Since the High Country will be closed to us until spring, and we will be spending our Thursdays hiking close to home, I hope we can do one more. Time to change the batteries in my camera...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hannegan Pass and more

We had a hard time deciding where to take the Senior Trailblazers hike today. Although Heliotrope Ridge was on the schedule, the main river has lost its bridge, so we decided to take another trek up to Hannegan Pass. We went there almost two months ago and figured it would be different enough now to make it seem entirely different. (Our August trip to Hannegan is here.) The weather forecast was for clouds in the morning, clearing to at least partly sunny by afternoon. Our first view of the valley looked very promising, as you can see from the first picture. Blue skies, clouds, and perfect hiking weather!
As we made our way to the pass following steep switchbacks, you can see that the clouds don't seem to be lifting. Fred and I went ahead to start our trek up to the pass, with the others interested in heading up that steep summit (1100 feet in a bit less than a mile from the pass) to follow after a short snack. Eleven Trailblazers were on the hike, and many would be happy with making it to the pass (an 8-mile round trip and 2,000 feet of elevation gain), having lunch, and heading back down.
Fred and I started up to the peak, but the weather didn't look like it would be clearing any time soon, and as you can see, the trail was really steep! I was going as fast as I could, but it wasn't much faster than a trudge. There was no view to pull me upwards. We then noticed that nobody was following us, so after a half hour of upward progress, making it up another 600 feet towards the summit, we had a quick lunch and turned around. When we got back to the pass, we found Al and Steve waiting for us; all the others had started back down the trail, as the temperature had dropped precipitously and there was now no sun at all. The four of us began our descent to join the others, and of course the sun began to peek out. You can see the trail (enlarge for the best view) in the sunshine below us. The sun never did come out to play.
You can see that the clouds are now lower in the valley, and we were perfectly comfortable as we headed back out of the wind and altitude. Other than the fact that the views were truncated, and after stopping for lunch everybody was cold, it was actually a beautiful day for hiking. Since Fred and I traveled an extra half mile and 600 extra feet, we covered nine miles and 2,600 feet up and down before we got back to the cars.
I stopped on the way down to take this picture, showing the red leaves and the clouds, typifying the October day we spent together on the trail. At least Fred and I got an extra mile out of it! Now I'm home enjoying my wine and getting ready to take a nice hot shower. Am I lucky or what?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Epigrams and a book review

From the cover of How to Live by Henry Alford
I snagged this picture of the dog on the front cover of Henry Alford's book How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People. I mentioned this book a while back, but I had bought four different books that day and was proceeding to read through a few of them. This book was started and after I got bogged down in the middle sections, I put it aside.

Yesterday, though, I finished the book and am so glad I did. The book is made up of interviews that Henry had with various elders, some famous and some not. The middle of the book is taken up with the drama of his mother divorcing his stepfather and moving into a retirement community. Although it was interesting, I was anxious to find out what the other books I had purchased were about, so I lay it aside with my place marked. I picked it up again yesterday and read avidly until the end.

After Henry had interviewed all these people, he tried to figure out some way to distill down the information he had gleaned from all his research and went in search of what he calls "elderisms," little bits of information that you don't understand or know about until you're old. He started asking seniors at senior centers across the country and got a few responses, with such wise sayings as, "To get a good look at yourself, take yourself far away." He ran into a cool lady at the Azusa Senior Center in California who calls herself "the funny-sayings lady." She faxed him a list of 24 thoughts and sayings, including "The second mouse gets the cheese," and "Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it." Henry was excited to find more aphorisms like these. Here's an excerpt from p. 245 of Henry's book:
I came across the website of a 75-year-old named Ashleigh Brilliant. (Yes, that's the name he was born with.) The author of such well-traveled chestnuts as "I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me are excellent," ... Brilliant lays claim to being history's only full-time professional published aphorist or — as Brilliant calls himself and the Library of Congress has cataloged him — epigrammatist. Asked once by the Wall Street Journal if Oscar Wilde or La Rochefoucauld didn't also qualify for such a claim, Brilliant commented, "They weren't full-time."
I had run into some of Ashleigh's work before, since he's the one who wrote those postcards called "Pot-Shots," and I have some tucked away in my memories drawer. If you check out the link in the previous paragraph, which goes to Brilliant's website, you'll have access to all 10,000 of his copyrighted epigrams, for a price of course. Although I might be at risk of getting a phone call from him, I'm going to give you a few of the epigrammatic gems I found in Henry's book.
  • My life has a superb cast, but I can't figure out the plot.
  • I feel much better, now that I've given up hope.
  • Life is the only game in which the object of the game is to learn the rules.
  • If I can survive death, I can survive anything.
I learned that aphorisms, also known as epigrams or even elderisms, can lighten one's day immensely. The book was fun and revealing, and I did learn a lot about how wise and eccentric some old people are, and it's perfectly okay. It made feel that maybe I'm not such an odd duck; there are lots of old farts who make ME look normal!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Falling into fall

Sigh. The flowers at the Farmers' Market all have the same look to them, since the summer bouquets are gone. Dahlias seems to be the only ones left, beautiful as they are, but when they are gone, it will be only dried bouquets (maybe a few chrysanthemums) until next spring. Fall is in the air, and many of my blogging friends are posting pictures of the riot of colors appearing in their parts of the country. Here, we are just now beginning to see the maples turn.

Yes, the title of this post was hopeful but alas, not to be. I was hoping to "fall into fall" at the Drop Zone in Snohomish this weekend, but today it's raining and tomorrow has a 40% chance of rain. So I am reluctantly thinking that the season is coming to an end. Here's the Climate Prediction Center's temperature forecast for the next 6- to 10-day period:
This is not hopeful for the next few weeks, at least in this part of the country, but it does mean that the fall colors should pop out reasonably soon. There's always an upside somewhere. The bruise from my flu shot is almost gone and my arm is no longer sore. I'm glad I got it, since everywhere I see people coughing and sneezing already, and it's only October. October! Where did YOU come from? Wasn't it just spring the other day? There's no doubt that time passes much faster when you're older, or at least it sure seems to. Only three more months left in 2011!

This is the time of year when I will be fighting to hold onto my hard-won weight loss. For whatever reason, it's when the chill in the air makes me feel cold most of the time that I begin to eat more. The fifteen pounds I lost this spring and summer will want to creep back on if I don't stay vigilant. There is a reason that the definition of the amount of weight I lost was also known in the U.K. as a "stone."
The stone is a unit of measure, abbreviation st which, when it ceased to be legal for trade in United Kingdom in 1985, was defined in British legislation as being a weight or mass equal to 14 avoirdupois pounds (about 6.35 kilograms). It was also formerly used in several Commonwealth countries. (Web definition)
Carrying it around felt like a stone, all right, and I sure don't want to add it back on. Any ideas about how to keep weight from creeping up during the winter months? Other than dieting, that is. For some reason it seems almost anathema to diet in the winter. Maybe it's time to start a knitting project to keep my idle hands out of mischief.