Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Women's record jump

September 26, 2009: 181 women all united (click to enlarge)

In 1999, some really motivated women got together a bunch of really top-notch women skydivers and set the world record for the largest number of women together in a freefall formation: 118. This picture above shows the fourth time that they have gathered the best women skydivers in the world together to make a record. Last Saturday, 181 women were connected for the regulation 3 seconds in this formation to raise awareness for breast cancer research. These women also collected over $900,000 to contribute to the City of Hope. This effort is called Jump for the Cause and more information, pictures, and videos are all available on this website.

Although I have the technical knowledge to have competed to be on this skydive, I decided instead to contribute money and not try out for it. Years ago I was on a 100-person record attempt, and I found that I did not enjoy the kind of pressure that is put on the skydivers. Some people do really well when they are under pressure to perform, but I am not that person. Even if I know I can do something really well, if 200 other people are counting on me to do it right, I don't perform well. Competition does not come naturally to me.

Each of the jumps that the women attempted prior to this successful one must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each: figure the cost for each participant in the plane, the pilots, ground crew, etc. Each previous jump had to have cost more than $100,000 each. The women paid their own way to Perris, California, bought their jumps and jumpsuit, and contributed as much money as they could each raise for JFTC. Women came from all over the world, from 31 countries, to be involved in this effort.

One of my skydiving buddies, Mary Santangelo, has been on all four of the attempts (and is also a 9-year breast cancer survivor), and the picture above (taken by Karen Lewis, one of the official JFTC photographers) shows Mary waving to the 8 other planes that the time had come for them to climb out. I absolutely love this picture because it looks like she's embracing the sky. (She told me what she was actually doing.) Mary's position is what was called "superfloater" and when she exited the plane, all of the women in the other 8 planes would need to be ready to be flying to their slot as quickly as possible. As you can see from the altimeter, they are at 16,000 feet and would have only about a minute for all those 181 women to get hooked up. For it to count as a record, everyone must have the correct grip and be in the correct position. And it needs to be held for at least 3 seconds. Just look at the picture from the ground of all the planes in formation, with hundreds of women exiting in order to make that first picture happen:

Those little dots that look like confetti are actually skydivers heading for the record. I am so thrilled for this accomplishment to have happened, and for so many of my skydiving friends from around the world to be on it. I didn't feel any need to be one of them in the air, but I am there in my heart and soul. God bless us all!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Riding the bus

Here in Bellingham, the bus system (the Whatcom Transportation Authority) is truly great. I've got a bus stop right down at the end of the driveway of the apartment complex where we live. I ride the bus to the gym every weekday morning, catching it at 7:53am for the 10-minute ride to town. Sometimes, just for fun, I'll walk down the street after the gym workout and catch the 401 to Fairhaven. Bellingham is made up of 23 different neighborhoods, which all came together from the consolidation of three different townships in 1904, joining together to become the City of Bellingham.

When we moved here more than a year ago, I had no idea of the great benefits of the city that I would learn to love: not only the bus system, but its proximity to Vancouver, B.C. (30 miles north) and Seattle, 85 miles south. On my bus ride to Fairhaven, only a 15-minute ride, I see Bellingham Bay to my right (picture taken from the bus), and condos and homes to my left as we travel down to Fairhaven. My three most favorite destinations are the Village Bookstore, my massage therapist's office, and Boulevard Park, which is a wonderful walk along Bellingham Bay.

 The main thing is that my husband and I still have two cars, because neither of us can agree on whose car will go, but we only need one. The bus allows me to ride UNLIMITED for $35 for three months of riding (as a senior). So I can choose to get onto a bus and just scan my bus pass and ride from the Canadian border about 18 miles north, to Mt. Vernon, 30 miles south. And I can ride back and forth all day long if I wanted to. Is this amazing, or what?

This picture shows the inside of one of the newer buses. A passenger has just pulled the cord to get the bus to let him off at the next stop. As you can see, the bus is used, but not heavily. This was taken at about noon on a Saturday.

And this bus (the #10) is my ride back to the bus stop at the end of my driveway. It only goes around every hour, but the other one I can ride home if I'm willing to walk a block to my apartment comes every other half hour. I find the ability to get home every half hour to be more than adequate. I'm still thinking about getting rid of one of our cars, but for now, not driving means I save gas, and wear and tear, and I get to enjoy my fellow passengers. I'm so pleased to have such a great system available to me!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall market

Fall squash and pumpkins: aliens could hide in here (click any picture to enlarge)

Okay, this is dangerous: I'm going to head out to the Farmers' Market later this morning, but in the meantime I just browsed through last Saturday's pictures and decided to go ahead and make this post (my second) for SquirrelQueen's September Market Challenge. The problem is that there will most likely be pictures I will wish I had waited for. Oh, wait! It just occurred to me that I can edit this post if that happens. The market doesn't open for another hour, and I'm just antsy. The picture above has a couple of squash and pumpkins I don't think I've ever seen  before. The one in the lower left I am convinced isn't real and might actually be an alien.

I didn't realize until I saw some other pictures of pumpkins that they don't always end up all orange. Did you know this? The pumpkins, corn, squash and other assorted veggies are now dominating the market, with root veggies like beets and carrots dominating the scene, instead of luscious summer fruits and lots of leafy stuff. But they are still here, just not in abundance.

Of course, not everything in the market is edible. There are rows and rows of jewelry, crafts, handmade clothing, and artistic things like... rattles? I had no idea! These are so cool, and the artist says people buy them and put them on their coffee table. I looked at these and thought someone might actually try to EAT one, they look so good.

And Chele at Henna Moon was incredibly busy, painting hands, arms, legs, feet, you name it. These two young ladies couldn't have been older than their early teens, if that. Probably wishing they could get a tattoo and this is the next best thing. You leave these protected and unwashed for 24-48 hours, then the skin is permanently stained from the henna, which eventually wears off as the skin is replaced. I guess it's better than a tattoo if you're a parent; I wondered if these girls went home and proudly showed these off to parents who didn't know they were going to do this.

The weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been incredible this fall, especially when I compare it to the other one I've experienced: last fall. This year is mostly dry and mostly sunny, compared to last year when we saw occasional peeks of sunshine in mostly cloudy and frequently rainy days. The meteorologists say this is caused by El Nino, which is setting up to be fairly strong. Amazing that warm waters around the coast of Peru causes changes in the weather up here. Makes me think of the butterfly effect in chaos theory.
Note: this last picture was added, as I suspected I might want to do, after my morning trip to the market. I was enchanted with the additional information on all the squash. My continuing favorite is the alien, which I see is named Galeux de Erysines. Pleased to meet you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boundary Way

Ward, Linda, and Boundary peaks behind them

Today 17 Seniors hiked up a fairly easy (comparatively, anyway) trip from the trailhead, only 5 miles round trip, and up about 1,300 feet. The two peaks behind Ward and Linda (on the left side of Ward, from our viewpoint) show the border between Canada and the United States.

On the way up Mt. Baker highway, we had a very interesting little diversion: although I couldn't see it (being a few cars behind the leader), a Fish & Wildlife truck was stopped in the middle of the road, and two police surrounded it from their own car, one of them with a machine gun (yes, really!) pointed at the head of the driver of the F&W vehicle. My cohorts saw the driver get out of the truck and kneel in the road, hands behind head until they were cuffed. By the time I saw the incident, there was only a fuzzy head sticking out of the back of the police car. It wasn't until we got to the trailhead that we shared stories. Apparently the perpetrator was trying to steal the truck and was apprehended in the act.

When we got to the trailhead, we saw a border crossing van and asked the driver if he knew any details, but he didn't, so we started our hike: we headed gently up to Cowap Peak (I have NO IDEA how to pronounce that) where we had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Here is where most of us had our lunch.

A few more enterprising of the hikers decided to have lunch on the narrow crossing to the true peak, which was so steeply down on both sides that it gave me vertigo, so I stayed with the larger group. The view of Mt. Baker was pretty impressive, though.

And just before we headed back down to the trailhead, some absolutely beautiful low clouds began to come in over Mt. Baker. We joked that the mountain was wearing a hat. This is probably the most perfect picture I've gotten over the past year of this mountain.

All in all, we were back home hours earlier than we've become accustomed to, because the hike was less then half the distance of last week's. I am here at home, posting this on the same day as these pictures were taken, and not completely spent from the exertion. It was a superb day, with good friends, and with these wonderful memories. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hundredth monkey

When I was a hippie, I remember hearing about the hundredth-monkey effect. I suspect some of you have also heard of it. But just in case you haven't, here's the story:
Unidentified scientists were conducting a study of macaques monkeys on the Japanese island of Koshima in 1952. These scientists purportedly observed that some of these monkeys learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys—in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. Watson then claimed that the researchers observed that once a critical number of monkeys was reached—the so-called hundredth monkey—this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands. This story was further popularized by Ken Keyes Jr with the publication of his book The Hundredth Monkey. Keyes presented the “Hundredth Monkey Effect” story as an inspirational parable, applying it to human society and the effecting of positive change therein. Since then, the story has become widely accepted as fact and even appears in books written by some educators.
It came to mind when I was thinking about International Peace Day and began to wonder if enough people believe in peace, will it come to pass? Will we someday have enough people who believe in something that it will spontaneously occur? Has this already happened?

I love my wild birds so much and wonder: will they someday figure out how to stop flying into windows? It is estimated that more than 90 million birds each year fly into windows and are killed.  I guess this means that the hundredth-monkey effect has a little ways to go with the birds. But it hurts me each time, and my windows are only about five or six feet from the feeders. Just moments ago I heard the telltale sound and looked out to see a goldfinch laying unconscious on the porch. I put on my special birding gloves and picked him up and put him in the plastic container I have just for this situation. He lay there for awhile, finally began to hear things, looked up and down. He tried to fly away but didn't seem to be able to, and I feared he had a broken wing. But just now, he took flight, and so did my heart. Yes!

Abe Lincoln over at Pick a Peck of Pixels wrote a very moving post this morning about a sick squirrel and his decision of what to do for him. It made me wonder what I would do in the same situation. Life is very tough sometimes, and the decisions we make are not clearly delineated as good or bad ones. I do know that I have a constant prayer in my heart to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And it is not clear at all what this really means. I try to stay attuned, but my ability to hear the answer sometimes gets clogged.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peace and flowers

There's something special about fall flowers

I'm wondering why I love the fall so much. Especially this year: look at the picture I took of the flowers at the Farmers' Market this past Saturday. I think dahlias and zinnias are incredibly beautiful. But there's another part of fall that I haven't quite gotten used to: allergies. Last year I didn't suffer from them, but this year it's another story altogether. I'm sneezing and itching and I'm not sure why. Could it be the flowers, or ragweed? I'm just going to hang out and hope it gets better.

Today is the International Day of Peace. You can read here about the concept, but it's basically where the phrase, "think globally, act locally" came from. Here in Bellingham there's a rally being held for world peace. Should I let you in on a secret, though? I get so depressed when I think of what is happening in the world today, and not a small part of the violence and destruction is being caused by my own government. I wonder what difference one person's desire for peace makes. I am looking for community, and I've found one that fits me pretty well: the blogosphere.

I want to thank all my followers for all the wonderful connections I've made in the past few months. Yesterday I actually got to 40 followers, which just amazes me, since in March and April when I first began with this blog I had exactly 3. And then I started commenting, following other blogs, and I wrote this post asking how to get more followers (last paragraph). The accumulation of followers is not free, however: I find that I need to go to their blogs, find out more about them, and in the process I often end up with even more blogs to follow. If it were not for Google Reader, I don't think I could keep up. Even one day away from my iMac means I'm falling behind.

But it's worth it. I am retired and don't think I'll find many blank spots in my days this winter. Tomorrow is the autumnal equinox, when the days and nights are of equal length. From tomorrow until the first day of winter, the days will become shorter and the nights longer. And then... well, we know what happens then. Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets, said in 1875: A little Madness in the Spring is wholesome even for the King. I look forward to whatever lies ahead.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hannegan Peak

Here is the summit group during our hike to Hannegan Peak yesterday (click any picture to enlarge). Most of the rest of the group (the other 10) hiked to Hannegan Pass, but some of us decided to give the peak a try. Last year I didn't go that far, and I'm not sure I will again next year. It's 4 miles up about 1,800 feet to the pass from the trailhead, which is a pretty good hike in itself. Then in a little more than a mile you hike up another 1,200 feet to the top of the peak. I couldn't keep up with some of the stronger hikers, so I just plodded at my own pace until I finally got there. Summit fever is all that brought me up the last few hundred feet.

The weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been spectacular. We had a few puffy clouds but otherwise it was very fine weather: cool to begin with, quickly warming to a comfortable hiking temperature, and then only at the end of the hike as we descended to the trailhead did it seem warm.
This little natural grotto by the side of the trail caught my eye. A little waterfall and moss, just lovely. If it were in a backyard, I would complement the gardener. As it was, I gave a little glance upward at the Creator in appreciation of the excellent workmanship.

We saw three grouse and a couple of deer for wildlife. Last year, on the hike down we spied a huge bear that looked to be at least 300 lbs. (according to the hunter in the group) and gave me shivers to see him. I looked for him again, but no luck this time.

The guidebook I consulted here at home told me that I could see numerous peaks from the summit, none of which I recognized except for Baker and Shuksan, which I have now seen on almost every hike in the wilderness. On the way back down, I saw Bob making a perfect picture with this incredible view in the background:

That's Amy (in the red) on her way back down. You can see that fall has come to the high country, with the red foliage. In another couple of weeks it should be spectacular, if the weather stays good. Amy will be around for one more week, and then she's off to Nepal to join the group attempting to climb Everest. She will trek to Base Camp at about 18,000 feet while they go on up. She is doing this to celebrate her 70th birthday. Aren't we an incredible bunch? I am so amazed at the fitness level of this group; I thought hiking with these old fogies would be a cinch. Hah! I'm working to keep up!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An abundance of fives

This picture, taken last Sunday, shows Skratch (in white), Jennifer (vamping), and Dougla (yes, that name is complete). They all came down from Jennifer's 55th jump. In her pocket is her father's picture, which she carries with her on every jump. When she was sixteen, he had 445 skydives, and they planned to make a jump together when she was old enough. He was only 43 when he died of cancer. Here's a quote from her story (published in the Canadian parachuting magazine) about why she decided to skydive back in April:
When I left for the airport that day - I put a picture of my dad in my  pocket.  We were going to jump together. . . some way or another.  I was going to make good on our promise to skydive together.  Gail, Amy and I arrived promptly at 2:30pm in the afternoon.  We checked in. You could feel the excitement, adrenaline and freedom in the air.  It was contagious.  My excitement was building... I heard our names over the intercom calling us to the benches for our training with our instructor, Spotty.  It was now or never.
She fell in love with skydiving and kept on going. Her 55th jump this past Sunday, which she preserved with a video taken by Dougla and accompanied by Skratch, is now part of her experience together with her dad. His last 55 jumps have been in her pocket, but she counts them as jumps they made together. It would coincidentally also have been her father's 500th.

Here they are packing up for the jump, after having done a practice one (not to mention needing to get to the magic number of 55). She is still learning how to pack, and Skratch is making sure she's learning all the cool techniques. Jennifer has a son who is almost 14 and has also got the bug. When he learned about wind tunnels, his eyes lit up. I think he'll be doing a tandem jump once he's old enough.

One thing I've learned about my husband: he thrives on teaching skydiving to new jumpers. I've seen it ever since I've known him, and although my days as an instructor are over, his will never stop as long as he's around young jumpers. It makes my heart glad. On Sunday, I made three jumps with my friends, playing in the sky, while he and Jennifer logged this very special jump.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thinking out loud

Me in the Galapagos Islands enjoying a beer, September 2004

A few of my blogging friends have raised some questions that made me think. First, Nancy at Life in the Second Half asked about five-year plans, and wondered if any of her readers do such things. Of course the comments are all over the place, but I thought about going back five years and figuring out if I thought I knew I'd be here, now, doing this "plan."

The answer is, I didn't have a clue. Five years ago was September, 2004. I was in the Galapagos Islands acting as the organizer for a meeting that was orchestrated and hosted by my ex-boss, Mickey Glantz. I had arranged for 35 scientists to come from all over the region (and from the United States) to attend a conference on El Nino Early Warning and Sustainable Development. This link takes you to the website that I developed for the meeting, along with the help of my right-hand person, Anne. After the meeting, I assisted in writing the report on this site.

That kind of meeting, along with editing numerous papers and books with Mickey, were the basis of my job at the time. On the weekends and during holidays, I was an avid skydiving instructor and made 205 skydives during 2004. I had no idea that five years later, I would be retired, having moved from Boulder to Bellingham, also retired from skydiving instruction and only jumping now and then. Five years ago, it was my life. That and supporting Mickey in a more-than-fulltime job. I was busy! No wonder I like my lifestyle so much now. I earned it.

The other blog that has got me thinking was posted by sas at sas' magical mystery tour about her conflicted relationship with her father. This post is called "something nearing closure" and describes her struggle through the years to understand what her life with him was all about. A quote from the post:
But I feel I have to stand up for the little girl I once was because if I don't, then who will?
Indeed. Who will? It made me remember that my father, although in so many ways I had no doubt of his love for his children, was flawed in his ability to understand women and girls. He would be 86 years old right now, if he had lived (he died at 62 of a heart attack). His generation had a totally different way of thinking about women and our place in the world. It reminded me of an event when I was seven: my grandmother was taking care of my sister and me while Mama was in the hospital having a baby. My father came home from the hospital and put his head in his hands. All of us, me, my grandmother, my little sister gathered around him and asked in shocked tones what had happened. Was Mama okay? The baby? And he looked up, stricken, and said, "it's another girl."

I tried to comfort him. Me, his firstborn, not-boy child who had let him down by being born a girl. Not understanding. And when, eventually, he had his son (when I was 16), Daddy was so ecstatic he went out and bought a baby blue station wagon, passed out cigars to all his friends, and felt that now he was a success. That was what he knew. It still exists out there. In China, female infanticide has been practiced ever since the one-child law went into effect.

But just as my brother was scarred by the labels my father placed on him, I was scarred by the labels Daddy placed on me. Both of us have grown into adulthood and beyond, and although we loved our father and know he loved us, I feel such pain for sas since I know how much we all wish our fathers could be perfect.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September market

I took too many pictures for this challenge, because in a simple short walk around the Farmers' Market here in Bellingham this morning, I was enchanted with the variety, the beauty, and the profusion of veggies, fruits, and flowers I saw today. (All pictures can be enlarged.) This challenge is sponsored by Judy over at The Road to Here. It's the third one I have joined, which show markets and roadside stands from around the world. SquirrelQueen (also known as Judy) says:
The purpose of this challenge is to raise awareness for purchasing locally produced foods. Be it fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, or any related items we want to know what's available where you live.
Just look at these carrots! I had no idea they could exist in such different colors, and I will endeavor to see if I can taste any difference in them based on color. It was so busy behind this counter I couldn't get the attention of the vendor to see if she had anything to say about their taste.
These garlic cloves turned out to be much more beautiful because they were packaged in lavender bags. All of the veggies are local, and most of them are organic as well. Actually, I'm not sure if ANY of them are not organically grown.
I've put up quite a few pictures of tomatoes in the past two challenges, but this is the first time they have been accompanied by gourds. Or maybe those are edible squash, I just don't know.
These eggs (there are signs everywhere to let you know that these chickens are the happiest in the county) go pretty quickly. You need to arrive first thing, since they are mostly gone within an hour. I know, because a couple of weeks ago I arrived two hours into the market (which goes from 10:00am until 3:00pm) and there wasn't an egg to be seen. Nice display, though, for now.
I'll bet you don't even need to cook this corn to make it taste yummy. Once, long ago in Michigan, I remember going out into the rows of corn and picking several ears, bringing them in, shucking them while the water was boiling. This corn is advertised to be fresh (not quite that fresh) and sweet.
I can't resist taking pictures of flowers. These dried flowers will be around now until the market closes in December, as they are dried for bouquets to be displayed during the winter. The delicate colors enchanted me. Although I took tons of pictures of live flowers, these reminded me of days gone by.
Late summer the sunflowers are everywhere across the country in great profusion. I see them around town in large stands, some growing so high they bend over the roadway from behind six-foot-high fences. Well, we are in the Pacific Northwest, after all, and in the Evergreen State lushness is expected.
And last of all, these flowers: the deepest, darkest color of zinnia I have ever laid eyes on, and what I believe to be another variety of white zinnia in the foreground. Flowers were everywhere, and I had a hard time choosing between pictures. I hope you enjoy the Bellingham Farmers' Market as much as I have today.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Skyline Divide

Well, remember last week! When we were hiking in the cold, the wind, the rain? Today, just the opposite! We hiked up 2,800 feet in elevation, all told, over a little more than 7 miles up and down. The sun was shining the whole day. This picture (click any to enlarge) shows me smiling while at our lunch spot. The hike, according to Ken Wilcox in Hiking Whatcom County, says:
This hike is steep at first, then eases off in old-growth forest for 1.5 miles before reaching a small opening around 5,200 feet. The path soon crosses the wilderness boundary and meets the meadowy crest of the ridge, at one of those places where your whole body involuntarily just says, "wow" (2.1 mi., elevation 5,800 feet). From here on, the views never let up: Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, the conspicuous "table" of Table Mtn, and Church Mtn and the High Divide to the north.
Here are five of the sixteen of us who made the hike today. I think it was close to perfect, both in its length, the views, and the camaraderie we shared with each other. Here you see, from left to right: Peggy, Bob, Cindy, Fred, and Jay. I kept asking for people to turn around, put the view to their backs so I could take pictures!!
Jay and Fred, with the Canadian mountains behind them, looking like they are standing on top of the world. The day could not have been more satisfying: no bugs because there was a breeze and cool weather, no clouds because all the day before it had rained up here, melting the snow that fell after our hike up Ptarmigan Ridge, when it weathered for days. A high pressure ridge is in the process of building for the weekend. We did meet a few sloppy places in the trail but any spots of snow were few and far between.
Here is Shuksan Mountain, early in the day with a layer of clouds still hanging around to make the view even more spectacular. Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the world, and I am steadily making my way around it, so I can say I have seen it from all sides.
And here, finally, is that wonderful mountain, Baker, that I have now seen from many different angles. If you enlarge the picture and look closely you can see some glaciers that are even now moving down the mountain. There is new snow from last week's storm. On this hike, we felt like we were walking right up to the side of the mountain and could just step over and take a quick trek to the top. Apparently this hike is actually one of the ascents for a "jaunt" to the top. At 10,780 feet, this beautiful mountain is not any higher than the beginning of several of my Colorado hikes, but... oh, so beautiful! When you start at sea level, this mountain stands regally against any of the fourteeners in Colorado!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Population pressures

Nancy over at Life in the Second Half has ignited a firestorm with a post about a neighbor who is shooting at squirrels in her condo area. She put the post up earlier today and I just added the 41st comment. Most people think it's unconscionable for people to shoot wild animals. But there are a few who feel it's important to keep them in check. And some who get off on it.

These two beautiful fawns and Mama Doe are seen by some people as fair game, nuisances to be driven away, or shot. Squirrels and deer, along with birds, proliferate around here, and I got to thinking about how I would feel if somebody came along with a gun and shot my wildlife. Pretty angry, I would say.

The balance of nature is a tough one. We humans are actually the ones who have gotten things so terribly out of whack, because we are changing everything through worldwide overpopulation. We are crowding out other species right and left, and there doesn't seem to be any fix for it, since we will continue to grow in numbers, as shown in the following graph:
I could go on and on, but what is bothering me right now is my beautiful wild friends, who are losing their habitat everywhere in the world. The deer above live in the field on the south side of my apartment complex. It used to be a chicken farm, I understand, and when it was torn down the land became overgrown with (mostly) blackberry bushes, fireweed, and other low shrubs. It has become a haven for all kinds of wildlife. Of course, I think the fireweed is beautiful, and the blackberries are delicious. But I've learned that here in Washington state, the blackberry bramble is considered invasive. Here's a quote from Wikipedia:
In some parts of the world, such as in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and the Pacific Northwest region of North America, some blackberry species, particularly Rubus armeniacus (syn. R. procerus, 'Himalaya') and Rubus laciniatus ('Evergreen') are naturalised and considered an invasive species and a serious weed.
This means that one person's delicious blackberries and cute squirrels are another person's scourge. As the world grows more and more overpopulated, these issues will become even more important to us. Now I'm not likely to be around when we get to 2050 (since I would be 108 by then), I might actually still be around by 2030 when that chart above projects more than 2.5 billion more people will be sharing our planet.

By then, I'll look back at my blog and show you what the world looked like, back when I was in my sixties. Wasn't it beautiful?
(click any picture to enlarge)

Monday, September 7, 2009


Not many people have as much to be grateful for as I do, so I'd like to share my gratitude with you. This dinner setting above is pretty much what I am treated to every evening (or some local variation). My husband does the veggie shopping and preparation on a weekly basis. The above dinner plate has steamed kale, purple cabbage, and beets boiled, peeled, and sliced. On top of that is some garlic walnut mezze (lower right) sprinkled with ground flaxseed (tastes like nuts). And finally, on top are slices of red pepper, some really great cheese, and cherry tomatoes. Eating this meal with chopsticks slows down my consumption and allows me to mix or daintily pick something up and snarf it down.

The meal is usually accompanied by my favorite shiraz (upper left) from organically grown grapes, although it is shipped from Australia. I've not yet found a locally grown substitute that I like as much as this one.

I realize that few people are blessed to have a partner who not only enjoys doing this, but actually prefers it to my rather messy excursions into the kitchen. Not that he doesn't enjoy my cooking, but the simple unadorned veggies here can be whipped up into a more spicy creation or enjoyed as is. We usually have myriad plastic containers in the fridge filled with various variations on this theme: brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, purple cabbage, beets, asparagus, collards, and more occasionally, various kinds of beans.

Additional protein is usually tofu or salmon. This makes for a very colorful, simple, and tasty dinner. One problem is that it is easy to eat too much, and I have found that overeating at any one time makes me get hungry that much sooner! I'm not sure why this happens, but it does. I do better when I eat smaller, more frequent meals. It's not exactly low calorie, either: I need to be careful or I will gain weight on this wonderful fare. (That might be because I like to saute up these veggies in olive oil and add flavorings, and that adds quite a few calories.)

When I think of the limited options available for some people, I can understand the need and/or desire to drive up to a Taco Bell or McDonald's and let them prepare it for me. But the difference between fast food and this slow food is enormous, both in the impact of its preparation on our precious planet, and on my waistline.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Midnight scaries

When preparing to write this post, I did a little research and found that there are several disorders of the sleep cycle. This is not what I'm talking about, however. A circadian rhythm is simply the effect of living on a planet that has a diurnal cycle every 24 hours, and some people don't adjust well.

But this doesn't happen to me. And I don't have night terrors, either, but I also didn't know about these until I finished the research. No, what I'm talking about will probably be very familiar: waking up in the middle of the night and becoming afraid, very afraid, of... you name it: life, death, disease, illness, loss, money worries. I think what happens to me is that I go to bed, usually much earlier than my husband (morning people tend to marry night people, don't they?) and am usually reading a good book, and find myself nodding off. I place a bookmark at my spot, turn off the light, turn over onto my side and fall asleep. Sometimes I can barely stay awake and love to slip into sleep. And then, usually sometime around midnight, I wake up. I'm fully awake, and I begin to think. I can feel my heart begin to race if there's something really bothering me, and this can go on for hours. I've learned to get up and change my focus, and then I can usually go back to sleep.

Sometimes I'm only awake for a short while. But what I've noticed about these times is that whatever seems manageable during the day, just feels WAY worse and more terrifying during the night. Why is that? I've been known to wake my sleeping husband with a plea to help me through the "middle-of-the-night scaries." He does, of course, and good partner that he is, his understanding ear helps me to put things into their proper perspective.

As I've gotten older, my deep sleep cycles have gotten shorter, and sometimes I wake up and think of my (mostly pleasant) dreams and fall right back to sleep. I need at least eight hours and usually get nine. Occasionally I get only a few hours but the next night I'll make up for the missing sleep.

I'm wondering if this happens to you, and if so, do you have coping mechanisms that you're willing to share with me?

Friday, September 4, 2009

100 posts

I found this picture on Karli's blog when she was celebrating her 100th post! I just noticed that this milestone happened yesterday, and I want to say thank you for everything to all my friends and family who have either happened upon my blog or were coerced into joining (smile). Here's what I've learned in 100 posts:
  • Sometimes you need to think before you post. I have gotten myself into trouble by not understanding what other people might be reading into my words.
  • Asking for followers can be a double-edged sword, because of course I want to find out who these people are, and this can become very time-consuming. You need to read their stuff.
  • I keep a list of possible post subjects. Right now, I have a rant list consisting of (1) tossers vs. savers, (2) the book Bonk by Mary Roach, (3) taking a news fast, (4) the I Ching, (5) the midnight scaries, and (6) my progress in staying away from processed foods. I also have two awards to write posts about. This keeps me thinking continuously about blogging.
  • I am endlessly amazed when I find a new buddy and I see that they follow literally hundreds of blogs. This can be daunting, because of course there will be two or three that I simply must check out. How do they do it?
  • Comments are wonderful. I both love to receive them and to write them. Sometimes Blogspot gets a little testy and refuses my comments, but I don't usually have much problem.
  • The blogosphere has become a place where I continue to learn so much about other parts of the world and other ways of thinking. My mind is constantly expanding to take in new concepts.
My daily routine usually begins with brewing a cup of tea and opening up my laptop while reading the daily news in bed, husband asleep beside me. (He's a night person, and I'm a morning person.) Even though he's lightly asleep, I enjoy having him there. In the old days, before blogging, I would read several news sites and editorials before heading over to Facebook and changing my status (and reading the news feed).

Now I am lucky to get to the editorials of my favorites and scanning the headlines, since the time has flown by while I'm reading my comments, making them on favorite blogs, and basically getting caught up. I sure don't want to miss the bus to indulge in my favorite latte before my gym class at 9:00 am! How has blogging changed your world?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ptarmigan Ridge

As you can see here, at the beginning of our hike, it doesn't look much like the last two sunny excursions: it was raining, 40 degrees F, windy, and beginning to hail as the thirteen Senior Trailblazers started out, wondering if this was really a good idea. We decided to walk at least to the trail junction and then decide whether to continue on. (Click any picture to enlarge.)
Once we got there, the clouds began to lift, although we were pretty cold and uncomfortable, slogging through the puddles and trying to get warm. We decided to walk another mile, to the beginning of the ridge. It was pretty obvious that there would be no super wonderful view, as I had been promised (if the weather were fine, that is). During the last few hikes to Ptarmigan Ridge, mountain goats were seen playing in the meadow. Today, however, I suspect they were finding some nice warm spot huddled amongst the trees.
This was the best view I got all day, and it's not bad. I love the clouds and the way they came and went. By the time I took this picture it was warm, mostly because we had been hiking for a little ways, and so we decided to carry on for one more mile. Here's our lunch spot, which looks at lot warmer and cozy than it felt. Notice the fall colors on the hillside behind.
Fred, our intrepid sparkly person, has now had his headband sewn onto his hat (probably by his wife), and he's added a pair of rather day-glo yellow gloves to complete his costume. Two of our hikers are coming up behind him in the fog. Pea soup fog was what we saw for most of the day.
As we began the hike back, making it six miles in all, mostly in the rain, we were greeted by the only other hikers we saw all day: a group of two, a family of three, and a lone backpacker headed into the wilderness. Other than that, we had Ptarmigan Ridge all to ourselves today. I'm glad we got to hike, considering that the next few days are projected to be just as wet, or even wetter. I am, after all, in the Pacific Northwest, and it's been really dry. The good part is that my new boots are completely waterproof: the driest part of my equipment were my feet.