Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Our wonderful weather

Foggy downtown scene
For more than a week now, we've had simply wonderful sunny weather, with dense fog most mornings, which give me pictures like the above ethereal scene, taken early one morning this weekend. And now it's all coming to an abrupt end. By Thursday, our hiking day, we are forecast to have a 100% chance of rain. That doesn't mean it will rain constantly, but if we even have a few minutes of rain, that forecast will be correct. Considering that much of our rain doesn't always happen when we're out in it, I'm going to stay optimistic. The forecast for the following days is even worse.

Optimism has carried me through the last few days since my last post. I've done quite a bit of research online to figure out how much advantage I'll gain by having cataract surgery, and it seems that in most cases, it helps, at least for a short while. The kinds of intra-ocular lenses that are available these days is also fascinating. I'll know more when I have my pre-op consultation on the 13th, but for now I'm going to keep my spirits up by considering all the good in my life and hoping for the best. It doesn't help anybody for me to get down in the dumps and all sad about things I can do nothing about.

I just finished my Tuesday yoga class and found that I could perform almost all the asanas our teacher was showing us without a problem. It's the first time I got my hands in prayer position behind my back! I didn't know I could even do it; I just had to be shown how to try. My shoulders are  both going to feel it tomorrow, I'll bet. I sure do enjoy pushing my limits, it seems.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's all about the eyes

Not my eye
"What do you mean, you can't do anything?" That was me asking my retina specialist about the changes I've recently experienced in my vision. He explained that I have progressed from having intermediate-stage dry AMD (age-related macular degeneration) to the advanced stage of geographic atrophy. I have been hoping that the upcoming cataract surgery, scheduled for the end of November, would give me back my vision, but no, that's not going to happen. It will help, perhaps, but I'm simply going blind. I'll probably be legally blind before I reach my eightieth birthday. But then again, he told me that there is no way to predict the progression of AMD.

For some reason, my vision distortion and loss has accelerated since my previous visit. A rather distressing snippet from the above link tells the story:
Geographic atrophy will progress relentlessly through the central macula and cause significant impairment of vision and quality of life.  Still, an individual will always retain peripheral vision and will not go completely blind.
Well, that's just swell. If it were my knees going out, I could get them replaced. Unfortunately, it's my eyes, and I'll just have to find a way to cope with loss of vision. So far, the damaged area of the macula is not in the middle but off to the left a bit. I can still read just fine, and I suspect that after the cataracts are removed I'll see a little better than I do today.

Sorry for the bummer of a post, but I'm not actually thinking about much else today. I'll be back to my old cheerful self once I have a chance to get used to it. Plus, I've got the hope that the cataract surgery will help me see better, for awhile at least. And I'll learn adaptive techniques, just like other people do. I did learn in my research that Judi Dench suffers from it, the same sort of vision loss I have. She copes by having her scripts enlarged so she can read using her peripheral vision.

Anyway, for now I can still see well enough to read, watch TV, and play in the sunlight. And write blog posts. I'll continue to do all that for as long as I can.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A golden day on Church Mountain

Brilliant golden color everywhere
Today sixteen (!) Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to discuss what to do with the wonderful day that was forecast: full sun after a day of rain, and little snow in the High Country. We decided to make one more excursion up the Mt. Baker Highway to one of our favorite summer haunts. This time we headed to the meadows of Church Mountain. The magnificent colors of the trees greeted us everywhere, with sunshine pouring through them, lighting up the entire day with gold.
Part of the group on our way to the meadows
Yes, there were a lot of us, but since we wouldn't be traveling far enough to enter the wilderness area, we didn't need to be concerned with our numbers. We knew that we would be traveling up almost 3,000 feet (900 meters) to the meadows,  but instead of encountering snow, we were delighted to be in full sun, no wind, and incredible views.
Trail to the meadows
Today the temperature was just about perfect for hiking, cool but not cold, and Al set a moderate pace as we climbed ever upward, covering plenty of elevation. The trail was gently softened by plenty of forest detritus, making it a lovely upward climb.
The meadows
And finally we reached the meadows, which you can see here were free of snow and made for easy hiking. We decided to head to a nearby ridge and not attempt to make the summit, another hard climb and with the shortened days, no assurance that we'd have enough daylight to summit. Nobody minded stopping at noon for a nice lunch.
Dianne and Melanie among the blueberry bushes
The farther along we went, the more blueberry bushes (those red ones) we saw. And guess what? They STILL had blueberries to gather. In fact, some of the more obsessive members of our group fell far behind as they couldn't stop themselves. I helped myself to some, but once I found the perfect blueberry, I stopped and concentrated on getting to our lunch spot.
Bear sighting!
On our way to the ridge, several people saw a mother bear with two cubs across the meadow. I looked but didn't see them. You can see Chris pointing to their location. Several people who had never before seen bears in the wilderness were thrilled to see actual bears for the first time!
Lunch spot
We found a nice mostly sunny spot to have our lunch. We could see beautiful Mt. Baker from here, and while many people settled in for a nice respite, I got this picture of Melanie in front of Mt. Baker.
Mel in front of Mt. Baker
I found that the full sun made it harder to get really good pictures, but this one at least shows Melanie's happiness to be here. I also was very happy to be in such a wonderful place with such a wonderful group. And then...
Heading back down the way we had come
It was time to return to the cars and leave the beautiful, wonderful forest for another season. By next week, the weather is supposed to go back to normal, and we will be hiking at sea level, rather than up here in the mountains with incredibly perfect conditions. It was a magnificent way to bid farewell to another season of hikes in the High Country. Of course, we stopped at Grahams for ice cream or coffee before we made our way back to Bellingham.

We covered almost seven miles and 2,700 feet of elevation before it was all said and done. I'm now happy finishing up my well-deserved glass of wine and settling into my favorite chair. It was a great day, with excellent people, and magnificent weather.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Random acts of kindness

Snagged from the Internet
Not knowing what to write about today, I used a technique I used in my writing retreat: find a random prompt to get me started. And the one I found is "Random Acts of Kindness." I have always loved that concept, just spreading love and joy throughout my day sounds like a great idea.

I'll try to find some ways to surprise people around me with a smile, maybe buying a stranger ahead of me in line his or her coffee, maybe giving a compliment to a friend, giving someone a hug, just spreading some love around the universe.

I am starting right now with a quote for you from Scott Adams:
"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."
Now I'm off into my day looking for places to spread some love.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Getting my eyes done

Melanie took this of me on Thursday
I kind of like this picture Melanie took of me last week. It shows me in full rain regalia. It was necessary then, and will be necessary today. We are expecting an atmospheric river of rain, which will also reach down to California, which should help with the firefighting.

This morning more than a dozen of us ladies (and that one man) met in light rain to walk twice around Lake Padden, one of our regular walks. On the second time around, we saw these mushrooms, missed the first time. If I'm not mistaken, these are a strain of amanita, which are supposedly psychedelic. If so, I think there's a stoned critter (probably a squirrel) walking around, as I look at the bites taken out of them.
I remember seeing these often in Colorado, although they were brilliant red with white dots just like these. Anyway, the rain pretty much stayed away for the second trip around, and then Lily and I headed over to the Farmers' Market to wander around and get a bite to eat. The vendors are fewer with each weekend, but the market will stay open until the last Saturday before Christmas, with lots of opportunities to buy presents toward the end of the season.

It will be more than a month before the first of my eyes will be operated on, replacing the cloudy lens with a synthetic one. Times have changed so much in the last few decades; now it's a commonplace surgery. On our hike last Thursday, someone asked when my surgeries are scheduled. "I get the first one done on November 28th," I said, "and the third eye in December." Everybody laughed before I realized my mistake. Well, I mused afterwards, that third eye I guess will be my own responsibility to get all cleared up. I'll work on that.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A good hike for a wet day

Richard, Chris, Richard, Heather, Al (also me, Mel, and Kirk not shown)
Since the weather forecast was less than stellar for our usual Thursday hike, Melanie had suggested that we drive up to Samish Overlook (shown here) and make our hike either very short (if the weather is really terrible) or moderate (if it's better than forecast). Eight of us left the Senior Center this morning with cloudy skies, but basically dry conditions as we drove to Samish Overlook. We've done this hike plenty of times from Chuckanut Drive, but this was a first, making it possible for us to increase or decrease the distance traveled based on conditions.
Richard sawing through some branches on the trail
We saw plenty of evidence of yesterday's windstorm, with lots of trees across the trail. Richard is sawing through a couple of the small branches with his Swiss Army Knife in this picture. At this juncture, we still had mostly dry conditions, with only a few raindrops falling on us from the wet trees when the wind blew.
The non-view from Oyster Dome
Then we ascended the trail to what would have been our destination, should the weather have been less pleasant: Oyster Dome. No view to speak of, and the wind was blowing a gale. It was early, so we decided to head off to Lily Lake.
Al on the trail
I saw this rather pretty monochromatic picture as Al was hiking along ahead of me. The yellow detritus is, I suspect, fresh fallen from yesterday's windstorm, creating lots of interesting patterns as we hiked along. On our way to Lily Lake, the sky started to spit a little. Not much, but we knew what was probably coming our way.
Lily Lake today
Here's what we saw when we got to Lily Lake. Lots of mist and not much view, so no reason for us to climb up to North Butte. However, the mild temperature and light rain didn't discourage us much. It was time to decide where to go next.
Discussion about our options
After some discussion, we decided to head to Lizard Lake and make somewhat of a loop before heading back to Samish Overlook. There's really not much difference in the atmosphere of Lizard and Lily Lakes. The only way I knew which one is in which picture is because of their order. We went off to Lizard Lake before heading back home.
Lizard Lake today
The mist had cleared somewhat by the time we reached Lizard Lake, and we decided to take a quick lunch here before heading back down to Samish Overlook. It wasn't warm by any means, but after a pretty satisfying lunch, we started back. And you can probably guess what joined us about this time: a light rain.
Returning in the mist
Nobody minded too much, because we had enjoyed a much better day than we had anticipated. While we were in the trees, we were protected from the wind, at least, but there were moments when we had sideways rain and strong wind on our way back. Since we knew we weren't far from our destination, nobody complained and everyone continued to be glad we had come this far. We covered around 7.5 miles and somewhere around 1,800 feet up and down. Not one of our hardest hikes, but I have to say that it was a very good hike indeed. If I had it to do over again, I would go, gladly. Thanks to everybody who helped to make today's adventure a good one.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rain, wind, and unexpected sun

Wet leaves on the sidewalk
When I woke this morning, I heard the wind howling outside, and rain hammering on the roof. Oh, well; I wasn't planning to walk to the bus today anyway, but I intended to drive since I had a yoga class at 11:00am and wouldn't otherwise have enough time to come home, leave again, and get to class on time. I'm glad I didn't miss the class, since it was a good one with lots of stretching and challenges for my old bones to meet.
Our pretty blue trees
Although the sun had broken over the horizon by the time I got to the coffee shop this morning, it was still dark enough, with all the wet weather, for me to capture this picture of the pretty blue lights adorning our downtown trees this year. It's a new look, and I like it very much. Lovely and discreet at the same time.

But then! When I left my yoga class, the rain was gone, blue skies appeared, and the wind had stopped. Temporarily, it seems, since we are on a high wind watch starting late tonight, with more rain and wind expected for the rest of the week. So, it was unexpected to have some nice weather, but nobody minds a brief respite. I've said it before, but I really wish there was some way to ship some of our rain to California. They are beginning to get those fires under control, I learned today. That fills me with happiness and relief.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fall in full swing

On the Interurban trail
More than a dozen or so of us ladies were joined this morning by a new couple, and one of them is a man, who was a little surprised to find that he was going to be alone with all of the rest of us ladies on the walk. We'll see if he returns. I hope so; they are both very strong walkers and stayed in the front with the ones I hardly know, since I can't possibly keep up with them. No matter, I sure enjoyed bringing up the rear and walking at a more leisurely pace. I did keep up for the majority of the walk but decided there was no need to push myself.
Bridge in Arroyo Park
Now that I've gone on my usual Thursday hike and my usual Saturday morning walk, I'm settled right back into my routine after our wonderful five days on Vashon Island, which now seem like a distant memory. My, it amazes me how quickly I can forget the lovely time we shared. I must admit to having had several ideas for writing come up, but so far nothing has emerged. Just a wish to find a way into creative writing on a regular basis.

I burst into tears yesterday when I watched the news before heading off to the gym. The devastation in California is beyond tragic. When the news of the world feels so desperate, I have to tune it out. So yesterday I took two yoga classes in a row, three hours of asanas and stretching. Afterwards I did feel much, much better, but today I am just a teensy bit sore in places that I didn't know I have. It's curious: when I think back over what we did, I cannot figure out how I ended up with sore thighs and buttocks, and the backs of my arms tender to the touch.

We are on track for more rain, starting tonight. How I wish we could slide some of it over to northern California, where it is truly needed. My body is not the only part of me that is sore, my spirit feels a little bit vulnerable, too.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Puttin' on the Rain Gear

Gearing up for the rain
Sixteen Senior Trailblazers met this morning to discuss where we should go. Our scheduled hike into the High Country didn't make any sense, since it's raining and snowing up there today. Rain in the Chuckanuts was easier to deal with, since it's a short drive and we could turn around or, if the weather cooperated, we could even go further if we wanted. We chose Lost Lake, a regular winter haunt, and one we will visit many times in the next few months.
Chris in her rain gear, including rain skirt
Chris and her husband Rich both have created rain skirts for themselves, which makes a lot of sense since you can let air move through, as opposed to rain pants (which I and many others wore today). We used raincoats, ponchos, pack covers and rain hats to keep ourselves warm and dry. It was cool and showery, with the temperature around 50°F (10°C), so we weren't terribly cold as we made our way to Lost Lake.
Reflection in Lost Lake
We never saw the sun all day, and once we got to the lake, we decided to have an early lunch (it was around 11:00am) and head back the way we had come. Rich, who is famous for taking a dip whenever there's water around, crept away and did his thing, which we only knew because we saw the waves he created in the water.
Having lunch at Lost Lake
While the rest of us were bundled up to keep warm, he was busy covered only in goosebumps before sneaking back fully clothed to grab a quick lunch before we packed up to start back. He swears by it and Chris says he never takes a hot shower at home, only cold ones. He's a certified "interesting character."
We saw these very interesting mushrooms and wondered about them. They look almost like they've been sprinkled with cinnamon, don't you think? We saw several other varieties that I recognized, but I don't think I've ever seen any quite like these before.
Leafy Interurban trail
It rained quite hard as we made our way down the return trail, but since we were moving at a good clip and bundled in our rain gear, it was almost pleasant. No views today, but good company, and we covered well over nine miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. I'm feeling pretty good, now that I'm dry and warm as I write this. A very typical Pacific Northwest kind of hike in the rain, and now I'm ready to snuggle up in my favorite chair with a good book.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Home again, safe and sound

Sandi and Deb on our last Vashon morning
Every single day of our retreat, the three of us left the farmhouse just before sunrise to walk three miles around a loop we discovered a few years back. It was the perfect way to start the day before spending so many hours sitting and writing, reading and sharing, and listening to each other's positive feedback about our writing.

And now it's over. Our sixth and final Vashon Island gathering of the bloggers who have called ourselves "Vashonistas" has come to an end. What lies ahead isn't clear, but I truly hope that I will see the magical island of Vashon again someday. I only know it in October, and this year the weather was more than perfect. We got many glimpses of Rainier, and on our last night, we were treated to the mountain in alpenglow.
Rainier and Quartermaster Harbor
I'm filled to the brim, but also glad to be back in the apartment with my dear partner. I've picked up my car, which has been repaired, and returned the rental car. Tomorrow my familiar life returns, but I've got a hankering to stir things up. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A beautiful place for a retreat

Young deer
Every morning three of the four of us ladies start the day with a nice three-mile walk. With each year that passes, I've noticed more deer, which seem completely unfazed as they stroll by or lie in the grass, looking up with little curiosity at the people passing by. It must be an idyllic place for them to live.

It's actually a lovely place for most creatures, including people, at least at this time of year. This morning when I'm on our walk, I'll be thinking of my usual Saturday morning walk with many more of us ladies enjoying the fall colors. I'll be present in spirit in Bellingham, but I'll be here on Vashon.

I miss my normal routine a little, but it's been such a fruitful time here as I spend my days writing and sharing, with me getting all fired up once again to find a way to write some fiction pieces, short stories, something to spice things up. A little cinnamon, nutmeg for sure, and cardamom suitable to the time of year. Fall is such a pensive time for me, with the return of the rain and cold weather, instead of waking each day to the early sun and birdsong. Yep, the season has definitely changed and I must change along with it.
it is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world. (Mary Oliver)
I hope you have a wonderful day out there while I enjoy the final weekend of our retreat on Vashon Island, a magical place.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Vashonista once again

Me, Jann, Sandi, Deb at the Tea House in town
Well, our Vashonista group is shrinking. When we started out six years ago, we were six, then five for a couple of years, and this time, we are four. Neither Sally nor Linda are here for what is likely to be our very last year at the Lavender Hills Farmhouse. Renting the six-bedroom farmhouse for five nights split between four is much different than between six. Linda was going to attend this year and graciously paid her share, but I'm thinking it's probably time for us to make a change anyway.
The living room, looking out on the bay
It's every bit as beautiful this year as it was every year before, but we do seem to be rattling around in it a little more than in past years. I am the only one in the basement, with one of two bedrooms on the main floor occupied, and the suite and other upstairs room occupied by Deb and Sandi. I am using the smaller of the basement bedrooms as a place to charge my devices.
Quartermaster Harbor
Last year we went kayaking on this bay, but today three of the four of us did our usual three-mile walk before settling down to work on creative writing for the day. We started out the door just before the sun came up and enjoyed reminiscing about previous years. We are the only three that walked every single morning, rain or shine, and it was truly a lovely feeling to be back here, walking in the brisk cool air with my friends. We saw at least six deer out for their breakfast at various places, obviously very accustomed to human activity.
Mt. Rainier shining on the horizon
When the weather is fine as it is today, we have a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier from the back porch of the farmhouse. You can see a bit of the harbor, too. It's a beautiful place even in the rain, but right now it's spectacular. On the way back to the farmhouse this morning, we saw that a new place has opened up just a block from the house, The Burton Inn, a bistro and restaurant. The innkeeper, Deborah, was not open yet, but she saw us looking and invited us in for coffee and scones, although we had no money to pay her.
At the Burton Inn this morning
It's a lovely place and opened not long after our visit here last year. We made reservations for dinner there tonight and will, I'm sure, enjoy a wonderful meal, if the menu is any indication. Once we returned to the farmhouse, we got ready for a day's worth of creative writing. We are finished for the day, which is why I'm writing my post now. We are relaxing (Jann) or shopping (Deb and Sandi) or catching up on blog writing and reading (me).

So that's what is happening in my life today. We'll rinse and repeat tomorrow, unless we feel like changing things up a little. We're on a vacation with writing at the center, so we can do whatever feels best. I hope to get a post up here on Saturday, unless I forget (smile). We will drive back to our respective homes on Monday morning. Until then, I'm a full-time writer.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tuesday post on a Monday

Our garden sunflowers
I know, I know: it's not Tuesday yet, but since I forgot to write a Saturday post, I figured I'd just continue to mess up the week's schedule. It's going to be a different week, anyway. Tomorrow I will take my damaged car to the body shop and leave it to be fixed, then pick up my rental car and take off for Vashon Island on Wednesday. In between then and now, I'll finish packing. Since I will miss my usual Thursday hike, I'll be posting something about my retreat instead. Just a mixed-up week.

Our season's garden is just about over, but these beautiful sunflowers are still going strong. A few have begun to droop, but there are others that will probably not get a chance to bloom at all. I was looking at one of them and saw this pretty ladybug nestled inside.
Ladybug in the sunflower
It amazes me what good pictures my iPhone can take. The depth of field is not very deep, but I managed to get the ladybug in focus, even if the leaves in the foreground are blurry.

I am busy trying to remember everything I'm going to need for the week. When I return, my car will be fixed and perhaps the week after will be normal. I'll try to stay out of the way of huge tow trucks!