Monday, March 30, 2020

Stocking up on Vitamin G

Ingela holding a Zoom yoga class
This morning I attended a remotely held yoga class, in Ingela's front room, I think. She's the owner of Yoga Northwest, where I regularly attend two classes a week. In the midst of all this physical distancing we are forced to take, she is trying out Zoom, and sent out the first of which we all hope will be many more Zoom classes. Other than a lot of weird stuff at the beginning, once it got started, it was really pretty cool.

I downloaded the Zoom app onto my iPad, clicked a couple of buttons and suddenly I could see her living room, along with those of others, and then I was ready to join them. Nineteen people joined the class, and I know that there is some way for the others in the group to talk with Ingela, but we didn't do that.

It worked pretty well, but I sure do miss the interaction with not only the instructor, but the others in the class as well. Nevertheless, it's the first time I've done a full yoga class since all this started a few weeks ago. I've been more than a little downhearted about our worldwide pandemic. Just getting myself up to go out for a walk has been a struggle.

I guess I really didn't want to fully accept the magnitude of the changes in my life now, and the lives of all of us to come, after this all settles down, with (hopefully) most of us still here afterwards. It's beginning to sink in, reminding me that I need to start taking better care of myself.

So Ingela reminded us all to stock up on that essential vitamin, Vitamin G, for Gratitude. I'm going to look around for things in my life that will remind me of all the wonderful and beautiful parts of the world, that are everywhere, if I just look for them.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. —Gilbert K. Chesterton

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Stay safe, stay at home

Indian plum in bloom (Mel's picture)
A couple of days ago, our governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation stating that all residents of Washington state are mandated to stay at home, except for essential needs, such as buying food, seeing a doctor, or picking up items at the pharmacy. He also closed all state parks AND hiking trails. There is also a restriction on gatherings of any size, no matter how small. Therefore, we have stopped our social hiking activity for the moment.
Proclamation to impose a Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order throughout Washington State by prohibiting all people in Washington State from leaving their homes or participating in social, spiritual and recreational gatherings of any kind regardless of the number of participants, and all non-essential businesses in Washington State from conducting business, within the limitations provided herein. (my emphasis)
We have learned that city and county hiking trails are still open, but only if physical distancing guidelines of at least six feet (or 1.75 meters) between people are followed. The restrooms are open and being sanitized several times a day. I decided this morning to head out to Lake Padden to make two loops around the lake (5.2 miles). My friend Melanie texted me and asked if she could join me, so the two of us enjoyed each other's company, although from a distance.
Mossy log with Lake Padden in the distance
It was a nice outing, familiar and easy, one I often make with the Saturday morning ladies group, which is also currently on hiatus. In fact, everything in my entire life is pretty much on hold, so I'm having to get creative to peel myself out of my easy chair and get exercise these days. I really didn't realize how unmotivated I would feel when it's just me.
Pretty flowers at the grocery store
In other circumstances, seeing all these beautiful flowers at the grocery store would brighten my spirits, but it's a struggle to see much in our current situation as being positive. I went for coffee at the local co-op this morning, and I learned that I would need to get in line (with six feet between us), since the store is only allowing 25 shoppers in at a time, and we had to wait until people left the store before anyone else could enter. Once inside, it was easy to order a soy latte and grab a breakfast burrito before leaving and going off to the lake.

We will get through this, but I am truly surprised at how difficult it has been for me to lose my normal daily routine. No gym, no yoga, no acupuncture, no massages, and now no hiking group. I believe that a few of the regulars were going to hike the trail that was on the schedule, but it's not one I much care for, so I opted for the easier hike. It's pretty hard to maintain social distancing when you have more hikers, anyway.

I'm rethinking just about everything in my daily routine, which has changed so much I barely know what day it is. At least I'm still getting enough sleep! What else is there to do?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Let's take care of each other

Photo by William Burt
I have contributed to the National Audubon Society, so I get an email regularly from them. They sent out a bunch of cute baby pictures yesterday, reminding me that it was World Water Day. These adorable water babies gave me a lift, and it's also a sweet way to think about how there are plenty of lives that don't know a thing about the coronavirus.

This picture made me think of those days when I would jump out of an airplane and give myself to the air, much like these guys are doing. I didn't have any wings to flap, but they don't either, and they sure look like they're having fun. I guess all of us are looking for ways to have whatever fun we can while in isolation. I'm doing a lot of reading and watching some good programs. I'm really happy that I had subscribed to so many streaming services.

A couple of days ago I drove by the closed YMCA and I saw some of my favorite instructors on the street corners in yellow-and-black striped outfits, waving signs, while smiling at us in cars. The signs said things like, "Bee Resilient" and "Bee Helpful." I teared up as I passed by. There are so many kindnesses all around me, and it makes me very hopeful that we will get through this with an expanded appreciation of our community.

I am truly enjoying the burgeoning spring flowers everywhere. It's only going to keep getting better from here. Let's not forget to take care of each other. I stop myself from volunteering, because I am one of those who is at high risk, being in my late seventies. I keep forgetting, but I am being good and mostly staying home, unless I go for a walk in the sunshine. We have already had two deaths in my county, with 48 confirmed cases, as of yesterday.

I do hope you are doing well, and staying safe in your own little corner of the world. Let's take care of each other.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

A very nice hike today

My group today
I had three different possibilities for a hike with the Senior Trailblazers today: one, hike up to the viewpoint on the Chanterelle trail; two, join the group going up Blanchard Mountain; or three, go with the "relaxed" group on the horse trails behind Lake Padden. I waffled a bit but finally decided to join the Lake Padden group.

Since we are no longer carpooling because of the coronavirus, everyone needs to drive separately to the trailhead. I chose this one because it's the closest to my home. Owen and Lenny both took separate groups up the trails, as it was decided that the smaller the group, the easier it would be to keep our distance. And I made two new friends, Kathryn  and Lenny. In the picture above, Kathryn is on the right, and Lenny is second from left. That leaves Janet (hiding behind the tree), Terry, and Leslie, brightening the picture with all that pink.
The rest of our group
We ran into the other five (there were eleven of us in all) when Janet stopped to take a call from her doctor. Remember those days when you weren't accessible by phone when you took a hike? Well, when you're near town, your cellphone usually works. That caused the other group to catch up and pass us by.
Kathryn greeting the tree
Lenny said he always gives this tree a pat when he passes by, as it sits at the highest point on these trails. Kathryn showed how to give it a modern hello. I gave it a normal high five myself.
Our leader giving us a quick story
Lenny is a very good leader, and he knows these trails very intimately, having hiked them many times. When we came to a junction, he would give us the option of going shorter or longer. The day had started out quite cold, but by the time we reached this lovely spot, most extra clothing had been removed. And we were mostly in the shade on the trails. You can see the sun was shining brightly, and there was little to no breeze. Perfect!

We hiked around six or seven miles before returning to our cars. Since we were not carpooling, anyone could leave at any time, and I decided when we got to the main trail around the lake to head back. It was noon and I was getting hungry. We had a little up and down, nothing much compared to last week, and I was happy to have enjoyed such a delightful day with such nice people. I'll probably be back with them next week.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coffeemaker for home use

French press
Several readers wondered why I don't make coffee at home, and I figured I should tell you the truth:  I really like GOOD coffee, and those usual drip coffee makers don't do a very good job. Plus, I like the social aspect of having a cup or two with friends. My usual order is a "shot in the dark," coffee with a shot of espresso.

We've now got a French press coffee maker. It actually turns out that I must have bought it years and years ago, and when I suggested to SG that we get one, he paused for a moment and looked thoughtful. Then he rummaged around in our cabinets and pulled out a Bodum french press that looked vaguely familiar. It's never been used, and had all the instructions inside to tell me how to use it.

I think I bought it because I had been served some coffee at someone's home, made with a french press, and I liked it very much. But then after the purchase sat on the counter for awhile as I continued to go out for coffee, it disappeared from sight and, obviously, out of mind.

Today I bought some coarse grind coffee and tomorrow I'll give it a try. I think it's more like espresso (which I prefer to drip), and the coffee I bought is a local Bellingham blend. Just today our governor announced that all bars and restaurants will close for at least several weeks. He didn't say anything about coffee shops, but now I'm all set for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

A hike without many of our regulars

Chris, Steve, Susie, Richard, me, Mike, and Carin
The Senior Center is now closed for an indeterminate amount of time, because of the coronavirus. We met in the parking lot and drove to our predetermined starting point. We had been scheduled to drive to Whidbey Island to roam around Hoypus Hill, but without Al (who showed up this morning but not to hike), who knows this area well, we decided instead to simply hike up the trail to Fragrance Lake, then up the Lost Lake trail to the Rock trail up to Gates Overlook. Then back down the road and the Fragrance Lake trail.
Sky and tree reflections at Fragrance Lake
Before we headed up to the Lost Lake trail, we took a short side jaunt to see the lake. You can see it was quite calm, and the sky, although cloudy, was not in any danger of sending us any precipitation. It was muddy, though, and we spied a nice little grotto that made me smile.
Just enough water to make it interesting
This little spot on the Lost Lake trail is different every time I see it. Today I thought it showed just enough of a waterfall to add interest to this spot. Sometimes it's completely dry, but not today.
Mike at the beginning of the Rock trail
The Lost Lake trail meanders gently downhill, until it meets the Rock trail. where it then begins a rather steep uphill to Gates Overlook. It also includes around a hundred steps. Until we got to this point, I was doing fine, but then I slowed down considerably on our way up to the overlook.
Licorice ferns dressing up the rock
There are so many beautiful vistas to see on this short 1.1-mile trail, and I've taken many pictures in the past, and today these ferns decorating the rock were worth a picture, not to mention all the mossy trees.
Our lunch spot at Gates Overlook
We had a very enjoyable lunch at the overlook, although there was a slight breeze, and the temperature was not all that warm. And you can see that the sky looked like it might begin to clear. It didn't, although we did have a few sun breaks on our return trip.
Cool trees on the return
I have admired these trees many times on our trip back to the cars, but today I was able to snap a shot that shows a few mossy anomalies. That one next to the trail with the green burl on it has fascinated me over the years.

And then we were finally back to the cars, after having gone almost ten miles (9.9, with 2,700 elevation gain and loss) and I have to say I was the slowest one of the group, wishing I had my usual pacesetter (Al) and my chief cheerleader, Melanie. Hopefully they will be back next week. In any event, the glass of wine I allowed myself to indulge in early has soothed my aches and pains. It was a great day overall.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Beautiful full moon

March 2020 full moon
I woke this morning in the relative dark, the first day after Daylight Saving Time kicked in here. I am already used to the change, since I managed to sleep more than eight hours last night and walked out of the house at 7:00am without feeling any more tired than usual, on my way to the coffee shop.

We had a clear sky last night, and I saw the full moon shining brightly at what looked like the end of the street. (This picture was snagged from the Internet, it's not one of my own.) It was stunningly beautiful, about an hour before setting, with a few wispy clouds softening it. I was mesmerized and gazed at it for a few minutes before going on about my day. Looking it up online, I learned this about the March full moon:
The worm moon is the first full moon in the month of March. The moon in March has a lot of different nicknames: the Worm Moon, because the ground begins to thaw and earthworms reappear, soon followed by the return of robins.
It's been an interesting day already, not just because of the moon sighting, but also because of the crashing stock market. The Dow ended up losing more than 7% of its value today, partly because of the coronavirus, but also because apparently Saudi Arabia and Russia have begun a trade war over oil. Hopefully, it will begin to bounce back, much like it has lately, but nobody knows for sure. It was quite a surprise to me to see the volatility; I suspect my annuities will take a hit, but it doesn't do any good to worry about it. Might as well just settle in for the long haul.

When I look at my life, I can't complain. I've got a warm and safe place to live, a full life, and a wonderful life partner. It would be nice to keep everything safe and sane, but that's not the way the world works. So, instead, I'm just gonna keep smiling and giving thanks for all my blessings. I count you, my dear readers, as some of them.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Trailblazers didn't get wet today

Richard leading his troops
Today eleven of us went out on a nice (dry) hike, although the weather is expected to change any minute. The rain didn't start, and the temperature was nice and mild as we hiked up the Chuckanut trails. Our scheduled hike couldn't be accomplished, because the road we were supposed to start on (Cleator Road) is closed because of potential landslides. So we went on some familiar trails to Raptor Ridge.
Moss covered trees
I didn't get many good photos today, partly because I wasn't inspired by much that I saw, other than these trees that seem to be sprouting moss everywhere. I also didn't see any signs of spring today, which was a surprise; I did think I'd see more green that wasn't from moss.
The view from Raptor Ridge
There was actually more of a view than I expected on the ridge, but the wind was blowing hard up here. It was just a bit early to be stopping for lunch, so we took a quick look around and then headed down to find a relatively warm place where we could enjoy a nice lunch. Still no rain, happily.
Gary settling down for lunch
We found this place out of the wind and were quite comfy as enjoyed our lunch. I thought Gary looked a bit like a leprechaun under that cool tree.
The log looked good, but...
Some of the rest of us sat down on this mossy log, and as we chatted and dug into our lunches, the log began to roll out from under us. Frank told us to get off and then he shored it up so we could finish without landing on the ground. We all bundled up once we had stopped, but it wasn't really all that cold. Then we headed back, with a quick detour to Huckleberry Point. I didn't get a picture since we were all anxious to get back down before the rain hit.

And we did, we made it on the entire hike without a single raindrop. The wind came and went, and the company was especially social today, as we discussed the recent political events and the coronavirus spread. We ended up hiking around nine miles and nobody seemed to know how much elevation we navigated, since many of our most vigorous scorekeepers were not with us today.

It was a successful day, even though I didn't take enough pictures (sorry, Mel). We really enjoyed being outdoors in our beautiful Pacific Northwest, even if it's not quite springtime up here. Next week I suspect we'll see more.

Monday, March 2, 2020

I'm ready for more rain free days

Two strangers enjoying the view
A couple of weeks ago, we Trailblazers hiked up Goose Rock in the Deception Pass area. I saw this couple haul up their chairs and set them up to enjoy the sunshine and the lovely view. It was such a beautiful day, and this couple sat with their backs to us while we ate our lunches. It was a shot I couldn't resist taking.

Pretty much every day since then has had a bit of rain, and although that is the norm for this time of year, I must say I sure did get used to seeing all that blue sky and not having to worry about rain gear for awhile. You just don't move to the Pacific Northwest if you can't appreciate the wet stuff most of the time. It makes days like the one above appreciated even more.

It's already rained more than half an inch here today, without any sign of a letup. I am now ready to settle in for the rest of the day, after reading the news. We are in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak in our state, having learned just this morning that six people have died from the virus, just an hour's drive south of us. It's pretty scary. I found this chart online from the CDC (February 11):
Prepared by Ian M. Mackay
I am squarely in that second-to-top group, 70-79, with a very concerning death rate. Therefore, I'll be paying close attention to my surroundings and not only washing my hands obsessively, but also staying away from sick people. Only in recent days has testing for the virus started in our state, and who knows how many more cases will turn up in the coming days and weeks?