Monday, January 31, 2022

Signs of spring

First crocus of the season

While I was out walking today (yes, I can walk again, not as far as I'd like, and it hardly hurts at all) I saw these pretty signs of spring out of the corner of my eye. Of course I had to stop and admire the crocus (crocuses?) coming up out of the ground. I was actually surprised to see them and kept my eye out for more during the remainder of the walk, but these were the only ones. So far, that is: we are only a few days away from Groundhog Day (on February 2) and tomorrow, February 1, is Imbolc, a Gaelic festival that was traditionally a time of weather divination, with an old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens. From Wikipedia:

Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.

Yep, that sure sounds a lot like Groundhog Day to me!  Whatever the reason for the festival, I am really glad to know that from now on, the days will start getting longer more quickly, and soon we will be planting our summer harvest. And I will try to keep myself from getting re-injured by taking it much easier on the old bones and joints. It sure felt good to get outside in the sunshine today!


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Still injured

The sun, a week ago

I took this picture on my hike last Thursday with Melanie. I had to text her yesterday to let her know that I am still injured, unable to walk very far without serious pain. I think I pinched a nerve in the sacroiliac area while trying to work out the kinks in my back. Everything hurt in the area once I finished "fixing" it up. I went to my acupuncturist and he worked on it and made it better, but he also cautioned against doing anything like that again, and said I should keep my walking to just a few minutes until the pain has resolved.

While I was reassured when I wrote my post on Monday that I'd be in much better shape soon, I was once again wrong. After a day of being able to do my exercises, the next day I had to modify three of the five in order to get them done. Every day since then there has been miniscule improvement, but it's been so slow that I have allowed myself to get a little depressed by it all. The usual exercise of walking and hiking that I depend on has been curtailed. Today, however, after several days of morosely staring out at dense fog and no sun, it all changed. The sun came out and is gloriously shining! 

I couldn't help but get outside and walk in it for awhile, and to my great relief, a mile-and-a-half walk didn't hurt but instead soothed my back pain. Not to mention my mood. Now I am feeling much, much better and hopeful that by Saturday I'll be able to join my friend Melanie for a nice walk once again.

Like many people who are having difficulties because of the super-contagious omicron virus, I have also stayed away from places that might expose me to it. Yesterday, however, I donned my brand-new N95 mask and went to the Senior Center to listen to an hour-long talk by Edwina Norton about her book and learned what it must have been like to take up the priesthood as a seventy (something)-year-old woman. It was very interesting, and also daunting to consider what one would have to endure to get to that level, at any age. 

I finished her book on my Kindle this morning. It took six years for her to write it, and she has pretty much retired from anything too strenuous as she has arthritis and nerve damage. She is very lucid and fascinating to listen to, however, which gives me hope that my meditation practice will do something similar for me. Her book, Autumn Light: My Fifty Years in Zen, is a little pricey, so I read the sample first. Of course, that was all it took for me to spring for it, and I'm glad I did.

So that's what I have done with my beautiful Thursday instead of taking a nice long hike in the sunshine. It is enough, and I'm simply grateful for all the sunshine and for my slowly healing back. I hope the Trailblazers are having a great day, too!


Monday, January 24, 2022

Reflections and moss

Geneva Pond

It's Monday and I am not forgetting this week to compose a post, my self-imposed day to do so. Last week I didn't remember until it was Tuesday, and I'm pretty sure the only person who was upset about it was me. This week, I am virtuously writing a post without anything much to talk about.

I was so pleased that my lower back was getting better so quickly and so well, and then last night I had a setback. There was one area in the lower right sacrum that was just not recovering as well as all the rest, so I sat in my easy chair and worked it over, sitting on a tennis ball, rolling it around the sore area, which unfortunately was the wrong thing to do: before long, it was hurting much more than before. Did I stop then? Oh no, I just kept going until I was in agony. Then I stopped, and by the time I tiptoed into the bedroom to settle down for sleep, it was obvious that I had re-injured it.

The area in question is home to two seven-inch-long pins that were inserted to stabilize the right sacrum when I broke my pelvis in 2000, and I've dealt with pain in the area off and on since then. Fortunately for me, most of the time they don't bother me much. There is residual nerve pain, which I seem to have stirred up somewhat and am once again reminded of the original doctor's admonition just to let it heal up on its own. 

By the time I got out of bed this morning, it was better but still pretty sore to walk around as I began my daily exercises. Once I knew I could do all five of the Tibetan Rites, it reassured me that if I continue to baby the area, I should eventually be able to resume my usual hikes and walks. I am a little chagrined that once again, my impatience to regain my usual vigor has led to a teeny bit of a setback.

Today I'll try a shorter walk but still enough to get the blood flowing and help me heal up. No matter what I do, I will be good and not push myself. Really. (sigh)


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Taken along the trail

Melanie and I decided today to take a short but beautiful trip into the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve. I have never been here on the Reserve when it wasn't raining, but today the rain (which fell all night long) stopped just before we arrived. The reason we come here in the rain is because it's pretty much tree covered and very pretty even when things are very wet. From the above link:

The Stimpson Family Nature Reserve and Geneva Pond is 370 acres of forested land and wetland habitats protected by the Whatcom Land Trust and the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department. The protected property, located in the Lake Whatcom Watershed between the Sudden Valley Subdivision and the Geneva neighborhood of Bellingham, includes sandstone ridges and cliffs with small wetlands and ponds throughout the space.  

Sun's rays shining through

Because of all the rain last night, there was a great deal of moisture in the air, and once the sun came out, we saw lovely scenes like the one above. It was harder to capture the rays than I thought it would be, because the sunlight came and went faster than I was capable of dealing with. This is just one of several attempts, but it's a pretty good one, I think.

Geneva Pond

When we made it to Geneva Pond, this reflection picture shows why we had so many clouds: there were more of them than we had sunshine. It was definitely hit-and-miss if you weren't quick with the camera. 

Mel took this of me at the pond

But we didn't come here for the sunshine, really. We just wanted to be amidst the magic of the forest, and we had plenty of that. We walked somewhere around five miles, more or less, before finishing up around noon, with a measly 550 feet of elevation gain and loss. I didn't want to try anything harder with my back still healing up, and I didn't have to deal with too much discomfort. I figure by Saturday I should be up for something a little longer.

Lots of moss and ferns, too

I am so fortunate that Melanie is willing to adjust her hikes to accommodate me. She's definitely capable of going much farther and faster than I can manage for the moment, but she seems happy to be out and about with me anyway. Fortunately, she's got other people to hike with on other days that can give her more of a workout.

Now that I am home and writing this post, all the sunshine has completely retreated, and it even looks like it might rain a bit more. I should sleep well tonight, though, having gotten in a good hike with a good friend! Thanks, Mel!


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Forgetting is getting worse

Emily Polis Gibson photo

Here it is Tuesday morning, and it wasn't until the middle of last night that I remembered my Monday post. Not written, not missed, not even remembered until then. This is a self-imposed deadline, but that really doesn't matter. To me, it's real, and the distress I feel is compounded by my fear that I'm developing some form of dementia. Oh, I know most people my age worry about such things, but I am worried enough that I think perhaps it's time to visit my doctor.

Years ago, I was given a test by my previous doctor when I told her I was concerned about memory loss. The test is now online, so I'll give it to myself before I see this doctor. Most of the things I was not good at before will probably remain marginal, certainly not better. I do remember a few items that gave me pause. For one thing, I have never been able to count backwards by 7s from 100. (That's one of the tests.) It led me to figure out how to do it by "cheating," or counting down by 10s and adding 3 to get the correct number. Some people have no problem with the task, but my mind has never worked that way, I guess.

Recently, my friend Lily reminded me of something that happened years ago, and at first I was adamant it never happened, but as she gave me some reminders, it came back to me. It makes me wonder how many parts of my daily life are simply sliding into oblivion because I don't remember them. And re-reading novels because I didn't remember reading them before: that has become more frequent.

So, this Tuesday post is really a Monday post, just a day late. Part of my problem is the same one many of us face these days: everything my days were structured around is in flux. No coffee shop, no walk to the bus during the week, fewer and fewer activities that I performed which defined the day of the week: all gone. When we get back to whatever our new "normal" will be, it'll be interesting to see whether I will be able to resume those activities without forgetting.

I suppose it makes sense that my mental acuity would diminish, just like my physical strength, my fading eyesight from macular degeneration, along with all the other unwelcome reminders of aging. I'm just glad I'm not still jumping out of airplanes! 


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Two years ago

Saturday walking group

This picture was taken almost exactly two years ago, and obviously we had snow then, too. Right now most of our recent white stuff is gone, but I had forgotten that we had this much snow not that long ago.

Today, I didn't go anywhere with any group. My lower back is giving me fits, and it's hard to get up and down from a seated position. This happens to me every now and then, and I know it's most likely going to get better sooner rather than later. In fact, it's better right now than it was this time yesterday, but I am still in pain and hold onto my lower back when moving into an upright position, like the old lady I've become.

Two years ago we were still unaware of what changes we would go through between then and now. It's been two full years of dealing with the pandemic. It was only a few short weeks after this picture was taken that we started into a lockdown scenario. By March 2020, I had stopped going pretty much anywhere in my usual routine. I found this from my blog back then:

My schedule is still plenty full, with yoga classes on Tuesdays and Fridays, my rarely missed Thursday hikes, and the Saturday walk. Not to mention the four days a week at the YMCA, which I am considering shaking up, too. It's just time for me to reassess what I am doing out of habit, and what I am doing because I really want to.

How little did I know how much my routine would be altered! I don't go to the Y right now because of Covid, or the Saturday walk which only recently started up again. (I do walk most Saturdays with Mel.) I still do yoga, but now it's on Zoom rather than in the studio. Occasionally I join the Thursday Senior hikers, but mostly these days it's just Melanie and me, a smaller group for several reasons. The pandemic has really changed my daily life. I also am not taking the bus because of possible exposure to the virus, and my friend John, who I usually sit with in the coffee shop has caught the latest version of Covid, although he's triple-vaxxed, like me. Even if I wanted to catch the bus, there's no place I would feel safe going to.

So I am not getting the exercise I was very much addicted to. Little by little, most of the days of getting all my steps and closing the exercise rings on my watch just isn't happening. At first I was upset by it, but I am finding that I am enjoying what I do accomplish much more than I did, when it was just routine. Once my sacroiliac joint is no longer painful, I'll do more than I am right now. Which is not much.

For two years we have been profoundly affected, pretty much all of us, by the pandemic. Other countries are also having a hard time of it, and I should be grateful that we can actually see an end to it in the near future. But, of course, that's what I thought last summer, and then Delta came to spoil our summer, and now Omicron is simply everywhere. So, I am hopeful but not totally convinced that I will soon be getting back to whatever my new normal will be. How about you? How are you doing two years in?


Monday, January 10, 2022

Our Saturday walk

Interurban trail had a little snow

On Saturday, after all the snow we got last week, we expected a bit of snow still on the trails. Mel and Chris and I headed off to the Interurban trail in Fairhaven and went a good distance before we got to this point, where we decided it would be a good idea of strap on our microspikes. We did, and then instead of skirting the icy patches, we went right for them. It was a lovely five-mile walk, in good company and happy that we had some little spiky daggers we could use to navigate the ice.

Then yesterday, Sunday, the sun decided to come out for the entire day, and Mel and I went down to Squalicum Harbor to walk around in the sunshine for a short walk. It was packed on the sidewalks, since everybody wanted to have a little bit of those delightful rays hit our smiling faces. 

And then today, Monday, it's raining again. But at least it's rain and not snow for a change, with warmer temperatures. If it weren't for this latest omicron wave, it would be a good time to get some shopping done.  I went to the grocery store masked and hoped to get out before it got crowded. When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that it was quite bare, with not many cars. Just right for staying away from others, I thought.

But when I went inside, I realized quickly that there were very few items on the shelves. The kitchen was also closed, because the entire staff is in quarantine, out with covid. The shelves have nobody to restock them. It's simply everywhere! My friend John (whom I had not seen for three days) called me last night to tell me he's tested positive for the virus, too. So far I seem to be free of the virus, but who knows for sure? I don't have any symptoms, but that's no guarantee I am not carrying it, even though I'm triple vaxxed and wear my mask when I'm out. John did develop a sore throat and blocked sinuses, so he bought a rapid at-home test and sure enough, he's got it.

Since the food I went to the store in search of was unavailable, I decided it was perfectly okay for me to buy a piece of pre-packaged but homemade raspberry cheesecake to go with my coffee. And boy it was sure good! Glad I didn't buy any more of it, because it was delicious and I wouldn't have been able to stop if I had an entire cheesecake.

Now that everyone I know is coming down with the virus, I think it's a perfect excuse to become a hermit. With a laptop, iPad and iPhone, that is. I'll be glad when this wave has passed.


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Another Thursday snowstorm

Cross street looks pretty clear of snow

My plans to go out for a nice hike today were again dashed by a snowstorm that hit last night. Although it was quite pleasant for most of the day yesterday, and the areas to the south of us were forecast to receive heavy rain, we in the northwestern part of the state had a cold wind coming down from Canada's Fraser Gap: very cold, and it turned what would otherwise have been quite a deluge of rain into snow. And lots of it, starting yesterday afternoon when the temperatures fell. We thought it would be over by now, but it's already well into Thursday afternoon and the temperature is still sitting right around freezing. Snow plows and salt were dispatched on the streets overnight, and although it didn't seem like a good time to get behind the wheel of my car, the streets really didn't look too bad around noon. 

Heavy, wet snow

So I went for a walk. Melanie texted me that she went for a snowshoe adventure by herself, and I walked from my place to Rite Aid and back, around two miles. It was completely different snow from a couple weeks ago when it was so cold (that snow was more like Colorado powder). This was more like what is known around here as Cascade Concrete. Nothing powdery about it. And I discovered it was way harder to walk on plowed streets when a layer of wet snow remains. It was very slippery, and although it was harder to navigate, I chose to walk where sidewalks would be if they hadn't been buried under six inches of snow.

I noticed that I could walk on the street if a chained vehicle had gone through earlier, because it roughed up the snow enough to make my footing much less dicey. I realized when I got back home that I had carried my microspikes in my pack and had forgotten about them. Although I slipped and slid, I didn't actually fall. Except once, that is, when two pedestrians saw me struggling to cross the street and came to my aid. The three of us were laughing uproariously as we made it to the sidewalk.

A very Christmas-y look

The trees were heavily laden with snow, and since there is little to no wind, it built up on the trees, giving them a holiday touch. A little late, but still pretty, if you've got a taste for that on a dreary winter day when you'd rather be seeing sunshine. The weather gods got this one wrong, since the temperature was supposed to climb well into the 40s (around 7-8°C). We are sure to get that heavy rain sometime later tonight, which hopefully will melt much of this snow.

April 2021

And just to give us all an uplifting reminder that flowers WILL return and be gorgeous, I am showing you a picture from Roozengaarde Tulip Gardens from last April. It's a reminder that seasons come and seasons go, and as long as we're here to enjoy them, I can even be happy with slippin' and slidin' now and then.


Monday, January 3, 2022

Looking back in time

June 2018

Sometimes when it's dark and windy outside, I like to browse through old pictures in my photo library. I saw this one and it brightened my spirits, so I figured it would be just right for today. It's my front porch garden, which I plant anew every springtime. This year was especially nice, reminding me that pink petunias never fail to bring a smile to my face.

I am so glad that we are finally through the worst of the holiday snow- and windstorms. There may be more to come, but they too shall pass, just like summer's long days and winter's freezing weather. I went outdoors this morning to walk to the bus, hoping that the warm wind had melted much of the impassable sidewalks, and sure enough, it is almost all gone. Except in those places where nobody cleared their walks and people's heavy feet smashed it down. Those spots were icy but easily navigated around. By tomorrow it should mostly be gone.

Of course, there is another snow event coming to us around Thursday. Typical! Just in time for a possible hike. In any event, we did make it through the unusual deep freeze we experienced for more than a week. Other than not looking forward to the electric bill, we're doing very well indeed. It feels almost balmy out there and we are just above freezing. It's all a matter of perspective, eh?

Hope you all had a safe and lovely holiday season. Now it's time to get back to a more normal existence. Fortunately for me, I'm long retired and have no place I simply must be, thanks to Zoom yoga and some good friends who take me out to play on a regular basis.