Shift Happens

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Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

I thrive on walks in Seattle’s Lincoln Park, which faces Puget Sound.

Curious how the driftwood belched up by the Sound looks sculpted into the shape of animals.  First I spot a sea lion in  a log amid pebbles, and now a swan ~

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Lythe young bodies jog past me on my way to my meditation bench.  Some clock themselves with Fit Bits.

The show-offs!

In my forty-somethings, I walked more briskly.  With each decade — surprise — I have slowed down.  In my fifties, I developed plantar fascitis and now, in my sixties,  lower back issues.

Shift happens.

I reach my meditation bench.  At its base, a plaque engraved with the words Carpe Diem — Seize Today.   Nowhere does it say Carpe HisternoSeize Yesterday.  Nor Carpe MananaSeize Tomorrow. 

I am here to calm the internal chatter, to feel the pulse of this sacred, public park.  I am here to spend time as deliberately as nature, to notice the cries of  gulls, the flute-like melody of thrushes, and lately the sight of sea lions.  I am here to engage my senses and practice what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku — having a forest bath.

Lowering myself onto the bench, I hope to spot my sea lion today.

Seagulls scud across the water.  The tide froths against the rocks.  Opening my ears, I try to memorize the rhythm of the tide. Inhaling the kelp-scented air, I consider the irony of “smelling the Sound.”

What would Henry David Thoreau have made of the sea lion that bobs up during my dusk quietude?   Most likely he would spend an entire day  in this spot.  Thoreau would stand motionless for eight hours beside Walden Pond to watch young frogs, and all day at a river’s edge watching duck eggs hatching.

Thoreau may have been extreme in his nature studies and solitude. During  my forest baths I have at least learned to leave my cell phone behind.

A dog trots past, smiling.  Is he experiencing a forest bath too?  I smile back.

Eyes half-focused on the horizon, on the quicksilver water, no sea lion appears today.  But something shifts and releases in my hips just by being here.

Bird Eats Cat

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In the garden, a chickadee pecks at you,
kisses the ground nourished by your ashes.

Whiskers,
paws, emerald eyes —

now burned to a chickadee prize.

The tangerine poppies have turned blood orange;
they sway

like lit Oriental lanterns
as we look for you

in nature’s patterns.

Is the bird’s song sharper from feeding on you?
Have you fertilized flowers to a deeper hue?

Cattails rise like questions in the morning dew.

Bellingham – City of Subdued Excitement

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Strait of Juan DeFuca along base of Chuckanut Drive

Chuckanut Drive, a winding coastal ride on the way to Bellingham, WA, is a gem.  It is Washington State’s equivalent of California’s Big Sur with jaw-dropping glimpses of the sea and mountains along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The coastal drive to Bellingham and Fairhaven is one of my favorite field trips in WA State.  Evergreens ascend along the twisting road with glimpses of sea, sky, mountains and — what’s this? — a solitary and quaint old house perched on a cliff on the southern part of Chuckanut Drive.

The house belonged to the family of Edward R. Murrow, a WWII radio broadcaster and war correspondent (a predecessor to Walter Cronkite and the like).

Further north there’s Chuckanut Gallery, which allures with local art and a fantastic garden.

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Chuckanut Gallery

 

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Bellingham  is the last city in WA before reaching Vancouver, Canada.  When we moved to Seattle twenty-something years ago, we were intrigued by travel articles about this historical border city which in the mid-1800’s vied with Seattle for becoming the prominent port city.  Seattle, of course, won the title and is NOT subdued in its excitement.

(In fact Seattle’s excitement is more annoyance over crowded highways  and overdevelopment of real estate and Amazon drones and what happened to the Seattle we moved to? …  I could go on but I shall subdue.)

Bellingham, I sure hope you can maintain “subdued,” and keep your charm.

I reminisce…

It was a dark and stormy day — a Sunday — when we first visited you in the 1990’s.  We were on our way to your soup festival.  Hubby had been wise-cracking about the Strait of Juan de Fuca along Chuckanut Drive:  If there were a university here, would it be called  Fuca U?

Hahaha.  I turned to my friend Llana, also a soup fancier, who in fact was a former student at Western Washington University in Bellingham.  Was that the joke when you were here?  Did students call the place Fuca U?

But maybe I didn’t ask her that.  Maybe instead I was distracted by the thick, slanting rain, the charcoal clouds as we climbed Chuckanut Drive.

As we rocked down to Electric Avenue in search of the soup festival, we spotted the sign:  Bellingham.  City of Subdued Excitement.

We could see why.   Other than the community center where we had our soup, not many places were open that Sunday.  The only roadside attraction open was the Whatcom Museum.

They had…are you ready?…an exhibit displaying bicycle reflector art.  We strolled inside and the museum attendant handed us flashlights.

“What are these for,” I asked.

“You shine them on the bike reflectors,” she said.

That was trippy.

It’s not often that I get to Bellingham these days.  Nor the Fairhaven district in Bellingham, which was a popular hippie enclave in the 1960’s.

Here’s more about the city of “subdued excitement” on Bellingham’s Fish & Bicycles site.

Our rainy, Sunday coastal drive and the soup festival and museum seem sweet now.  I think I need a field trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaginary Friend

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Frosty & The Girl Plot Their Escape

Snow was my favorite get-away from my strong-willed Mother and sisters.  I invented whole worlds in the magic of flurries and ice.  One of these worlds contained my Imaginary Friend.  You might recognize the recipe:

Snow
Charcoal
Carrot stick

Roll the snow into round rock shapes.  Stack on top of each other.  The smallest is Frosty’s head.

Use charcoal for eyes, mouth, and vest buttons.  Give him (or her — your choice) a carrot for nose.

You have now built your Imaginary Friend.

When the sun comes out and it warms up, your Imaginary Friend will disappear.

Don’t panic.  Just stash Frosty’s eyes, nose, and mouth in your mittens.  Or, like Boo Radley, find a good tree hole for your little treasures.

Nobody needs to know but you:).

 

 

 

 

Gullible’s Travels

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Riding high, Alki Beach

Hi.  My name is Gil.  I am a seagull who wised up to the world and this is the story of my travels.

First, a little background.   While still a hatchling in the nest, I used to tap on Mom’s beak for feedings.  The menu?  Vomit.  Seagull regurgitation.  Not exactly the variety my dumpster-diving siblings brought home:   chunks of pizza, French fries, Cheetos.  Once, my sibs even brought home parts of a deer leg.   They fought over it.  Screamed morning till night while I, the little hatchling, was still on a diet of Mom’s vomit.  I adapted, became used to these behaviors.  When Dad hung a shingle on our nest that said Safe Place, I believed it.

Still, after a few months I wanted to stretch my wings.  There was a great big world out there I wanted to explore.

As I soared in the clouds above my oceanic watering hole, I felt a rush from the tickling breeze and believed that the world was my oyster.  Forests, mountains, sea — it was all mine.

Suddenly a disciplined white air force of fellow gulls screeched and swarmed around me.  We were being dive-bombed by an eagle.   Shit bombs explode.  Danger, Danger, my amigos called out.  The raptor snatched a fellow-gull and carried him to the top of an evergreen.  I had evaded the eagle’s hungry eyes.

It was my first lesson in communication and cooperation.  Though we scream at each other — and at you human beings — we know there is safety in numbers.

Since I’ve mentioned humans, why do you folks act like we are snarky when we scream or go after the litter you drop?  Why do we have reputations as walking garbage dumps – we’ll eat anything that moves and a lot that doesn’t —  when you’re the ones tossing that hunk of beef jerky on the pier?

Did you ever stop and think that maybe you are the snarky ones?  To survive in the wild, yes I will even go after Styrofoam cups and cheese wrappers.

I need to come clean about that beef jerky.  I snatched it away from Peg Leg.  Peg Leg is a one-legged gull.  That’s right.  One leg.  I did not ask him how it happened.  No.   TMI.   All I know is that he was hobbling over to the beef jerky and I snatched it from him.   The peeps back home in the nest trained me well.  That’s the thing about sibling rivalry – it teaches you how to be bad-ass.   Man that beef jerky was good.

So with my fill of protein that day, I was flying high.  Maybe too high.  For suddenly, an amigo is cruising along with me in the fluffy clouds babbling to me about foreign object debris.  He points his beak at one of those proud birds with the golden tails.  You know – one of your human contraptions – a jet airplane.  He warns me about colliding with a plane’s windscreen, getting sucked into engines.  Really?

But hey, knowledge is power.  My trust in fellow gulls increases.  I dip away from the airplane, land on the beach to rest.  After a decent sleep, I spot a clam saying “Eat Me.”  I down it, but five minutes later puke it up.

A bummer, you say?  No.  A hidden talent that I would not have learned about if I hadn’t left the nest.  We gulls have superpowers:  we can sense paralytic shellfish poisoning before it’s too late.  Bet you can’t do that!

The brush with the toxic clam leaves me thirsty.  And so I fly over to my favorite watering hole:  the Pacific Ocean.  How many creatures do you know who can drink salt water and live to tell about it?  Sharks, crocodiles, maybe.  That’s gangsta, son.  Another instance of Gull Super Power.

I strut my stuff on the shore, fly over to some beach grass where I find a discarded lamb chop.   Thanks to your beach litter, I am learning your chops.

Sated and content, I fly to a tree limb to rest.  But as I tuck my bill into my feathers, I hear cries from a neighboring tree.  To my horror I witness a mature, fellow gull with a chick egg in his beak.  He just robbed a nearby nest of its newly hatched Gull.  I hear the delicate eggshell crack, and watch the mature one feast on its victim.

What? 

I thought I was gangsta, but this?

No.  This was just too much.  I suddenly felt yearnings for Mom.  And so I flew back that very night to the parental unit.  Is it true, I asked Mom.  Do we eat our own?

To me, this was a simple Yes/No question.  But not to Mom.  She would not give me a direct answer.  Instead, she regurgitated some of the same old pablum for me to gobble up.

 “Oh, Gull, just eat your food,” she said.

“The name’s Gil, Mom.”

“No.  From this day forward I call you Gull.” 

“Huh?”

“C’mon.  Mangia, mangia.”

As for my siblings?  They stared at me with the hungriest eyes I have ever seen.

Confessions of a Mer-Crone

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Mermaid family

We show up regularly to water aquatics class. Mostly women — a few gents too — shaking our booties at 8:00 a.m.  The heavily tatted instructor shouts out the movements:

“Run-in-place:  take it up to a 3!”

Then:  “Now pick it up!  Take it to a 4!!!”

Jeesh.  I was happy at 3.  Why doesn’t she factor in the resistance from the water as we run?   3 could be the new 4.  I need protein.  Why didn’t I eat that egg before I came here?

“Take it to a 6!!!!!.”

Then relief comes — the cross-country ski stride.  Long, luxurious, and slow.

But not for long.

Now it’s “Raise your knees high and wide.  We’re doing tire pumps.”

Next, it’s the bicep-busting Maytag wash machines with water weights, kick-backs for rocking horse which ache my sacroiliac, and finally “the Marilyns.”   This is a set of 100 jumps where we press our foam weights between our thighs.  The instructor named them after Marilyn Monroe.

Don’t ask me why.

And show me a woman in the class who could live up to the Blonde Bombshell’s standard.

No.  We are the Mer-Crones.

Our hair may be gray or dyed or hiding under flowered bathing caps, but we perk up in the water, wear glorious smiles as our float belts carry our spotted, wrinkled, sagging  flesh around the pool.

And we are wise.   Bikinis?  Gauche.   Much more comfy to sport a 1940’s-style Esther Williams swimsuit. You know the kind — the halter one-piece with a bit of drape to cover the tum?  Nice, tight spandex to tuck the bum?

I applaud you, Lands End, for providing quality and variety in women’s swimwear.

Until I discovered LE, finding a good swimsuit was  a search for the Holy Grail.

But back to aquatics class.

I have a hard time keeping up with Mary.   Mary is 75 years old and jabs her water weights like Rocky Graziano.

If I live to be her age, will I have such stamina?

(Confession: back when I was a smirking mermaid, I used to swim laps adjacent to what I deemed The Codgers Aquatics Class.)

How times change😊.

I am in awe of the peeps in class who show up with battle scars.

Take, for instance, one of the men in the class.  “Foghorn Brad” (so named by the instructor for his bellowing interruptions) returned to the pool only three weeks after melanoma surgery.  Though he habitually annoyed the instructor with his thundering disruptions of our foot circles (shouting out REVERSE and causing the water to ripple with his booming voice), I noted that the instructor smiled, glad to see that he had returned.

And me? I shall defend being a mer-crone, whatever the cost may be.  I shall never surrender.

 

Do I Contradict Myself?

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Spotted on bike ride in our neighborhood. Message feels global.

 

I have umpteen self-help books on meditation and mindfulness.

Do I practice what they teach?

A bit of background:  As a young lass in the cro-Magnon, pre-digital era, I  signed up for a mantra.  (Partly influenced by the fact that George Harrison was playing sitar and following the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at that time).

I even recall my mantra.  But today it goes something like Om…Om…OMG I forgot I have a dental appointment at 3:00.

How do I know this?  My smart-ass phone just beeped.

OK.  I realize this is a 1st world problem, but though I am thankful for the modern conveniences of our digital age, these days I crave mindfulness.

Am I contradicting myself by being on the blogosphere?  Is this yet another distraction?  If so, I am in company with the Good Gray Poet, Walt Whitman:  “Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then I contradict myself,  I am large, I contain multitudes.”

At any rate, I left Chicago in the 1990’s and moved to Seattle.  Mt. Rainier, the Pacific Ocean, the Hoh Rain Forest — all eye candy for me and my husband.

And something else called out that was new and exciting:  the Internet.  When we arrived to this high-tech city, the Internet was just a dirt road, not yet a superhighway, nor had it become The Cloud.

The Internet was cool; I enjoyed scootering on the dirt road.   I created a health and safety intranet site for the organization I worked for.  But then, during a walk on the beach, I spotted a young man wearing a t-shirt that said “Rage Against The Machine.”

The t-shirt was disconcerting enough, but at the time I was also reading a book titled I Live In The Future and Here’s How It Works:  Why Your World, Work and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted: 

“There needs to be a way to opt out of the constant retrieval of images, audio, and information. What do we do when the Internet or computers refuse to forget?”

And “The Internet is changing our concept of location, trust, space, time and connections.”

The dark web is undeniably out there today.  But I like blogging.

Walt Whitman, will you please travel to the future and help me deal with these contradictions?

 

 

 

GPS-ing the Heart

Panicked that I’d lost my heart,
I use my GPS device to track its location.
Somewhere between brain and breastbone
I am navigated in a new direction:

“Follow the course of the road from the cerebellum along the pituitary.
Now turn left and then turn right at the atria for three beats.”

Tracking the route, I am delayed at the hippocampus.
With a name like hippocampus how can’t it be a fun place?
Long-term, pleasant memories surface:
the ice pond where I skated as a girl,
my first kiss from a boy,
swigs of Boone’s Farm Apple wine,
kelp smells scenting a faded jeans jacket creased with beach sand.

I want to dwell in the hippocampus.

“Course correction, course correction,” my GPS robotically signals.
“You are living in the past.  You are not in the now.”

What fun is the Now with its reality of creaky knees, aching feet?
I steer towards hoola-hoop days – spry and supple hips and hearts
and am led to my sisters – both no longer girls — masters of the rolls and twirls.

We sisters approach, tentatively now:  thinning hair, a wobbly gait, faulty hearing.
Our impatience and anxiety with each other –
our nervous laughter —
fearing that my tongue will speak the reality of my own truth
and I will offend.

I could be seduced into believing myself and my kinfolk are strangers –
that my heart has disappeared.

 

John Quill

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John Quill.  Imagined in a springtime walk
as a flowering 18th century poet
penning works with turkey, goose, and swan feathers,
living in a garret with no flat-screen television
only rough hewn stone, the occasional chirp of a sparrow, a robin.

A lonely but deep man.

For Sythia

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Your golden flowers.
The hue of distilled sun, and honey, and lemons.

Heralding Spring dalliance,
boughs of promise.

I clip and set you in a vase on the table.