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If you look at the online dating sites, you'll see lots of people who love to travel. They've got all kinds of exotic places on their bucket lists. Me, I'm conflicted. I worry about spending greenhouse gases on long flights, for one thing, plus I don't know how long my money will have to last.
But I've been a traveling fool this summer. I started with a four-day Cascade bike tour, then two weeks at Mom's in Michigan, then a week-long bike tour in Montana. Those bike tours cost about $100 a day; going to Mom's costs airfare.
When I got home, I didn't stay. The weather was too nice, and now that I have a job -- school will be starting again for me in a few weeks -- I feel like I'm in "summer vacation."
So I got a friend to come with me for a night at Mt Rainier, camping. It was so spectacular -- the icy mountain in full view under a blue sky, every trail lined with wildflowers, every meadow filled with them, warm weather and an empty mountain lake to jump into -- I was afraid I'd set myself up for disappointment in every subsequent journey.
But no. I took off for North Cascades National Park for two days' camping. Alone. I was never afraid, but on the first night, I almost piled everything back in my car and snuck home. It just didn't feel fun all alone. But next day I hiked the most beautiful hike of my life, Lake Ann/Maple Pass. Lunch by a mountain lake, then ascending forever, up and over from one mountain range to another, all in lovely sunshine. My second solo camping night was better.
Then Marla said she'd come with me to Olympic Park. We camped for two nights at Lake Cushman and hiked out from there.
And then my friends took me along on the bike trip. My share of that five-day, four-night trip was $120, including my coffee stops. Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Lake Cushman cost me gasoline plus half-price, Golden Access-pass camping fees of $6 to $12 nightly.
The truth is, I'm living like there's no tomorrow. I wonder why?
"So, you're going to a sports bar? To watch the football game? You're eating there?"
We were kind of hurrying to get our tents set up at the Barview Jetty County Park. The football game had already started on the iPhone. This was the second night of a four-day Oregon Coast trip where my friends Bob and Nadine and I were hopscotching our way, taking turns on our bikes or driving the little SUV gear-wagon
Nadine is a sports fan. The Seahawks were playing the Packers on Monday Night Football. Fine. But what was I going to do? It wasn't dark yet, but it would be by 7. An evening in my tent with my book sounded -- uncomfortable.
We're kind of different people in some ways, but until Monday night, the trip had been lovely. We started on Sunday in Long Beach, WA, biking a hard-surface trail along the beach, watching the sun drop into the sea, and playing Scrabble after dinner. Tuesday we biked from Astoria to Cannon Beach, on past Manzanita, nearly to Garibaldi.
Believe me, Monday Night Football had never crossed my mind. I was starting to tense up. And then I thought, I know! I could watch the game!
So we found a Mexican restaurant with a bar and two giant flat screens with displays so vibrant it looked more like a video game than a real one. I got a good tostada and a Dos Equis on tap.
And it turned out to be the game they'll be talking about all season. I was there when two men from different teams caught the ball in the Seahawks' end zone seconds from the end of the game.
We watched that catch over and over, trying to decide if we saw a touchdown. To me it looked like a tie, and Nadine says a tie goes to the offense. But I bet my friends in Mom's book club near Green Bay see it a little differently.
Anyway, if you have to watch football, you can't get luckier than I was. A trip highlight, now that I think of it. And boy are we bonded now.
Ever since I got the last one ten years ago, I have been looking forward to getting a new driver license, with a new photo! Yesterday was the day.
Ten years ago, I was still waiting for the guy to tell me to smile when he clicked the shutter -- or whatever the digital equivalent of that may be called. My hair was very small, my glasses very large. I myself was large, ten pounds more than today.
Yesterday morning I combed my hair and put on lipstick before I left home, then checked my look in the ladies room once I got to the office. I like my glasses, I like my haircut, I like my weight. The driver license lady cared about taking a good picture. My hopes were high.
But the truth is, I'm ten years older, it shows, it's acceptable, but it's not pretty. Oh well. I'm wiser.
Each video ends with a question. Today it is, What would a wise friend observe about you?
Well, here's one thing. I follow through. I am sitting at my desk, moved now to a different corner which accommodates the file cabinet as well. I really think it's going to work to keep up with my paperwork right here.
Another thing: I made me a pie. I called a friend to see if she could come eat some with me, but friend or no, I wanted pie. I'll freeze the extra. I used to think only cake was good to cut in serving pieces and freeze, but no. Pie works too. This one is nectarine with a few Italian prune plums. Mmm.
And finally, a friend might observe that my life is full, but not frantic. I spent two days in Port Townsend this week, and that took a lot of energy. I leave tomorrow morning for a house party on Bainbridge Island. And at the last minute, friends invited me on a four-day coast bike ride, which will mean coming home on the 9:35 ferry Sunday morning and heading out. It sounds a little frantic, except that between Port Townsend and Bainbridge, I've had two days to get things done. This morning I renewed my driver license and got the burnt-out headlight on my Corolla fixed.
I feel good about this.
What struck me most when I listened to the monk this morning though, was the way his words relate to yesterday's thoughts on obedience. If you're a secular person, who exactly would you be obeying? Now I think you'd be obeying the part of you that is your best friend and advocate, the one you trust to guide you in the best path.
That is, the fifteen minute blogging timer. You will notice -- I hope -- that I didn't blog yesterday. A failure, already, of my experimental rule of life? Not really.
I woke up yesterday in Port Townsend, and didn't get home until 10 pm. A rule of life is not like Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), a do-or-die proposition. It's a framework for peaceful, successful living.
So let me tell you how successful yesterday was for me. I was in Port Townsend, where I still own the house I used to live in. I haven't really ever had renters who cared about the garden, and I left it in 2009. I have a gardening renter now, though! So I spent six hours with her yesterday, uprooting 4-foot seeding linaria and rescuing the lonicera pileata from the overgrown salvia I planted to fill in until the lonicera could take over. I wrestled to the ground a lavatera with a 2" diameter (brittle) trunk. Seriously. No pruning saw.
When a garden gets that overgrown, anything you do shows instant, impressive results. I wish I hadn't had to hurry back to Seattle. I would have loved to sit in the garden with a cup of tea to enjoy all we had done. Maybe snack on another windfall Gravenstein apple from the tree I myself planted.
But I'll get another chance. There are days more things to do.
Something else: On my ferry trip on the way to Port Townsend, I ran into my friend Jennifer Louden, who happened to mention how she was in one of those times when she was letting her regular routines slide: less yoga, more sugar, for example. She was talking about her rule of life.
Intriguing, because I know too well how we let our best rules go slack, usually at the stressful times when we need them most. Why? I can't answer that one, but the reason I hurried back to Seattle last night was for the first of our classes on Benedict's rule. The term that struck me there was, obedience. When you're in a monastery, you vow obedience to a rule. Things don't slide. To what will we be obedient outside a monastery, and how can we remain so?
Yesterday I did my experimental rule-of-life fifteen minutes of housework, and my house looked so much better I just wanted to stay in it with my zinnias. (You can see why, right?)
Today I set the timer again and dusted and vacuumed. It was chiming before I finished, but not much before. Good to know.
Along with the timer, my phone was ringing. My dear old friend calling from California. Her mom recently died, her last person of her immediate family. There's a death to remember now nearly every month for six months in a row.
Ruth said, "I feel so insecure." And I totally got it, even though we both know her mom was the one being taken care of in the final years of her life.
"You're going to have a really tough time, Mary, when your mom goes," she said. Oh yeah. We know this, Ruth and I, and Mom and I. Fortunately, Ruth is a grief counselor, so that's all arranged.
And she said Mom and I are doing everything right. We spend as much time together as we can, and we talk on the phone, and we say everything.
"The regrets," Ruth says from her experience, "regrets are the worst."
The timer is running. My second experimental rule of life: Fifteen minutes for blogging. This is what came out.
My church, St Paul's Queen Anne, is doing a month-long emphasis on the monastic idea of a rule of life. It includes four Sunday sermons, a three-session Wednesday night course, a series of 90-second videos from monks delivered in daily emails, and Living Intentionally, A Workbook for Creating a Personal Rule of Life.
The first video included an anecdote about pitching a tent hurriedly, after a long day of hiking, and deciding they could do without the tent pegs. During the night, the campers were drenched by a storm. Had they pegged it, the tent would have protected them.
What are your life "tent pegs"? he asked.
I have only begun to reflect on these things, but two things have occurred to me. (Mundane, it's true, but a rule of life is about the mundane.) One, I don't really make time for my housework. I act as if time in some other dimension will somehow appear and allow me to get the table cleared of books and the kitchen cleared of dishes and the bathroom cleaned. So, Resolution One: Every day, set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can get done. You're allowed to work longer, but for sure, do your 15 minutes. Today, I changed my sheets and cleaned the bathroom sink and toilet.
Resolution Two: Deal with your paperwork problem. In my old Port Townsend life, I had a place to open mail, file, recycle. In Seattle, I've never organized that; my file cabinet is in the dining room, my desk in the living room. My recycling "basket" is a paper bag I can't see and simply toss paper in the direction of. My plan now is to move the desk and bring the file cabinet alongside it, which will mean my printer can go on the file cabinet, opening up more desk space. I will get a basket for paper.
Unfortunately, moving the desk means moving bookcases, which means replacing my vintage tuner and assorted stereo components with a new thing that will work with my iPhone. I'm thinking I can get rid of my "TV," the monitor I rarely use to watch a DVD -- usually I just watch on my laptop. So the paperwork reorg will maybe take awhile, but I'm heading in the right direction.
I know, how about 15 minutes a day on the reorg?
Also, I'd love to blog 15 minutes a day, which is why I'm sitting here now. We'll see how it goes.
And in the meantime, what tent pegs keep your tent of life standing in the storm? Care to share?
I was adjusting something or other on that new yellow summer bike of mine in Michigan when my back went, "tweak!" Darn.
Mom said, "Let me call Linda and get you a massage."
"Oh, thanks, but that won't help, Mom," I said. It wouldn't do anything but feel good. "On second thought, okay!"
So that was in July, and I've subsequently done a lot of stretching and cycled 400 miles in Montana in six days and camped in Mt Rainier and stuff like that, but my back is still, mmm, touchy, and last week it was sort of spasming.
Which is when I remembered my chiropractor. Oh yeah, I wonder if this is a matter for chiropractic? I thought, and last time this happened, a couple years ago, was it chiropractic that fixed me?
I checked his hours card, but he wasn't available last week at convenient times. I sort of looked around me as I travelled through my day to see if there was a more local chiropractor I should try. My guy gives me a great deal, and I like him, but the truth is, he doesn't talk to me about what's going on. I need text. I need somebody to say, "Oh yeah, there it goes again. You have a tendency to blah blah blah, so whenever you feel that tweak, you better get in here. It's not something your body will readjust on its own," or something like that.
But I haven't seen any obvious other practitioners to try, so I called my guy this morning, and they're taking a whole week off for Labor Day!
Mary Davies was a happy newspaper columnist in charming Victorian seaport Port Townsend, WA, population 8500. But sixty years old and single for three years after a 25-year marriage, she wasn't finding enough cycling buddies or dancing partners. She fancies herself an intellectual, and wanted more conversation. She looks good in little dance skirts, but more often finds herself in jeans and an apron; is she Big City material? On February 2, 2009, taking a lot of deep breaths, she rented a U-Haul and moved to Seattle. For one year. A trial period. Would she find biking buddies? love? a new church? Can she make the drapes from the old place work in the new? What would she read, and what would she eat?
A year later, on February 2, 2010, Mary decided Seattle was home. She found and bought a vintage condo literally in the backyard of her apartment building, in the Upper Fremont neighborhood she loves. The Seattle story continues....
What I'm Reading
The Great Disruption, Paul Gilding
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, James Hollis PhD
When We Argued All Night, Alice Mattison
Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan, Max Alexander
Torch, Cheryl Strayed*
A Good Man in Africa, William Boyd
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt*
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