Sunday, November 26, 2023

Look up, look out . . . great advice

We can get so focused on what's going wrong in our lives, it can be hard to look away or step back. I don't know where I first heard this admonishment when I was feeling down, but it has served me well: Look up, look out. Very few troubles don't fade back into the right perspective if I can get out of my own head for a short time. Looking up as I take a deep breath almost always helps me. Yet it can take emotional energy to do so when I want only to wallow in my own interior issue.

One of the best things about the location of my retirement community is that it's a high-rise, and I have an apartment on the tenth floor of the twenty-four-story building. My vista overlooks comparatively low buildings, allowing me to see a huge expanse of sky. Long story short . . . it  has never been easier to look up and out. After sixteen months of living here, I still cannot believe how lucky I am to see this much sky from every room in my apartment. Even though the location of my former home was very near the Sammamish River, I didn't see much sky because of the trees along the riverbank. Yes, it was a gorgeous outlook, but I had to walk outside and step away from the building to see the sky. NOTHING like what I see now.

No, I don't see stars anymore and I miss them. City lights are too bright. But when it's dark outside, I can see the moon and the brighter planets (Jupiter and Venus) from my easy chair, at least when their trajectories are aligned with my outlook, and there are no clouds. I also can see airplanes on a flight path that's frequently directly overhead. During the day I frequently seeing crows and seagulls flying on the same level  I'm standing while gazing out my windows. But the best view is just the enormous expanse of sky, especially at dawn. 

With the recent change to standard time, sunrise has become the highlight of own entry to each day. I'm still groggy from a my nightlong sleep when I round the corner to my combo living room/kitchen to be greeted by beginnings of morning light.   

How can a person be in a bad mood when the day starts this way? Yes, I look up and out every day in my apartment and feel fortunate to have the opportunity.

I have dozens of sky pictures, many taken during other parts of the day, too. I've just picked three sunrise shots to share. I sit at the table in the morning by the window and just stare as long as I want into the changing light. Even on heavily clouded days there are often color stripes that leak into the clouds through the rain. No wonder we imagine heaven being above us when we look up at such beauty.


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Time to watch ice melt? Not lately

Today I was looking over the statistics on my blog to see if anyone is reading it. I can't tell who reads it, but I can see how many read a particular post on a given day or month and cumulatively how many pairs of eyes have seen it over its published lifetime. I'm impressed when I see the total number of published posts: 523 (since late 2009) and 397,830 overall views. That sounds more impressive than it is because judging from the world map of where viewers live, a great many are in countries that would have NO interest whatsoever in this drivel. However, based on some of the advertising comments that I routinely remove, my blog is interesting to readers for a lot of "wrong reasons," some of which--no doubt--could even be evil.
In the process of cleaning up stuff today, I found a few posts that never left their 'draft stage,' just hiding away waiting to be released by me for my readers. I'm deleting most of them, but I decided to share this one. If nothing else, it reminds us of the little things in life, and speaks to how I spent my time during Covid-shutdown. 

I am so grateful I can again go to the theatre and music performances, museums and shops. Thinking about having time to watch bubbles rise from hard-boiled eggs as ice melts is almost incomprehensible now. But it is also a lesson in the wonder that awaits us if we really look at what's around us

                                  *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****

I always chill my hard boiled eggs as soon as I take them off the burner. I am under the impression they will be easier to peel if they cool fast. Someone told me that years ago--maybe in high school. And I've always believed it.

To prove it's true would mean a scientific approach. I would have to cool half the batch slowly and other half with ice, then label the two batches, and pay attention when I finally turn them into deviled eggs (as these are destined to become), but that would be too much trouble for this old woman. I always just trust that advice and have a bowl of ice ready to dump into the pan as soon as I pour off the boiling water.

Today after I dumped ice into the pan, I noticed how pretty the ice was as it was melting. It was almost sparkling, so out came my cellphone and I shot pictures. An idle day, apparently, to have time for such silliness. But it's fun to look down and see the hard boiled eggs beneath the ice. I actually recorded several videos to bring into this post, too, but the videos refuse to be shared. I loved seeing the little bubbles of air escaping the eggs as the icy water cools them. It became a meditative experience--calming, actually--gazing at the patterns of bubbles. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

PIN-UP GRIL(L) -- Halloween 2022

I had lived in my retirement community just three months when 2022 Halloween rolled into focus. HALLOWEEN NIGHT PARTY! announced our activities director. Live music, dancing, refreshments! Costumes welcome! One of the community's mid-October optional activities was making masks, so I attended the class and created a half-mask out of paper mache. The process took two-weeks: one to form the mask from paper and paste: the second to paint/decorate it for the party. Only a couple of people were painting their masks at the same time I painted mine, so no one paid attention to what anyone else was doing, each of us focusing on our own creation. I still had no idea of whether or not I'd attend the party and no plan on a costume, but the activity was fun.

As it happened, several days before Halloween I opened one of many plastic containers not glanced at/in since moving to discover my collection of  at least a hundred advertising/marketing pins I'd collected over the years. You know the kind, you get them at a fair, your kids' sporting event, a small shop trying to spread the word about itself, etc.. Many of the pins came with memories, and some were just something I wore for a couple of hours--then tossed them into the 'pins box.' I wondered why on earth I had ever moved them into my downsized apartment (except for a handful, including one with a granddaughter's picture). 

I decided to throw out most of them just as an idea came to me. I would create a Halloween costume with them, which is exactly what I did--and I could wear the mask, besides. Happily, a silly play on a misspelled word came to me, which fueled the imagination.

Now, a year later, the 2022 photos of my costume popped up uninvited on my iPhone, and I found myself remembering what fun it was to go to my community's party--despite the need to be masked for COVID-19. No one at the party recognized me for one entire hour! I refrained from speaking and without my voice and my body I was invisible behind both the Covid mask and the Halloween mask, plus the clothing that included hair covering. In just three months, not a lot of residents knew me, anyway, so it was the perfect storm. Meet Sallie Glerum, the Pin-up Gril(l). It's a 'forever' highlight for me, Halloween or not.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

NEIGHBORHOOD TREES

There are many interesting trees in my current neighborhood--not always the majestic beauties so prevalent in my former more countrified suburb--but trees that are old, crooked, stressed, and apparently insistent on survival. Every one of them looks as though it has endured a lot, and still it keeps going. Maybe that's why I have been noticing them. 

As a person who's out of warranty, I feel like some of those trees look. Not my best look, but, dang it, I'll keep pushing through whatever I'm getting handed by luck, age, genetics, and eight decades of choosing less-than-healthy options. The result may not be pretty, but I'm still here!

I have taken a lot of photos of the trees near me, but the blog-software I use (Blogger) has become much more challenging regarding picture placement, so wrapping/tucking photos throughout written narrative is not an easy task. 

In fact, last evening I spent more than one hour trying to manipulate where I wanted the photos to appear in my Scarecrows post and finally just gave up. Some of the best scarecrows (photos thereof) do not appear for that reason. But back to trees. Not only do they serve as consumers of carbon monoxide--our human pulmonary exhaust--they also enhance our landscape to create beauty and interest. Would that all of us could be both beautiful and useful.

To close this silly observation, I am going to include one tree painting I did during an in-house art class offered by my retirement community. We were painting with acrylics (which I find challenging), using photographs of trees as inspiration and model. I was hating what was happening on my 'canvas' (as if it had nothing to do with me), when I decided to dress up the tree with imaginary color and movement. The result is this silly little painting to end my tree remarks. Perhaps for Halloween I will put on all my colorful costume jewelry and call myself 'fantasy-tree-inspired elder.' 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

SCARECROWS

There are at least six life-sized scarecrows in the vegetable garden that belongs to St. James Cathedral. It has been a delight to walk by the garden over the seasons to see that wide variety of produce growing in a fertile section of an otherwise asphalt block of the city. Volunteers tend the garden, and harvest its produce to use in the cathedral's food program that feeds many unhoused people each weekday.  


I don't know who made the scarecrows, but it is such fun to see them stuffed with straw with wide smiles grinning from their pillow-case heads. It makes me proud of our human race, willing to labor throughout the year planting, tending, and harvesting food solely for the benefit of others. The garden provides much pleasure in every season to pedestrians, as well as drivers (and passengers) of cars and buses hastily passing by the busy intersection of Madison and Cherry in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. I'd like to think it also provides inspiration for all.

Monday, September 25, 2023

WIDOW'S LAMENT

I recently revisited a draft of a poem I began in 2015, just a year into my widowhood. Quite often setting something aside to revisit in a few months has the effect of clarifying the work to its originator. I call it 'aging the words like wine.' Widow's Lament almost wrote itself upon reading its beginnings eight years earlier 

WIDOW’S LAMENT

 FRIDAY  

I’m not going to pick up the mail today

I’m not going to open the shades

I’m not going to give the neighbors a glimpse

Of my life as I live it today.

I hate the way they peer out their windows 

I hate the odd little questions.

How is it, my dear? Are you doing OK?

Let me know if there’s something to help with.

I hate looking out my window to see

Couples driving off in their cars

Friday night’s promise of lovely exchanges

While I sit watching TV.

I’m not going to pick up my mail today

I’m not going to open the shades

It’s none of their business what I do with my life

Now that my husband is gone.


SATURDAY  

I’ll brush my teeth

I’ll fix my hair

I’ll make the bed

And start some wash

Solitary confinement

Others have plans

Too busy to phone

I’ll walk

I’ll write

I’ll think

I’ll buy eggs

I’ll listen to music

I’ll fade of loneliness

Not Monday, a fun day

Not Tuesday, a muse-day

Not Wednesday, a friends day

Not Thursday, a hers day

Not Friday, a sigh day

It’s Saturday, a no matter day.


            Copyright © 2023 by Sara J. Glerum                  

                             

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Best Way to Shed Worry

One delightful feature in most senior communities is the easy access to a variety of activities. Without needing to leave the building, residents can participate in various leisure-time opportunities. In my community, there's everything from exercise sessions to lectures, movies to games, discussions and interest groups all under the same roof. 

My favorite is art. A talented artist, Everett, who works fulltime in our food and beverage division, leads afternoon art sessions twice a month on his day off. Anywhere from four to ten people participate, and the art studio gets really quiet for sixty-to-ninety minutes as we concentrate on what we're doing under his guidance. We chat very little as we draw or paint--which, oddly, is one thing that makes it so fun. It is relaxing to be concentrating on the matter in hand--a brush or stick of charcoal.

A few months ago, Everett introduced acrylics to us. For those of us new to the medium, the transition was challenging. The photos here show just one project in which we got to choose whatever photo we liked from a stack of colored landscapes and replicate the subject and color values with only the three primary colors plus black and white. What a challenge it was.

Whenever I take part in 60-90 minutes of this kind of dabbling under Everett's encouraging eye, I love the end result: how I feel.  I wash my hands and walk back to my apartment, noticeably refreshed and even walking with a lighter step.  I am unable to think about anything else while painting, and when the medium itself is new, it's like a vacation from all the thoughts typically whirling in my head. I rarely keep the result (i.e. painting/drawing) of the art session, but I keep its residual  effect for the rest of the day. The project keeps me fully engaged, and I love it.