Daily Bread #130

We found a heart shaped tree on a hike this week on Mt. Tam. The tree had likely fallen over the trail and rangers cut it to clear the path. The core must have been rotten, but it created beauty anyway.

It has been a long week, and a depressing one even though I try to limit my exposure to the news. My heart can’t take it all in anymore. Maybe I need a ranger to help me open my heart again?

We did outdoor dining one night and had take out on another, so my weight went up slightly this week. Still 10 pounds under my “goal weight” though. No worries on that score. I am starting to wonder if I can stop keeping score on this improve my health journey, and maybe start a new blog labeled something like “into the apocalypse.”

I think I am depressed. This too will pass, I hope. At least I still have that hope which is something.

Stay safe, friends. Be well.

L’Chaim!  Week 21 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is up 1.4 pounds for a total loss of 182

Daily Bread #129

Sometimes things are just hard. Maybe harder than we ever imagined they would be. In our lifetime anyway. I was raised with the idea of progress, onward and upward, building a world ever better, with more peace and more justice, because – that was just the way the arc of the universe was meant to bend.

But theses days racism, hate and violence are all growing and democracy, that fragile and always imperfect instrument, seems to be breathing its last breath as our skies fill with smoke. The very bones of the earth ache as the world weeps in despair. I am with her, weeping, as so many of us are. The death this week, of a righteous warrior for justice, feels like a final blow.

There is nothing to do but turn to Maya Angelou. Her words are what I need right now. Maybe they will help you too. .

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.



When great trees fall

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,

their senses

eroded beyond fear.



When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,

examines,

gnaws on kind words

unsaid,

promised walks

never taken.


Great souls die and

our reality, bound to

them, takes leave of us.

Our souls,

dependent upon their

nurture,

now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed

and informed by their

radiance,
fall away.

We are not so much maddened

as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of
dark, cold

caves.



And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill

with a kind of

soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never

to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be

better. For they existed.

― Maya Angelou

And how do we become better? How do we channel that electric vibration they have left us?

Maya has the answer to that question too.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

― Maya Angelou

It is easy to forget how hard the struggle has always been. We need the great trees and the great souls. The redwoods, the Ruths, the Mayas, and the Johns. We need the Martins and the Medgers, the Lucys and the Harveys. We need you and we need me.

We do what we can do, each in our own small or large way. We put our shoulders to the wheel to keep it turning, or sometimes just to keep it from rolling too far down the mountainside.

We control only what we can control. We don’t give up completely, ever. The mountaintop’s promise still lives inside of us. For myself, I am still working hard to stay healthy. A small thing, you might say, but it saves me from despair.

Be well, stay safe, my friends. Rise, as you are able, rise!

L’Chaim!  Week 20 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is down .9 pounds for a total loss of 183.4

Daily Bread #128

We had Martian skies this week and air quality that mandated staying indoors. To stay sane, I have been compulsively riding my stationary bike in order to “close the rings” on my Apple watch. I am closing the rings my sanity seems less assured. I survived the pandemic stay in place orders by getting out every day for long walks or hikes. Nature renews my spirit like nothing else. The hummers that come to our feeder help, but I worry about their small lungs and rapid heartbeats in this toxic air.

A so-so poem about this time or orange light:

Day Without Dawn

They say in the far north

The sun shines all day and night.

In summer anyway

In winter a dusky gray is the best one gets.

It’s only fall here

But the sky glows orange

Ash falling through the fog.

I am glad for the fog

Which may damp down the fires

As it cleans the air 

Making breathing possible

Weird though to not see the sun

And to look at the world

In a different light. 

I yearn for nightfall

So I won’t keep looking for the sun

Yellow against a blue sky

And I can imagine 

It is just a normal fog

That hides the moon and stars.

And it seems I have now broken my streak of staying at exactly the same average weight each week. Interesting I guess, but it is hard to care about that very much. Prayers for all who are facing so much more than I am. I have shelter, so far unthreatened by fire, two air purifiers, and a furnace fan that cleans my indoor air to a breathable level.

L’Chaim!  Week 19 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is down 1.3 pounds for a total loss of 182.5

Day Without Dawn

They say in the far north

The sun shines all day and night.

In summer anyway

In winter a dusky gray is the best one gets.

It’s only fall here

But the sky glows orange

Ash falling through the fog.

I am glad for the fog

Which may damp down the fires

As it cleans the air

Making breathing possible

Weird though to not see the sun

And to look at the world

In a different light.

I yearn for nightfall

So I won’t keep looking for the sun

Yellow against a blue sky

And I can imagine

It is just a normal fog

That hides the moon and stars.

Daily Bread #127

Today the temperature was up to 108, the air quality was “unhealthy for sensitive groups, and it was a holiday weekend during a pandemic. It was a day to hang at home with the A/C on. It was even too hot by the pool. The photo above was from a hike we took earlier in the week when it was cooler and the air somewhat better. It was also non-holiday weekday so the trail wasn’t crowded. Like the tree, we will try to keep standing despite the ravages of the world. There is beauty in survival, even if the leaves are no longer green and the sap no longer flows.

I may not have sap, but I try to keep moving, even when I can’t go outside.

I “closed all the rings” on my Apple watch every day this last week. The “stand” ring is the easiest as it only requires standing up for at least a minute for 12 hours. I haven’t missed that one at all since I got the watch at the end of July, after my Fitbit died. The exercise one is only a little harder, requiring 30 minutes of exercise. A short hike or half an hour on the stationary bike will close that ring. I’ve only missed that one a few times, mainly when taking a recovery day after an extra long and strenuous hike. The move ring – that one is more of a challenge. Closing it requires burning at least 470 calories through exercise. It sounds easy, but this week, when I couldn’t go on as many hikes because of the air quality, the heat, and the holiday, I had to work on it. 90 minutes on the stationary bike does it, and it is OK to not do it all at once. I have now closed that ring 13 days in a row.

It is a good thing I like math, It is a good thing we sprung for A/C right after we bought the house. Doing the bike without it would have given me heat stroke. As it was, a half an hour at a time was about right to keep my sweat from blinding me.

Weirdly, my average weight for last week was 141.6 – EXACTLY what it has been for the last 4 weeks. I am just trying to stay under 145, 150 would also be fine. I went out to dinner at a local brew pub on Saturday. I was my first in restaurant meal since the pandemic. It was outside, of course, with widely spaced tables and a masked waitress, but it felt strange, scary, and wonderful all at the same time. Because my weight has been so well under control, and because I haven’t eaten out in at least six months, I ordered my favorite meal at this restaurant we used to go to often. Fish and chips with garlic fries and a pint of stout. Wow! It has literally been years since I have ordered that. I enjoyed it thoroughly and without guilt, knowing I would be back to my healthy eating plan the next day. It is not “cheating” if you plan it, and any type of food is fine once in awhile. It is the habits that matter. My everyday “habits” of exercise and healthy food are well established now, so I can enjoy some fried food or a couch-potato day without making habits of them.

Our minister read the following poem today during his sermon. (zoom church!)

Old Maps No Longer Work

I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path.
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well-traveled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.

I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.

“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats, “toss it away.
it’s of no use where you’re going.”

“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction.”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”

so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul.

no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will I know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers:
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims traveled by the stars.”

It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

Joyce Rupp OSM

I have always been a “map” person, needing a plan. Maybe I can learn to follow the stars.

L’Chaim!  Week 18 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is the same as last week’s average for a total loss of 181.2

Daily Bread #126

Although I got in one 5 mile hike this week and one 3 mile neighborhood walk, the air quality from the wildfire smoke has kept me indoors most of the week. With the A/C fan and air purifier both running, I have been able to use the stationary bike instead. With that, and some long walks around the house, and some push-ups and sit-ups, I have been able to keep up some with my exercise. Not as much fun as a 9 mile hike in the Sierras, but not bad, and there is no point damaging my lungs breathing bad air.

I AM in much better shape than I was last fire season though. Now I can actually ride the bike standing up to pedal faster. Not for too long, just for a minute or two, but no way could I have done it at all a year ago!

I still amaze myself most days. Body self image is hard to change. It doesn’t happen quickly. Every time I see my collar bones, I get a little shock. It is a little weird maybe, but I also find myself feeling my body or running my hands over my rib cage or down my legs. If I feel it, maybe I will see it too. My leg muscles are so much stronger, which explains being able to stand while pedaling the bike.

How we see ourselves depends on so much. Other people create mirrors that reflect back how they see us, and we take that in. Fat people are treated differently, and not as well, something that was obvious to me before and that I haven’t forgotten. People see and react differently to me now. Sometimes I feel the need to turn around and see who is standing behind me. I am the same person, still a large woman, just with a smaller body, but my spirit has not shrunk along with the rest of me. I still need my space.

It has been another week on neither being up or down on my average weight, although it fluctuates daily of course. I am still tied to the scale numbers though, wondering what it will be each day and worrying some if I am up at all. This too will pass. As I said, body image is hard to change.

L’Chaim!  Week 18 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is the same as last week’s average for a total loss of 181.2

Daily Bread #125

Dewey Point

I am so glad I got some good hiking in the last few days during our second Yosemite trip of the summer. The sky here in the Bay Area is filled with smoke and even going outside is dangerous because of the horrible air quality. There was some smoke in the valley, but we went to higher elevations for our hikes and avoided both the smoke and most other people. On one trail, the only other mammal we saw was a bear. After staring at us for a minute or so, the bear went up the hillside away from us. Black bears are fairly timid unless you do something stupid like try and feed them. Some of the people we saw on other trails were much scarier, taking selfies next to sheer drop offs and then wandering around other people without masks. We decided we’d only talk to people that were wearing masks. Most of the others were clearly psychopaths. Much better to step off the trail and face away from them when they approached. Maybe I should write a pandemic wilderness guide?

We also did much better with food this trip. We not only brought breakfast and lunch food from home, but we also brought our camp stove and cooked our dinners on the patio outside the room. Flap steak and zucchini, precooked chicken and bok choy, ham and butternut squash were easy one pot meals and yummier and healthier than the take-out we got last time. I did spurge on a ice cream bar one afternoon though.

It is so important these days to appreciate all the joy you can find. Fires and pandemics, racism, corruption and unmitigated greed abound. I did feel hopeful for a quick minute listening to the Democratic convention, but a mountain lake, miles from the road. is much better medicine for my soul. I will, however, work like the devil to get out the vote (and get that devil out of office). I like Harris and am warming to Biden, but I would even vote for Nixon if he were the only other choice. As bad as he was, he did do some positive things, something I can’t say about the current guy.

L’Chaim!  Week 18 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is the same as last week’s average for a total loss of 181.2

Daily Bread #124

Sometimes a trail turns out to be too hard to travel the way you would like. I experienced that this week and wrote a poem about it:

Perfect Hiker

Sometimes the trail is too steep

Your boots slide

On loose rocks

At every step

Your knees shudder

Barely keeping

You upright

It might be time

To give up

Your perfect techniques

Your way of planting

Your hiking sticks just so

Just sit down and slide

Let gravity do its work

As your butt glides over the rocks

It is a dusty trail

You’ll be covered in grime

Before you are done

But it is the only way

To get down a trail

That is too steep for you

Maybe too steep for anyone

With any sense

The point is always

To make it home

In one piece

Clean doesn’t matter

In the long run. 

Perfection is over-rated

Colier Springs Trail on Mt Tamalpais

I called it the “perfect hiker” partly because I was preaching this Sunday on perfection. I do believe perfection is over-rated and that perfectionism can in fact be hazardous to your well-being. A video of the sermon will be posted here, probably in a few weeks: There is a Crack in Everything

One I did last month got posted today: “It’s Great to be Gay”

I do miss preaching and the deep pastoral relationships a minister can develop with congregants when accompanying them through important life events. I also miss the prophetic social justice work that can be done in religious community. But being retired has its advantages. I don’t miss the stress about budget shortfalls, complicated and sometimes boring administrative issues, endless meetings, and I am glad that the aging buildings are someone else’s problem. I also don’t miss the conflicts that sometimes seemed to come out of nowhere. No matter the issue, a few people always seem to think it is the minister’s fault. Like maybe they created the pandemic just they could work from home via zoom? I have a lot of friends who are still working ministers. This is a very challenging time for most of them. As I said, I am glad I am retired. Be gentle with your pastors, people.

Preaching on zoom stressed me the first time; I really missed the live interaction with a congregation that wasn’t on mute. Today I kept my screen on gallery view so at least I could see some faces while I was talking. They even waved their hands at me once when I asked for a response! I am glad not to preach every Sunday, but it is really fun to do it once in awhile. And zoom worked pretty well for me, and I hope it did for them as well. Fun fact: I wore a nice top and a clerical stole, but I had flip flops on my feet.

It’s another reminder about how adaptable our species can be. We can worship on zoom. We can change a lifetime of less than helpful habits about food and exercise and create new ones that can improve our health –and our ability to work our way down even a horribly difficult trail. It isn’t easy. And, yes, the more planning you do the easier it gets, but slip-ups happened and sometimes you need to just sit down and slide. With any new thing, you need to pay a lot of attention at the beginning. Being compulsive helps. Hover your mouse over the “unmute” mutton. Weigh or measure everything you put in your mouth. I am still a beginner at zoom preaching, but it was much easier the second time around. After two plus years of consciously managing my weight, it feels almost automatic. And I will keep paying attention, but like preaching in person, I’ll plan what I want to do, but also leave some room for the Spirit to do its thing.

L’Chaim!  Week 18 of “maintenance”: My average weight this week is the same as last week’s average for a total loss of 181.2

Perfect Hiker

Sometimes the trail is too steep

Your boots slide

On loose rocks

At every step

Your knees shudder

Barely keeping

You upright

It might be time

To give up

Your perfect techniques

Your way of planting

Your hiking sticks just so

Just sit down and slide

Let gravity do its work

As your butt glides over the rocks

It is a dusty trail

You’ll be covered in grime

Before you are done

But it is the only way

To get down a trail

That is too steep for you

Maybe too steep for anyone

With any sense

The point is always

To make it home

In one piece

Clean doesn’t matter

In the long run.

Perfection is over-rated

Actual trail on Mount Tamalpais

Daily Bread #123

Bon Tempe Lake

We are back from the Sierras, but still hiking. The annual parking pass for seniors at the watershed is a deal. We can now hike around a lake under the trees rather than slogging up from the bottom of the mountain in the heat. There are a ton of different trails, so we will have a lot of exploring to do up there over the next year.

It has been 15 weeks since I decided, when I reached the “normal” weight for my height of 150 pounds, that I was done with losing weight. My body has apparently not agreed with that decision as she has lost another 10 pounds during that time all on her own. My healthier eating habits and hiking hobby are influencing her I think, but I haven’t been trying. No worries. I still weigh more than I did in my 20’s, so we will just wait and see what happens in the next few months.

I did write a poem this week. Not sure where it came from. I pretty much just write them down. Maybe I was thinking we could use more healers in this world. It would also help to have someone who could cast out the demons and heal us from racism and white supremacy.

Miracle Man

He was a healer they said

A miracle man

It didn’t matter

Who you were

Or what you had

He’d heal your body

And drive the demons

From your soul

Let the children come

Blessed are the poor

Feed the hungry

He had grave doubts

As to the possibility

That the rich 

Would ever

Find salvation

That doesn’t mean

They shouldn’t try

Miracles can happen

After all

L’Chaim!  Week 15 of “maintenance” which I haven’t actually reached: My average weight this week is down another 1.2 pounds from last week’s average for a total loss of 182.4