Dear Readers,

Unanticipated health challenges kept me away from my blogging keyboard in October. Look for a return to normal productivity in November.

Warm Halloween Greetings,

September has been a transitional month for Nancy and me. From summer to fall, stultifying heatwaves to the first blessed rains. But also shifting gears from our Northwest Coast vacation mobility to more sedentary routines here at our Bay Area retirement community. Unpacking and storing suitcases, dining with friends, rebooking postponed medical appointments, queuing up for our bivalent COVID booster, attacking teetering stacks of unsolicited mail, even participating in a wildfire evacuation drill.

For my catch-up reading, I’ve selected four inviting titles from local libraries:
• A historical novel to deepen my knowledge of the San Juan Islands;
• An ad hoc trio of wilderness adventures featuring reclusive female protagonists.
All are well-crafted national prizewinners. I’d like to recommend them for your autumn enjoyment.

Nancy and I dedicated August to our summer vacation. The plan was to get away from the San Francisco Bay Area during the worst of the summer heatwave. With hindsight, that timetable clearly needed recalibration!

We drove up and back to Washington State’s Puget Sound. (This crowded waterway is in the process of being rebranded as the Salish Sea, in belated recognition of a once locally prominent Native American tribe.) There we boarded a fleet of ferries that carried us through a series of week-long vacation rentals in the San Juan Islands.

Who says old age is dull? Here are three incidents that touched my life within the space of a single July week.

Midnight 9-1-1
I awoke after 11pm with a terrible pain in my chest. Smack in the center, about the size of a tennis ball, so sharp I could barely draw a breath. For the past day or so, I’d been suffering from acute indigestion, waves of gas and sour heartburn. But this pain wasn’t moving, just growing worse. Flat on my back, I re-visualized an AARP sidebar: “HEART ATTACK WARNING SIGNS. Chest discomfort, pressure, squeezing or pain. Shortness of breath. Even if you’re not sure, have it checked out. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives. That means your own.”

As mentioned in my May 31 post, I’ve been working on restoring a healthier balance in my life. This includes making time and space for positive activities and feelings, plus treating each new season as a fresh beginning with inviting opportunities.

In this spirit, let me share with you four agile-aging explorations I’ve undertaken in June. Two examined differing perspectives on the milestone of turning 80. Another studied four-legged firefighters. The last one carried Nancy and me to a forest sanctuary.

Intimidating political and economic turbulence swirls all around. I’m trying to keep hope alive and feet on the ground.

I was surprised to discover that May marks this blog’s third anniversary, with 50 posts already published. The writing project still feels fresh; there’s seldom a shortage of new topics for monthly exploration. As for the mindful aging the blog was launched to encourage, each day convenes a continuing seminar.

On the other hand, May 2019 seems an eon away. The main reason is probably that the intervening period has been so action-packed. We’ve witnessed Trump’s defeat, denial and a violent insurrection. International stability is being throttled by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Nancy’s and my personal lives have been totally reshuffled by relocating to a retirement community. Dominating both these macro and micro domains have been COVID’s disruptive invasion and stubborn resurgences. Retirement was supposed to be a transition to tranquility. Instead, we’ve been riding a roller-coaster.

Short or long, three years seems a fitting period for stock-taking. What have I been learning about how to blog? More important, about how to age? Here are some candid self-assessments. As always, I’ll value your feedback and your reciprocal progress reports.

COVID surges had twice forced Nancy and me to cancel a bucket-list road trip to California’s southeastern deserts. First in 2020, again in 2021. Now lessening pandemic severity gave us hope that we could finally reach there for my April birthday. With luck, winter rains would stimulate the parched landscape’s fabled wildflower blooms.

Simultaneously, my brother Doug’s long-declining health entered a steep slide. We’d visited him two weeks before as he began home-hospice care. [See my March 31 post, “DOWN MEMORY LANES.”] Now we agreed with Doug and his wife Lu that we’d come by to see them again en route to the desert.

The actual journey that emerged from these plans bore limited resemblance to our expectations. My trip journal records stops and starts, twists and turns, sorrows and smiles. Like so much of senior living these days, for better and for worse.

In March, Nancy and I traveled twice to Southern California within a 10-day period. Both trips carried us into the past. Solvang was a sentimental destination for celebrating Nancy’s birthday. We had visited there on one of our first dates, more than 50 years ago. La Purisima Mission was a world apart but just down the road. Los Angeles took us back south for family and friends. We spent precious time with my younger brother, Doug, who’s just starting home-hospice care. We also paid our respects at the funeral of Bill Dahlman, high-school classmate and rediscovered friend. In the midst of healthy, happy seniority, death and dying are never far away.

Savoring small pleasures can be an effective contribution to coping with COVID. If we can’t get out and about as much as before and are feeling trapped, bored or agitated, finding sources of stimulation within shrunken perimeters can nourish our mental and emotional health.

Beyond COVID, after Omicron’s hopefully swift, steep decline, that same investment can be a sustainable Agile Aging practice. Not just passive receptivity but proactive curiosity and engagement.

Buddhists and New Age sages have long counselled us to “Be Here Now,” living in the present, surrendering past regrets and future worries. Devoting energy and attention to things we can control, releasing those we can’t. What I’m recommending is congruent but more focused: valuing conversations, contacts, memories, pauses and forward planning as invitations to be more alive.

Let me share a basket of samples that have brightened my winter days.

In last month’s post, I looked back at 2021, recollecting key global and national developments and also recording some local impacts and adjustments. Several subscribers were kind enough to respond with appreciative feedback. This month I’d like to look forward at 2022, linking the two posts by again homing in on the coronavirus pandemic, politics, economics and climate change.

I won’t hazard any detailed forecasts. Things are changing too fast, puncturing pundits’ confident predictions almost as soon as they’re conjured. Instead, as a more modest Agile Aging exercise, I’ll try to sketch what we’re already learning in January and then explore where the new year may be taking us.

Most of my elder friends say they’re stepping into 2022 with apprehension. This is not the secure seniority they’d been looking forward to. While I respect the magnetic appeal of pessimism, in this case I believe it may be premature. Please chime in: