These past few weeks I’ve been driven and part of that is because I’m feeling truly good physically for the first time in probably a year and a half. This time last year I was getting ready for shoulder surgery. The painful windup to that and the recovery afterward was long and difficult, given all the restrictions that came with it---a winter of one-handed snow shoveling, not lifting anything heavier than a fork. Also going on was the bottoming out of my thyroid and the lethargic moods and weight gain that came with it. Once discovered, then came the gradual building up of the hormone to where my latest blood test two weeks ago said, “You’re there, let’s celebrate!” I’m back to walking every day (until the snow flies). I’m back to eating healthy again (until the farmers market closes). And I lost the weight I gained while my thyroid was wacked out and I’m in serious downsizing mode.
With my mojo back and with any luck, I’ll be able to buy a condo in the spring and I’ve found not one, but three online that are in my target neighborhood and price range. They are zero-steps concept, just like my house, and even though those condos will be gone by the time I’m serious about moving it makes me happy that I won’t be looking for a needle in a haystack. The baby-boomers have “arrived” and they are doing what they’ve done since birth---driving the marketplace. Now, that means the building industry is starting to build for aging in place. When we built this house in 2001, zero-steps houses were as rare as unicorns. All I'm saying in these two paragraphs is it feels like an adventure on the horizon and I’ll be ready for it.
Speaking of adventure, can you imagine what it would be like to do a 1,000 mile journey to explore the islands in the Great Lakes? This week I went to a lecture featuring a woman who did just that---hiking, boating, kayaking and biking around just a fraction of the 35,000 islands in the Great Lakes. (If that number sounds high it’s because an island is defined as land that is at least a square foot and has at least one tree and is surrounded by and above water year around. Who knew!) The lecturer is in her fifties and did half the trip on her own, the other half she took part in scientific research projects. I learned a lot about my home state and saw a video presentation of beautiful, wild places I never knew existed here. I have no desire to set rugged goals for myself like Ms. Niewenhuis---this was her third 1,000 mile adventure---but I bought her book all the same. She’s inspiring. She sets goals that scare and challenges her, plans how to get from point A to point B and then has confidence enough in her own abilities to carry it through. What’s not to like about that? And once back home, she writes a book about her adventure while planning her next one. On the way home I challenged myself to stop at the nature trail to walk a couple of miles with a looming storm overhead even though I knew I’d be walking later that afternoon at the sculpture park.
I went to the sculpture park for a book club like no other that I’ve ever been to or heard about. The book discussed was Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai’s Garden and we met in the dry (Zen) garden for the first half hour, then in the wet (moss) garden for the second half hour. In both places the lead horticulturist shared his vast knowledge. The two types of gardens share elements of texture, movement and the all-important use of negative space. The Zen garden, he said, is a tool for concentration and is more for the gardener than those who come to visit. There are twelve classic patterns they use to rack the crushed granite and how the gardener gets out of our garden after completing his work is to hop from boulder to boulder. The head librarian at the sculpture park’s research library read passages from the book and asked questions. In the moss garden she read: “The garden is a world filled with secrets. Slowly, I see more each day. The black pines twist and turn to form graceful shapes, while the moss is a carpet of green that invites you to sit by the pond. Even the stone lanterns, which dimly light the way at night, allow you to see only so much. Matsu’s garden whispers at you, never shouts; it leads you down a path hoping for more, as if everything is seen, yet hidden. There’s a quiet beauty here I only hope I can capture on canvas.”
Even though it was only 64 degrees, I thoroughly enjoyed this garden book club experience---much more than reading the book. But, of course, they went hand-in-hand. The people at the book club were interesting, too. Before it started I talked to a woman who volunteers for two weeks each spring to work at a large Japanese garden in Ohio, staying in a cottage on the grounds. Not something I would aspire to do but like the lady who traveled 1,000 miles I’m always impressed by the vast areas of interest people find to feed their souls in retirement. ©