Categories
Life Nature

600

Yesterday, I read an article about Greenland Sharks.

Apparently, Greenland Sharks can live a very, very long time. Hundreds of years, in fact. Researchers have discovered one shark that they estimate is 600 years old. They’ve found others that appear to be in the 200 and 300 year-old range.

There’s no definite conclusion as to why Greenland Sharks have such longevity. It’s likely that their habitat, cold and deep water, plays a factor. But there’s obviously more at play, something in their genetic makeup that influences their lifespan.

Just as humans have a natural expiration date genetically codified in our DNA, Greenland Sharks are pre-programmed to survive to a specific range of years. Real-world living and medical circumstances can affect the actual lifespan, of course; there’s no guarantee of reaching a certain age. Assuming good health and safety, however, most humans can expect a lifetime of between 70-90 years. And, it seems, most Greenland Sharks can expect a lifetime of centuries.

During the past 600 years, humans have formed countries, invented automobiles and airplanes and spaceships, discovered cures for illnesses, and learned how to preserve an image of a moment in time and then send it to millions of other people with a simple click of a button.

I’m haunted by the thought of sharks swimming unceasingly through the deep, dark, cold water while all of this happened on the land above them. I’m also a tiny bit jealous of these sharks. I don’t want to be a Greenland Shark, but it would be nice to have the potential to live as long as they do.

That’s not the way things work, however. So, instead of focusing on the question of why humans don’t also get 600 years, I’ll be grateful for the ones I’ve had. And, I’ll do my best to make the most of the years, however many they are, that are (hopefully) left ahead of me.

Categories
Life

Battle

I received my second COVID-19 vaccine last Thursday.

I won’t lie; I had a rough weekend. Fever, chills, headache, exhaustion, very similar to when I actually had COVID-19.

I have no regrets, however. If I suddenly found myself in a time-travel situation, going back to Thursday and choosing whether to present my arm for the jab, I’d gladly go through it once more.

Because when I had COVID-19, I didn’t feel only sick. I also felt afraid. Every day, every minute. Sometimes, the feeling was just a whisper, a low undercurrent; other times, it became more demanding, requiring acknowledgment.

Fear that the illness would get worse. Fear that I’d end up in the hospital, unable to breathe, isolated and alone. Fear that there were things happening within my body, beyond the obvious symptoms, that might manifest later.

But the greater fear was that I’d give the illness to somebody else. Perhaps a family member, one of my sons or my husband, quarantined in the house with me, living in separate rooms but still exposed to shared air. Or, perhaps in the few days between when I was exposed and when I developed symptoms, I’d unknowingly spread the virus to strangers, who then took it home to their families.

I know that the odds are mostly in our favor, that most of us, even if we catch the virus, will end up fine. I also know that this illness does, in fact, kill. It kills brutally, and cruelly, and very often, arbitrarily.

It isn’t stupid to be afraid of COVID-19. It’s wise. We are wise to approach this enemy with caution.

So, if a quick needle jab and a few days’ worth of feeling under the weather could help to end that fear and destroy that enemy? Sign me up.

As I recovered from the after-effects of my choice, I experienced a new feeling. Empowerment. The fever and headache weren’t scary symptoms, like before. They were now evidence of victory.

Take THAT, you stupid virus! Ka-POW! Blammo! Hiiiii-YA! My immune system was joining all the others out there in a great battle. And every day, our numbers are growing. If we keep going, we can win.


We are no longer at the mercy of this illness. We warriors now, fighting together.


Categories
Life Pets

Awake

Pre-pandemic, my alarm would wake me up at 5:00 a.m., insistently reminding me that it was time to get ready for my hour-long commute and the official start of my work day.

Each morning, there I’d be, snoozing comfortably, dreaming away, and then suddenly, a loud, irritating beep-beep-beep would jolt me awake. It would not stop until I took action. So, I’d hit the snooze button, putting off the inevitable, only to repeat the process all over again a few minutes later. Eventually, I’d accept reality and slowly exit the soft, warm bed, shuffle around in the early morning darkness, and get the day started.

Now, I rarely set my alarm clock. There’s no need; I’m not commuting, and the morning is no longer a rush of action I have to complete before hitting the road.

Instead, my waking up experience revolves around our dogs. Today, for example, I was awakened by Mollie and Charlie bouncing on the bed. They were playing some form of Dog Tag, with Mollie merrily pushing Charlie to one side and then Charlie gleefully jumping back across the blankets for another round. When they noticed that my eyes were open, they both bounded toward me with doggie smiles and wagging tails, eager to be the first to welcome me into the new day.

I miss my job. I miss seeing my colleagues every day, and I miss the work we did together, the sense of purpose it created.

I also resent the pandemic. I resent the lives it’s destroyed as well as all the interrupted plans and goals, the lost opportunities and disrupted expectations.

But, I do not miss that 5:00 a.m. alarm, and I do not resent the change in my morning routine. I much prefer being awakened at a more decent hour by happy, playful dogs who think I’m the most wonderful person in the world.

Here’s to little silver linings, wherever and whenever we may find them.

Categories
Life Nature

Almonds

Not long ago, we experienced some bizarre winter weather where I live – heavy snow and freezing temperatures that went on for the better part of a week. An unexpected outcome of that situation is that some of the plants and trees that don’t typically thrive in this area are now…thriving.

For example, we have an almond tree in our backyard. I didn’t know it was an almond tree, however, because it had never produced almonds.

A few years ago, during the spring blooming season, I thought it might be a peach tree. But after some research, I realized it’s an almond tree. I also resigned myself to the fact that it would be an almond tree in name only. We don’t usually have the type of sustained freezing cold weather that is necessary for almond production.

So you can imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that, this year, the tree is bursting with almonds. There are so many that some of the branches have started to dip from the weight. The limbs hang over part of our garden, creating a concentrated spot of shady coolness.

It’s likely that the almonds won’t be ready to harvest until August or September. Between the summer heat and the scurry of squirrels living in my backyard trees, I’m a bit concerned about how things will ultimately turn out. Hopefully, there will be a positive ending to this adventure. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch the almonds grow.

Here’s to Mother Nature. She sure knows how to keep things interesting.

Categories
Life

Strands

I’m one of the fortunate ones who emerged from my COVID-19 experience with no serious long-term after effects. My sense of smell and taste still aren’t 100%, but otherwise, there haven’t been any symptoms reminding me that I’d been sick.

Until recently. In the last few weeks, my hair has started falling out.

It’s everywhere. In the sink, in the shower, on my pillow, on the floor. I find strands of it on my clothes and in the seat of my car. My hairbrush resembles a small, furry animal after a few days of use.

Thankfully, I haven’t found any bald spots. The loss, while steady, doesn’t involve clumps of hair. I doubt that it’s noticeable to anybody but me (and my husband, who patiently listens each time I complain about the situation).

I’ve read that this type of hair loss has happened to others. As with the loss of smell and taste, it doesn’t happen to everybody, but it’s common enough that I’m not panicking. I think – hope – that the shedding will stop soon, that it’s simply a temporary response to the weirdness of COVID-19 and its journey through my immune system.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for my general good health. I realize that, in the big picture, this is not that big of a deal. Eventually, it will just be one more of those things that I’ll remember when looking back on this bizarre time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and sweep up this morning’s fallen strands.

Categories
Life

Audacity

Audacity is one of my favorite words.

I like the way it sounds. I like the way the letters look, sitting one next to the other, as they spell it out. I like what it means; the definition, the purpose of the word.

There’s risk in audacity. Audacity begins with the belief that what is isn’t necessarily what must be. Without the addition of wisdom and empathy, compassion and patience, it’s possible for audacity to take us into the land of entitlement, on a dark and dangerous path.

The positive potential of audacity, however, is glorious. Audacity is at the foundation of every human invention and discovery; every moment of what if and why not. It’s at the heart of every goal and every dream, even if they seem impossible in the here and now.

Audacity doesn’t promise success. But, every recipe for success includes at least a bit of audacity. Perhaps that’s why, this week and this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word and of all the promise it represents. And perhaps that’s why, waking up on this Earth Day morning, it was on my mind.

Here’s to you, audacity. Take us forward.

Categories
Life

98.6 F

I’ve never been more aware of my temperature than during this past year.

It seems that everywhere I go, somebody asks to scan my forehead to confirm that I’m fever-free. I understand; it’s a necessary step in these pandemic times. Like giving up handshakes, it’s just part of how things work now. But it means that 98.6 F is never far from my mind.

On top of that, I’ve taken my own temperature many times since the start of 2020, more than I ever recall doing in all the years before. Every time I felt a little achy, I’d whip out the thermometer. Most of the time, I’d breathe a sigh of relief at the “normal” results. At one point, however, the numbers were elevated, and they stayed that way for a while, signaling that my days of avoiding COVID-19 were over.

Then, after my vaccine, the fever returned for a short time. It was both discouraging and satisfying to see the numbers rising; a strange mix of relief that the medicine was doing its job and frustration at feeling rotten while the antibody army marshaled its forces.

I’ve learned something interesting through these measurements. 98.6 F is not my “normal.” My normal is lower than that; quite a bit lower, actually. Reading up on it, I’ve discovered that many people are like me. The 98.6 F mark represents some, but not all, of the fever-free folks among us.

This is not information I would have paid much attention to pre-pandemic. Even now, it’s not that big of a deal, but it is nice to know. Like masks and social distancing and vaccines, it’s become a familiar tool, influencing my decisions and minimizing the worry that can come from being unaware.

Here’s to the ability to adapt to new circumstances, to accept new information, learn from it, and apply it to the situation at hand.

Categories
Life Nature

Patience

Today’s cuppa reminds me to be patient.

Patience is not one of my strengths, but like most grownups, I’ve taught myself to act patiently in situations that require restraint and self-control. I stand quietly in lines, accept the reality of traffic, and allow for the fact that things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, I whine and complain and huff and puff, but most of the time, I’ve learned to manage my feelings and behave myself.

Growing a backyard garden is testing me, however.

The weather has been amazingly perfect, and our plants are thriving. We have teeny-tiny tomatoes, and zucchini, and cucumbers. We have four itty-bitty grape clusters and six or seven blackberries sprouting on their vines. There’s one strawberry shifting in color from green to red and several others that are not quite there but will be soon. The kale plants are enormous, and the pepper plants are blooming, promising a bumper crop.

Every morning, and several more times throughout the day, I inspect the garden. Seeing the baby fruits and veggies is thrilling. But then, my impatience takes over, and I lament the fact that it’s taking so long for everything to grow.

The plants are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, of course. The growing timetable is right on track. It’s my frustration that’s the problem.

Impatience isn’t helpful; eagerness isn’t an effective fertilizer. And so, I do my best to focus on the fun of watching the progress, slow as it is, and celebrate each milestone. Soon enough, we’ll have a full-grown bounty. In the meantime, each day is an opportunity to enjoy the experience.

I’ll admit, however, that I sometimes whisper, “Hurry up, we’re waiting” to the leafy, blooming stalks and vines. I don’t want them to assume they have all the control in this situation. Somebody’s got to remind them that this is a group project.

Here’s to patience and to the rewards that come from giving things time to become what they’re meant to be.

Categories
Life People

Tools

It’s Anne Lamott’s birthday.

I don’t always agree with everything she’s written or said. More often than not, however, I find myself nodding in affirmation, feeling connected to her words.

Like this, for example:

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said, ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

Happy birthday to a woman who’s brave enough to embrace her humanness and forgive imperfections, even as she strives to do better. Her generous words are in my toolbox, helping me on this ongoing journey of doing the best I can.

Categories
Fun Life

Classics

Today is Francis Ford Coppola’s birthday, which reminds me that I’ve never seen The Godfather.

I’ve also never seen Rocky or Casablanca. In fact, although I love movies and have seen many, there are quite a few classic films on my “never watched” list. There’s no particular reason that I haven’t seen them; I don’t have an aversion to watching them. I just haven’t done it.

So, I’ve decided that is something I will remedy. I will fill the gaps in my motion picture awareness. It’s a somewhat frivolous goal, but goals don’t always have to be about serious objectives. Life should include a bit of fun.

Given the many streaming sources and classic tv channels out there, it should be relatively easy to find the movies on my list. The next steps are coordinating my schedule and stocking up on more popcorn.

Here’s to the classics and making time to see what you’ve been missing.