Remember to look after yourself and those you love.
Friday, January 3, 2014
Happy New Year!
It is 2014. I am looking forward to the New Year. I hope you are too. Time to make our New Year’s resolutions!
I have been back in the Pacific Northwest – in Seattle and on Lopez Island for two weeks of family and friends, holidays and parties. Great to be here but baby it’s cold outside. Trade three months in Brazil and 32 degrees Centigrade for 32 degrees Fahrenheit and snow and rain and it is CHILLY….
Two weeks ago I was sitting on a Boeing 767 winging over South America northwest to Seattle. My husband and I travelled for twenty-four hours through six time zones to get home for the holidays.
Our time in Brasil was wonderful and marked a life change for me. I retired in May. I spent the summer and early fall traveling and entertaining a continuous string of friends and family in both Seattle and at our chácara (cottage) on Lopez Island, in northern Puget Sound. We biked through the farm fields and woodlands on the island; fished and caught crab in the bays and inlets surrounding the islands; read books; wrote stories and cooked delicious meals with the abundant local food. We shared the time with the many different people who are part of our life.
When we left for Brasil in September I had several goals. It was time to get serious about a new vocation or avocation for my retirement. When we arrived in Brasil, it took a couple of weeks to get settled – rent a car; join a gym; stock the kitchen; re-connect with our friends and the town; start Portuguese lessons for me and organize the new work project for Jeff. Early in our visit we traveled to the Amazon, to Macapá and to the Rio Tapajós as reported in recent blogs. We also traveled to Vitória in Espírito Santo and to the beach at Ubatuba with our son and daughter-in-law. All together during our three-month stay we traveled almost a third of the time. Brasil is a big and beautiful country.
By nature I am a very gregarious person. I am lucky to have a very large extended family and a wonderful friendship network. I also have a big piece of me that likes more cerebral and more solitary pursuits. That is likely the part of me that enabled a career in engineering and perhaps helped me solve (at least sometimes) complicated problems in my work. I basically like to take an issue and figure it out – while some of that figuring was done in partnership with others, much of it was done or started alone – sitting at my desk or at my computer, hacking around with an idea, analyzing the data and then trying to beat out something that could work.
Often during my career the original ideas were generated in so-called brain storming sessions. Then I would take notes jotted during these sessions into my office and try to develop the ideas into solutions for more discussion and eventual action.
Now as a writer, the ideas have to come from my head and from my life experience. In the beginning, when I first started writing (non-technical writing that is) a few years ago, I wondered if I would have any ideas. But it turns out I did. What is it that I like to write about? Clearly the experience of living; the love and loss that brings life meaning; how people interact together; their relationships and what the meaning of these relationships is. Perhaps my writing is about coming of age and gaining confidence and trust. I am still coming of age at 64. I hope I always will be. It keeps my mind open. Trust is a word that is always on the tip of my tongue. Along with forgiveness. I feel deeply about relationships, developing trust and being willing to forgive.
While my life as a writer is just beginning, my experience of learning another language is maturing. Although I love words – I am not a talented linguist. I have a terrible cloth ear – by that I mean I often can’t hear subtle or even not so subtle differences in sounds and pronunciation. And to learn Portuguese or any new language as an adult, lack of good auditory skills can be a problem. Whole words have different meanings if you say the vowels with a closed mouth or an open mouth. For example, in English, the letters “OU” together sound like a U as in the word you. But “OU” can also sound like OW as in the word ouch.
These same differences exist in every language. I am learning which words in Portuguese have an open vowel sound versus a closed vowel sound. I am learning all the irregular verbs. I have to memorize them. There is no other way. I have improved my Portuguese fluency through dint of persistent work – didn’t just happen to me via immersion. Does that happen to anyone over the age of five??
At my age my memory is simply not as good as it used to be. So on the days I had my Portuguese classes, I found myself sitting at my table, cup of coffee close by, and simply writing down verb conjugations and vocabulary words. My daughter told me to make flash cards. I did but I am still not sure I have all the verbs memorized correctly. I still stumble over common ones, like to put, to take, to stay, to sleep, to have, to hear, to come, to go. All of these and more are irregular verbs in Portuguese. Whew. I should have learned them years ago but I didn’t. I am learning them now.
I am also just learning the subjunctive verb forms. The subjunctive is very interesting to me. Subjunctive verbs only exist in rudimentary form in English – as conditional verb forms. In Portuguese, the subjunctive verb forms are used for expressing the emotional side of life – for desire, for doubt, and for feelings. Subjunctive is a great concept – it appeals to my romantic side. At my last lesson in Brasil I promised myself and my talented professor Galaor that I would continue to memorize the irregular verbs and learn how to put my knowledge of the subjunctive into every day usage. This is a good concrete goal. I will try to achieve it.
We have celebrated Christmas and New Year’s. We have popped champagne and eaten heartily. We have enjoyed the Seattle Art Museum, the musical Oliver, the beautiful parks and holiday lights in Seattle, the amazing beaches and landscape of the San Juan Islands. We have laughed, sung Christmas carols and slept late.
It is the New Year and I need to write up my new year’s resolutions. What have I learned in the seven months since I retired? What do I look forward to in 2014?
Here is my list.
1. I will embrace this next stage of life.
2. I won’t over think all the time…I will be in the moment as much as I can.
3. I will write something everyday. I will finish my fantasy book and develop several of my other works-in-progress into finished pieces. 2014 is a year for writing.
4. I will do something physically demanding every day even if it is just a walk.
5. My exercise will include strength and flexibility and aerobic elements. I will continue my practice of Yoga.
6. I will continue learning Portuguese. I will perfect the subjunctive and read my first novel in Portuguese.
7. I will visit my large extended family and my many friends in the United States, Brasil and in Europe. I will learn from them and try to help them in whatever ways I can even if just making a meal.
8. I will give back to my community through helping people who have less fortune than me.
9. I will take time to think every day.
10. I will love the earth and try to make it a better place.