Tuesday, April 8, 2014

End of Winter - Projects and Porosity

Winter ended officially on March 20, more than two weeks ago.  The air is still chilly if the sun’s not out and the rain hasn’t gone away completely.  But I see signs of spring everywhere – daffodils in bloom; fallen camelias all over my lawn; yellow forsythia and red quince blossoms along the roadside; flowering cherry trees and tiny green leaves breaking out wherever I walk or bike around my neighborhood.  Yesterday and last Friday we had unusually warm weather – warm enough to have a picnic outside at the Anacortes ferry terminal.  

My husband and I were back on Lopez Island for a few days.  We had garden tasks laid out for us, left over from the tree cuttings a month ago.  First in line were multiple large piles of chips that needed to be moved by wheelbarrow and spread in the woods and the rhody beds as well as many large logs to be cut into rounds and moved to the wood shed.  Jeff and I spent the better part of Saturday and some of Sunday working outside.  It felt good to use my muscles for useful work - rather than merely lifting weights at my Y.  And the rewards were many: great mulch in the garden and woods; lots of stacked firewood; tired muscles and a good night's sleep.  The amount of wood we ended up with is impressive – since we only use our wood stove as an auxiliary heat source, our new supply, when coupled with the firewood we already have, will likely last us many years.

Spring's Satin Flowers
I was also on Lopez a couple of weeks ago with three of my best girl friends for a more leisurely visit.  We used our wonderful time together to do an art project, to cook, to hike and to talk.  Isn't that what friendships are all about?  On the day we arrived, the sun came out unexpectedly and we hiked the rocky shore of Iceberg Point.  Iceberg Point was named a National Monument one year ago.  It is on the southern edge of Lopez – from its steep exposed shoreline you can see all the way south towards the Olympic Mountains and down the mouth of Puget Sound and west towards the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean.  The view is spectacular – wide open and wild – water is everywhere.  You feel as if you are standing on the edge of an endless expanse of water.  If you stepped into a boat and sailed west you would end up in Japan.  We climbed to the top of a rocky pinnacle and read the United States Geological Marker telling us that we were at the location of Marker 7 of the boundary between the United States and Canada.  We watched with awe and trepidation as two young men climbed up an almost vertical rock wall that rose from the water in a deep, steep crevice.  We saw multi-colored rockweed exposed in tidal pools, deep kelp fronds moving in the surface waves and tiny purple satin flowers in bloom – a true sign of spring. 

My Parrot Tie 
Our Lopez art project, making hand painted silk ties, was the brain child of one of my friends.  She is an amazing artist and teacher.  Check out her blog at http://teabytes.blogspot.com for a description of silk painting and many other projects you can do at home.  Somehow or other, under Alice’s direction, we all managed to create pieces of wearable art.  I am not a crafty person at all but the project was tremendous fun.  My tie depicts a Scarlett Macaw – in honor of my husband Jeff’s work in the Amazon and the fact that we both love parrots.  First I drew the parrot in pencil on a piece of paper – scaling its size to the tie.  Then, following Alice’s instructions, I traced the picture using carbon paper onto the silk, then I traced the different part’s of the parrot’s body with a special glue-like substance called gutta, thereby separating each color or marking into its own area.  Finally I mixed the watercolor dyes in little pots and painted the parrot in its traditional red, yellow, green and blue, ending with the background in a brilliant jungle green.  The painting process happened in stages, with each stage needing time to completely dry.  The gutta prevented the colors from bleeding into each other.  Eventually Alice washed each tie in a setting solution, which both set the silk dyes and removed the gutta.  Each of the four of us created a different lovely tie.  I gave mine to my husband for his recent birthday.  I can hardly wait to do another silk painting project.

These past few weeks, I have been busier than I expected to be when I retired.  I am finishing my children's book; finally taking care of several years of postponed health check ups (ok ok I was up to date on critical annual ones…); tackling several years of postponed house maintenance; and replacing two ancient (AKA leaky) bathrooms and some very tired furniture.  All of these activities were a lower priority when I was working but now that I have time to attend to them, they crowd my days more than I expected.  Most of my check ups are going well – although I discovered to my horror that I hadn’t had a tetanus shot for twenty years or any blood chemistry analyzed for nine years.  Lucky I didn’t step on a nail or find out that my thyroid was out of whack.  What I did find out is that my bone density is lousy – not so lousy that I have fractured bones but poor enough to alarm my doctor. 

I found the news sobering and even annoying.  True, I have all the risk factors for osteoporosis – I am a post-menopausal woman; I am thin; I am Caucasian; and perhaps worst – my genetic history is terrible: my mother and all three of her sisters had terrible osteoporosis.  With knowledge of that history I started a program of weight training when I was in my late forties more than fifteen years ago.  In addition, I had life-long habits of doing weight bearing exercises – I was a serious runner for more than twenty-five years; I am a life-long hiker and long distance walker; a skier; and, in the past dozen years a biker.  And I took calcium and Vitamin D supplements.  I thought these habits would offset my risks of osteoporosis.  But apparently that didn’t happen.  My bone density, especially in my spine, is crummy.   Or perhaps crumbling is a better description.  Well darn.  You do your best and deal with the rest. 

So first off I am grateful that I am basically super healthy and strong.  As my doctor said if I hadn’t had good dietary and exercise habits maybe I would be in much worse shape in terms of bone density; maybe I would have already had random bone fractures.  And certainly having porous bones isn’t in the same league as having a life threatening or debilitating disease such as some of my friends – some of whom are no longer with us – have had.  So who am I to complain?  There are still things I can do from a dietary perspective to help thicken up my bones and for sure I need to keep doing weight training and weight-bearing exercise.  Was that in the back of my mind when I spent the weekend moving and spreading all those Lopezian wood chips?  Hopefully after those two days of hard work my bones are denser – I know I can barely lift my arms!  My plan is to check out more bone building options and keep doing what I’m doing.  I think what I’m facing is called aging -- but just in case, does anyone need any wood chips moved?

The View south from Iceberg Point

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