On the Run

Let’s say you are getting off the exit at Paper Mill Road off 309, Springfield Township. You look to your right as you come up to the light.

You look some more.

You look some more. What is that dangling from the branches of that tree? Some new kind of fruit, just now revealed by the leaves falling?

Look one more time.

OK, I’ll explain. Behind that fence someone had planted gourds in a garden. The vines left home and traveled up that tree perched in the no-man’s land at the highway exit. Gourds like to hang as they grow, so the vine made a great decision.

I love seeing the triumph of ingenuity and the motivation of hope, no matter who is exercising it!

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Wait in Line

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago my husband and I visited the Norris City Cemetery, next to the Norristown Farm Park. We wandered over the peaceful site for some time, looking at the headstones and enjoying the calm, beautiful day. It was a place where each person had a place to be remembered and each life commemorated, I felt.

On the way home from that trip, we passed Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Wyncote, just a hop skip and a jump from our house. We go by this location almost every day, either on the local road or on the highway passing on the other side.

It’s a Catholic cemetery and just for your info, my in-laws are both buried here (though not near the site I’m going to show you.)

All right. I’d noticed a set of black shapes lined up way out in an empty part of the cemetery from the highway,but I couldn’t tell exactly what they were.

We had a closer view from the local road, but we’d never had time to stop and really get a look. Well, today, we did. Here’s the sight that caught our eye:

Yes. A neatly-arrayed line of burial vaults, waiting for use. From a mark on one at the far end, I think there were originally 100 of them.

The whole thing just made me laugh. Did the cemetery get a sale price for buying in bulk? Is this the only place they could find to store them, or was it a practical matter? – after all, new interments are taking place only a few hundred feet away, not much transport time.

And…Is it me or does it seem just a little bit – impersonal? I’m feeling a bit of an assembly-line atmosphere here…

 

Anyway, they are getting used. You can see where the marks on the ground were – there were more here not long ago.

This line will slowly shrink. I’m keeping my eye on things and I wonder how long it will take.

I Continue to Practice Handwriting

You may remember my no-longer-secret ambition to improve my handwriting.

Here are a few recent samples – these from June:

and August:

I’ve got some thoughts on handwriting and what this quest has meant to me. But first, I’ll show you some of my tools.

I have learned a bit about pens and inks, enough to realize there is a whole world of handwriting that has been hidden from me until now. I now peruse pen and ink sites and read books on handwriting, not just how to do it, but also on the history of it. My tiny ambition has opened a whole new subject to me.

In my corner of the handwriting world, I have settled on medium nib fountain pens and rollerball pens as my favorites. Fine nibs and points scratch and drag at the paper for me. I like a nice thick flow of ink. Here is my current set of friends.

Top to bottom: Pilot V-ball 7 rollerball; Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen, medium; 2 different Lamy Safari fountain pens, both medium nib; a new pen I haven’t tried yet as I just received it in the mail today, the Pilot MultiBall rollerball medium; and the Platinum Preppy fountain pen medium.

I also am very fond of one of the cheapest pens around, too – Bic Cristal is my everyday go-to pen.

You may wonder about those pages of handwriting. I have developed a habit of practicing handwriting while watching television at night – I take notes on the show I am “watching” (when I’m not working a crossword puzzle or reading. You can see why I say “watching”.)

Anyway, I started the practice for…practice. But I have found handwriting to be a soothing meditative activity. I take my time and work to form the letters in a nice manner rather than in my hasty scrawl of the past. Writing has become a pleasant activity in of itself, not just something I have to do to get my thoughts on paper. I love seeing lines of nicely formed letters and words emerge and I love using a good pen full of quality ink.

Here is my ink filling station. I keep my inks on a shelf in the cabinet in the dining room.

And here are the ones I am using now. I can recommend all three of these inks. Beautiful colors and thick, intense color. That is what I like.

I am glad that at this later stage of life (I learned cursive handwriting in 1966) I can learn something new, I can improve a habit I was not happy with, and I can still stumble into an unknown world and find excitement in exploring it.

Handwriting is art to me now. I use it in my art, literally; I find inspirations in my handwriting practice for my poetry-writing; I enjoy the look of a nicely-written grocery list. I’m glad I took the step to try this handwriting thing out again.

I was not in that city

If that is your story, then that is your story. Your past behavior may foster belief in your words; failing that, solid proof.

a little more tired, a little more

To this I say, sit down, and take a load off your feet.

he did

It’s time for some more advice from the little artist trading cards. You can look forward to a few bits of…something… coming along here, in bits and pieces, here and there, now and again…

Walking in Circles

Today is the last day of the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Senior Games, and that means it is time to walk.

This year, my plan was to accompany my husband on the course and go at his speed. We are celebrating his continuing recovery from his accident and knee surgery.

We arrived at Montgomery County Community College nice and early, about 8:15 AM. The day was cool but sunny, with clouds coming in for the rain tomorrow, but no precipitation today at all.

Montco, as it is nicknamed, is maybe 20 minutes from home and set on a spacious campus. I remember when the school was way out in the middle of nowhere, but 35+ years since I first saw it, it is now surrounded by houses and apartments. The event was taking place at the health sciences building, AKA the gym/fitness center. It’s recently been updated and it is beautiful.

We went inside for a few minutes, where the vendors for the expo were setting up.

Then we went back outside and got our names in for the event. The way things work, a group of contestants assembles at the start.

You take off down the walk, go out a bit (past the guy in the blue jacket to that lady in the green shirt, you’ll see her, just keep going), turn at the orange cone, come back, pass the start, go some more, follow that loop in the back of the building, and come back. Do that three times and the race is done. You went 1.5 miles. Oh, and to get your time, listen as you pass the finish line – the timer will call out the time. Remember that number and tell the scorer.

It’s all pretty casual, but it works. Here is my husband (left) waiting to start as a volunteer explains the deal to a latecomer.

Well, we got started on our way. I took this picture pretty near the beginning.

I am so happy and proud of my husband. All the hard work he has been putting in in therapy and in exercising on his own really shows. He was able to walk at a 17 or 18-minute mile pace, which I think is great. It is hard for me to believe that less than five months ago he was getting around with crutches and a brace, if he was able to move at all. Determination pays off.

Well, we finished. And then…you knew this story did not end here, didn’t you?

I had no intention of doing this, but I got to Montco and my competitive instincts kicked in. I can’t pass up a race. So before we went out on our joint tour of the course, I asked the officials if I could go around with my husband and then do one on my own. Sure, they said.

All right. My husband took these pictures. Here’s a quick commentary.

I went out with Group #2. Right from the start I identified my competition. And I don’t mean, for medals – there is no telling if these ladies are even in my age group. I just mean, right here, on this course. Let’s go. Here at the start it’s Pink Shirt, Blue Shorts, and me, in the black, behind them.

We zipped around the course. In Lap 2 Pink Shirt and I lost Blue Shorts. Here we are in Lap 3.

Well, I felt I could take this race and I planned my strategy. Soon as we came out of the loop, I put on some speed.

The drama builds. I’m ahead, but can I hold on? So much is at stake! The crowd is on its feet (there are only a few benches and they are filled up) and paying rapt attention (to the football throw going on in the next field, to the registration table, to the free shopping bags they picked up at the expo…you get the atmosphere). All right, my husband was paying rapt attention, and really, that’s all I needed.

At the finish, I prevailed. I have to tell you, I felt happy about it out of all proportion to the importance of the event.

Now, last year I practiced for this race. I had done none of that this year. Well, so what? It’s just walking. Now think about that and what a different context “just walking” is for me and for my husband. I have a lot of gratitude for what each of us can do in our individual ways.

Well, that’s the end of this year’s games. I have a lot of enthusiasm for next year, already!

(Take a look here for my other event in 2017, orienteering.)

 

Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 29, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

Well, I’ve been working on my penmanship for several weeks now and I think I am making progress. My handwriting is legible and it is becoming more natural to me to write in this way. I can see my old handwriting in the new – I like this idea, that I am combining my lifetime habits with new ones and coming up with something that is neither one.

I’ve invested in another color of ink – blue, such a blue! Sapphire is its color and sapphire is its name. It even has a little picture of the gem on the label.

I am childishly excited about the exotic international nature of my penmanship project. The pens and inks come from everywhere. This ink is from Paris. The bottle tells me itself, on its bottom.

I don’t usually want to talk about a site where I have shopped, but I will tell you that I have bought my supplies at Jet Pens. I mention them because I have learned everything I know about pens and ink from their thorough and extensive entries on every product they sell. Thank you, I say to them.

All right. I continue my practice. Sometimes I sit at the table and work in the correct handwriting posture as my book has taught me. I have written a letter to a friend in my new handwriting; sitting and writing in this manner really focused me on what I was doing and what I was saying as well.

I also continue my exercise of taking down dialogue (and if there is no dialogue to keep me writing steadily, I describe the action. I favor Star Trek, all series, and I can mention Leverage, White Collar, and Travelers for right now). I have pages and pages of words now. Here are some examples.

I’ve used these pages of writing for something else – if you follow me as a poetry writer, I have used printed matter to create poems – snippets. Now I’ve tried the same thing, with some variation, with these phrases and words I’ve written out. If you are interested, take a look here.

I am learning to use the fountain pens with more ease. They handle so differently from the ballpoints and rollerballs I have always used. I like having some versatility not only in how I write but what I write with. Somehow that seems exciting to me!

Sometimes I stop writing and I draw. Both on the same page. Here is a picture of my husband sitting in his chair watching TV. You may notice he no longer has the brace on his leg – the hurt leg is gaining strength every day.

On that note, I’ll end. My goal is to achieve consistency now with my penmanship. Happy writing, everyone.

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 2, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

I’ve been working on my penmanship for two weeks now. I’ve finished the exercises in the workbook – now I know all the print and cursive letters. It’s up to me to practice the new skills. I spend some time sitting at the table, writing, using good posture and so on. And I also have been putting in time while watching TV with exercises of my own devising. I have a pad of paper, a pen, and I watch (or mostly listen) to the TV show while jotting down bits of dialogue. I end up with pages that look like this:

You can actually read this text, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

I lose some in perfect letter formation but it fits my routine, and I’m ending up with a lot of interesting pages of surreal conversation. Could be some poetry inspiration there, I think…? Seriously, I figure I will be using my handwriting in all sorts of situations, not just ones where I can get set up in the proper writing mode. And, I just can’t sit and watch TV…

 

*************************************************************

I’ve gotten myself some fountain pens as a treat, and I’ve learned a few things.

1. I bought these two very nice pens, Pilot Metropolitans, they are, and well-recommended. They cost about $15 each and can use an ink cartridge or an ink  converter, which comes with each pen. The latter means I can use bottled inks.

I have one with a fine nib and the other one is a medium nib. I liked the way these pens wrote very much – the ink flow is reliable and not a blob or missed section of lettering. In the end, though, these pens don’t totally suit me. I find them top-heavy, even writing with the cap off, and the thicker shape is hard for me to grip. I also learned that Japanese-made pens feature smaller nibs (for instance, a medium in this pen is like a fine in other brands). The small nibs made for scratchy, less flowing writing, I thought.

But, I liked drawing with these pens a lot and I think they can be very good for when I might need small precise lettering.

2.
I then tried these other two pens. The first, the Platinum Preppy, costs $3, uses cartridges (you can also buy a converter), and comes in a lot of colors. I tried a medium nib. Loved it. The pen glides over the paper very easily. Plus, it’s light, and it is weighted more like the ballpoints I am used to, toward the tip. Easier for my hands to manage.

3.
I also bought a Lamy Safari, medium nib, plus its converter (separate) – the pen also uses cartridges. It cost about $35 altogether. Loved this pen, too. It zipped across the paper, no scratching, no skipping. A very soft feel, if I can describe it.

The Preppy is the clear one and the Lamy Safari is the black one.

 

4. Ink. Each pen came with a cartridge of ink, and I could use that, and replace it when I ran out with another cartridge. But…those inks in bottles! Now, I have learned that I could buy a lot of inks. So many colors!

But changing inks is not that easy – you need to clean your pen if you want to switch from black to blue, for instance. I contented myself for now with one bottle of black ink.

 

This is where the converter comes in. There are different types, and you have to make sure your converter matches your pen. And they do not always come with the pen – it’s a separate purchase. None of this is difficult, including using the converter instead of a cartridge. It is money-saving in the long run, and you get to have these beautiful bottles around, too. I have noticed that many inks come in lovely containers, which is not the point of improving penmanship, but is a nice little side benefit, right?

OK, I’m continuing to learn and practice. I have to say that I love doing this handwriting thing.  Who would have thought I would say that?

More later!

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