September 7, 2020

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Seemed simple enough when I was born — except that I was born a chain smoker!  How dreadful was that!  I hated cigarette smoke from the womb thanks to two parents who always had that smelly, smoking white torture stick in their fingers.  My aunt even told me that my mother smoked while she was breastfeeding me.  No wonder I was a cranky baby.

That cranky baby grew up into a child who ran and hid from smoke everywhere she could.  A car was a special kind of torture chamber from which there was no escape.

FINALLY, I grew up and left home.   I could run away from smoke easier after that.  And, when I had my own home, no one was allowed to smoke inside.  And I certainly never put a cigarette in my mouth.

I heard breathe in, breathe out again when I wanted to learn how to meditate.  It was the magical way to slow down a too-active mind and enter the peaceful world of meditation.  Breathe in, breathe out was calming and sweet to do.

Enter Covid 19 and breathe in, breathe out got more complicated.   Wearing gloves, a small mask from nose to chin, covered by a forehead to chin plastic piece and eyeglasses that fogged up became an uncomfortable challenge.  It didn’t allow me to breathe in and breathe out to any degree of comfort.

I began to worry about those tv news reports of how far little droplets from my mouth could go, or vice versa.  Breathe in, breathe out became an uncomfortable hassle best avoided by waiting until midnight to take a walk where I was unlikely to meet another breathing human.

And then there were the raging wildfires in California that sent all sorts of unimaginable things into the same air I needed to breathe.  My allergies worsened.  My eyes hurt and itched.

So now breathing comes with worrying.   What am I breathing in?  What am I breathing out?   What is that other person I don’t know breathing out?

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Yes, I still meditate, but without as much peace of mind as I used to.

August 12, 2020

Two years ago, I was in a hospital having a heart attack.  I made the decision to let nature take its course.  I had already lived a full, adventurous life, and was grateful for it.

I declined the recommendations of the cardiologist who said I would most likely have a stroke without treatment.  I then made decisions a dying person needed to make.  I kept exercising because I wanted to stay as healthy as I could until I died.  I had, after all, spent many hours exercising since my 20s.

When I was still alive a year and a half later, I stopped planning to die just in case I lived longer.  Some of my strength returned, but the usual deterioration of being in my mid-70s continued.

I was still running out of money, so I began again to wonder what would follow the end of my money.  But, I still believed I would not become long lived enough to be moneyless.  I still owned a house I could sell.  I also began to learn more about fighting for affordable housing and homelessness, two ever-growing, sickening problems in the county I live in.

And then came the pandemic.  My attention turned to dealing with being in lockdown, especially being a car-less prisoner.  But I had a serious problem that most of my neighbors didn’t share — Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS).  It came along with menopause at 50 and hung on.   My body could no longer sleep normal hours.  I turned into an extreme night owl, but still fortunate to be able to sleep 8 good hours at a stretch.  Some with circadian rhythm problems are not so lucky.

My very bad luck was to be living in a building with a unit on the second floor where they were tearing absolutely everything apart piece by piece, to then  reconfigure it.  The cacophony was bad enough.  But the starting time for construction workers begins with the birds, albeit much less sweet and melodious.

Have no doubt.  Sleep deprivation is a form of torture.  The contractor finally promises the job is about to end.  But, six months later, I am still being jarred out of a deep sleep too early for my body.  This morning, I crawled to the carport away from my home and slept on a pad on my carport floor to enable sleep with less noise.

In our retirement village where they are going to great lengths to protect us from dying from Covid, I have asked for help, but they don’t care about my problem.  Yes, I’ve tried a variety of earplugs to pull myself through the days, and calmly walk the cool Village at night with the coyotes, skunks, and squirrels.  You see, unlike others my age, my hearing is quite good.  There is no hearing aid I can turn off.  And drugs are not an option.

I have felt nature’s pain for decades now as she and the animals were ravaged, pillaged, destroyed for a variety of motivations.  When I wondered why it was that way, there was a professor at a dinner party long ago who announced that “the big brain experiment was a bust.”  That made instant sense to me, especially living in Los Altos, California, then the 1960s home of ZPG (Zero Population Growth).

Humans are a curious species, indeed.  Gregarious, relentlessly chasing after learning, they accept no boundaries or limitations.  They love power, and easily become so addicted to money, Money, and MORE MONEY.

But they are also very emotional animals, swaying this way and that way in their own sense of importance.    Yes, humans are a somewhat complicated species that brings a rare sense of humor to life.

And yes, they are filled with so many contradictions and paradoxes,  of which kind hearted and cruel only touch on two opposites.  They thrive on hubris.  They strive for immortality as their right.  And they are killing the earth, and their own species.

Long live the doomed ridiculous species!

 

Website: https://zimatravels.com

June 24, 2020

I know that when I die, the cause of my death will be “a broken heart.”  It may say on the death certificate, “heart attack,” or “stroke,” or “hypertension.”  But the main cause of death will  truly be a broken heart because of the horrendous crimes, knowingly and unknowingly, that we humans have committed against nature, other animals, and the planet Earth itself.  It led to destruction of so many precious pieces of what was worthwhile on the planet Earth.

It’s no surprise.  We were warned over and over by some knowing humans with the gifts of foresight, compassion, and the need to try to stop us from being mass destroyers.  And we were warned in numerous ways by obvious changes in and to the planet wrought by humans.

Humans were  the worst species to allow on the earth.  Human animals were both like, and unlike, other animals.  But we humans somehow considered ourselves above the “other” animals.  We even created a god that told us we were superior to the other animals.  And to the laws of mother nature as well.

The tragedy unfolded over centuries.  Plagues came upon humans.  Weather wreaked havoc in many ways–storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, too hot, too cold.  Many humans died along the way, but the population of humans eventually overwhelmed what the planet Earth could bear even while medical doctors, scientists, and researchers continued to seek cures for everything that ailed the humans.

Why?  Because there was one part of nature that humans could not accept —  mortality.  So, life expectancy grew artificially longer and longer – far beyond what the body was meant to live — and the planet to sustain.  Even pandemics couldn’t stop it.   At the same time, thousands of other species were carelessly killed off.

The human species is hard to describe — arrogance is the largest part of it.  Plus a rather large brain that could take on new challenges aided by cleverly devised technology.  But more emotional than practical.  Way too many levels and varieties of emotions that were hard to understand, and which often took control.

But the biggest downfall of the big brain human species was something they couldn’t even take with them after death — money.   Greed, and the need for MORE of everything motivated them beyond all sense.  Modern life became a disastrous, everlasting contest between the haves and those trying to have.

In the new 2020 movie, Planet of the Humans by long time environmentalist Michael Moore,  there is a heart and gut wrenching scene of a mother and baby orangutan caught by hell wrought by humans–their environment being destroyed in exchange for money.  Because ALL animals do have emotions if you look closely, the mother is clearly giving up and dying.  The baby grasps the hand of the human destroyer with a total look of bewilderment and despair.

 

Each dawn, as we shivered awaiting the count, we waited to know if we’d live one more day.  We feared this day we’d be chosen for deportation, long trip to hell, where we’d be stripped of all that is human, and forced into chambers of anguish and death.

We stood at attention in the dawn-gray courtyard.  Stood in the cold, awaiting our doom.  The commandant passed us, reviewed our frailty, then pointed his stick to mark us for death.  You had to step out, to follow his order, and nobody dared to ignore his command.

So, how did it happen that I stood my ground when his riding crop pointed my way?

My Unicorn saved me.   It took me away.  It carried me back all the way to my home.  I could taste the sweet rolls.  I could feel the warm sun.  I could hear my mother’s voice, smell the scent of warm cocoa, Mother called “breakfast,” and I was there.

So I didn’t see the commandant’s finger, didn’t know he was pointing at me.  I stood in my spot.  When he told me to go, I did not.  I stood as if rooted and lived.  He passed on.

Later my friend said, “Why did you ignore him?”

“Who do you mean?”

“Didn’t  you see?  He pointed at you.”  She explained.

“I was home,”  I replied.  “I was free.”

By Ruth Treeson in

“Green Sun in Red Sky-A collection of Short Stories and Poems” Published in 2001

 

 

January 27, 2020

I had a friend named Ruth who personally knew what Auschwitz was like from 12 to 15 years old.  When the day of liberation came 75 years ago today,  she knew it because all the Nazi guards had disappeared.  There were no liberators to tell them where to go or what to do.  She decided to start her long walk home to Poland to start her life again.  And so she did.

Although she subtitled her book, “The Long  Walk” as  A Novel, it was basically true from her own experiences.

I happened upon an old French movie called “Resistance” a few weeks ago.  I watched it because it reminded me of what Ruth had lived through before Auschwitz.   It depicted a Catholic boarding  school with kids about the age she was before Auschwitz.  They were just rather ordinary teenaged kids studying during the War when Germany had conquered France.

Two main characters became friends.  One was Catholic, and the other said he was Protestant, but was actually a Jewish boy in hiding.  Similarly, Ruth’s mother, desperate to find a way for 12 year old Ruth, and her 6 year old sister to survive, had put them in a Catholic school to hide their identity.

Horrifyingly mimicking Ruth’s story, one day a German soldier came to the school and took the Jewish boy away.  That boy, and Ruth’s own little sister, were never seen again.  Ruth was sent to Auschwitz.

After liberation, Ruth walked back all the way to that same boarding school and talked to the same nun who had been in charge the last night Ruth ever saw her sister’s arms reaching out to her in panic.

When I read that Ruth had actually seen the same nun who had turned them in to the German soldiers, I expected that she would feel rage that the nun had not tried to save them.

But that’s when I learned something else about Ruth that has stuck with me all these years.  She, much like Martin Luther King, murdered so many years later at a date close to the month he was killed, had managed to withhold rage or anger at the violent racists who wished him harm.

When I asked Ruth why she wasn’t angry at that nun, she said simply that she didn’t know what her mother had told that nun when she arranged to leave her two daughters there.  And she knew how much the Jews were hated by Polish Catholics.

Late in life, after writing her book, Ruth poured energy into talking to local high school generally underprivileged kids who were being bullied to pass on her own message that no one could humiliate her and make her feel worthless.  The teens listened carefully to her and some made her strength their own.

She never hated, and passed that on to her own children and grandchildren.  She once astounded me by saying that she had had a wonderful life.   She was a true survivor.

She died some years back before the resurgence of antisemitism in the U.S.  I assume it would not surprise her.  And it would not have changed her belief in her self-worth, or made her hate.

December 31, 2019

One of my grandsons and his mom came to visit me a couple of days before New Year’s.  They live in Montana, so I don’t get to see them often.  We went to San Clemente and had a truly incredible time.  The weather cleared up as soon as we arrived, and the sea spread blue before us.  The fish restaurant by the sea was great, as was walking on the pier amongst the expectant fishermen.

And then we walked on the beach.  Subtle, soft, pastel purple appeared on one side of the sky.  For an hour, we watched nature’s artistry unfold, seeping from one part of the sky to another.

Like lava flowing down a volcano, the red fluid filled the palette of the huge panorama in the sky, accentuating the strong black lines of the long pier.  Magnificently, slowly, sculptures of mountains, towns, cities, and rivers emerged from the layers of clouds.  A whole new world was created above us as we stood in awe beneath.

The sand of the beach morphed into a coarse covering of colorful flecks of wet brightness dancing in the sun that was left.  Excruciatingly slowly, the colors receded from the sand.  The people on the beach turned into graceful, happy silhouettes dancing on the beach on their way home.

Nature enthusiastically welcomed 2020 as only nature can!  How will we human earth creatures welcome 2020?

To You from Suellen Zima in kindness and peace

It has been a day of wondering.  Our normal southern California sun did make it out for an unusual very short time.  It also rained for awhile to remind us that we perhaps will not have to face a drought this year.

The next time I looked out my window, everything was heavily misted in fog.  Fog doesn’t come often here during the day, but always seems to fill the air with curious questionmarks.  At one point, since I grew up in snow, it looked almost like snow was lightly falling.

My mind crawled into the fog and went along willingly.  It has been a strange year for me.  I am rather remarkably still alive  after my August, 2018, heart attack.  I still occasionally see the cardiologist who recommended stent surgery and 5 major drugs for the rest of my life.  When I turned down his suggestions, he still agreed to stay my doctor without any expectation I would ever take his advice.  We get along well, and, on some level, he appreciates my self  treatment of exercising regularly and breathing with the trees.

I took on two new tasks this last year that were so new, they both challenged my aging brain.  Both involved clubs that I led.  One was the Shalom Club of Laguna Woods, and the other was becoming the founder of LWV YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard).

After a year of nurturing the new Shalom Club, I have turned it over to other capable people while I will remain in the background.

And I have propelled myself into very new territory for me — finding ways to keep myself and other Laguna Woods residents remain in the Village as they run out of money.

It’s not just a Laguna Woods problem, but also a much wider California phenomenon that is changing the fabric of California society.  Many of us can no longer afford to live in homes we bought years ago because the monthly fee keeps rising while our incomes don’t.  Residents here with deeper pockets suggest we move to Arizona, or Nevada, or Florida and leave Laguna Woods to those who can preserve its present way of life.

It’s complicated — a governor who is requiring every city to have a plan for building more housing.  But within that plan, are many loopholes and inconsistencies that don’t make sense.  We’ve had such a plan for the last 20 years, and what was done?  Nothing.  Can there be hope for a new plan?

There is a slippery slope that goes with not having enough money to pay the monthly  fee of about $700.  It involves endless fines, liens placed on your home, worrying through sleepless nights, and then being forced to sell your home and go … where?

I am taking workshops on homelessness, learning new guidelines on possible options I haven’t yet heard of, and becoming proactive in time to save myself, if not my home.

I am testing the so-called “plasticity” of my old brain to learn new things.  I am feeling active, and challenged.  And sometimes very tired.

Happy New Year!

 

 

November 28, 2019

Usually students thank their teachers, but on this Thanksgiving Day in 2019, I want to thank my students.  As I watched a tv news program of grown-up students thanking their old teacher during a reunion, I thought that was nice.  But I imagined a reunion in which I was able to thank my many students over many years and many countries for how they had changed my life and what I had gained from them.

Although I was never trained as a teacher, I luckily learned I was truly meant to be a teacher by circumstance and chance as I traveled the world and wanted to get to know the cultures I was in.  Without a shared language, I reached out to teaching as a way to teach me about the cultures I was living in.  And it worked.

Raised in the U.S., I learned about the countries I was then living in, as well as what the U.S. looked like from the outside.

Through teaching, I experienced third world poverty and the obstacles my students faced.  I learned how other cultures suffered, survived, thrived.  I was able to compare and contrast variations of similar cultures.  I was a part of the history of other cultures over the years as they matured and morphed.

I was fortunate to always have students who wanted to learn English and respected me as their teacher.  As teacher and student, we were kind to one another and appreciated each other’s efforts.

Many also became caring friends who have kept in touch with me over the years so that, on this Thanksgiving, we got in touch with one another, made fast and easy with modern technology, to give holiday greetings.

When I met them, I was middle-aged and they were young.  Now, I am old and they are middle-aged.  Their children have become my grandchildren.   And still we are in touch.

A book I wrote about my travels is in an archive at the Hoover Institution in Stanford University along with 25 years of their letters they wrote to me as China went through its metamorphosis.

If I had never become a teacher, I would have missed out on the happiest, most interesting and adventurous years of my life.

 

 

 

September 20, 2019

I started my day a lot earlier than I like,  but I knew I owed it to Swedish teen Greta Thunberg’s lead for world-wide climate change marches today.

News of the “greenhouse effect” first appeared in 1824.  The first mention of global warming in 1975 was still long before Greta was born.  It was 1995, still before Greta was born, that there was a definitive statement that humans are definitely responsible for climate change.  Three years after Greta was born, Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006.

But the humans of the world were mostly too busy thinking about money — how to get it, how to get more, how to pillage and plunder to take what was thought to be rightfully ours as the masters of the universe and the most intelligent of all living things.  Yes, there were a few endearing characteristics of humans, but not enough to deflect disaster.

Much of nature, and many animal species continued to quietly disappear while the human population grew.  It was 1 billion in 1800, two billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1975, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, 7 billion in 2011.  8 billion is projected for 2024.

I won’t be here to verify it, but I strongly doubt humans will outlive climate change no matter how smart we get with technology and out of the box clever ideas.

Greta’s generation may make it into middle age or beyond, but I don’t see a happy ending for humans.  But the ending of humans will be a happy ending for nature because I firmly believe in the ability of nature to reboot and thrive again minus humans.

I ended the evening by watching a science fiction movie by chance called “Knowing” with Nicholas Cage.   In it, the entire earth is destroyed by a massive sun flare.  However, aliens have taken a selection of chosen children into spaceships and transported them by twos with two rabbits to a fresh, pure land with a beautiful large tree.  As I watched the children playfully running toward the tree, I felt a tiny flicker of hope that these children would be better guardians of nature, but a dread that they would once again contaminate mother nature with human arrogance and superiority.

August 11, 2019

Picture this — a piece of cardboard on the ground and a person sleeping on it.  The caption reads, “This bed costs $100,759 a year.”  No, this is not in a far away third world country.  This is the county of southern California I live in.

The happy hobo image of homelessness doesn’t exist.  In Orange County, California, where I live, the face of homelessness is wrinkled, old, and weak.  At the last count made one night in 2019, there were 455 homeless seniors found and interviewed.  Yes, there were also other categories of homeless people found and interviewed.  But there were more homeless seniors interviewed that night compared to every other category.

I learned at a United Way Homelessness 101 lecture on homelessness in Orange County  that the cure for homelessness is putting people in homes.  And, by every comparison,  the cost is by far cheaper than the $100, 759 spent on each homeless person for the many services they use when they are homeless.

While non-homeless people have the wrong notion that the homeless in Orange County are recent arrivals because of the warm climate, the average person found in the one night survey had been a resident of Orange County for about 10 years.

There is a tornado of circumstances swirling in Orange County.   Even a large percentage of working people can no longer afford to live here because the prices of buying and renting are way beyond normal, or even good salaries.  Along with rising life expectancy into the 80’s, 90s, and 100s that can affect income, there is a scarcity of housing in the county in general, and especially for low incomes.   Plus, other expenses are rising beyond an older person’s capacity to increase income.

After my mother died, my father and I moved to a retirement community then called Leisure World in southern California.  Neither my dad nor I had enough money to buy our home, so we pooled our resources and bought a two bedroom home for $73,500.  At that time, the range of prices for homes here was perhaps $60,000 to $600,000.  But the shared cost concept with a monthly fee allowed all who lived here to share in the clubhouses, a tempting variety of amenities,  classes, and over 200 resident-run clubs.

During the 20 years since that time, my dad died, house prices went up and up, and then drastically down and down in 2008, and modestly up again.  And the required monthly fee also increased regularly.  Now, you can still buy a one bedroom home in the Village for perhaps $155,000, but there are many more homes now above a million dollars.

If you can’t continue to pay the mortgage or the monthly fee, you are eventually forced to leave the Village.  And go where?  Certainly not anywhere else in all of Orange County, and most of California.  You can become a statistic of homelessness, and some do.  And, as I’m finding out, more and more of my aging neighbors are running out of money and fear homelessness.  It’s a heavy burden of worry.

I know.  I’m one of them.

 

 

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