The Day I Walked Out

bob-marley-quote

I am definitely a catchy quote fan. I love the way poets like Bob Marley here can take some of our most intricate and complex emotions, some of the deepest abysses we face in our lives, some of the most powerful elements that drive our life choices, and boil them down to 140 characters.

Yep – the solution for every existential problem a person faces can basically be Tweeted.

Sarcasm aside, I do love these catchy quotes. I always stop and read them when I see them on magnets and coffee cups, and I try to make note of the ones I find particularly inspiring. This Bob Marley gem has struck a deeply resonant chord in my soul because I made a choice 6 months ago I never thought I could.

I decided to walk out on my job.

Doesn’t sound like much, but let me explain. My friends and family will tell you I am very risk-averse. As one who suffers from anxiety (and to such an extent, I am on medication for it) and worries about everything from having enough money to pay bills this month to whether I bought the right ice cream for my husband (who loves the stuff and eats every flavor in the book), deciding to up and quit my job is not, as the ubiquitous “they” would say, something I would do. This is much more “me”: if I were miserable in a job, I would start looking for a new one while continuing to struggle through the current one, and then submit my resignation when, and only when, I had secured another full-time position.

I am also a pacifist and a people-pleaser. I abhor confrontation and will literally worry myself sick if I think someone is “mad at me” or “upset with me.”

So, yeah, for me to walk into my office one random Tuesday (September 6, 2016 to be exact), hand over a terse letter of resignation, grab all my personal items off my desk, and walk out with no intention to return? That is an action I would applaud someone else for having the courage to do while wishing I had that same courage to do it myself.

But I did do it.

And what a change a single brave action – like quitting your job suddenly – can have on the rest of your life. I wasn’t consciously aware of it at first, but in the past several weeks I have started seeing shifts in my personality. I have noticed that I’m not as scared of certain situations as I used to be, that I am willing to “put myself out there more” – i.e., I am worrying less about what other people think of me – that I am standing up for myself more, and that I have every right to devote myself to what makes me happy (rather than what people expect of me or what they think I should do).

Because I have seen the other side of a risky decision, and now I know: the worries I formulate before the choice are always far worse than the actual results. Furthermore, I have *made* a risky decision – I jumped out of that airplane without knowing if my parachute would work – and I’m all the better for it (not to mention alive to tell the tale).

So why wouldn’t I speak up more? Share my views? Stand up for what I believe in? After all, those are risky decisions too (for a people-pleaser anyway), and why shouldn’t I keep adding them to my tally? Especially since every time I take that plunge, jump out of that airplane, or – you know – any other metaphor for taking a risk, I have come out on the other side all the better, braver, stronger, and more confident for it?

So, in the spirit of catchy quotes, I wrap up this post with yet another. And one that has been a perfectly Tweetable summation of my past 6 months:

risk

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Posted in Challenging Challenges : Overcoming Life's Obstacles | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Adventures

As has, quite sadly, become my usual routine these days, I have not blogged in a long time. In a “too long” kind of time. I blame it on being busy and being exhausted from being busy, but I have missed it, and then, last night, I had a revelation: now is the absolute worst time for me to stop blogging. Because now has been one of the craziest adventures I have ever undertaken.

In the past 6 months, I have:

  • Quit my job. As in walked-out-and-never-went-back quit.
  • Started freelancing as a copywriter.
  • AND started working shifts as a caretaker at Kitten Rescue.
  • AND started a weekend job helping a retired professor move his personal library.
  • AND started a contract job in the archives of a movie and television studio.
  • Spent two and a half weeks working at a veterinary clinic.
  • Picked up crocheting again so I can make a “brain beanie” for the upcoming March for Science.
  • Started glass painting again to lower my stress levels…
  • Resumed yoga to help with lower back pain.
  • And adopted a second cat.

I’ve also gotten more passionately involved in wildlife and environmental activism since the latest administration moved into the White House, even going so far as to (*gasp*) call senators and tell them NOT to confirm a head of the Environmental Protection Agency with deep ties to the oil and fossil fuel industries, and NOT to confirm a Secretary of Education that feels the worst thing a student in today’s public school system can face is a marauding grizzly bear.

More on that later, though.

Now while some of the above may sound a bit un-adventuresome (crocheting and glass painting?), the theme of my life for the past 6 months has been a recovery from a downward spiral into professional hell. And much of that recovery has come from resuming hobbies and interests I had let go.

As well as pursuing new ones.

And in the next few weeks, I am hoping to receive an offer for one of two full-time jobs I have interviewed for recently. They are very different jobs from each other, and whichever one I take will mean a big shift in my professional life. I haven’t received the offers yet, but I have already started pondering which one I will accept should I receive both (so presumptuous, I know). And it is in this pondering I saw the need to reflect on everything that has been these past 6 months.

And since I reflect wonderfully through writing, it was time to come back to The Realist Adjusts the Sails.

So I do plan to backtrack… at least as far back as September 6, 2016 when I walked out of my cubicle in the dungeon of the museum I was calling “employer” at that time and didn’t look back. And I will try to chronicle some of those life-shifting moments I have experienced in the months since.

After all, writing it all down will be yet another new adventure. And who doesn’t need new adventures now and again, eh?

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Honoring the Orlando Victims

Vacation.  It’s a magical word.  I mean, what else can alleviate stress, recharge batteries, ignite new interests, and engender new experiences all just by stepping into your life?  Well, actually, all just by spending hundreds of dollars on travel expenses and hours of time in airports and on airplanes?  Not much else, I tell ya, so yeah.  Vacation.  It’s magical, I say.

Even if you do spend at least part of that vacation in the swamp that is Florida.

Now, let me say that I have spent 16 of my 35 years living in California, where humidity above 15% and temperatures above 75 degrees, are cataclysmic.  If either of those thresholds is reached, entire cities shut down.  Municipal services are lost.  It’s biblical, I swear.

So when I step off the plane in Orlando and into 95% humidity and temperatures pushing 100 degrees, I suddenly realized where Dante must have gotten his inspiration for the Seventh Ring of Hell.

Seriously, how do people live in that??

But live in it, they do, including my younger sister, my mom, and my adorable 4-year-old nephew, which is why my husband J and I made the cross-country trek to the great peninsula the First Nation peoples used to call “Land of Heat-So-Oppressive-it-Feels-Like-an-Elephant-is-Sitting-on-You.”

Okay, okay, the Alachua and the Weeden Island cultures of Central Florida never said that, but I’m standing by it.

And in spite of the fact I couldn’t walk two blocks down the street without laying down in a yard and begging for mercy from the crushing humidity, I did have a great time.  My nephew, especially, recharged my downtrodden spirits; of course, there is nothing like a child’s giggles and squeals of laughter to make you feel a little bit brighter inside.  And family outings to the nearby park meant opportunities to see wildlife, including all different kinds of birds… and turtles!  Adorable turtles!

But one stop on our trip had an unexpected effect.  Pulse Nightclub.  My sister, my dad (who was also visiting from California), J, and I all stopped by to pay our respects to the 49 victims of this – yet another – senseless tragedy, and we added our offering to the makeshift memorial set up outside the club’s shattered front.

Too many acts of violence.  Too many times, I look at my cell phone and see updates from CNN about another attack taking place somewhere.  Too many people have lost their lives because of one person’s hate.  Too many places that should be refuges of safety and sanctuary – schools, churches, movie theaters, nightclubs – are now places of fear, terror, and tragedy.

It breaks my heart every time I read about another mass shooting or terror attack.  But the shooting at Pulse affected me more deeply than others.  I know part of it was the stories coming out in the days after the tragedy – victims in the bathroom sending terrified texts to their loved ones; victims pushing loved ones out of the way in desperate attempts to save their lives, but losing their own in the process; survivors huddling together and doing everything they could to save the stranger next to them…  But it also took me a while to figure out:  part of my connection to the Pulse tragedy stems from my own relationship with “gay clubs.”

As a young 20s-something living in the Gay Mecca of the western hemisphere – aka San Francisco, California – I spent a lot of Friday and Saturday nights partying at nightclubs in that famous, prominently gay district, the Castro.  In fact, my favorite nightclub in the city was Badlands, a San Francisco version of Pulse.  Even though I identify as a heterosexual female, I loved the gay clubs because they were always so welcoming, inviting, and friendly.  I felt safe at Badlands.  I know the sexual predatory hunt was taking place in the bathrooms and dark corners just like any other nightclub anywhere else, but as a definite non-target in those predator / prey interactions, I was always treated by my fellow partyers like family.  Like I was a little sister with a bunch of big brothers looking out for me.

And in that environment, I could be me.  I didn’t have to dress in skin-tight outfits with heels that could double as machetes.  Or make sure my hair and make-up outshone the flashing strobe lights.  The guys that went to Badlands were not going to pursue me, so hey!  Jeans, sneakers, and hair in a ponytail was just fine.  Then I could laugh, have fun, and dance as wildly as I wanted, and not have feet I would want to hack off with my machete heels at the end of the night.  And, more importantly, the guys I shared the dance floor with would still love me like their little sister.

So from the moments I first heard about Pulse, I knew I wanted to do *something* to honor the victims.  And when we arrived at the nightclub, and I saw the memorials people from all around the world had left, I was inspired to create my own tribute.

I am pretty shy about sharing my drawings.  But I had to share this one.  Because not only did the process of drawing all 49 origami cranes help me focus – and find a relief in the practice of drawing – it also helped me say, in my own way, the victims of that terrible tragedy will never be forgotten.  That while I haven’t set foot inside a nightclub for a solid 5 years, I will never forget those big brothers that always made me feel like I was home.

Orlando Cranes

It’s a little messy (lots of erasing) but I found so much through the process of creating this memorial for the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, including a sense of peace from drawing…

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Making Choices

A few days ago I was sitting on the bus, scrolling through my Facebook feed when I see an eye-catching headline posted by People magazine:  Flesh-Eating Bacteria Survivor on Finding a New Life.

Flesh-eating bacteria survivor??  How could I resist that?

One click took me to the story of Aimee Copeland, a 28-year-old aspiring non-profit entrepreneur who lost all four limbs in a freak accident four years ago.  Aimee had been zip-lining across a river running through her small Georgia hometown when the line snapped and she fell 6 feet, landing on the rocks below.  Sporting a deep gash in her left leg, Aimee’s friends took her to a nearby hospital where the doctors stitched her up and sent her home.

Three days later, Aimee was re-admitted to the hospital when she woke up with a left leg rotted through to her thigh and blood blisters on her face.  The young college student had contracted necrotizing fasciitis – a flesh-eating disease caused by bacteria attacking the deep layers of skin and subcutaneous tissue.  The disease spreads rapidly, and by the time doctors got to Aimee, the only way to save her life was to amputate all four limbs.  Her arms end a few inches below the elbows; her right leg ends below the knee, and her left leg was amputated at the hip.

That was in 2012.  In 2016, Aimee is living a happy life in Georgia.  She has finished a master’s degree in social work and plans to open her own community center for people with disabilities.  She is dating a new boyfriend (she ended her relationship with the man she had been dating at the time of her accident in 2014), and she spends her downtime cooking, kayaking, and cruising around in a custom-built van.

As Aimee herself says, “I’ve let go of the girl I was before.  I’ve completely embraced who I am now.”

Aimee-Copeland-NR

Aimee Copeland after losing all four limbs to necrotizing fasciitis.

I clicked off the story and spent the rest of the bus ride – and the days since – in some sense of contemplation.  As many of us are undoubtedly aware, there is knowing something, and then there is knowing something.

I have known for a long time that happiness is a conscious choice.  I even tried to coin a bumper sticker phrase once:  Happiness is a choice, not a circumstance.  But do I really know it?  Meaning, do I fully and wholeheartedly believe it?  That is a tougher question to answer.

Made even more so by a mental exercise I forced myself to undertake on the bus after reading Aimee’s story:  if that horrible accident had happened to me, how would I have handled it?  I’m sure everyone has tried this a time or two before – we read or see something about another person’s situation, and we ask ourselves that question: what would I have done if it were me?  And I’m sure, pretty much every time we ask ourselves that question, we have brushed it aside with a flippant oh, I would have done this for sure.

I tried to not let myself do that.  I tried to really think about it.  Living as I have these past several months, with the clouds of depression lurking right behind me all the time, I wondered:  how would I have handled it?  Really.  Truly.

And I know I would have given up.  One step can send me whirlpooling down into a cave of depression.  One thought.  One sentence.  One turn of my head.  That’s all it takes sometimes, and then I’m barely holding on for days.  There is no way I could cope with the loss of all four limbs, and, later, the loss of a longtime partner.  I would have gotten myself to a roof and then wheelchaired right off the edge.

That’s depressing in and of itself, but also, in my case, a return to something I know, and something I need to learn how to really know.  There is always a choice.  Always.  Sometimes the options aren’t great, but there are still options to choose from.  Aimee could have done the whole wheelchair-off-the-roof thing, or she could have chosen to live her life to the fullest, and not let her physical limitations define what she can and cannot accomplish.

I have read other articles and blog posts about living with depression, and people who choose to fight it, who choose to live a life that is more than this illness, and I try to draw courage from those stories, but it is so easy for me to take a deep breath and say yay for them, but my situation is different.  What I need is a kick in the butt and a reminder that taking a deep breath and relegating my depression to the “I’m different” category is a choice too.

And every day is a choice.  When I wake up in the morning, I have to make a choice: do I get out of bed, or do I bury myself under the covers and slip back into the oblivion of depression-fueled sleep?  Some days, that choice is easier to make than others, but it is still there every single day.  And I can ignore that choice, but the act of ignoring it is, in fact, a choice.

Therefore, I have to know that living with the illness of depression is a series of choices.  Every day, and all day long, I need to make choices.  And I want to choose happiness.  I want to be like Aimee Copeland and choose to live my life to the fullest.

So here is my first choice:  do I fight? Or give up?

 

Many thanks to Aimee Copeland for being such an inspiration, and for sharing your story.  Stay strong, girl!

Posted in Challenging Challenges : Overcoming Life's Obstacles, Defeating Depression : Trying to Beat the Disease | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Well, golly gee whiz, I haven’t posted on here in a while.

What an understatement.  I think the last time I wrote a post, Lincoln was still president…but, in my lame defense, these past several months have been tough.

I got married.  I started a new job.  I have been an active volunteer with Kitten Rescue.

And I have been fighting – and losing the fight against – depression.  I’ve blogged about my battles with depression before, so it is not a secret I have been grappling with the disease for some time.  But for the first time in recent memory, I have found myself struggling harder, and for a longer stretch of time.  It’s been months now.  Months!  And the “lows” have been looowwwww…. Mariana Trench low.  Core-of-the-earth low.  Popped-up-on-the-other-side-of-the-globe low.

When I think about the feelings I have had tearing around inside my chest these past months, the word “tough” is almost a joke.

Made all the more so because when I think about my depression in the context of a bigger picture, it feels like such a ridiculous situation.  I did just get married.  I’m supposed to be in newlywed / honeymoon phase here.  I did start a new job, so I’m supposed to be in excited-and-going-to-change-the-world mode.

But I’m not.  I’m in barely-holding-it-together mode.  One-step-away-from-full-meltdown mode.  I’m-too-scared-to-do-it-but-if-I-weren’t-I-would-commit-suicide mode.

And I know calling this situation “ridiculous,” is in itself, ridiculous.  If a friend was experiencing this, and she confided in me, I would tell her what we all know to be the truth around depression:

Depression is an illness just like anything else, and it needs to get treated like any other disease.

You can fight this.  You can beat this.  It may take a few steps, a few trials and errors, but it can be done.  You just have to keep fighting.

You are not [fill in the blank: worthless, useless, unloved, unloveable, a waste of space, etc…]

And I know, in my deepest brain, these words above are truth.  But as I’m sure others experience: it is so much easier to say those words to someone else.  When it comes to your own struggles, it is nothing short of a Herculean effort to really and fully believe them.  You know how it is – the words don’t apply when it comes to you.

So I keep struggling.

But as a nerd who loves to read, I also keep looking up articles and essays in the hopes I will find something to help me get better.  I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for – inspiration, I guess – but I keep consulting the all-powerful Google with queries like “living with depression,” and “coping with depression,” and clicking on anything that looks remotely helpful.

An aside: I should clarify I am on medications for this.  That is part of what makes these past few months so perplexing… because I have been taking a combination of Paxil and Adderall for a few years now, and everything had been going along fine.  And then – boom.  Now, even though I still take the meds, I feel like death cooked medium rare.  So when I say I am looking for ways to help me get better, I am looking for suggestions or practices I can adopt in addition to the medications.

Which is what prompted me to come back to blogging.  This quest feels like the beginning of just that: a quest, and a journey.  And I feel like a lot of soul-searching, experimentation, and new experiences are ahead, so, as part of all that, I want to capture my progress – keep a log of the journey, as it were.  I imagine there will be moments of intense tedium, and the last of the tears have not yet come.

But I also hope there are moments of inspiration.  Moments where new tools I can use come into my hands, and new insights into successfully living with the disease come to light.  Because depression is a war, after all.  So it really is all about fighting it.

Posted in Challenging Challenges : Overcoming Life's Obstacles, Defeating Depression : Trying to Beat the Disease | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Failing My Goals

So, let’s see – as I think back on 2015 and goals I set for myself:

I did not read 60 books last year…

I did not lose any weight, and if anything, I have to take the stairs everywhere because even when I’m by myself, I exceed the weight limit on most elevators…

My poor bike has turned a lovely shade of rust.

I did not post on The Realist Adjusts the Sails nearly as often or as frequently as I hoped…

And I’m reflecting on 2015 a full 11 days into 2016.

I guess you could call me a failure.

But what did I accomplish in 2015?  I got married, for one. And we had a beautiful wedding on board a yacht off the coast of Santa Barbara with 80 of our closest friends and family in attendance.

We went on one fantastic honeymoon to Iceland, where we spent seven perfect days reveling in the raw and wild beauty of the far north, and you know, enjoying that whole “newly married couple” thing.

I started a new job. Yes, why leave the end of 2015 at a wedding and a honeymoon? Why not throw a new job into the mix as well?? But it was an opportunity I could not pass up, and every day I come home thrilled about my new position, and grateful I was given the chance to take it. I am so happy, and so excited with this new job, I almost don’t recognize the burned-out, career-flounderin’ blogger I was 6 months ago.

I stayed sober – 490 days as of today.

And I adopted a cat. Need I say more there?

Lastly, I may not have read 60 books, but I did read 55, so I got pretty damn close to that goal.

All that said, am I really a failure? Because when I think about 2015, yes, I struggled. Yes, I floundered. Yes, I tried things, and they didn’t work out. But I tried. And to me, you only fail something if you don’t try it. Trying something and finding it doesn’t work is not failure because at the end of the day you know more than you did when that day started.

Here’s one for you: I tried to work as an animal caretaker. I was hired in July at Kitten Rescue, the incredible cat rescue with whom I have volunteered for well over a year now. I was so excited to have the job, even though it was only one day a week, because at that time I was considering a career change into animal care, and I knew this would give me opportunities I would not otherwise have.

And when I first started, I loved it. Yes, here we go! Being around cats and taking care of their needs… what could be better than this?? But then the hard parts started… the medications, which true to the stereotype, cats do. not. like. taking. pills. And there was the syringe feeding; cats who were little more than skin and bones, and shocker: don’t like getting syringe-fed any more than they like taking pills. There were cats we couldn’t save. And cats that screamed bloody murder any time you came near them.

In the end, it was too much for me. I found I don’t have what it takes to shove pills down cats’ throats, and I would rather stab myself in the face with syringe needles than give cats intravenous fluids… it was awful, but I finally resigned. I explained everything to the manager, and begged to stay on as a volunteer even though I “failed” as an employee. Luckily, Kitten Rescue has a pretty fantastic manager, and she welcomed me back into the volunteer fold with open arms.

And since going back as a volunteer, I have felt more at peace than I did any of the Sundays I worked.

But technically I failed, right? Well, I would say no to that. I didn’t fail. I tried it, and it didn’t work out. Now I know I am not an animal caretaker – at least not a medical one – and that was something I didn’t know 6 months ago. Learning something new is always a win, even if it comes at that cost.

So, yeah, I may have failed my 2015 goals, but I still say 2015 was a successful year.

And with that, here’s to failing 2016!

Posted in Challenging Challenges : Overcoming Life's Obstacles, Peace and Serenity : Finding Happiness in the Small Stuff, VolunteerMint : Life as an Active Volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Perfect Date: Blue Moon

I’m sure we have all been asked the question:  what is your idea of a perfect date?

Answers vary of course.  Some people want to do something exciting and adventurous like jet skiing in the buff, and some go for the more traditional of dinner and a movie.  For many a’year, I threw out the walk-along-the-beach-talking-nonstop fantasy.

But after this past weekend, I have a new idea:

A beautiful night.  In Angeles National Forest.  Watching a full moon rise over the mountains with a pizza, a root beer, my fiancé, and my dog.

Life doesn’t get much better than that.

I have always had a passing interest in the moon.  Not astronomically or astrologically, really; more just an appreciation for how incredibly beautiful it can be.  I lived in the Southwest for many years, where the skies are so clear, and the moon can be so bright, it casts shadows on the ground.  And to this day, those nights are what I miss most about the deserts.  The world really does look different under the silvery blue light of a full moon.

In June 2014, J and I went to watch the super moon rise over the smog-enshrouded city of LA from the Griffith Park Observatory.  It was beautiful.  It was fun.  We brought a picnic dinner, and Charlie, and our little point-and-click camera.  And we really did have a blast.  But it was crowded (GPO is always crowded).  And noisy.  And we couldn’t get decent photos of the super moon since we kept trying to take long exposure shots, and four thousand other people were taking flash photos at the same time.  And poor Charlie was getting heckled by some obnoxious kids who didn’t have anything better to do.

So it could have been better.

When J bought his new high-totin’ camera several weeks back, we talked about going back to GPO to take photos of a full moon.  We saw the next full moon would be this past Friday, July 31, and set a date.

The morning of, however, I started remembering our visit to GPO in June, and the chaos of it.  I called J at work and asked him if there was some place else we could go.  Some place quieter.  He did some research and we settled on Angeles.  The 700,000-acre wilderness spreads across most of the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona Mountains, and in addition to its host of recreational activities, offers some incredible views of the greater LA area.

J wisely mapped out a route that would take us high up into the mountains in Angeles Forest, and away from the lights and smog of the city.  He wanted to see the moon surrounded by the stars.

I wanted to watch the moon rise.  Sit and be quiet and watch the moon come up.  That idea sounded so incredibly beautiful, and peaceful.

A beautiful and peaceful night with my fiance and my dog.  Who could ask for anything more?

A beautiful and peaceful night with my fiance and my dog. Who could ask for anything more?

In preparation, I did go full-fledged Moon Nerd, though.  I wanted to make sure our spot would be a good one for actually seeing the moon.  Darn thing feels like it appears on the horizon wherever it wants at whatever time it wants!  I had downloaded a lunar calendar app some time ago so I could keep a passing eye on when the next full moon would be, and it turned out to be an app I woefully under-utilized.

I pulled up the home screen, where I could learn, among other things:  the moon’s phase, the moon’s rise time, set time, transit time, and the moon’s azimuth, altitude, and distance.

Don’t worry; I didn’t know what most of that meant either.

Transit time?

Azimuth?

Altitude?

Luckily, there is Almighty Google, and some very fruitful online searching during the train ride home taught me some very interesting information about the earth’s only natural satellite.

First off, rise time and set time are pretty self-explanatory:  the times, respectively, the moon rises above the horizon and sets below it after completing its arc across the night sky.  Transit time is the time the moon crosses an imaginary north-south line bisecting the middle of your location.  In other words, the time the moon will appear straight above your head in the night sky.

Azimuth and altitude required tapping into the rusty part of my brain that stores everything I tried to forget in geometry.  But essentially, azimuth is expressed in degrees, and it indicates exactly where on the horizon the moon will rise.

So, imagine you are standing in the middle of a perfect circle.  The circle being the horizon around you.  True north is 0 degrees; true east is 90 degrees; south is 180 degrees; and west is 270 degrees.  Since the moon does always rise somewhere on the eastern horizon – although thanks to orbits and rotations and axes and all that other astronomical jargon, it does not rise in the same location every day – the azimuth will be expressed as a number between 0 and 180 degrees.  The number itself tells you where exactly in that range the moon will rise.  So, for example, the azimuth for the moon rise tonight (August 3) in Los Angeles, is 63.9 degrees.  That means the moon will rise in the north east, about two thirds of the way from true north to true east.

Hopefully, a nice visual showing how azimuth and altitude are calculated.  This diagram also shows the meridian, which is the imaginary north-south line bisecting your location.  When the moon crosses that line is noted as the transit time.

Hopefully, a nice visual showing how azimuth and altitude are calculated. This diagram also shows the meridian, which is the imaginary north-south line bisecting your location. When the moon crosses that line is noted as the transit time.

Altitude is similar, but rather than having a 360 degree circle around you imagine a 180 degree half-circle over your head.  0 degrees is the eastern horizon; 180 degrees is the western horizon.  The altitude degree tells you where along that arc the moon is located.  When it’s at 0 degrees, it is at the eastern horizon.  When it’s at 90 degrees, it is right over your head (and crossing the transit), and when it is at 180 degrees, it is at the western horizon.  Negative numbers mean the moon is below the horizon.

I was so caught up in all this new knowledge, I actually walked and surfed my phone’s internet at the same time.  I tend not to do that since I can barely handle walking all by itself.  But I felt so nerd-ified!  Azimuth.  Altitude.  I couldn’t wait to show off to J – hey hon, I know exactly where the moon is going to rise tonight.  And what time.

Lo and behold: I was spot on.  We found the turnout J had pinpointed, and set ourselves up to face 104.7 degrees southeast.  I tracked the moon’s altitude on my lunar calendar app, and knew when the bright disc was scheduled to appear over the mountains…

The full moon rises over the San Gabriel Mountains...

The full moon rises over the San Gabriel Mountains…

But I didn’t spend much time on the app once we had parked ourselves and started gorging on cheese pizza.  Then it became about the beauty and serenity of my surroundings.  The smoothly broken crests of the San Gabriels, covered in shrubs and yucca.  The quiet of wilderness – sounds like cicadas strumming, bird wings whooshing, and coyotes howling being the only ones we could hear.  As the sun disappeared behind us, the clouds turned bright pinks and purples before they steadily faded to grays and dark blues.  Then, the moon appeared.  A glowing disc of white light that made the clouds closest to it shimmer like silver.

It was so beautiful.  It was so perfect.

The perfect date.

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