Saturday, September 10, 2016

Poetry, Memories, and Birthdays

Sunflowers always make me smile

I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
   --From OTHERWISE by Jane Kenyon

Today is my 53rd birthday. I slept late, had coffee and chocolate cake (baked by my older son last night) for breakfast.

I headed to the ceramics studio and unloaded a bisque kiln with one of my fellow artists. We laughed and joked and enjoyed the work that had been fired. Then I met a friend for lunch.

When I returned home, I canned all the tomato sauce my husband and I had processed the day before and left simmering in the crockpot. Then I washed, cut, and cranked through the food mill the last 50 lbs of tomatoes we had gotten from the farm last week.

This is some of the work I love, and like Jane Kenyon, I understand that being able to do it is a joy and a privilege that some day will be otherwise.

The truth is, I have more life behind me than is likely left before me. This is something that feels far more present and real this year than ever before. Both my parents died in the past few years and I find that I miss them with a special sharpness today.


A tweet came across my twitter feed with something I hadn't realized: I share a birthday with the poet Mary Oliver. One of her poems. WILD GEESE is a favorite. I read it often, reference it with others, make them read it, too. 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
     --From WILD GEESE by Mary Oliver

What I love is solitude and quiet laughter and watching baseball games with my husband, and all things geeky and creative, and the joy of playing with words.


In early September of 2001, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. We don't make a huge big deal over birthdays in our family. We did, for the kids when they were little, but not for one another. Usually a card, and a lovely dinner was the gift each of us typically wanted. Plus, our wedding anniversary is less than a week before, so my birthday tends to get overshadowed. 

That year, I wanted the gift of time. My husband's work hours had been especially long and our kids were young - elementary school age.  I didn't feel as if we had enough time just for the two of us, so I asked for something I wasn't sure could happen.

I asked him to take the day off from work, so we could just spend a leisurely week day together.

September 10, 2001 was a beautiful Tuesday. After walking the children to school, we returned home to have coffee and breakfast on the back deck. We took the dog for a walk, sat and read. It was a perfect day. A perfect gift. 

Then the next morning, the world shifted.

I remember so clearly holding on to the perfect, gentle birthday that I celebrated with my husband. It had been some kind of crucial inoculation against the evil. 

Doing the work that we love, with the people that we love, is to fight against evil.


I had a lovely day. Dinner is being prepared for me by my family. There is a fresh bouquet of sunflowers in the dining room.  The dog is curled up by my feet. Friends from near and far called or emailed or messaged me with birthday wishes. 

This is an embarrassment of riches. 

It fills me with gratitude.

May you have the joy of doing the work you love with the people you love.


  • Free eBook
  • Free/DRM-free short fiction
  • publication news

No comments:

Post a Comment