Birthdays

A person I know just celebrated their 34th birthday.

When I was that age I was living off-grid, sleeping in a tiny 5th-wheel, and waking on winter mornings with blankets frozen to the wall. I’d just met the man I would marry, and that was also the year we not only wed, but moved to the ‘city’. A house with electricity, although the only source of heat was a wood stove. And the ‘city’ had a population of 157.

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Okay, so have to admit we look really young here

We were on the fire department. I’d just been certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. I was working in a mental health agency, in grant-funded birth-to-three programs.

Of course, I was writing. That was the year I got brave enough to send out my very first manuscript for professional editing and then off to agents. Thanks to the encouragement of my husband.

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Two years later, at 36, we had our son. There were concerns during the pregnancy about my ‘advanced age’.

I felt rather old at those comments.

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Lookout Point just like his dad

Now I’m a few weeks away from sixty.

And suddenly, thirty-four sounds so very young.

I wonder, if I make it to one hundred, if I will write a blog about how very young sixty sounds.

When young, it was important to my mother to celebrate birthdays, but it’s never been a big deal for me. I feel no need to celebrate sixty, either. Matter of fact, I kind of want to ignore it. Except that I also kind of want to go to Vegas and get a tattoo.

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19th birthday. And see Spot? The dog down there waiting for cake to fall? Dogs, always.

All this makes me think of a poem by Mary Oliver that ends with this line.

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

Sixty years old. There’s still plenty of time to decide. Although I don’t think I have valued enough just how wild and precious and rare and short-lived life actually is. Too many years spent being too hard on myself, living obligations instead of life, worrying about doing the right thing, whatever the ‘right’ thing actually is. Too worried about disappointing others, or letting others down. Having to be the ‘good’ one.

That tattoo and Vegas is sounding better and better.

Vegas sisters

The last Vegas trip with sisters…and yes, tattoos were involved

The Timing of Books

When I’m desperate for something to read I wander over to the neighbor’s little library. The books I find in there aren’t necessarily ones I would pick up in a regular library where choices are many. But when you’re needing a book and the selection is few, you end up pushed into worlds you might not pick to read.

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Little community; little library

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the book you find in your hand mirrors something going on in your life? I’m not sure if you are drawn to the book because of events, or if the events make you see things differently so that you pick up something you might not normally.

Both of those things – the neighborhood library, and recent events, have landed a tiny book in my lap.

I posted recently about needing a sister day, and this past week I was gifted with sister days. They were emotional days that make your soul ache and your heart weep even when you struggle to be strong and say the things you need to say.

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Sister words

Words like ‘you’ve fought this battle for years’ and ‘we understand you’re tired’ and ‘we respect your choice to go’ and ‘don’t stay because of us’.

When the reality is inside you’re grasping at cloth while your brain screams ‘don’t you dare leave us!!!’

And then here comes this little book.

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The bookmark is a pricking, a pattern, for a bookmark made from bobbin lace. And in the cup are wooden bobbins from a sister.

 

I’d never heard of the author, let alone the book. But it’s a small book to hold in your hand, with rough-cut edges and a beautiful cover. So I brought it home from the neighborhood collection, thinking it would be a distraction, a non-fiction book on how snails operate. Interesting, maybe boring, but words.

Nope.

The author has a mysterious debilitating disease. And into her life comes a snail, with a pot of wild violets. And one night, she can hear the snail munching.

What comes from that moment is a lesson in slowing down, breathing, changing perspectives, adjusting how we look at life.

At the things we have to let go.

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The book reads like a meditation, with the interesting life of a snail thrown in. Like the fact that they have teeth and you can hear them chewing when the world around you is quiet and still enough.

There’s more to this book than just that, but for now, I want this snail to remind me to be quiet and still enough that I can hear time slowing for one sister. I want to feel how an ending for us is a beginning for her, a birth of a different sort, into the world she has faith in.

And during this time left, no matter how long it is, I hope time slows for my sister so that she can feel our heartbeats, feel our love, find her peace, and find the quiet so she can hear what she needs to now.

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Those Whispers

There’s a young woman circling me. I can catch brief glimpses of her, as if shadows moving behind trees. Occasionally I can hear her whispered voice, but it may be the wind.

I’ve seen her walking above the sea alone, face lifted to the salt air. I know she feels cleansed, but I also see how gaunt she is. She’s simply escaped the mountains, but not whatever it is that haunts her.

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There’s an old woman waiting for her. A grandmother, or maybe great-grandmother, in her end days. Some say she’s lost her mind, but what some see as insanity others see as vision, finally clear.

It’s like writing. This young woman circling me, creeping up on me, whispering to me, isn’t real. Or at least not yet. But she wants me to tell her story because she can’t. And there’s some mystery there, on the wild edges of the North Sea, where she now walks.

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Some of you nod, recognizing the writing process, understanding that voice in the place where stories begin.

Others, who don’t understand the writing process, might hear this and think it strange, or wonder about someone who says they hear voices in their head.

But this…this is how a story begins.

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She’s too shy yet. She doesn’t trust me fully yet. She’s not ready for the story to come to me yet.

But she’s there, working her courage up to come fully forward, to step through the door.

And this…this is how her story begins.

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