I hear them before I see them. I hear them and I feel excited even though this isn’t the first time I’ve had this experience. I hear them, and then I get up from the couch where I’m reading student papers and I go to the front window and kneel on the trunk and look into the sky. Then I see them. Multiple flocks of geese, flying so low it looks like they will bash their bellies on the roof tops.
Two flocks come straight toward my house. One veers to the south, the other to the north. I watch the south flying flock as it changes direction, arcing broadly away from view.
For the past several days I have been reading and giving feedback on student essays for the four fall term courses I teach or co-teach. I’m hoping today I’ll get to the end of the pile. I’d like it very much if I could be as fully present as possible to my birthday and Christmas knowing that I have completely completed the work of fall term. Many different folks have suggested to me many times over the years that at the end of a busy term I just give cursory feedback to student work so I can wrap things up as soon as possible. I tried this technique once and I was left feeling like shit. Like a shit, actually. If someone is going to take the time to write an essay for me to read — an essay I assigned them, for goodness sake! — then it is my responsibility, my honor, to read and comment thoughtfully upon their work, even if I am thrashed and my birthday is tomorrow.
I’m sure I can find other ways to cut corners if corners need to be cut.
I haven’t written anything new for several weeks. The series of Thanksgiving essays I curated were so lovely, weren’t they? I was grateful that my call for contributions was answered so that I could offer to you some thoughtful essays to read and contemplate. But I haven’t written anything new for several weeks because I’ve been doing a lot of editing and revising of my own and others’ writing and I find it difficult to do new writing at the same time I’m editing and revising writing I’ve already done. Also, I haven’t had sufficient mind-space into which anything new could emerge.
I was lamenting this state earlier today, feeling creatively depleted, and anticipating that perhaps I wouldn’t even be able to hope to begin to have any mind-space available until after Christmas, once I am done grading for fall term courses and celebrating my birthday and Christmas and sending Isobel and her father off on their trip to France to visit family.
But I heard the geese flying over my house and suddenly I found myself possessed by an essay that demanded to be written. Hey, geese—thank you!
The thing about coconut macaroons is that you want to bake them long enough so that they get brown and toasty on their tops, but not so long that their insides start to dry out. I just pulled out of the oven the sixth and last batch of this season. Coconut macaroons are my “go-to” winter holiday treat: gluten free, mostly fat free, not too much sugar. Unless you have an aversion or allergy to coconut, they are the perfect cookie! They not only taste quite wonderful, they look like little mounds of snow. So charming!
Ah, goldfinches! Hello!
There is one resplendent male accompanied by three more subtly decorated females. They are enjoying the seed pods on the tree that decided to plant itself in front of my house a few years ago. My mommy said I should pull the tree out (while it was still just a small sprout) and then later encouraged me multiple times to chop it down (once we discovered it was a fast growing tree!).
I said: It chose to grow here, so it here it stays.
The mail carrier periodically requests that I trim the tree’s low-hanging branches so that he can pass under them without injury or inconvenience. He’s taller than I am, so I’m glad he let’s me know what he needs.
Hanging in the tree are two bird feeders that hold sunflower seeds and also a little cage for suet. Yesterday and the day before there were four different kinds of tiny birds hanging out in the tree all at the same time: chickadees, bushtits, song sparrows and juncos. Juncos mostly hop around on the ground, nibbling whatever is below the tree and feeders, but periodically they take to the air and flit from branch to branch indulging in above-ground treats.
I’ve only seen squirrel a couple of times recently though earlier in the week he was all but ruling the feeders in the front and back yards, tormenting and being tormented by Happy-the-dog.
Oh! Look! After it rains, the seed pods absorb so much water that at their tips dangle shiny orbs of moisture. The tree looks all dressed up for the holidays.
Tomorrow is my 47th birthday, the beginning of my 48th year on the planet this time around. I have this sense that I am on the other side of half-way through my travels through the life-course. Unless I live to be 100 years of age or greater, my “mid-point” was probably a couple of years ago. What does it feel like to be almost 47? At the moment, I’m not sure, because mostly what I’m feeling right now is a mild headache from drinking more mimosas and red wine yesterday than I probably should have to celebrate Simeon’s 57th birthday, as well as eye fatigue from reading student papers.
I think it is time for me to go down for a short nap.
After my nap I’ll ask myself the question again and share with you what I discover.
Jenny: How are you?
Simeon: Still plugging away at grading.
J: Me too. It is like a bottomless bowl of oatmeal.
S: Not sure about that metaphor. I like oatmeal. But then I like student papers, it’s just that there are so many of them. Maybe the metaphor does work.
J: It works. You think you are at the bottom of the bowl but you look away for a minute and there’s more to eat!
My nap was short. Just a half hour, enough time to re-energize a bit, not so much time as to mess me up tonight. I fell right asleep and I had a dream about shopping for a specific kind of salt as well as herbs and spices for a special dish I was going to cook. I woke up a bit groggy and fought my desire to set the alarm for another half hour. And I put Maldon salt on my shopping list (thanks for the reminder, dream!).
My neck and shoulders are a bit stiff from too much sitting, and my eyes are still sore, but otherwise I feel loose and good inside of my body. I am excited about my birthday in the way I’ve almost always been excited about my birthday with the exception of last year, 2007 and couple of times when I was little girl. When I’ve not felt excited about my birthday it had absolutely nothing to do with adding another year to the tally, it had nothing to do with growing older, but with feeling overwhelmed by immediate circumstances and exigencies that were out of my control and seemingly impervious to any positive thinking mind tricks I attempted to engage in. In other words, the circumstances of my lived experience at the time trumped my capacity to access the usual joy and wonderment I feel at having had the pleasure of living another year of this singular, precious life.
My birthday is my new year’s day. Tomorrow I commence a new year – my 48th. Yikes! — of adventures traveling through the life course as embodied consciousness. In honor of my birthday and the start of a new year I am engaging in a set of practices that I started over twenty years ago. These practices involve review of and reflection upon the past year, giving thanks making amends, and dreaming the future.
I don’t know what 47 feels like beyond what it feels like right now to be me. I do remember how I felt a year ago, but how I felt a year ago wasn’t about what it felt like to be almost 46 but about all sorts of other messy life stuff. I also know for certain that I feel better overall, and by “better” I mean more at home in this life as me, than I did when I was 16 going on 17, or 26 going on 27, or 36 going on 37. (I wonder what it will be like to be 56 going on 57, or 86 going on 87, etc.?)
Now on the edge of turning 47, my ass might not be as resistant to gravity as it was at those earlier ages and if you look closely at my skin you’ll see the trail time has left across its surface. But that’s just stuff happening on the outside of me.
What you can’t see directly and have to take my word for are the changes happening on the inside of me.
But that’s a story for another time as I have more fantastic papers written by my thoughtful and inspiring student to read.