i had wanted to say more during women’s history month, but here we are slingshot into the month of april, and 2 of my 3 big events of the year have come and gone. quinn is 10! i am 39! and our wedding is a few short months away, for which we are giddy with anticipation. this is my letter written in the sand, as my 39th birthday surges on by.
on april 3, i woke up, made the bed, trudged upstairs and hugged rich. when he told me, “happy birthday sweetie,” i replied, “oh yeah! i forgot!” and that, ladies and gentlemen, is 39 in a nutshell.
being born on april 3 is a little harder to fit into a nutshell, because those of us who share this birthday, jane goodall and myself included, tend to be relatively passionate, difficult to encapsulate, individuals. which means we can be boisterously enthusiastic, fiercely loving, miraculously multitasking, as prickly as we are cuddly, including the leg hair we sometimes boycott shaving due to so many other more important things we need to be doing! doing! doing!, especially starting projects, and we can be the biggest compilation of contradictions you have ever encountered. i probably shouldn’t speak for jane on these matters, but i’d be surprised if she didn’t fit some of this description, being my birthday sister.
wedding boss is learning what my mom has known since i was a child, that i have a hard time articulating creative endeavors before they are completed, that i rarely initiate group projects and prefer to make things myself with nobody watching, and that yes, i say contradictory things about my plans. “you have said both that you want lots of color and lots of flowers, and that you want to keep it minimal and use lots of white.” what can i say, sis, it makes sense in my own head! the lots of flowers in the terraces will provide single flowers for the colorful vases on the mostly white tablecloths… surrounded by rainbow prayer flags. lots and minimal and white and color.
i was born in the same year as a giant blizzard, under the fire sign of aries. a tornado of fire who can’t keep her extremities warm to save her life. to be situated in the draftiest northwest upstairs bedroom in the farmhouse was my childhood fate. i am blessed with an equally fiery fiance who, probably due to all the taurus in his chart (*wink*), is able to store his warmth and share the excess with me on chilly nights, and it’s just one of the galaxy of reasons i am so happy to be marrying him.
two aries might sound like a lot of head butting, but between his grounded earthiness and my attraction to the fire-quenching water, we both seem to have found some balance and evolved a few coping skills, not to mention the chemistry of our teamwork that seems to result in a lot of cleared land with plants growing in it. maybe aries finally become more settled with age, more able to channel that fire into a forging, creative bed of embers, than a raging, destructive inferno. sometimes i even finish projects nowadays. i know i feel a lot readier to embark on a lifelong relationship with someone than i ever would have in the previous two decades of my life.
i think my parents must have had some notion that i was a born hippie, right from an early age. at that time, the only way i had to exercise it might have been to experiment with consuming large helpings of sprouts and sunflower seeds at the pizza hut salad bar. but there were other signs, accumulated over the longer term, that might have clued them in.
when we were allowed to choose among the three afternoon tv programs (sesame street, mr. rogers, and the electric company) i remember frequently choosing mr. rogers. i was drawn to his nonviolent communication and his neighborhood of make believe. and ohhh, the crayon factory episode. when a premature calf was born and i insisted on bottle-feeding her multiple times a day during my summer vacation around age 8, they could see my (stubborn) heart for animals. i disliked eating steak, and refused to eat any beef at all if my father revealed the former name of the cow we were consuming. i belonged among the wildflowers, i belonged on a boat out at sea. with an unlimited supply of scotch tape.
my fiance knows about my thing for wildflowers. this is my birthday trout lily (in the yellow vase), a delightful patch of which is thriving on the bayou trail.
as i grew up, i went from calf rescue to calf delivery midwife. for my career path i was torn between music, art and biology, with biology eking out a slight lead due to its inclusion of wildflowers, whales, and boats out at sea, the subjects of the music and art i liked best.
jimmy carter was president when i was born, and in 1980 when the first women’s history week (which expanded to the whole month of march) was born, along with my younger sibling. he even put in a plug for the e.r.a., which still hasn’t been ratified. i don’t know if that has anything to do with my becoming a feminist, but i always did have an interest in female heroes. i wrote essays for the famous american women contest in numerous years, my most memorable subjects being beverly cleary and mother hale. mother hale cared for hundreds of crack-addicted and hiv-infected babies when no one else would take them in. beverly cleary wrote the most captivating stories about a girl with whom i acutely identified, who got muddy, did not consider herself inferior to the boys, preferred to wear pants, and got in trouble with her teachers… in oregon. between ramona quimby and playing oregon trail on the apple iie computers, i think i have always been destined for oregon. with a strong desire for all babies to be wanted, and a need to write on behalf of women’s equality.
i wrote on quinn’s birthday that 10 is both a culmination and a beginning; 39 feels like being on the cusp of finally arriving at home within myself. i also wrote that 10 was a sum of consecutive prime numbers; can you guess what other number that can be said about?
“Thirty-nine is the sum of consecutive primes (3 + 5 + 7 + 11 + 13) and also is the product of the first and the last of those consecutive primes. Among small semiprimes only three other integers (10, 155, and 371) share this attribute,” says wikipedia. considering that neither of us is likely to ever reach 155 or 371, we are rocking two pretty special ages this year, my boy and i.
since i took calculus around 155 years ago, i can’t remember if the color pattern quinn chose represents a harmonic series or some other kind… 1,1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 4, 1…
the song 39 by queen was an unexpected birthday gift i discovered when i googled 39 to find out its mathematical attributes. (yes i am that much of a geek.) the song touches on the subject of fleeting time when a ship full of space travelers return one year older to a world in which generations have passed them by. maybe when i chose the word ephemeral for 2017, it had something to do with how keenly i am feeling time rush by in great dollops. ephemeral like letters in the sand. relativity is relentless, “the day i take your hand in the land that our grandchildren knew…” but woven into this turnover is a web of connection. “your mother’s eyes through your eyes cry to me,” makes me think of the way i’ve been told ever since i can remember that i have my nana’s eyes, smile, mannerisms. thinking of that brings grief entwined inextricably with comfort. i have mentioned ani’s lyric about children, “the funnel through which women’s lives are poured,” and more and more, in spite of being my own distinct someone, i feel like a vessel, a conduit, through which my son’s life energy can pour forth.
so, i guess i have a lot on my mind. it totally makes sense that i didn’t remember it was my birthday!