Good morning to all those who honor and bless my life in innumerable ways…and thank you for making this a life of rewards and bounty.
It is my custom to send a note, an update, a message of gratitude to colleagues, acquaintances, friends, and family, all those I admire as the first act of the day on my birthday. Some of you will receive this for the first time, some of you have gotten every one since I started this tradition, which I believe is tied to the move into my home in 2000. I have lost track. I never really pre-plan the message, I just sit down to the keyboard and speak my heart. So here is the 2013 version…the beginning of GAP Fest 60.
It is hard to imagine that 60 years ago today, on Scott Field Air Force Base in Illinois, my mother was in labor with me at this time. She once shared that doctors told her I was likely to be stillborn and that she was in jeopardy due to toxemia. She was 18, my birth father was 22. Betty Ann put everything she had into bringing me into the world and at 4:40 p.m., I made what I can only imagine was a grand entrance. We always joked that I came in time for dinner.
It has been a very tumultuous journey in so many ways. But there is also a great deal of evidence that I am rich beyond reason with the love that surrounds me and how it manifests for my highest good always. That is the sum of all of you and everyone who benefits me with their own light, including all of my students over the years, the teachers I am honored to work with, the people at the many jobs I have held, and especially my family, who are those who have weathered the storms with me all this time.
I am the first born of the first born. That has always seemed to be a very significant legacy. It came with certain responsibilities, even at an early age. Now, as I look at it all thus far, I am also looking forward to what I can accomplish and how much there still is to embrace.
This year I have contemplated turning 60 with a host of emotions. It is different than other birthdays, even the milestones. There is something sobering about it all. I was very challenged by the concept, particularly because I did things rather backwards in the life plan and I have witnessed so many I know in my age bracket making plans to relax and take life more easily because they have reached retirement age. I was concentrating on my fear of the instability and vulnerability that is evident and unsure about how I will ever be able to afford to be elderly. But I am not as afraid today. I have worked through still another dark period and I feel renewed.
Last year this time, I adopted Enza, the puppy whuppy…she has been such a positive force in my daily life. For one thing, she makes me laugh. She is a wonderful dog and being. She and I have acclimated to each other and we have a great life together. I am so very grateful that she is here, even when I forget and leave the bathroom door open so she has access to the dirty underwear or I leave something on the counter thoughtlessly that she devours. Those problems are all on me…she is a dog. It is her nature to get into mischief.
The day before my birthday in 1999, I did a viewing of this home in which I now live. It was for sale at a price that is unfathomable and, with help from a dear friend, I pursued the purchase. It was the kitchen that spoke to me. I knew I was destined for this home. I had declared it more than a decade before when I lived around the corner on S. Beech St. From the back porch of that apartment, I could see the big deck that the owners at the time had built and I said to myself, “I would love to own a home with a deck like that someday.” I did not realize it was a prophecy. I thought it was just a dream. Now it is my joy.
I love to entertain and to cook for others. I love the sound of laughter in my home. For that reason, I chose to celebrate this landmark birthday with an open house to welcome all who are able. It seemed the most fitting, especially since I did not make it to Tuscany for the celebration, as I had hoped for a couple of years. It is just not in the cards right now but I will return at some point and spend a long time writing and enjoying the sun. But this year, the door is open all day and evening to any and all. I hope to see many of you who live locally. The rest of you…you are in my heart so you will catch the vibe, that I am sure.
This year, I think I have achieved a turnaround from all the fears of the last few years. It is still new that I feel confident that everything is okay. But there are some key indicators. I love my work and work is becoming more available again. I spend less time in schools than I did throughout the first decade of this century. But I have steady work again and all of it is centered on my skills and true identity as a writer. I am most grateful for this and look forward to this continuing for a long time. I like a pay stub that has my job title listed as “writer/editor.”
I am writing consistently and I have achieved a level of craft that fills me with joy. I used to dream that perhaps one day I would be able to write fine poetry. I am reading the work that is new and I see the glimpse of what I have always hoped to be able to create. It is a level of artistic maturity that can only come from years of pursuit. I hope this does not sound too bold. I do not mean to brag, but I marvel at what the creative inspiration has gifted to me to bring forth. I am never complacent in my writing, as you know.
The greater indicator is that I can announce that my third collection of poetry, Psalter: The Agnostic’s Book of Common Curiosities will be released by Tiger Bark Press in early 2015. I am so very honored and excited about this. It would take me a long time to articulate all the reasons so take it from me to be the case that I am giddy. And rather amazed that I can say “My third book of poetry…my fourth book in print.”
But I have two other books at least half done and am diligently working on them. I have some essays for the memoir project with my dear friend Linda Moore, and I am starting a book on the craft of writing as I view and teach it. I have much to get to the page before I am willing to move on from this body consciousness. I pray for the time to do so.
I also am moving toward completing my BA in the next couple of years. This unfinished business is surmountable and I will finally do it. In my invitation to the birthday open house this coming Saturday, I mentioned that I certainly need no more stuff to jam into this house. But if folks were inclined to, contributions to the college fund would be gratefully received. I will meet this goal, just as having the house with the deck, the books in print, the full life I live have come to fruition. And that will be a great unburdening when I walk the stage at graduation.
I have always envisioned being quite an old woman when my time comes. I hope it is true. But I can also say that I expect no guarantees and take a daily inventory of my life. I ask myself just about every evening before I sleep if I am at ease with it all. If I were to close my eyes this evening and drift off, if it were the last time, I am fine with that as well. I have an understanding of living in the moment that is natural to me now. I get the value of the moment. I don’t have any answers about the universe and life. other than it is here to make the most of with a sense of humble marvel. And all of it is made worthwhile by the company a person keeps. Therein lies my storehouse of riches…each of you.
Thank you for making life beautiful. Thank you for bringing me into your lives. There is no greater honor…I am so very grateful for the opportunities you present to me. You have supported me in so very many ways.
Have a glorious day and remember that you are cherished, each of you, especially by me.