After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear–but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.
— from “Lingering in Happiness” by Mary Oliver
…What we long for: joy before death…
…What we know: we are more than blood — we are more than our hunger…
— from “Blossom” by Mary Oliver
24 For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you.
— 1 Peter 1:24-25
All night my heart makes its way however it can over the rough ground of uncertainties, but only until night meets and then is overwhelmed by morning, the light deepening, the wind easing and just waiting, as I too wait (and when have I ever been disappointed?) for redbird to sing. — “A Thousand Mornings” by Mary Oliver
I’ve been dreading this birthday for weeks, even though thirty-four is a very minor adjustment from thirty-three. And, yet, something about the even-ness of the number, it just seems so much closer to forty, and forty is unbearable. I’m sure all of you who are over forty and reading this are hating me right now, but does it not seem absolutely impossible even to be thirty-four? I recently spent a couple of days going through all of my old school papers, and it caused me some distress. Surely this little girl, who was me, would be beside herself with despair to learn that that she hadn’t accomplished anything of note by the age of thirty-three (now -four). The whole exercise plunged me into a sort of mid-life crisis.
That’s not to say I regret all of my choices. I’ve been home with my kids for almost six years now, and it is the most precious gift that my husband could have given me. Truthfully, I never want this part of my life to end. But, the end is terrifyingly close! I am thirty-four, and I have no career and no idea what I’m going to do with myself when my son starts school in just a little over a year. I am thirty-four and there are so many things I have not done, and probably never will do, and that is heartbreaking.
Thirty-four feels ominous. Thirty-four feels like panic.
Still, there is this: when I was making my coffee this morning, the sun was shining on the surface of the pond behind our house, and everything was sparkling, and the birds were singing, and it just felt glorious to be alive and to be part of this astonishingly complex and beautiful creation. So, I’m going to tell myself that whatever God has planned for me, I will take it. I will try not to panic or despair, and I will look forward to the moments of jubilation that exist amidst the uncertainty. I will try to keep my heart and mind open to the possibilities that still lie ahead, without dwelling too much on the path not taken. None of that will be easy, but it is my best option.
Today is my birthday — I’m thirty-four — and, despite the ambiguity of my current situation, I am very happy to be here.
* I wrote a post on my birthday last year, too.
Because I love the world
I think of grass,
I think of leaves
and the bold sun…
– – –
Teacher, what do you mean?
But faith is still there, and silent.
– – –
And who else could this be, who goes off
down the green path,
carrying His sandals, and singing?
— from “Spring” by Mary Oliver
(you should really read the whole poem; it’s wonderful)