"When imagination walks, she writes letters to the earth. When she runs, her feet trace postcards to the sun. And when she dances, when she dances, she sends love letters to the stars. Some people accuse Imagination of being a liar. They don't understand that she has her own ways of uncovering the truth. She studied journalism in junior high school. It gave her an excuse to leave school early and interview interesting people. She was surprisingly good at writing articles. When in doubt, she just made things up. More recently, Imagination has been working as a fortuneteller in the circus. She has this way of telling your fortune so clearly that you believe her, and then your wishes start to come true.
Imagination is studying photography now with an eye to making films. She has no intention of working in one of those factories where they manufacture images that lull us to sleep. Her vision is more complex, and very simple. Even with the old stories, she wants us to see what has never been seen before."
~ J. Ruth Gendler, The Book Of Qualities, 1984 ~
I think I need new glasses...
It is 11 p.m. on the night of my 54th birthday. In one hour a new day begins and I begin my 55th year. It has been a splendid day with notes and cards from family and friends, talking to my 3 children, and being taken out to a wonderful Thai dinner with my dear friends, Jeff and Chad, and back to their house for an unbelievable birthday cake. I got home at 10:30 with 4 dogs doing backflips they were so happy to see me and a cockatoo screaming and Henry, my beloved grey parrot yelling, "Mommy's HO-OME, MOMMY'S HOOOOOMMMMEEEE." It was very late for the birds and they were more than happy to be covered and go to bed. Soon I shall as well.
This is like New Year's Eve to me. A time to look over the last year and smile. Jeff and Chad took me out last year for my birthday too. Tomorrow night is the family party because my tiny grandson will be 4. Our birthdays are back to back. My sweet daughter Rachel went into labor here at my family party the night of my 5oth birthday and had Lucas the next day. It will be a sweet time.
Today I came across one of my dearest books that is 24 years old and falling apart at the seams. It is one of the most delightful books I have ever read. Ruth Gendler's, The Book Of Qualities. There's never been a book like it before or since. Each page or two is a quality and described as above, a he or a she, with a list of wonderful things describing, in human terms, that particular quality, from sorrow to joy and everything in between. I love this book so much I used it for 2 decades in my journal-writing classes.
Today, I pulled it from the shelf and read through it nostalgically. For those of you who read and reread favorite books you will know what I mean. I am one of those people who underline (...with Prismacolor colored pencils, an addiction of mine!), highlight, parenthesize, write notes in the margins, and through the years I have made stars on different pages because that felt like the one I resonated the most with at the time. Today I thought, before opening the book, that I would start this piece with Joy, or Whimsy. Two of my favorite words as well as states of being, and they were wonderful, but when I read Imagination it suited me just perfectly. Or so it feels today, and I will end this piece with the other one I love because it shows a progression in my life. At 54 I am a woman in her middle years who celebrates growing older, is happy and content more often than not, and the years that I starred the pages that said things like depression, sorrow, pity, well, they are long past. The last several years I have been softening and softening and my heart is so full of love it almost brings tears to my eyes. Tonight I am feeling very tender, toward the life I have, grateful for so many things, and while the joy and whimsy are very much a part of me, tonight I feel still and quiet, happy and content.
It amazes me that people are afraid to tell their age, and have endless surgeries to try to look younger. Why? I am aging, inside, with grace. I am gaining wisdom that heretofore would not have been possible. I have carved out for myself a life of my own choosing and if I don't work in the circus, as the quote says above, I certainly live in the zoo! It is peaceful now. Dark and quiet, with sleeping animals and snoring pugs all around me. I wonder if anyone else in the world has ever felt this blessed. I feel that I should go down on my knees and kiss the earth. All the way home tonight I kept singing that beautiful song that always makes me cry, sung by the young Jeff Buckley, who who died by drowning in his 20's. The song's lyrics are sad but his rendition of this song (The link will take you to You-Tube to see him sing it.), Hallelujah, is so full of grace and there is something that just opens my heart as wide as the sky, breaks it open and makes it spread wider and wider until tears are running down my cheeks, well, it was the perfect ending to this night. A cleansing. A preparation for whatever lies ahead.
These 54 years have been full of pain, sorrow, sweetness, tenderness, the Phoenix crashing, burning, and rising again, and finally, joy, compassion, and a kind of love I have never known. Love for myself, love for my family, my animals, my dear ones, love for another woman, love for life. I am 54 years old and I am grateful for every moment of it. Hallelujah.
I have come to the beautiful age where I am truly, fully myself and know that I will grow more so all the time. I have come into my wisdom years and look so forward to what will come ahead. And so I leave you this night, on the eve of my 55th year, with Ruth Gendler's quality, Wisdom.
Wisdom wears an indigo jacket. She takes long walks in the purple hills at twilight, pausing to meditate at an old temple near the crossroads. She was sick as a young child so she learned to be alone with herself at an early age.
Wisdom has a quiet mind. She likes to think about the edges where things spill into each other and become their opposites. She knows how to look at things inside and out. Sometimes her eyes go out to the thing she is looking at, and sometimes the thing she is looking at enters through her eyes. Questions of time, depth, and balance interest her. She is not looking for answers.
Perhaps that is the greatest gift of all. I don't need, at 54, to have all the answers. I simply need to live my life, to love, to tenderly touch all those that I can with an open heart, and to sing, Hallelujah.
I kiss the earth, I dance with the stars, I have made a temple to be alone with myself and to worship all that is holy.
Hallelujah. Happy Birthday Maitri...