on being a year older

For all of its' flaws, Facebook is great on your birthday. I woke up to a way-too-early-alarm-clock and the pinging of Facebook updates. Through blurry eyes and whiskers--Hemmy decided to wake me up by laying on my neck--I read the first of many birthday messages. Instant gratification. I felt loved.

Aside from the fact that I had to go to work today, and couldn't stay in my pajamas all day, it was a good day: the ladies were sweet as pie and bought me lunch; I managed to get all my annual work evaluations done (DREAD OVER! WOO HOO!); I responded to the 80+ emails that had accumulated over my long weekend; I got caught up on paperwork, and by golly, my desk is cleared off! A good day, indeed!

Now I'm home and getting ready for a birthday dinner with Grumpy and Prairie Dawn.
Grumpy is a townie who I've recently begun hanging with; he's one of those slightly-chip-on-his-shoulder-grouchy-heart-of-gold-guys, like Luke on Gilmore Girls, or Nick on New Girl, or Grumpy from Snow White.

I'm excited to have friends in Sticks and people to go out with on my birthday. I'm thinking about so many good celebrations and the people I celebrated with; I'm thinking of my family and dearest friends. Birthdays truly are about taking it all in and being grateful, no? Birthdays always make me nostalgic, so, enjoy:

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess. 
--Billy Collins, from Questions About Angels
And if you really want a treat, listen to Collins read it. 


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