It’ s my birthday morning. Seventy-six years, twenty years into the 21st Century, and more than two months into the coronavirus lockdown. Grandson Zia just turned three, and when he is my age, it will be 2093. I won’t be here for sure, and most likely his parents won’t be either.
I haven’t been able to write during this pandemic. The days and weeks seem to slip one past another with no clear boundaries. Every two weeks we have irrigation water. The cleaning ladies come on the weeks we don’t water, and the trash must go out every Wednesday evening. St. Michael and All Angels has morning prayer via Facebook or Zoom at eight on Monday through Friday, and Sunday service each week at nine. We have not met in person since early March.
A large multicolored cat just walked along the top of the wall under the grape arbor and crept down into the Catmint around the fountain. What is it doing here? Lured perhaps by the birds, the lizards and the water? It has vanished as stealthily and silently as it came. I’ve not seen this cat before, or at least not for a very long time. How often does it visit us without our knowledge?
Ten years ago today I celebrated my birthday by inviting friends; some for breakfast and others for dinner, as they couldn’t all come at the same time. I cooked early in the morning and again in the afternoon with some quiet time in between. It was one of my favorite birthdays. It was good to create my own celebration and do things for my friends rather than have them do something for me, as I knew no one else would plan anything. I had returned from the first half of my first Camino from Le-Puy-en-Velay, France to Pamplona, Spain just a week before.
It had been three years since Ed’s 81st and our last birthdays and wedding anniversary together. He put a bit of birthday cake to his lips and tasted a sip of champagne, but he was no longer eating. Four days later he was gone. This is a poignant time of year for me.
Better, perhaps, to remember our joyous wedding thirty years before that, with its wedding cake plus two birthday cakes, and friends and families gathered around in State College, Pennsylvania.
Giddy with happiness we set out in Ed’s venerable Volvo wagon, the wedding bouquet of peonies from our friends’ garden wedged between the seats. We were off to Shenandoah National Park where we camped and walked among the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons.
For thirty years we celebrated our birthdays and our wedding
anniversary together on this same day. We had no regrets.
So, here I sit this morning at the old oak table we bought together, where we shared so many meals with family and friends. It was at this table that Jesse, Psyche and I wrote farewell notes to Ed, to be slipped in with him along with red roses from the garden when we accompanied his body to the crematorium.
I woke early this morning, seeing the pink light of dawn through the unshaded bedroom window. I cuddled with the sleeping Kent. My mind was full of thoughts of the significance of this day, and I could not go back to sleep. When rose-gold light hit the upper branches of the towering cottonwood that had been little more than a sapling when we moved here twenty-nine years ago, I got up and wandered out into the garden, thinking how fortunate I am to occupy this beautiful piece of earth. A few finches flew from tree to tree and hummingbirds flitted from shrubs to the feeders. The fountain was silent. A passenger jet crossed the southern sky, heading west. We haven’t seen too many of them these days.
There is a faint hum of traffic from the freeway, and now another plane flies over. The world is waking up, and the coronavirus pandemic is becoming the new normal.
I am up early enough to catch the morning prayers at St Michael’s. I’d never gone when I would have had to dress and drive to attend. It is quite lovely to be able to do this from home.
Our hair is growing long. It has been six months since I had my last haircut just before baby Rumi was born in November. We are not unhappy with this quiet life. We are editing Kent’s memoirs of his years living on sail boats. I am working on photos and trying to organize my computer files. I still have so many projects to do, I need at least another year or two of self-quarantine to make significant progress.
Yet, I long to travel again. Will I ever walk another Camino? Will my body keep going? Will my mind? I already find myself unable to remember things it seemed I could once recall with ease, and I forget things I thought I’d never forget.
I go outside to look for the cat. Did it climb another wall, go through the heart-cut-out in the bottom of the gate, or run around the house to the front? I’ll never know.
The fruit trees have finished blooming, most of the fruit killed by a sudden frost. There will be only a few sweet cherries this year, and no plums, peaches, or apricots. There may be a very few apples. But the pomegranate is blooming now, and the roses. Life is good. Happy birthday to me.
Note: the news of the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis policemen on Monday, May 25, had not yet reached me as I wrote this. Since then, everything has changed again, and I would not be able to write now what I wrote then. The sadness I felt on May 29, seems self-indulgent in light of what has happened in the past week. More later.