Birthday Reflections: May 29, 2020

Birthday lunch in the sunny patio.

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.

Birthday dinner 2010 with friends and my son Jesse in the patio.

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.

May 29, 1977: a wedding cake and two birthday cakes.
Leaving in the Volvo, May 29, 1977

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.

Trip to Sweden 1939

28 April 2020

While cleaning up computer files during this time of sheltering in place, I stumbled upon a Powerpoint I had made 13 years ago, and completely forgotten.  The subject was my mother’s trip to Sweden in 1939, on the eve of World War II.  The PowerPoint was based on her diary and photos from her old photo album, black pages with photos fastened in with corners. 

At one point she writes to her father, “39 of the 40 pictures turned out,” calling to mind how very different photography was then then now.  She visited Helsinki (Helsingfors) where the 1940 Olympic Games were to be held.  Those games were cancelled because of the war, not to be held in that Olympic stadium until 1952.  Her diary and photos depict a vanished world that was about to be turned upside down.

Her passport has a notice that travel to Spain was not allowed. Spain was in the midst of its brutal civil war.  She traveled in a suit, as did her father.  Women wore hats.  She would never return to Sweden, although I made trips there and visited some of these same relatives in 1979 and 1991.  The powerpoint contained pictures of my visit in 1991 with my husband Ed and our two children, who were eight and twelve years old at the time.

I visited again in 2008.  Those pictures and the original scans from the 1939 photo album are posted on Flickr.

1939

2008

I converted the PowerPoint to iMovie, and added music. Enjoy!