This is my fortieth year.
My birthday tomorrow will mark its end. Forty years I have lived and breathed. Forty years I have occupied this body, this flesh, this form.
Forty years I have hungered for the blessings of the earth, and found them, and hungered again, and found again.
For cycles, and circles, and spirals have been my teaching.
Cycles, circles, spirals are my honoring.
So forty is a cycle, not a march, not a linear road of time I step along. Because cycles are simultaneous.
The dark moon holds the crescent, the waning and the full at once, what is revealed is what is beheld. The winter holds the secrets of the year: the dying rot of autumn, the sprouting of new growth, the aching fruit of summertime. Thus my living holds my ending, my birth, my death, my fruiting and flowering. For one day I am a child, the next an elder, the following a mother, at last the spirit breathes out of me and this illusion of separateness—the assumption of my culture--is gone.
Honoring, honoring the cycles, honoring this forty, this year, the ending and beginning of what some call youth or middle age. If I were to walk back along my years I would meet myself, and I can in a way do this. I’ve been a writer nearly my whole life, kept a journal since I was five. I can peek in and out of the consciousness of my pages and see the child/girl/woman I was. But this I rarely do. In these forty years my trials and accomplishments are many, and are the trials and accomplishments of many, too. The carrying, birthing and nurturing of babies, the mothering, the bravery of differentiation, the cohesion of family, the press of daily chores and delights. The illness, the exhaustion, the grief. Our lives are common, and when viewed from afar they are lived with stark simplicity. We eat, we sleep, we eliminate, we fuck, we partner, we procreate, we die. All in cycles, some light and beautiful, some dark and smelling of decay. This is the balance that unites us, the animals, the plants and stars.
But what makes us unique, why we must honor and celebrate, each day, each year, is because they’re ours.
You, reader, are the only you. Your life is the culmination of infinity, of all life macro to micro, operating even now in your cells. All of history is in you, all of humanity, too. And this preciousness, this incredibly unique gift, rising from the commonality of all existence, this you will never happen again, not in this way. Because the simultaneity of time does not mean it is necessarily repeatable.
Mary Oliver asks, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” And I try my best each day to answer, to make an offering of who I am. To celebrate myself, like Walt Whitman, unabashed in my pleasure at being exactly me. This celebration is more than candles on a cake. This is the necessity of ceremony, of gathering together in community and singing not “Happy Birthday” but the unique song of each life we love, each presence we marvel at. It is encouraging each other to take risks, to bring into alignment and being that totally individualized expression, that signature that only each of us can produce. That we are is holy.
That we are is everything and all.