And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Someone on my Facebook page suggested that maybe my birthday would be my Moment this week. My birthday was yesterday, and I turned sixty.
Birthdays when I start a new decade have always been tough for me. I was okay with 20, but from that point on, 30, 40, 50 and now 60 have been hard. I don’t know why the number affects me so, except that it might just show the steady moving forward of time. I love and collect clocks, and the thing about clocks is that the numbers don’t keep unreeling. They go around the clock face, 1 – 12, over and over. There’s no end. With age, well, I’ve yet to see someone live to 200. Those numbers definitely reel out to an end.
Sixty feels odd to me. I think of sixty and I see Grandma Walton. Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show. I do also see really classy and wonderful women too (not that these women weren’t), like Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench. And of course, I see many writers who I love and admire.
And then I see me. And I’m nowhere near where I wanted to be when I turned sixty. While I know I’ve accomplished quite a bit, the things I’ve accomplished were not necessarily my goals. Or more accurately, my one goal. The goal I set for myself when I was twelve years old.
Get on the New York Times bestseller list.
And as I turn sixty, that goal seems to be pretty much dead in the water. Yes, I know full well the story of Delia Owens and Where The Crawdad Sings. At age 70, she made the New York Times bestseller list with her first novel. It’s now being turned into a movie. But the hard fact is, as anyone in publishing will tell you, she’s an anomaly.
So for the most part, my birthday was not a happy one.
There’s this pandemic. I was supposed to be in Oregon, celebrating my birthday in my favorite place in the world. The place where I feel the most ME. I knew this birthday was going to be difficult, and I made the travel arrangements way back in January. Instead, I was here. Home.
So yesterday, I wandered to Pewaukee Lake, to a teeny beach I’ve never been to. I treated myself to some lunch and I found a picnic bench in the shade that was a distance away from everyone else. I had a good book, so I sat and read and glanced out at the small lake. It wasn’t the ocean, but it was pretty. The leaves rustled above me, and they were an echo for the waves washing up near my feet. Eventually, I closed my book and just watched the lake.
There was an island a ways out and I saw a few heads bobbing around on it. I wished I could go there, but on my own. There was a dock I wanted to walk out on, so I could sit surrounded by the water, but there was a group of teenagers there already. They climbed up onto the dock railings and did back flips and somersaults into the water. I hoped it was deep enough and remembered when I was that young when I never would have given a thought to if it was deep enough.
Two women about my age and a third woman who was likely their mother walked up and stood carefully six feet away from me. They watched the divers for a while.
The mother said, “I hope that water is deep enough.”
She had to be at least eighty.
After they left, I watched the teens some more. One young girl, brilliantly clad in a bright pink bikini, climbed up on the rail. She turned so she was facing the open lake. Then she stood for just a moment. The boys she was with fell silent. The sun fell around her in a golden and holy glow. Then she raised her arms to shoulder height, then brought her hands before her in a prayer. I couldn’t see fully, since her back was to me, but I saw the movement of her upper arms and I know exactly what she did.
She touched her prayered hands to her forehead.
Then to her mouth.
Then to her heart.
A few days before, I was at the amazing outdoor labyrinth in Regner Park in West Bend, Wisconsin. I kicked off my sandals and walked the labyrinth barefoot, connected to the earth. Before I began, I stopped at the stone embedded in the ground at the entrance. The stone is engraved with a sunshine and the word Believe. I raised my arms to shoulder-height, then prayered my hands. I touched my forehead, my mouth, and my heart.
I honor this place with my mind, with my words, with my heart. I give all due respect.
I stepped into that labyrinth and lost myself for an hour as I wound my way in, then back out.
This young girl stretched her arms over her head, hands clasped, and did a beautiful effortless dive into the sparkling water. When she came up, she was laughing.
When I stepped out of the labyrinth, I was smiling.
I stood and applauded her. She waved from the water, and we laughed together.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The main thing I’ve learned from writing these moments is that you don’t wait for happiness to come to you. You seek it out.
I found happiness at little Pewaukee Lake on my sixtieth birthday.
(But next year, I’d better be in Oregon!)
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.