Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Don't Get Me Anything


I had one of those birthdays with a zero in it yesterday. I don't do a lot of celebrating on birthdays. Every day for me is pretty much like every other day, and that's not a complaint. My days are stellar.

The only birthday I ever had that bothered me was my seventeenth. I thought you couldn't be a prodigy after the age of sixteen, and that's what I thought I should have been, so I felt officially washed up. I must've been quite the snot. I'm not sure what it was I was thinking to have accomplished by age sixteen; probably a novel or something. I always had it in mind that I would excel at writing even though there was nothing, trust me, absolutely nothing in the way of evidence to support that. At the time I was specializing in precious poetry with a lot of internal rhyme that sounded cool but didn't make any sense at all. I don't know what any of it means now, and I didn't know then either. I soldiered away at the craft like I was driving a wheelbarrow through the mud and finally buried the wheel in what I called Writer's Block at about age eighteen. It was writer's block, and only real writers can have that, right? I now credit my writer's block with being something of a truth-teller. I think it's one of my healthier qualities: I can only fake it so long, and then I bog down. And I was totally faking it. I wanted to be a writer, not write. You should always write what you know, and I didn't know anything. I'd have done just as well trying to grow a Walt Whitman beard.

Seventeen
I remember my fiftieth birthday like it was ten years ago. Dave and I thought maybe we'd haul out the old backpacks and pitch a tent up on the Timberline Trail on Mt. Hood like the old days. We'd wake up in the morning and see the sun spark the waving threads of spider silk across a blue sky. But then some dear friends from long ago showed up with love and party hats and we all went up to the mountain, and all saw beautiful things, and all slept in decent beds like sensible people, and it was the best thing ever.

It's hard to know how to celebrate when every day's a blessing. I just got another essay accepted to The Christian Science Monitor and Dave said "we should celebrate!" Yes! What should we do that would be better than what we were going to do anyway, which was have a beer and then a nice dinner that he cooks? "We could have a really good beer!" Yes! We could! Dave hunts in the fridge. "Looks like we just have our regular good beer," he says. "I love that!" I say. We have that. We clink glasses.

I've had this weird thing since I was a real little kid. Whenever I picture a number, I see it floating in
three-dimensional space with all its neighbor numbers in a twisting, meandering pattern that never changes. The spatial arrangement is set in concrete for me, but it's not sophisticated. The numbers always change direction noticeably at the tens. One through ten wiggle around quite a bit, but then they take a right turn at eleven and stagger a little, and then another right turn at twenty and thirty. From forty through a hundred, they don't move around as much. Not so many right angles. It smooths out. And it probably corresponds to life, such that the more of it you have stacked up behind you, the less important each individual number is. Daily dramas yawn, unimportant. Death loses its sting, even without being swallowed up in victory. But at any given age, I visualize myself perched on that number, in the space it's occupied since I was wee, and looking at higher and lower numbers that have not changed position my whole life. I don't see a lot of sharp turns in front of me. It should be a coast from here.

79 comments:

  1. and I hope it's a good coast, with plenty of beer to wash it down with.

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    1. I'm in the right city for it. And right state of mind, too.

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  2. I read somewhere that Mark Twain wasn't published until he was 52. That use to give me hope and inspiration, until I zipped passed that magic number without so much as a howdy do.

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    1. Not to mention, we're not Mark Twain! (My hero)

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  3. The thing that is hard about aging is that after a while you no longer have any goals to strive for; that horizon to reach at some point in the future. I no longer buy Craftsman tools with a lifetime guarantee - Harbor Freight is now good enough for me.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. That "lifetime guarantee" ain't what it used to be anyway...Sears is liable to wear out before the tools do.

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    2. I'd heard that George Allen line about not buying green bananas--I like the Harbor Freight version!

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    3. George Burns. Gracie Allen. Unless you're talking about the football coach. :)

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    4. You know, I thought that looked wrong just as soon as it left my fingers.

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    5. Nope, it absolutely was George Allen, reacting to possibility of post-retirement coaching gig. I'll post link, if the Internet's tangled yarn of knowledge so permits.

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  4. I admire Dave's ability to bend over to the bottom shelf like that. That's where we put the stuff we aren't going to use before it expires. (He did straighten back up ok, though, didn't he?)

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  5. Had you given us a heads-up, we might have wished you a happy birthday. As it is, we can only wish for you a great year until the next one rolls in!

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  6. Had you given us a heads-up, we might have wished you a happy birthday. As it is, we can only wish for you a great year until the next one rolls in!

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  7. Had you given us a heads-up, we might have wished you a happy birthday. As it is, we can only wish for you a great year until the next one rolls in!

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    1. I've no idea why that happens-- I only hit the button once.

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    2. It happens to a few of you. Nobody knows why.

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  8. Happy zero birthday, Murr! I just had one of those myself last year, and now I'm coasting. Pretty cool. You made me laugh, oh and congratulations on another CSM article. :-)

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    1. I'm beginning to think the CSM editor and I are having a Relationship.

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  9. I get such a large charge out of the thought of you writing for the Christian Science Monitor! Yay Murr!

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    1. Hey, my dad used to subscribe to that, and I'm not at all sure he was a real Christian. Let alone Christian Scientist.

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  10. I'll wish you a belated happy birthday anyhow. I'm glad you can enjoy your days. For me, celebration is getting together with people I love without special attention to the number...and I am "a bit" older than you.

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    1. I've signed on to that also. And, the family quit doing Christmas presents a few years ago. We're free!

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  11. I would definitely put the beer on the top shelf where it is easier to reach. Or is it easier for you on the bottom? Happy birthday!

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    1. Inasmuch as I'll walk to the store for one if we run out, I'd say any shelf will do.

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  12. Same thing. I wanted to be a writer, but I was the world's most naive, inexperienced teenager. A rule follower. Approaching one of those zero years myself, I still write within the boundaries. You've pretty much shed that one -- if you ever had it -- and I'm enjoying the freedom your words convey. Happy Birthday a little bit late!

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    1. I distinctly remember being real impressed with Richard Brautigan and that was the kind of novel I wanted to write. Or, "to have written."

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    2. Trout Fishing in America. I read that. Can't say I got it, though. I just had a big 0 birthday last month. It's only been just okay so far.

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  13. You ARE a poet, and this is evidence of it.

    Happy Birthday, Murr. I'm right behind ya.

    Pearl

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  14. My own non-zero birthday was Monday, and it started with attending a funeral for a 27-year old. Talk about putting aging into perspective.
    But Happy Birthday and Congratulations on the CSM success!

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  15. Belated birthday wishes for cheers and beers! (And happy coasting.)

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    1. Oddly enough, given the way my numbers are positioned, it's an uphill coast. Slightly.

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  16. I am one zero ahead of you, and climbing. Seven is a nice flat place to sit on top of, and eighty is like a couple of tire swings. OK.

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  17. Have I mentioned that I adore you, Ms Murr?

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  18. You're definitely a writer now. Happy birthday, and many more.

    If you haven't already come across this information, you might be interested in this article on synesthesia - you fall into the category of number form synesthesia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia

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    1. Yes, I also have color synesthesia for my letters. We discovered it when I was about ten and at a rockhound club and they played a scrambled-letter game. My dad and sister and I tried to unscramble them as fast as we could, together, and when we came to "BOIDNAIS" I said "you know, those Apache tears!" From which Daddy and Bobbie got "obsidian," but Dad looked at me and said how did you get that without remembering the word? I told him about the colors. It's weird.

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    2. But cool. Weird but definitely cool :)

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    3. I have a similar synesthetic thing with music. When little green men invade, I'll expect Beethoven...

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  19. My worst birthday was my 21st. Go figure, right? But I was a senior in college, graduating in 7 months with a liberal arts degree and absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life, and official adulthood was a kick in the head from Reality. I cried every time anyone wished me a happy birthday.

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    1. I can imagine that. So they've all been okay since then, I hope?

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  20. "Getting older and wiser is the only smart way to time travel." This is a sentence that presented itself to me a few days ago, and I wrote it down, just in case I needed it later. Seems appropriate here & now --- Happy Birthday Murr --- and thank you for all the fine reading material you have provided us!

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    1. Oh I hope I can keep doing that and you'll still enjoy it. Thanks!

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  21. Birthdays are only a number - and I don't have synesthesia. Fascinated by those who do though. No wonder you and dinahmow have me glued to your every post.
    Love your acceptance and gratitude for the beauties of life.
    Happy belated birthday - and may there be many more happy days to come.

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  22. I know how you feel, Murr. These days every day above ground is a good one and I, too, have no complaints about my "number." It really is the best of times, especially with wonderful writing like yours to enjoy.

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    1. I don't care what the number is, as long as they keep on coming. Right!

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  23. you do birthdays right. every year.

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  24. Happy birthday, Murr. I wish you a long, steady, gleeful coast.

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    1. Holy cow! You do! Didn't you meet your husband that very day?

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  26. As long as those numbers keep returning we, your readers, will be happy. Hugs for your birthday, whenever it was.

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  27. Congrats on your BD and your published piece. I just hope yodo not write about poop for the CSM..... though that might actually be a good thing.........

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    1. I had to take the bits about poop out. They're more respectable than religious, really, but the same delicacy applies.

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  28. The photo at the bottom intrigues me, I really like that door rack for the coke cans, is the fridge designed specifically to hold that rack? Is the rack an inbuilt feature?
    Happy Birthday, it's great to hear that all your days are stellar, so there's no need for extra celebration.

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    1. It's built in. That's a somewhat smaller than usual refrigerator. It's just for beer.

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  29. That's true, the more of it you have stacked up behind you, the less important each individual number is. My 60th birthday was like the 600th edition of a newspaper, or the 60th episode of West Wing. I mean, life just goes on, right?

    A shame you didn't have a really really good beer....

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    1. Our House Beer is still pretty good beer.

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  31. Somehow you manage to weave in humor and poignancy equally and that my friend is a sign of a good writer, something that seventeen year old girl should know. I myself had a birthday with a big zero in it recently and celebrated as any good 50 year old should by throwing a huge party for myself with friends, family, alcohol and dancing. I'm not quite coasting yet, but I'm not nearly pedaling as hard.

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    1. Oh I wish I'd been there. I probably haven't gotten up and danced since I was doing the Bump forty years ago, but that's probably retro cool by now, huh? No? Happy birthday, dear Bill!

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  32. Well - as usual - I'm late to the party!

    Happy belated zero birthday, Murr!

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  33. Well belated Happy Birthday! We have birthdays only a few days apart.

    And what is the usual good beer?

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    1. I know a ton of people with birthdays right around now. House beer is Bridgeport IPA or Hop Czar.

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