Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Birthday Wishes and Wheezes

Sunrise over Mount Sinai, Egypt (June 2005)

I officially turn 31 today. I'm at home nursing a chest infection (which has plagued me since Tokyo) and a resulting bout of athsma. Probably accounts for my rather introspective mood right now. Though I'm not at my physical best today, I do feel rather hopeful and content.

To those of you who have been sending me lovely birthday messages, my utmost thanks. It's made being cooped up at home in 30 degree heat on my hatch day more bearable.

In between the well-wishes I get a piece of sad news about an old friend that shakes me to the core. It makes me think of the ephemera of our daily lives. All I want to do is give my friend a huge hug and say this: I'm with you on your next journey. Count me in.

I've also this morning finished reading Carol Shield's The Stone Diaries which I bought two weeks ago. I can't praise it enough; the only down side of the book is that it kept making me want to stop reading and jot down the wonderful lines. To me, this book (unlike the wildly overrated The Sea) does offer true glimpses into a woman's soul, sometimes humorous, sometimes profound, but always truthful.

My favourite passage in the book captures exactly why I am compelled to write, and why I have always felt compelled to write. It asks the question, is there really such a thing as one narrative of your life? Or is it more a series of vignettes and perceptions (your own, your family's, your friends, and even those of little known acquaintences) that make up the blurred mosaic that is your own life story? An impressionist painting viewed from different angles perhaps?

Excerpt from The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields:

And the question arises: what is the story of a life? A chronicle of fact or a skillfully wrought impression? The bringing together of what she fears? Or the adding up of what has been off-handedly revealed, those tiny allotted increments of knowledge? She needs a quiet space in which to think about this immensity. And she needs someone - anyone - to listen.

So, I revel in the knowledge that even the quiet splendour of the sunrise experienced from the top of Mount Sinai forms one thread in the fabric of my life. A fleeting moment captured in my imagination, to re-surface and give cheer and direction when least expected.

I remember an E.M. Forster quote that inspired me years ago:

What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?

And so on this the first day of my 31st year, wheezing and all, I make a little promise to myself to not let moments of beauty and meaning pass me by. Taking my cue from the Japanese sensibilities that I fell in love with, I will try to infuse my life and imaginations with the rhythms and cadences of beauty and balance that exist around me. This is my own life story after all, and I can write it for myself.


uncle dick said...

My Goodness, 31 years have really gone by. How time flies in the wink of an eye!


dad & mom

christine said...

Happy Birthday Dora! Wish I was there for the party - but all my love, my wishes, my bad puns and flights of fancy are with you on your first steps into the dark side. Heheh.

Life only ever gets better. It's true.

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel