Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Putting Hope on With Our Shoes

I woke up today, my birthday, with a keen sense of delight. My husband was next to me in our big brass bed, the world outside was bathed in warm late autumn sun, and gold leaves from the silver maples on Maxine Street swirled around like gold leaf (ah!) in the air and on the street. Most of my birthdays for the past 58 years have been brown, gloomy and rainy. This was a rare pleasure.

It is easy to despair -- lord knows there is ample reason. The dark side of life certainly threatens and looms, sometimes taking over everything.

But today I am happy.

With only two more years to go until my seventh decade, the simplest way to describe my mood on the morning of my 58th birthday is to say "phew, I've made it. I'm still alive." And then my husband nuzzled me and gave me a kiss. Who can stay glum in the face of a morning kiss? This is more than just surviving. This is the 99.9th percentile of contentment.

I rolled over and turned on NPR, another of my daily rituals. The first thing I heard was a commentary by "Speaking of Faith" host Krista Tippett. Its tagline was "Deep gladness meets deep need," and here is some of what she said:

"Our emerging national conversation about sustainability has a decidedly "eat your spinach" tone. We're steeling ourselves to enter the realm of sacrifice and penance. But as I've explored ethics and meaning in American life these past few years, I've been struck by the heightened sense of delight and beauty in lives and communities pursuing a new alignment with the natural world.

Innovation and sustainability often begins, I've found, with people defining what they cherish as much as diagnosing what is wrong. I think of Majora Carter. The cutting-edge program she founded, Sustainable South Bronx, began when she and that people of that borough began to reclaim their riverfront for refreshment and play.

I think also of the author Barbara Kingsolver, who found in a year of sustainable eating that when it comes to food, the ethical choice is also the pleasurable choice. And she says that as we face the grand ecological crisis of our time, one of our most important renewable resources is hope. We simply have to put it on with our shoes every morning."

I loved that this was the first thing I heard on the morning of my birthday.

With the temperature in the mild fifties, I set out to walk to work. On the way, I stopped to talk to Ray and Nancy Sinclair, who are building a beautiful entryway on a house between Calumet and Court. I enjoy watching Ray's progress -- it is a pleasure to see the work of any master craftsman, and he and I have known each other, superficially but fondly, for 20 years. And on the bridge between Chavez and the UMF campus, I ran into Nic Custer, one of the talented offspring of the Custer family of East Village Magazine, and again it was enjoyable to stop and chat before moving on to work. My 26-year history with this town, the warmth of long association with good people, was deeply satisfying to me today. And, of course, it's simply wonderful to stop and chat.

As I consider my life over the past year, enjoying the beauties of the harbor at San Pedro, and cherishing the loveliness of my neighborhood here in Flint, my rich life with my students, my marriage to Ted, I am deeply grateful. And I pledge to put on hope with my shoes every morning.


Anonymous said...

Belated best wishes to the Maxine Street Birthday Girl! And though I'm a year closer to that seventh decade you refer to, I'm not bitter.

greg rappleye said...


Happy (belated) Birthday!