No matter how much we would like to think that “it’s just another day” our birthdays are benchmarks, and after a certain age they are less a cause for celebration than a grim accounting of another year past, a year closer to the inevitable. As a woman I know that looming on the not distant horizon is the frightening specter of menopause when my sex will dry up (literally and figuratively), I will be wracked by hot flashes, my bones will become brittle and will probably become fatter. Yippee.

I am full of conflict today. I know I should call my mother but I am just as sure that speaking with her will not help to make this day a happy one. Just give her an opportunity to hurt me some more. Make me feel worse than I already do. You know, the reverse of the Mary Tyler Moore song verse that says: “who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile” with her it’s “you can take a pretty good day and suddenly make you feel like you are worth less than nothing and a failure in every way…” That’s mothers, or rather, that is my mother. Not all of the time but enough of the time. I will never have a child so the shoe will never be on the other foot but this whole mother/daughter relationship thing is a very tangled often toxic mess. They have way too much power! My mother has no interest in using the computer and I’ve disconnected the phone number she had. I had to. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Of course I am wracked with guilt…

I’m sorry dear reader, you must feel like you have begun watching a movie after it has already started. Trying to catch up is a longish proposition here.

So I will start this tale of myself and work backwards. Today I am 46 years old and I am living on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I am about 40 miles from the most northwestern point in the United States. The sky is gray this afternoon but overall it is sunnier than you might think. Much of this land is very wild still, you get the feeling that you’re on the fringe, if one were to drift a mile or two in the wrong direction you would be living in Grizzly Adams’ world.

Calm Winter Day

Calm Winter Day

On my left are the snow capped peaks of the Olympic mountains, and to my right the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As the crow flies it is not so far from Seattle but this is misleading. We are a world away from the rest of the state here. We have Elk crossings, eagles and mountain lions. The rainiest place in America (continental US) is here, and then less than 50 miles away is one of the driest. The land beneath me is so volatile geologically that it is literally rising and falling like a great belching fat lady, with flatulence that occasionally explodes like it did the other day with a 4.5 earthquake. Woke up, went to the bathroom went back to sleep, it was 5.25 AM, I know because I remember looking at the clock on the microwave when I went to pee. I honestly felt nothing but a few hours later there were all the emails from the USGS on my computer and requests for reports: “Did you feel anything?” Oddly enough though I am a mere 14 miles from the epicenter I did not consciously feel it, nor did most of my neighbors. More people felt it in Portland Oregon or Vancouver Washington than out here. Not sure why that is but all I’ve learned about earthquakes tells me they are odd strange things.

My Guest

My Guest

I bought a bird feeder for Christmas and hung it from the board fencing so it would be right at eye level from my biggest window. It took nearly a month for the birds to begin to feed from it but once they started it became a routine for them, and each day more and more came, poking at the suet, scattering bits to the ground below where the other birds who prefer to eat there eagerly lapped up the offerings. Then, one afternoon while I watched the titmouse, and the western jay going to town on the suet a shadow fell over them and they fled into the shelter of the nearby shrub. Then, shocking me with it’s sheer size, a FALCON appeared and perched on the top of one the fence boards. He was so large he filled up my entire window, or seemed to. His feathers were a medium brown, his chest a snowy white with brown flecks all through it, but the most striking thing about him was of course his head. The way he held it, imperious, afraid of nothing, his eyes so intelligent and piercing, I felt like he could probably see every pore on my skin. I was so shocked by his (or her visit) I think I held my breath the whole time he sat there, looking into my window.

The Olympic Peninsula is home to a great variety and number of raptors. I was able to identify my visitor as a Peregrine Falcon, a juvenile most likely. Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and many other raptors regularly fill the skies here as either migratory visitors or long term residents. Nothing I can write here can come close to describing a Bald Eagle soaring on an updraft under a crystal blue sky and above a sea sparkling with millions of diamonds on the tips of wavelets below. If you are as lucky as I was one snowy day just after Christmas you will see one of these giant birds swoop down to the water below and grab a fish in his talons and marvel at his timing and skill.

The little birds were scarce for a few days after the appearance of the Falcon, but they are back now, a little skittish but they are back. I watch them, and I watch for the shadow.

Today is my birthday and I lift my eyes to the peaks of mountains and breathe fresh air scented with the sea. Today is my birthday and I get my self out of bed and feel my mind grow just a little more. Today is my birthday and I am grateful to walk and run, to cook a delicious meal and sip some good wine, to hope for more good days to come and adventures not yet dreamed of. Today is my birthday and it is not such a bad day after all.

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