81 — Birthday Cake Bonfire

I cannot hear the gentle rain any more —
it has to come down hard on the roof
for me to hear it well,
but I can see it bouncing on the leaves
of the honeysuckle and the salal.

My world is quiet.

I’m slow — really slow —
and stumble on the forest paths.
There are bruises and scars
inside and out from mishaps —
sometimes I fall.

So far, I always get back up.

I don’t know if “over the hill
is better than under it.”
How could I know that?
But I do know I’m not finished yet.
I still have work to do.

Joy is in the doing.

Someone asked, would you live forever
if you could? How could I know that?
Eighty isn’t even a fraction of forever.
I’m still learning new things, and
I shall know when it’s time to go

dancing Home.

© 2018 by Jessica Macbeth 2018

Signs, Storm Winds, Omens, & Birthdays

16 October 1987
On that night, twenty-nine years ago, there was a storm where I lived on a hill outside of Bath in England. It was a terrible, unpredicted storm — the worst at that time of year in 300 years — and the screaming wind woke me just after midnight. When I got up to look out of my small window at the thrashing trees, the window frame was yanked from my hand and slammed it against the stone wall. Luckily, the leaded glass was old and strong and wise to the ways of the wind. It didn’t break.

I looked at a clock: 12:01 AM. It was my 50th birthday. Poking my head out to feel the wind, I calmly said aloud, without the thought going through my brain first, “The winds of change are blowing tonight.”

It was a bit of a struggle to close the window, but then I slept soundly until sunrise, which doesn’t come early in mid-October. Upon awakening, I remembered the storm and looked out again. The autumn leaves were all stripped away, piled in drifts against old walls, and tree debris was everywhere. And I remembered — the winds of change had blown. Everything felt different, as it does after an ordinary storm, but even more so. The air had the sparkle of autumn, clear and bright, scoured clean by untimely wild wintry winds.

And yes, that was a year of great change for me. I moved — not far, just to a cottage nearby. I raised a small standing stone, planted many flowers, covered a lot of the roof with old-fashioned pink climbing roses, found a wild spring under my kitchen floor and persuaded it to move just outside, dug a place for it to make a tiny pond with water lilies, acquired a crafty cat (Samantha, the wisest healer I’ve every known), fell in love unwisely, and went home to Scotland on a holiday accompanied by the cat. (I was born in Oklahoma, grew up there and in Kansas and mostly in California, lived in Norway, moved to Scotland, went back to California, then moved to England where all of this took place — but Home was always Scotland.) It was a busy and life-changing year.

15 October 2016
A lot of things have happened in the twenty-nine years since that storm, and now I’m living in the forest near Port Townsend, Washington. It’s my birthday evening again, and a great storm is predicted. The wind is rising.

16 October 2016
Just as I wrote the above, the electricity went off. Very dramatic. It was 10:01 PM. The most sensible thing seemed to be to sleep, so I did — until the lights came back on — we’d only caught the northern edge of the storm. All of the cats jumped up on the bed, and Gabby Su firmly said, “The lights are on. Isn’t it time for breakfast? Aren’t you going to feed us naooow?”

They know perfectly well that breakfast is at nine, and the clocks in their stomachs are quite accurate. They were probably just hoping to catch me sleepy and off-guard and trick me out of an extra meal. I looked at the clock — 12:20 AM — and said to the cats, “It’s my birthday, you know.” I laid back down, intending to sleep, but I was restless.

So I went outside to look up and around. The wind had died, and I could see the stars in the clearing sky between the quiet trees. I wondered if there would be 79 stars if I counted, but really that was silly — of course there would be 79 — and more! My years are nothing compared to the stars in the sky. But as I stared up at the stars, I heard a quiet voice saying, “The storm is over. The light is back.”