Thoughts on my birthday

okeeffe-georgiaArtist Georgia O’Keeffe shares a birthday with me, though she preceded me into this world by sixty-one years. This morning’s Writer’s Almanac reports: “On a trip to Taos, New Mexico, O’Keeffe grew to love the desert, which she called ‘the faraway.’ She felt that the thin, dry air enabled her to see farther, and she was awed by the seemingly infinite space that surrounded her.”

Along with the blessings of this year afield among some real Menschen, commuting between home and “tent,” there’s an aridity in the air that holds its own emerging blessing for me, a lengthened perspective on life that comes at what seems just the right time for this post-election regrounding, for the approach of retirement, and for a sober assessment of the number of my days, which I’m perfectly aware is growing smaller. I’ll take some time today to appreciate that longer perspective and what it reveals.

Paradoxically, that longer perspective is also bringing sharper focus to things closer. The far horizon and what lies beyond grow less interesting, slowly replaced in my field of vision by things nearer at hand, within reach. I get what seems my first real sense of what William Blake may have had in mind when, in “Auguries of Innocence,” he wrote,

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

Okay, maybe that’s a little too much for me. But I’m discovering surprising new expanses in the smallest, nearest things and in the most intimate experiences that make this additional year in itself perhaps the best gift grace could send my way on this anniversary of my birth. ▪

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