Saturday, February 11, 2012

New year, new perspectives

I believe that the days right before and after a birthday should contain surreal moments in which we say, "Did that just happen? What the heck was that?" Not in a bad way - not tragedy - just something we didn't expect, have few previous experiences to which we can compare it, and which make us wonder what it means for the coming year. It's life's gift to us, something to give us pause and inspire us to think about life in a slightly different way. Because this year will be different. It always is.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Number 32

Saturday is the sixth anniversary of my 26th birthday. That's about how old I feel. I always thought I would age gracefully, embracing my ever-more mature and wiser state. But even at this young age, I can sense that I'll go kicking and screaming into old age. I examine my scalp for grey hairs, wince at the darkening circles under my eyes, and pretend to ignore the one small smile line on the right side of my face. I still battle acne all the time, and yet my skin seems slightly more creased, a little bit weary, not quite as smooth and fresh as it used to be. And things are starting to sag, just a little. Just enough to remind me that they didn't sag before. In this college town, nubile college girls are everywhere, and I am beginning to envy them. I see them scampering between bars in the cold in their tiny dresses and tall heels, and I think Perky bitches. I squandered my youth so. I used to wear semi-revealing clothing to bars, all the time worrying about maintaining my self-respect. I tried to be older than I was, tried to maintain an adult-like aura of responsibility and decorum, and hoped that others would take me as seriously as I took myself. I should have taken advantage of my youth and tried to get away with as much as I could have as a bright young thing. I don't mean sleeping around or showing off the goods to anyone who would look. I mean that I should have been young and fresh and new. Had fewer cares. Thrown more caution to the wind.

Thirty-two is still young. I still have two-thirds of my life ahead of me (yes, I fully intend to live to be 96, at least). There are many good things about 32, like more stability, more money, less drama, the wisdom to know how to make the best use of my talents. But you can't get away with as much in your 30s. If you are single at 23, you are told to go out and make a life for yourself and don't follow convention and don't settle. At 30, if you have done as you are told and are still single, suddenly you are a sad case. Suddenly, you are the old maid who must have something wrong with you, because otherwise you would have settled down by now. That message gets worse every year after 30 that you are still single, and your prospects dwindle by the day. If I had known at 23 that I would be in this predicament now, I would have settled, just a little bit. I would have worked a little harder to find someone to share my life with. Life is better and fuller now than it was at 25, but it don't mean nothing if you're still floating around in the ether, looking for your match.

Bambi's forest

It's a warmish, sunny day in early February - the first weekend in February is often springlike, and the weather on the following weekend (my birthday weekend) is usually lousy, no matter where I live. So, live in the moment! And what a moment it is. I hung my bird feeder from a nail in the porch overhang and filled it with seeds that supposedly appeal to birds that inhabit the western United States. The dark-eyed juncos were the first to arrive, but they've been bullied about by a male-female pair of house finches that sit in the tray and hog all of the food. So, the juncos sit on the porch and rail just below the feeder and catch what the finches drop. A couple of red-breasted nuthatches visit often, as does a precocious red squirrel that teases Dear Kitty with a crazy dance and a tail flick, then jumps up and knocks the seeds from the feeder, since it can't climb up into the feeder. A male-female pair of northern flickers (probably the same ones who rap-tap-tapped on my house) hang out in the yard and have been hopping through the trees in the back all afternoon. Dear Kitty sits in the window and quietly titters at the birds and the squirrel, defending her territory. The California quail pop and squeak and coo in the bushes nearby.

As if the birds and squirrels weren't enough wildlife around here, the white-tailed deer visit frequently, the foxes prowl the neighborhood, often trotting down the street around dawn, and an owl hoot-hoots in the distance sometimes. Skunks have been seen, and more often smelled (and sometimes squished) along the main road. It feels like I live in Bambi's forest, all of these animals going about their business, trying to stay out of the way of humans but benefitting from our presence. All of these birds would likely find food somewhere, but they're certainly well-fed thanks to my feeder. By the end of the week, it's empty again.