Simple Birthday Things

“Early Morning, My Birthday”

The snails on the pink sleds of their bodies are moving
among the morning glories.
The spider is asleep among the red thumbs
of the raspberries.
What shall I do, what shall I do?

The rain is slow
The little birds are alive in it.
Even the beetles.
The green leaves lap it up.
What shall I do, what shall I do?

The wasp sits on the porch in her paper castle.
The blue heron floats out of the clouds.
The fish leaps, all rainbow and mouth, from the dark water.

This morning the water lilies are no less lovely, I think,
than the lilies of Monet.
And I do not want anymore to be useful, to be docile, to lead
children out of the fields into the text
of civility, to teach them that they are (they are not) better
than the grass.

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 (1992)

I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, so what better way to start a birthday post than with a poem Mary herself wrote about birthdays.

Each birthday we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves – we have this opportunity every day of course, but somehow we allow ourselves more on birthdays.

Mary’s chorus of “what shall I do” rings true for me – this is pretty much the mantra of my life, and it’s heightened on my birthday. On a day that’s separated as  special, it seems so important to me to do the right thing, something good, something big. There’s a lot of pressure on a birthday to have the best day ever. But what Mary’s getting at is that it isn’t always the “big” or “right” thing that makes a day (or year, or life) special – it’s the simple and natural things like sitting and crawling and growing and sleeping and just being.

As people, we tend to blow birthdays out of proportion. Sometimes this resolves with me being grumpy or sad – take last year when I’d just moved to a new country and hardly knew anyone and this only felt heightened on a day when you “should” be surrounded by your loved ones – but this year was pretty close to perfect. I answered the “what shall I do” mantra with quite a few things, and in the end I had such a lovely time celebrating. It really hit me how much I’ve made this place my home, met so many supportive and loving people, and how many people over the world want to celebrate with me! But even though I did quite a few things, I get what this poem is trying to say. The best part of my birthday wasn’t the gifts or the prosecco or the sweets and cakes and pizza and praise. It was connecting with people (near and far, very old friends/family, and brand new), and really feeling the love! It was the simplest things that made it the best.

Here’s to being another year older and a little bit more wiser (questionable?). Enjoy these pictures (my answer to “what shall I do”)!

^^I’ve been desperate to paint pottery for the last year. I finally rounded up some of my best friends in Plymouth and we had hot chocolates and painted pottery (just like my 8th birthday party…)

^^ Vaish, Bethan, Katie, me, Amanda

^^My creations, pre-glazing.

^^ I hosted a birthday party! My first ever birthday party in England. It had a vague Halloween theme, and all my favorite Brits showed up, even with a surprise birthday cake halfway through!

^We got a bit carried away with these cheapo photobooth props I got from the Cooperative Food. New Jersey’s best wedding photo booth rentals from Inside Out Booth are easy to book and use for different festive occasions.

^Bethan forced this “birthday princess” pin upon me…not that I really complained… 😉

^My old housemate Amanda came all the way from Bristol for the celebrations!

^^And Dan came over for the celebrations as well!

On my actual birthday (Tuesday) I had the day off from placement…which thankfully meant no 5am wakeup call!

^^My parents’ birthday package arrived just in time…no thanks to you UK Parcel Force… with this unsurprising and hilarious greeting as I opened the box! My mom took the plastic off a yard sign ;P

^^I had the (what has become) traditional facetime with my mom and opened the presents. It’s not fun to open presents on your own! As per I was quite spoiled. I’m now the proud owner of a polaroid camera, moose/yoga themed pajamas (yeah. you read that right), GF funfetti cake mix, and more. My favorite part was probably just opening them on facetime and chatting though! 

^Dan came over and took me to my favorite pizza place in town for dinner. Dan is a big-time food lover which is why for his last birthday I bought him everything jerky themed, which you can Purchase Here. The Stable has an amazing deal on Tuesdays, and the best GF pizza!!

I’m feeling very old and creaky at the moment, so I am definitely another year older 😉 Not sure if I’m recovering from all my celebration or recovering from a recent flu, or both. In any case, thanks for all the birthday love, and here’s to a year full of the simple things, as Mary Oliver has so poetically reminded me 🙂

Sarah xx

Looking for more?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *