Friday, August 12, 2016

Growing oak

Today is my birthday.

I want, I need for it to be a really quiet one.

As with many things of late, I notice that it is the "the first without Remi" in many years. That is hard.

And in writing that, I understand all of the sudden why my Sister has been so intent in making sure that I don't just let it slip downstream unnoticed. She is extra thoughtful that way.

So there will be gifts despite my saying that, "You all do enough for me as is" and if the weather permits, maybe we will move the table out to the expansive oak tree under whose reaching arms my Mother and Leonard were married not so long ago.

But it is to another such tree, further down the road that I am thinking just at present. Actually, I have been eyeing it, sometimes surreptitiously, others with open mouthed wonder, since I arrived out at my Sister's farmhouse, where I am now officially living. Another room and bags to unpack, a place-marker where, thankfully, I am warmly invited to feel at home.

This oak is perhaps not the largest in the neighborhood but I love it for its scars. It's a many-headed Hydra. How often has it been struck by lightning and yet kept growing? Where can I trace the outlines of branches that were cut to the trunk only to continue pushing out in an opposite direction? It is just there, at the side of the road. It doesn't have to be the best tree. 

It is just there.

Intuition isn't needed to divine why this means something to me.

Maybe I can keep one tradition of recent years and get to a museum, as I have always liked to do. As if in seeing art, I can call it towards my heart for the year ahead, knowing that I am driven by creativity and love, determined to fuel up on blind faith and winged hope.

And that, is beautiful. My family here will sing to me and not even off-key.
(My family there will most likely be silent, moving forward on their own trajectory. Best then to "choose joy" and "be here now" - these catchphrases coating wisdom - for we can only be responsible for ourselves.)

I am so grateful for this birthday and a merit badge of 47, so young still - or at least as Thich Nhat Hanh might wish, "Happy Keeping Going." The oak trees stand strong on their own and yet are very much a part of their environment, the surrounding nature, just as I have my own, my human nature too. And I am proud to still be here. I have fought and cried and laughed and am held by something universal, thrumming in us all.


Earlier this week I had the good fortune to speak to someone for a few minutes who has been through unspeakable difficulties in life from his earliest days. And he has fallen down many times and I mean fallen beyond what we can know and yet he managed to get back up, through dedicated work, every time. Over and over again. He spoke quietly, there was no survivor's swagger; it was a human exchange. We can be so hard on ourselves - me worst of all - and it just points us in the wrong direction. And it isn't...very humble...because it suggests that we already know the answer and just aren't - for whatever reason - delivering. If we can have the courage to be honest and then act from a place of compassion -  ok, still struggling with that one also as far as towards myself is concerned - it just makes so much more sense. Otherwise, we will just keep having to start over, which gets exhausting but hey, if that is what has to happen, well, then so be it. That too, broken open but done. I think about something really simple that I read in one of Glennon Doyle Melton's articles lately, "Remember. Don't be afraid. Begin again."

We don't have to be the best tree. Let's keep going.

 Happy Birthday because it just might be today.

Thank you for all of your responses on my previous post, one million pageviews isn't the same as a million people but in the strength of your kindness you just might make it so.
With much Love and Gratitude,

*These are just iphone photos (and I know that they are similar to a lot of what I have been posting here of late) but sometimes I think that it is good to have beauty be a simple, everyday occurence that isn't so preciously documented as to make it seem rare...because it isn't. :)

**No art in a museum today but I had my tarot read by a fascinating man on the street and it was such a fulfilling experience that it did the job just as well. So, living art instead.


Lorrie said...

Happy Birthday, Heather. I read the following on a mug in a bookstore yesterday and texted it to my daughter - now I send it to you. "Courage, dear heart. Little by little one walks far."

La Contessa said...

HAPPIEST OF DAYS TO YOU!WHAT A GREAT SHOT of you ..........................
I will be toasting with MY PROSECCO tonight!! CIN CIN................AUGURI!!!
H A P P Y B I R T H D A Y.
Hoping you are DANCING under the OLD OAK TREE!!!!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday, dear and beautiful Heather! Scott and I will be toasting you with ginger lemonade tonight. With admiration and very best wishes, Leslie in Oregon

Cleo from Jersey said...

Dear Heather, Happy Birthday...and believe...what happened is not about you, but what will happen is. Trust that you are bright, accomplished, talented, creative, strong, and believe the best is yet to come. Best wishes on your special day. Angela Muller

Jackie Clark Mancuso said...

You are beautiful,l birthday girl!
A couple of birthdays ago I wasn't in the mood to celebrate. I was asked did I want to go out to dinner? Not really. How about a film? Nope. Then I remembered the Turner expo at the Getty Center. Yes. Art. Got in the car and went to see the Turners on a beautiful spring night. And that turned me around. xox

Cessna said...

Happy Birthday Heather!

Judi of Little House said...

Joyeux Anniversaire to gorgeous, brave YOU!! Your country living looks good on you -and those fantastic legs and million dollar smile sets you right up there, ready for whatever you encounter on this path you are on! You are ready for the world and it's just waiting for you!! Happy Birthday, mom amie! Bisous, Judi

lovsjaz said...

Happy Birthday. You are beautiful. I have loved your blog for a few years and look forward to all of your posts. Everything you write makes so much sense and always leaves me with a renewd serenity. Thank you for being YOU!

simpleimages2 said...

"And that, is beautiful. My family here will sing to me."

Happy Birthday Heather.

Lillian Plummer said...

Such a lovely heartfelt post, the happiest of birthdays dear Heather, enjoy today as you are young and healthy and if you have that you can do anything. My very best wishes to you, love from afar Hong Kong Lillian xx

Our French Oasis said...

I am running out the door (another tennis tournament) I will read your fabulous looking post this afternoon, but I wanted to say a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Xxx

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Heather....upward and onward....the best years are just around the corner. Your almost
there. That is a mighty fine photo of you Dear Lady.

Ali x

francetaste said...

I love the tree and what you see in it.
Happy birthday! The next one will be better. Like the oak tree you will branch out and flourish.
Your photos amaze me. I can't believe they were taken with a phone. It shows that it's the eye, not the equipment, that counts.

Silke B said...


I must say you look SO beautiful there is clearly something good going on with you! Even if it does not feel like it yet. You keep going on that path and you will feel as beautiful as you look!

Beautiful post, beautiful photos and such wise words. Me too I realize from my own experience that being hard to oneself is not at all heroic but pathetic. And as you say not at all humble. It is hard to admit it since we intent to be more than simple in being so hard to ourselves.

Thank you for allowing us that peek of you! You don't do that too often. And thank you for growing and becoming wiser with you!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Happy Birthday dear Heather! May you feel love, peace and joy surrounding and flowing through you.

Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

angiemanzi said...

Happy Birthday Heather, keep breathing.

david terry said...

Well, Heather.....aren't we (having both been with a Frenchman for over ten years) having similar years? Perhaps I should emphasize that the preceding comment was a purely rhetorical question. I already know the answer.

Friends threw a surprisingly lavish birthday party for me on 11 June (my birthday). I found it difficult that evening to concentrate on/respond appropriately to their trying to make me happy (and they are all lovely, kind people)......when, every ten minutes or so, I'd find myself once gain thinking "Why isn't Herve even here? He SHOULD love this.....why the f**k does he just throw it all away???" (and, then, my first, quite sincere thought is always "Thank God we didn't have/adopt children").

So, I understand your difficulty/pain/trouble/whatever. I never know quite what to call "it" in regard to my own situation; I despise self-referential melodrama on anyone's part, and I regularly remind myself that, should I find myself dwelling on the past, I can pick up the telephone and be put immediately to use by tutoring Hispanic immigrant kids in my own county, running meals-on-wheels, working at the rescue-center, etcetera. There are any number of ways (but you have to WANT them) to find yourself useful to and loved/appreciated by folks. I know that....still?'s difficult, at times, to keep that fact in front of you/me/anyone.

Odd perhaps......but I read your post and immediately thought of my favorite passage from Isak Dineson (and, yes, I assume that you, like me, wonder if you'll ever go again to Provence. Even when/if I do, I'll never be able to do so on the easy, familiar,perhaps "taking it for granted" way that I've previously known it for years.)

"If I know a song of Africa--I thought--of the giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a color I had had on, or the children invent a game in which my name was, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or would the eagles of the Ngong look out for me?"

I expect you'll respond (so to speak) to that passage, Heather. you are (as all of your readers have attested many times) an artist.

For your birthday?'s my present to you (you still haven't sent me your current mailing address, or you'd have gotten the care-package I have readied for you). It's a quotation from Muriel Spark's "Loitering With Intent":

"Lucky as I am, I came to understand that, for the artist, nothing is ever truly lost, and time is always redeemed"

I hope that you'll embrace that thought, Heather.

A Happy Birthday to you.....and do come visit here. As you'll know, it's a very lovely 220 year old house in a bigass garden, in a small, 18th century town filled with writers. I'll buy your plane ticket, for that matter. Just let me know when. you can meet my dogs (in addition to the foxes who've taken up residence in the old chicken-house, the deer who've recently destroyed the hosta beds, and the possum that I had to kick out of the kitchen a few mornings's all very lively hereabouts).

Happy Birthday, and many fond wishes to you and your family (they sound like lovely folks).


David Terry

quintessence said...

Dear Heather - I wish you the happiest of birthdays in perhaps the most difficult of recent years. Like your tall tree, I know you will continue to grow, reach toward the sky with a few scars and lost bark, but all the more beautiful and strong. Bisous XO Stacey

Judith Ross said...

Hi Heather, I'm not going to attempt something wise and thoughtful here because David and your other commenters have already taken care of that. But, I can't resist: those legs! and that gorgeous skin! Clearly you are beautiful both inside and out and in the best, most meaningful ways.

Jan said...

Very best wishes for your birthday. I can imagine how "other" it feels just now; but it's the start of a new year for you, a chance to go on healing and follow your heart. You have a lot of people here who are rooting for you. And if you feel you'd like to go back to Provence at any time, there are lots of people here who'd make that journey easy for you/bear you company. Just a thought.

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Happy Birthday from this corner of the world as well. May your year ahead be filled with new opportunities, much wonder and a healing and happier heart!

Daniel Storto said...

I don't know how I got here. I really don't. I'm glad I did. You are a gift. Thank you. Buon Compleanno Cara Heather. Company. Ricki Lee Jones.

Silke B said...

...what I meant was of course, thank you for inviting us all to become wiser with you together. My English certainly has its limits here.

Julie Bresette said...

Happy birthday!! I am so glad I found this blog!!

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Happy Birthday Heather!
Wishing you a year of comfort, clarity and wisdom as you move graciously on this healing step at a time and we are walking with you in love and support.

donna baker said...

Best of days Heather. You've probably read this before, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." That is a gorgeous oak tree.

Stephen Andrew said...

I'm a day late here but happy birthday! I love a birthday or New Years tarot reading. I'm loving these photographs that reveal your bonding with the beauty we have here in the "Midwest". I love a tree that has lived to tell tales.

Mary said...

This is so moving and so well-written that I couldn't take it all in so I'll return to it many times, I'm sure. I hope that makes sense and feels like the huge compliment I meant it to be. What a year, and your grace and strength are humbling--you are thriving and moving forward in so many ways.
Heather, Happy Birthday! We will toast to your birthday tonight from France with un bon rouge xo PS You look beautiful:)

Mumbai said...

Happy birthday and the best for your future, dear Heather

D A Wolf said...

Wishing you a very, very happy and deliciously quiet birthday. What a lovely spirit shines through you.


helen tilston said...

Hello Heather,

So lovely to see your post today. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday and may this year bring you only goodness. You are beautiful, youthful, stylish, intelligent and wise. What a valuable package you are.
I just know in my heart that his year will be one of your best ever.
Helen xx

RebeccaNYC said...

Wishing you the best of birthdays! As you go through this year of "first____without Remi" remember that this too shall pass...a year passes so quickly. May this year of re-invention be one of discovery and joy...and hope for the future. You are remarkable, talented and lovely. Sending you so much love!

(and don't apologize for the iPhone photos! Steve says he has so much more fun using his phone for photos than he ever did his huge professional camera. And it is so much easier to carry around! Your photos are always's not really about the camera, as you know. It's about the eye. And you've got a good one!) xoxo

Laura said...

Best birthday wishes for you, dear Heather! You are clearly in a positive state of being. Everyday, as you know, is a process, and you seem to be "processing" the present very well.
Sounds like you have a wonderful family to celebrate with, and the oak tree looks like a perfect summer spot!
Thinking of you and sending you love and joy on your special day!

Laura said...

Best birthday wishes for you, dear Heather! You are clearly in a positive state of being. Everyday, as you know, is a process, and you seem to be "processing" the present very well.
Sounds like you have a wonderful family to celebrate with, and the oak tree looks like a perfect summer spot!
Thinking of you and sending you love and joy on your special day!

Maria Anagnostopoulou said...

You look so beautiful under the tree! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, the life goes on circles up and down up and down, enjoy the up always!

Bernadette MacGregor said...

Looking good Heather.... Love the shoes!
Happy Birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear Heather
Happy Birthday to you.
Yes that was in tune.....
I often go to the Vancouver Art Gallery on my birthday, but this year I went for lunch
with a friend, followed by a hike.
When I got home I had six messages phone messages all singing happy birthday.
They were great fun to listen to. I listened to all of them twice, except the one that was so
Painfully out of tune, i deleted it half way through. Not everyone can carry a tune. Bless their generous hearts. it made me laugh that much harder.
And many more...... Bernadette

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Heather, you are young by any standards. Life will be good again. I know, because I've suffered so so much, through many different trails. We, as humans, cannot help but HOPE. This is our savior. Just get back out there as soon as you can. A wonderful life awaits you because you're SUCH a wonderful person, filled with amazing talent. It's your time now.

Lorraine Oh said...

Happy birthday, Heather! This will be a wonderful year for you.

Naperville Now said...

happy birthday, my friend. you wrote "As if in seeing art, I can call it towards my heart for the year ahead, knowing that I am driven by creativity and love, determined to fuel up on blind faith and winged hope." I feel that way when I read your posts. Thank you for your gifts.

Loree said...

Happy birthday Heather. Hope the year ahead is full of beautiful promises.

david terry said...

What a lovely response, Bernadette,,,,,,

Thank you,

David Terry

Gina said...

Happy Birthday dear Heather. The Best is yet to come.

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

Belated Happy Birthday. Your photo shows so much strength, warmth and joy in your face which belies your current situation, but for me, it is how I always picture you. Every day gives us an opportunity to start afresh. The wind may skew the truck of an oak, but the tree always manages to keep its eye focused on the sky for which it reaches. You are an oak Heather. Bisous.