Sunday, June 20, 2010

the big FOUR NINE

It’s been a pleasant, informal birthday weekend – the big FOUR NINE. Egads, who’d ever thought that I, or anyone else on this war-torn and toxic endangered planet, would live this long?!! It’s the last year of my life, really, because what is there after this?! Decidedly too old to be considered good for much of anything, but too young still to be eligible for any significant discounts or special care. The next 15 years are some kind of nether-region, spoken of only in hushed tones … the official “mid life,” the twilight of years, the slow steady march towards OLD AGE and, inevitably, DEATH.

With that in mind I drank copiously from the sangria bowl Friday night, my right by birth and by the fact of my contributing the wine for it. I genuinely wished all my fellow party-goers, as they arrived, a “Happy Birthday” which confused them on many levels: firstly because it wasn’t a party I had called or organized, this wasn’t my house and these weren’t my guests (and I didn’t know them well), secondly because it wasn’t a birthday party at all but rather a slide show from the host’s recent pilgrimage along the Santiago trail in Northern Spain. My friend’s guests graciously indulged me with a boisterous “Happy Birthday” in return, and even a song, and they were, I’m sure, pleased that I didn’t attempt to narcissistically draw attention away from the slideshow presentation (though I had reminded them of my “special” day often enough).

Saturday I felt the gratitude of having living parents – for both the fact that they’re still alive, and selfishly so I could revel in the youth of my comparative years. We dined veganishly at the Lotus Pond with two friends also managing their own birthday crises, and then I sat on the lawn with my elder parents at the Beacon Hill bandshell watching talented dancers from various ethnic traditions, much younger than any of us, doing things we’d never now accomplish.

Some things transcend time and ethnicity, like “people watching,” which we did as we later sipped tea on the balcony of the Cook Village Moka House. And then my mom recognized a woman they knew years ago when they were still ball-room dancing, and sprinted like a young gazelle down the street to catch up with her.

I thought about what really matters in this world – like family, and friends, and the memories we create and share. I thought about how fortunate I am to be able to sit, in relative safety, at an outdoor café on a pleasantly warm summer afternoon, without the worry of armed militia interrupting my day, or massive oil sludge yet tarnishing our shores (though realizing it’s only a matter of time until perhaps both those scenarios play out in my own backyard).

Sunday I attended Quaker meeting and sat quietly meditating, and reading Lee Hall’s new book On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal-Rights Philosophy Down to Earth in preparation for our radio chat Thursday. I admire and respect Lee’s ability to write clearly, and with simple sensibility. The non-human creatures of this planet deserve the right to live and thrive On Their Own Terms – not as human commodities, or even dependents. How can we evolve society to realize and reflect this? And of course Lee’s premise that being vegan is a fine starting place to think, theorize, and act, if we truly believe that no species ought to hold dominion over another.

I chatted with a few Quakers after the (relatively) silent hour ended – one who had written a page and a half longhand to Stephen Harper’s office denouncing the Israeli attack on peaceful civilians. Another who remembered feeling the discomfort of racism in Israel when he travelled alongside his black skinned wife there in the 70s. I spoke with Pedro, who organizes weekly Pasifika television shows that air on Shaw cable, and Pashta whose focus is to help the dying and their families find peace and solace. I was tempted to stay for the “Soup and Stories” hour but, uncertain of what the “food” comprised and having not brought anything to share, I returned to my little apartment space and wrote these words instead.

Happy Birthday to you, whenever and wherever you are. I hope your special day is peaceful too.