Birthday Plans Gone Awry

IMG_1561Today is my 60th birthday! Mike and I have been planning my birthday week for a couple of months. On Monday, I would treat myself to a haircut and a massage. On Tuesday, we’d have dinner with family. On the big day, we would drive to St. Louis where we had hotel and dinner reservations at the Chase Park Plaza and tickets to see Hamilton at The Fox Theatre. The next day would be our annual springtime visit to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, The Butterfly House, and the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. And there would be cake! And champagne!

Instead of enjoying these wonderful plans, I’m spending my birthday in the hospital where I’ve been since Sunday with an acute viral intestinal infection. I’ve been on a clear liquid diet of water and orange jello. (I am finally feeling a bit better and well enough to gather a few thoughts for this post today, although it’s later than usual.)

We know what they say about best laid plans. In his 1785 poem To a Mouse, Robert Burns wrote something like, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy!” (Burns actually uses fancier Old English words but thou get’st thy drift.) The theme of the poem is the unpredictability of life.

Burns empathizes with a wee mouse and we little humans as well. He knows it’s in our nature to constantly make plans, but he believes we must understand many of our schemes and dreams won’t pan out. Burns’ advice is to face life’s unpredictability with wisdom and compassion.

So as I sit in the hospital feeling sorry for myself, I’m also trying to be aware of the compassion extended to me during my 60th birthday trip to Good Samaritan Hospital. I look around and see evidence of friends and family who love me, nurses and doctors who are caring for me, a sweet bouquet of flowers Mike brought me.

About 200 years after Burns wrote his poem, John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy included this line, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Long before those wise words were penned, Proverbs 16:9 said, “A man’s heart plans his way: but the Lord directs his steps.”

I may be 60 now, but spending it in a hospital is a reminder (and maybe even a gift) that I still have a lot to learn. And re-learn. Over and over. Right now, I’m doing the most human thing possible ~ making plans to do everything on my birthday list as soon as I feel better. §

The Elegance of the Winter Solstice

Growing weary of the dark days? Take heart. The Winter Solstice arrives this week and, for good measure, will coincide with the glow of a waning full moon. Nature remembers what we sometimes forget. Darkness is always ousted by the elegance of light.

This return to light isn’t just a positive affirmation, wishful thinking, or snappy ad campaign. It’s indisputable, mind-blowing scientific fact. In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of 2021 comes on December 21. That’s when the sun will be at its lowest point in the sky.

Solstice, in Latin, means to stand still. At the Winter Solstice, the sun reaches the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn. The southward movement of the sun seems to stop before it reverses direction and begins its path northward bringing longer, lighter days.

The Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of our astronomical winter. (As opposed to the meteorological winter which began December 1.) Some may bemoan the upcoming season, but we can choose to find elegance in the quiet beauty of winter knowing that spring is on its way.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this year the Full Cold Moon reached its peak last night on December 18, just before the Winter Solstice. Also known as the Long Night Moon, this will be the last full moon before the end of the year. A full moon is six times brighter than a half moon, making it the brightest object in the night sky, and far brighter than the brightest planet, Venus.

I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use that extra dose of promising light about right now. Are the world’s troubles troubling you? Perhaps a loved one is going through a difficult time. Maybe you are experiencing a dark time in your own life. The Winter Solstice can signify a turning point, a time to release the darkness in favor of the light and positive energy.

Nature is urging us to see the light and be the light. So put another log on the fire, light the candles, and string up those holiday lights. Bask in the promise of the stars shining in the night sky and the one atop your tree. Fill yourself with warm, twinkly light so you can go out and shine in all your elegant glory. In the words of John Lennon, “Yeah, we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.”§