Forty-Four. It's not a big deal Birthday. And yet a bunch of people I love made a big deal of it. Friends joined me an outdoor adventure to Windy Hill. Flowers came to my door. My family gathered around my dining room table--a simple thing--but the choreography that my husband had to perform to make it happen was formidable. There were cupcakes with candles (I blew them all out and did not pass on making my wish). A scarf that matches three tops I already have. Chocolates from Connecticut (not only yummy, but adored and Instagramed by Dani Shapiro, a favorite author who happens to live near my father). A cookbook whose cover is so flowered and cheerful, I may just use it as table art. A book of poetry called Salt.
And then there were all of those Facebook Happy Birthdays. I admit, up until this year's Birthday, I have been a bit of a Facebook Birthday snob. How much could a HBD message from someone you haven't seen in years really mean? More than I have allowed myself to imagine, I think. First, it was a barrage of delight to hear from so many people. Something like the perfect blow on the bubble wand--all those tiny, reflective, sentiments fluttering in my direction, so many of them! What a happy surprise.
It was the number of them that reminded me of my friend Brett, and his bike accident, and how many people offered help on Facebook. The Happy Birthday wishes are a small thing, but the help that can emerge, that does emerge in times of trouble, is a new kind of safety net that none of us had before our networks came alive online. I am grateful to have heard from so many people, and grateful to be connected to such a thoughtful, accomplished, compassionate group.
Here's a poem I read for the first time yesterday. Thank you for everything.
Questions About Angels
by Billy Collins
Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.
No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.
Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?
What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?
If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?
If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?
No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.
It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is just one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.
She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.