Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Birthday presence

I love birthdays. It's important to have one day, every year, when you unequivocally say YES! I am HERE!

Today is my birthday, so here are 42 birthday presents and moments of presence, in no particular order and one for each year of my life. And yes, it's not lost on me that I am now the answer to life, the universe and everything.
  1. The smell of autumn leaves, life out of decay.
  2. My family in all their crazy, persistent, loving, nagging, wonderful selves.
  3. I am surrounded by love
  4. and the realization that love is not roses and puppies, but that love can be hard, smell like piss and is still infinitely valuable.
  5. The rough hand of the bum as he seeks a moment of comfort and safety.
  6. The warm, smooth sweetness of tea in my mouth, the comfort in my soul as I cradle the cup.
  7. The shock as I took my first few breaths underwater, learning SCUBA. The realization that I wouldn't die, that my mermaid-self remembered.
  8. The gift of listening, of letting go of myself and hearing another human being tell their story.
  9. Touch. The feel of skin on skin, from the simplest touch to the most intimate contact.
  10. The sound of wind in trees in all seasons, whether the whisper of new green buds, the gentle clapping of summer leaves or the chitter of bare branches scraping against each other.
  11. The patience to see the world in many ways.
  12. Salty, crunchy, sweet, savory, smooth, bitter, sour, umame. Rich and plain, chewy and subtle. All of the flavors, tastes and scents that inform my fingers, mouth, tongue and tummy.
  13. Taking the time and thought to write this list.
  14. Walking at a comfortable pace, moving through the world under my own power.
  15. Stones large and small. Those worn to hand shape, great cliffs that tower above, gems that glitter and granite that holds its secrets tight.
  16. And fossils that tell stories of life from impossibly long ago.
  17. Living things. Dragonflies and octopi. Wolves and leopards. Goats and snails. Hawks and hummingbirds.
  18. The gifts of the dead, their stories and memories. Ghosts and artifacts.
  19. Playing with little kids who haven't yet learned to be self-conscious.
  20. The calm distance in my body when I am engulfed in a good book.
  21. Stretching, feeling my muscles and sinews move.
  22. The smell of sauteing onions.
  23. Singing out loud, without caring who hears.
  24. The satisfaction of giving something away.
  25. Laughing so hard I can't stand up or wet myself just a little. Knowing this will happen more often as I age.
  26. The thrill of a crack of the thunder and lightening. Even when it's fearful.
  27. Remembering to be compassionate.
  28. Hope and the opportunity to hope again. The rejection letter, the failure, the missed parking space.
  29. The changing weather. Cloudy days and fine. The cut of cold air, the weight of the summer.
  30. Those sterling moments when I remember who I am, when I am at my best and most whole. Those moments are rarely when I expect them, so they keep me guessing and awake.
  31. Surviving and thriving. Scarlet fever, cancer, childhood, adolescence, adolescents, driving, eating, loving, living.
  32. Sleep, the comfort of waking warm and safe. Waking knowing there is more in front of me.
  33. Sex. The delicious thrill of my own body and the bodies of others. Taste and scent and convulsion and more.
  34. Dreaming, sensical and not. I love knowing my mind is creating even when I'm not really there.
  35. Which leads me to that wonderful, deep sense of presence when I'm creating. Writing, art, telling, anything, when I create something I am here.
  36. Regret. I try to live my life without regret, understanding that I make each choice the best I can in the moment, but those things I regret tell me so much about the world and how I want to move through it, that I can view it as nothing less than a gift.
  37. Kites and wind-up toys and sharp kitchen knives and beautiful glass and evocative art and the right poem in the moment. All of these things make me stop and notice.
  38. The perfect tool for the job, the one that fits in my hand and invites me to use it. This leads back to the act of creation and honest, hard work. Presence in the world.
  39. The smell of metal and bread and rain and grass and snow.
  40. My mother's scrambled egg sandwiches. My father's delight in showing me something new to him.
  41. Deep breaths in fresh air.
  42. Walking through this life, knowing that there is more to come. More work and laughter, more time (or not) and more hope. I think humans are creatures of story and of hope.
Thank you for reading this. I'd love to know if any of these are on your list of presents and presence, I'd love to read your list.

If you're interested in last year's list of things I'm grateful for, it's here.

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer
Creative Commons License


  1. Happy birthday Laura!

    -- Bill

  2. Friends, kites, the smell of bread (baking) are all on my list too!


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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