Today I Will Tell You A Secret

Originally written a decade ago for my friend S in honor of her 35th birthday, then repurposed over the years (rather shamelessly) for other special friends on their special bird days. Posting here to put an end to that tradition 🙂

Today I will tell you a secret. 

Today I will tell you a secret. Because you are now old enough to keep it and young enough for it to still matter:

There is a flaw in human measurement of time. 

It happened that someone with a sense of humor and a love for the arbitrary told us a very long time ago to count our circumambulations around the sun. This was nothing more than an inventive and mildly entertaining way to determine how many candles to put on your birthday cake. It is suspected, but hasn’t been conclusively proved, that this same someone was the personage who recommended humanity count sheep jumping over a fence if it couldn’t fall asleep. The point was never the number of sheep. The point was to give one something soft, bleating and cloud-like to think about. Leading one to drift gentle as driftwood into sleep. With the circumambulations the number was always immaterial. The point was to thrill you with the poetry of doing laps around a ball of fire. The point was also the candles – or more precisely — the fact that you blow them out.

They say the Greeks lit candles on cakes to make them shine like the moon. Sometimes they took these cakes over to Artemis’ temple. Imitation has always been the sincerest form of flattery. And I never met a Greek goddess who disapproved of flattery. Some people believed the smoke from the candles wafted one’s wishes clear to heaven. This belief gained popularity over the centuries. Mainly because humanity likes to wish on curious things. Falling stars, eyelashes and birthday candles. The wish-making bit was a clever distraction, but honestly we ought to have picked up on this a little sooner. The anniversarial blowing out of candles on a cake is not a particularly well-disguised metaphor. Light and darkness, life and death, presence and absence. Brief pillars of flickering light. We are here and then we are not. In the interim — let us eat cake (preferably chocolate) together. Let us be surrounded by love. Let us celebrate one another in bare feet. Knowing that nothing stays exactly as it is. Nobody stays exactly who they are. And forever is always and only in this moment.

The ritual of birthdays is peculiar and poignant. 

There is something beautiful about the way a lit candle melts. There is something beautiful about the way a lived life dissolves its own shape. And as for the laps you’ve completed around the fiery center of our solar system — hold that number in the palm of your hand and blow it into the wind like dandelion fluff. For all it means, you might just as well count the number of letters in your name multiply by pi and divide by the square root of summer. Because the truth is no one really knows how long you have been here. Or if you ever really were not.

All I truly know is —

I Am So Glad

You. Are. 

With love,

Pavi (Believer in Bare Feet, Chocolate Cake and Wishing-on-Eyelashes)

3 responses to “Today I Will Tell You A Secret

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: