The general rule when turning a big number birthday is to freak out.


We’ve known Millenials for whom 21 as a “big number”, fretting that they look older, aging….done.

Other traditional “bigs” include 30, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 90, 95, 99, 100.  Every human feels time, as we know from Su Tung Po’s poem, written in the 11th Century:

Pear blossoms pale white, willows deep green —
when willow fluff scatters, falling blossoms will fill the town.
Snowy boughs by the eastern palisade set me pondering —
in a lifetime how many springs do we see?

Pear Blossoms, Qian Xuan, c 1235,

We never felt a sense of bigness until the BIG birthday we just hit. Forty was fun for the long table of friends that gathered and cooked, and the unexpected challenge that arose to eat edible insects…among other things. Fifty was spent in a friend’s cliff-side house on the island of Elba looking out at the Mediterranean and eating pasta with baby purple artichokes…

This year started to feel “big” when palpable life changes started not on our actual birthday but nine months earlier. Personal years don’t necessarily correspond to calendar ones.


Happily, curiously, we feel little angst at the number we have become  (though we have certainly felt it at other non-birthday times in our now-long life).  Rather, we find ourself immersed in amazement and gratitude at having made it this far. (Curious, too, is the little envelope poem of Emily Dickinson’s that JUMPED into our hands…)

In    this    short    life

that   only    lasts   an   hour


How much-   how


within our




We are celebrating in many small ways: meals shared with friends mostly and a gift to ourself of what we have always considered very luxurious: time free of any schedule, to ramble and explore whatever we wish, and feel where we are…
,,,to consider this very personal thing we called Time.  (We want to feel as free as Yasuzo Nojima’s langorous nude, hanging out at top, and Viviane Maier’s man riding a horse in NYC.)

We will take the rest of the week to do just that, and return on Monday, having celebrated BIG.

vivian maier



Song: Tei Shi “Keep Running”

Top poem: Su Tung-p’o (1037-1101) (translated by Burton Watson), in Selected Poems of Su Tung-p’o (Copper Canyon Press 1994).

Second poem: Emily Dickinson from the compact compilation of her envelope poems


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2 replies on “As Life Gets Longer It Gets Shorter. Celebrate!

  1. ‘the BIG one’,..
    i’ve only known of you,
    for ‘one year’!

    it was a great year!
    I,,,we (monika & i),
    are truely happy
    there IS a Sally Schneider!

    Some age like fine wine,
    others like milk…


    p.s.: Pleasant smiles,..thoughts,
    ..and an enjoyible week ‘on’.

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