Poem for a Sunday Morning

from “Vacillation”
{W.B. Yeats}

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

On Monday, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. Months ago, well before the advent and repercussions of Covid-19, I decided that there were two ways I wanted to mark the occasion. The first, a long and challenging hike and the second, the recitation of this brief poem for a gathering of close friends and family.

The long and challenging hike is for the expression of my physical well-being, to feel and rightly use the body that has faithfully brought me this far and, with good care, will keep me moving and reaching for years to come. I enter my sixth decade with a deep commitment to being outside, to the exploration of trails and mountains and forests and valleys. I am drawn to these places because of their elemental beauty, of course, but even more so because of their gifts of perspective and humility, something I seem increasingly open to receiving!

The recitation of this poem is an opening through which to express my emotional well-being, that reservoir of love and service that has been poured out in my favor by the people who have refused to allow my failings to interrupt the flow. I know what the poet felt because I feel it too; the blaze of gratitude, the shock of unearned grace, the deep happiness of being wholly loved.

I also hear the call to action (“…and could bless”) as an affirmation of the responsibility of a mature person to be of service. While my personal planting will continue – learning, growing, expanding and connecting – it is companioned I now see by an even more robust season of harvest and distribution. Learning becomes teaching. Growing becomes the provision of shade. Expansion becomes an invitation to share abundance. Connection becomes the catalyst for capacity, because there is no such thing as a finite amount of love.

With rain in the forecast the next few days, I took advantage of the favorable spring weather and enjoyed that long, challenging hike first thing this morning. Once at the top of Mt. Woodson, across a broad, flat boulder, I went ahead and recited the poem, too (video below).

It’s important to share it now, knowing it will be some time before that gathering of family and friends, but in a broader sense, too. It’s important to share it now because in this threshold moment we are all experiencing, if only for “twenty minutes more or less” we are compelled to remember whom we are to one another and to amplify it accordingly.

#37 – Eat What You Want (It’s your birthday)

Years ago when I was downplaying another birthday as “just another day” and “not a big deal,” a friend suggested otherwise. She said that the day of our birth is inherently important because it is the day we started being us. It matters that we are here and because that wasn’t always so – and will not always be so – it matters when we started!

I haven’t thought about birthdays the same since and I won’t start now because my wife, Theresa’s birthday is today. If she hadn’t shown up on March 9, 1971 the cascade of life events and changes and chance that led us to one another and the life that we have built together as a result, would never have happened.

And for that I know that I am a very lucky guy.

And you’re lucky, too, even if you don’t know her, because the good that she does in small and meaningful ways every day is the kind of good that goes out into the world with quiet potency.

She’ll give you anything you need and help you in any way she can, no questions asked. She gets stuff done. She is loyal. And, no pushover, she is fierce.

On Sunday afternoon she was making crêpes at the stove. She makes the batter from scratch and then, one at a time, turns out a soft, golden brown, perfectly cooked crêpe.

I said, “Why are you making crêpes?”

“Because I want to,” she said. “And I’ll probably eat them on my birthday.”

C’est ma fille!






What are you going to do about it?

IMG_6337A few years ago, I added my birthday to my calendar with a highly specific and presumptuous question attached.

Each year, on the day before, I get a little nudge to consider what kind of contribution, what kind of person, what kind of learning I intend to make/be/take on in the year ahead.

I love it and I hate it.

I love the invitation to embrace the simple, sober truth that every single day could be my last and that I damn well better make the most of it.

I hate the reminder that I get to choose, for as long as I’m here and healthy and bestowed with the largesse of privilege at my fingertips, I get to choose just what to make of every day.

And so, here on the eve of my 49th birthday and the commencement of my 50th year what I’m going to do about it is this:

I intend to love the people I love more generously and with a more abundant spirit of service.

I intend to expand my self-awareness and deepen my spirituality because it makes me a better human and a better agent of change and because I can’t ask people to do the things I am not willing to do myself!

I will continue to write every day and practice piano every day, commitments that enrich my daily life and keep me at the edge of my learning. I will also sing more, because I love to sing (and it’s why I started to play the piano).

I will create, based on my book, A More Daring Lifea workbook that allows readers to more practically apply its central teachings to their own lives. And I will use that workbook in the context of workshops for college students and professionals, anyone who is ready to move to the edge of their experience.

Further afield, but very present on my mind, I will move this year towards a concrete plan to make the pilgrimage of The Way of St. James in northern Spain, an endeavor I will complete within the next two years.

Finally, in the coming year, I will seek to be present and connected. I will ask for help instead of being stubborn and I will listen before giving advice. And I will ask forgiveness when I fail at all of the above.

I am older, slightly wiser, and massively energized for what’s to come.

Happy birthday to me!

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.