I wanted so much to sit down and write something very thoughtful and reflective today, as I have in past years on my birthday. The last twelve months have certainly given me plenty to say; they’ve been full of interesting insights and realizations, lots of renewed human connection, and important steps toward coming home to myself.

When I wrote last year’s birthday post, still in the shadow of the great breakup of 2017, I was wounded and bewildered. I’ve let a lot of that go. I’ve stopped feeling resentful about the fact that things went differently than I thought they would. I no longer feel a sense of injustice about what happened; it’s just what happened. And I’m at peace with the fact that I’m mapping out a new life and new direction for myself. It’s still hazy and uncertain, but the future is always uncertain. I’m starting to appreciate how much freedom I have, which is overwhelming at times, but is its own blessing.

These things aside, I’m short on words today. I’m still feeling sick—now with an ear infection too, which I’m fortunately being treated for. I’m not feeling as anxious or fearful as I was on Sunday, but I’m conscious of being tired and turned inward. I have a strong, clear sense that my only priority right now is to take care of my body, which is what I’ll do more of today. My blogger’s instinct is to say more or share more—to process my feelings in greater detail or to search for lessons beneath them—but sometimes it’s important to say only what’s true and not say any more.

I said something akin to this to a very dear friend over email the other day—I told her that I was short on words, and also that I was feeling discouraged and weary. She said that my words were perfect; they were the truth. I was surprised at how directly her email touched my heart; I began to cry as soon as I’d read it. I didn’t realize how badly I must have wanted, or needed, for someone to remind me that being honest is enough.

So this is where I am, honestly, on my thirty-sixth birthday: a little wiser, I think, and apprehending the interesting, unknown future that stretches out before me. Still a bit lost; still paused at a life crossroads and wondering which way I’ll go. Time will tell. And time is the true birthday gift: another year added to the journey.

In the past few days, when I’ve felt overwhelmed, I’ve gone to sit in the park near my apartment, breathing in fresh air and listening to the springtime symphony of birds chirping in the trees. There’s been a lot of cool breeze this week, which has been soothing.

It’s gotten me thinking of how important it is to be with nature in moments of uncertainty, fear, or doubt. And it brings to mind a Wendell Berry poem I’ve always loved, “The Peace of Wild Things.” I thought I’d share it today, for myself but also for any other person who might need it:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The birthday wish I make for myself this morning is to have a year filled with moments like the one Berry describes: moments of grace, wonder, and faith in the rhythms of life’s unfolding.

I wish it for all of you, too. Thank you for celebrating another year with me, and I’ll “see” you on Sunday for the usual roundup.


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Categories: Food and Healing

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  1. “I told her that I was short on words, and also that I was feeling discouraged and weary. She said that my words were perfect; they were the truth.” – So very very true. When you are overwhelmed with the pain of your heart, then a situation arises when you have nothing to say. The mind stops processing and the fictitious facade of happiness and joyfullness that we have created for our entire life is gone. And then whatever comes out of you in the form of words is nothing but the voice of the soul. It is pure, it is true and it is serene.
    And so my dear friend whatever you write touches my heart.
    Wish you a belated happy birthday. Stay strong and stay as you are. Because you are one of the few people who inspire a person like me.

  2. Thank You. Was looking for hummus miso soup and came across your blog and your recipe sounds perfect for what I was thinking to do, Then I read further and read your blog on your birthday and the poem you shared. I am surprised and not….. looking for a recipe and I found grace and peace. Thank you for sharing.


    FYI…..recently started eating vegan.

  3. Happy Belated Birthday, Gena! I appreciate the brevity and honesty of this post for your birthday. Your writing it always great to read, and I’m sorry that you’re not feeling well! I love the poem that you included, as I needed this reminder to take a step back/out when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Sending so much love to you!

  4. Birthdays take me by surprise now, and also serve to emphasize how increasingly important it feels to be present and enjoy every moment and breeze and bit of sunshine with birds possible.
    I hope your body is on the way to recovery, everything feels more difficult when you’re sick.

  5. Thank you for your always open, honest and vulnerable sharing. You make the world a better place, not just through your work with food and healing the planet that way – but with your sharing. You make it safer for all of us to embrace where we are, rather than putting a false face on for the world in order to appear to be in a space we aren’t. You are standing up for the human journey, giving us all permission to own our own through owning and sharing yours with truth.

    Thank you. I don’t want to say ‘happy birthday’ as that sounds like a command on your emotional state. Rather I will say I am sending you my love extra on this day <3

  6. What a lovely & wisdom-filled post. I was ill/rundown on my Birthday a few weeks back as well and it somehow felt unfair. However, it caused me to take pause, reflect and rest. I only wish I’d had your post/poem to read at the time. Be Well Gena and Thank you for the healing and positive energy you send out to the Universe. XXX

  7. A very happy birthday day, Gena. You’re a constant, a source of inspiration and consolation. I’m part of the fun club and always looking forward to your bright and beautiful mind’s insights and creations.

  8. Okay, Dear Gena, now I’m the one with tears in my eyes. . .this is the most beautiful and accomplished birthday post you could have chosen to write. Being present. And a double heart-wow when I got the Wendell Berry poem. That is one I love as well, and a favorite of very dear friends of mine, who asked me to record reading it for their wedding ceremony down on the Salmon River, I believe. They got married in a wild river canyon at the shore of the river, and their dog, “the best dog ever,” Wendell (named after the poet) stood right there with them with a bow tie on. It was a simple wedding in the wilderness; folks had to fly and boat in to the resort where they stayed. I was not up to such extensive travel at the time, and actually had planned to come to Portland to meet up with Susan at the Vida Vegan confrerence, where I was lucky enough to come to your workshop from blog to book, and meet you. 🙂 In the ensuing years,Wendell the dog has recently crossed the rainbow bridge, and you and I are now good buddies. Yes, indeed the future is uncertain, but you are poised to receive it through this wish to live in present moments of wonder and grace. I wish you all that, always. And send you my love–(and to be continued in e-mail) xoxo HAPPY BIRTHDAY xoxo

  9. ~happy birthday Gena~
    May your feel in your heart the same reflection of healing that you inspire for others with your honesty and grounded sense of self. ~blessings~
    PS: EAT (vegan) CAKE !

  10. Happy Birthday Gena! Always look forward to your emails in my inbox. Having a beautiful blessed day.


  11. Wishing you a peaceful day and an easy recovery, and a year of continued growth and expansion. With the authenticity embodied in your writing your friend’s message could not ring more true: your words are perfect, and we are all lucky to receive whatever you choose to share with us. Warmest wishes for your birthday, Gena!

  12. Gena,

    Bless you , dear sweet girl! Happy birthday to you! I do hope that your next year continues to be filled with grace, hope and the good times that you certainly deserve. The poem is a beautiful one isn’t it? Going outside for some fresh air always helps to calm me down. I look around at the trees and birds and the rocks. None of them seem to be struggling with who they are or where they are-they just are! You have to love the simplicity, the complexity, and the certainty of nature.

    As I have gotten older I can honestly say that things just continue to get better and better. (Even if it doesn’t always seem that way.) Take good care of yourself!

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