48 dogwoods

I am 48 today.

A number of years ago, my daughters bought a gardenia bush for my birthday. I planted that bush in the backyard of our home in Carrboro, and enjoyed the fragrant blossoms each summer. But we sold that house last year, and moved into a rental townhouse while our new house, in Chapel Hill, is being renovated. There happens to be a mature gardenia bush at the front corner.

Knowing that I enjoy driving the country roads and seeing the dogwood trees in bloom each spring, Erin told me she wanted to buy a dogwood sapling so we could plant it in the new yard. We met up at the house yesterday, and walked the land, and noticed that there are probably a dozen dogwood trees already there, around the perimeter of the yard and elsewhere on our four acres. And, the pear trees have leaves, two apple trees and the four sour cherry trees have blossoms, and the 50-odd oaks have yet to waken.

I suspect that my fifties will be a decade devoted to trees.

And yet, I still have two years to go in my decade of narrative. Back in 2010, I hoped I could spend ten years learning to be a storyteller, and finding ways to help others tell their stories. I got off to a good start, with Talk Story and a Voices of Medicine show (Talk story: Reviewing my decade of narrative so far, and what’s next), but then I was quiet for a few years. With another Voices of Medicine show and a grant for the Voices of Duke Health listening booth, I seem to be back on stride.

I am excited to make these next years count.

My thirties, by the way, were for writing

In 2000, for my 30th birthday, Erin and I gathered my friends in our Shaker Square apartment to usher in my decade of writing. My friend and mentor, John Ettorre (himself mentored by William Zinsser), had told me years before that I should “live in my 20s, and write in my 30s.” I didn’t write the book I promised — though I did edit and publish books by my grandfather and father — and I managed to write here on The Coconut Wireless (my blog’s name, which most don’t realize) for 10 years running.

So, today, I am thankful for my health, my family, for flowers and trees and houses and land, for friends and mentors, for good work, for you and our stories.



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