Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

The Art of Friendship: Happy Birthday to Me

It's been 61 years coming, but today is that day...only with a new year attached. I start thinking about my new age a few weeks beforehand so it comes at no surprise on the date. Falling between Christmas and New Year's as it does--the Dead Week, I call it--when people are still reeling and resting up...that's a hard sell for a b-day celebration.

But, this year I determined to pull it off in the style of the hospitality I've received in Ghana. Last year my 60th birthday became an all-day fete. This year with some careful planning it became a cozy ladies luncheon in my Goddess Gathering room. As they say in Ghana, "I tried-O!" Which doesn't mean I tried and missed the mark. It means I put my best effort forward and succeeded.

The first round of invitations went out through e-vite and email before Thanksgiving and my trip to N. California. The second round of reminder invitations went out via snail mail to arrive a day after Christmas and before the party. I enclosed the update inside beautiful Adinkra cards to be used later by my guests.

I spent one day at my father's preparing for the goddess gathering party. Half a day I sewed lined pouches made out of the same classic Ghanaian print that the robe I planned to wear is made out of. I added cowrie shells to add weight to the flaps. These became party favors along with sand from Busua Beach and talcum powder blessed by a native doctor that came from the Makola market in Accra. Oh, yes...plus amber-colored beads, a packet of ginger tea, and the copy of Mary Brody's Rx Pepper Soup that appeared in Gastronomica.

The second half of my preparation day I cooked. Even though mother died in 2006, it's still her kitchen to me. With more space and more pots I could make two soups at once: groundnut (peanutbutter) soup from Ghana and a bean vegetable soup in a rich ham stock. Mary couched me on how to make it using her famous pepper soup recipe as a base.

The day of my gathering I did what every hostess does: get ready, enjoy the party and clean up. That made two days to evoke the spirit of African hospitality.

The women stepped into and out of ceremonial space...as if being birthed into the world of ceremony and then back into the everyday world.

The gathering could not have been more convivial. Fabric artist Edna Patterson-Petty. Freida Wheaton. Julia Blevins. Doreen Hulsey. joined in lively conversation and connection even though only two women had met before. Unfortunately we missed our last invited goddess: Linda Jones Hawkins.

How better to celebrate life than with a group of lively women of strong and good heart?

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6 Responses »

  1. I hope you get this, I'm so not high tech. Your party was such a pleasant afternoon with good food and fine fellowship. Much love and good health as we enter the 2010 year. Be with you soon for a movie date. Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks so much for such a lovely and very interesting afternoon for your birthday. It was great getting to know everyone, and the food was delicious. The birthday cake Julia made was so creative, unique, and beautiful. Also, I enjoyed hearing your amazing stories. I wish you a great New Year!

  3. Tuesday was a perfect winter day for groundnut soup and the gathering of these women. Thank you, Janet; and many, many, many more "Happy Brthdays"!

  4. Julia--your high-tech skills are growing by leaps and bounds! Congratulations.

    Julia, Doreen, Freida...you all are truly goddess. And, there are many more in the world.

    Janet

  5. Hi again Janet,
    I really enjoyed the gathering of the Goddess, and the fellowship. I received a card in today's mail from you. You are ever so thoughtful. May blessings continue to rain down on you. You are a blessing to others. Wishing you many more happy, story-filled birthdays.

  6. Dear Janet,

    Thanks for this lovely post about your birthday celebration. I will celebrate (hopefully) my 60th birthday in April, and have been pondering what to do about it. My children ask me "what do you want to do?" and I keep answering, "I need to think about it."

    When we were last together, you reminded me that in Africa, women of a certain age are treated as wise, and are given respect. Also, that women of a certain age become everyone's mother, and we can correct the mistakes and bad behavior of the children around us, (biological children, and children whose bodies have grown, but are children none the less.)

    I still don't know what I will do for my birthday, but I'm going to submit a poem to you that burst from my heart last month, written in an incredibly short time. It speaks to me about my journeys and gives me reasons to laugh, sigh, cry, rest, celebrate.

    Happy belated Birthday dear friend, with love, Susan

    Autobiography in Fourteen Lines

    Susan Ollar

    I went searching everywhere, trying to make sense of things

    I went searching high and low trying to make sense of things

    I tripped on acid, smoked dope, rode the mescaline high, trying to make sense of things

    I became a vegetarian, wore white, chanted mantras and thought I’d made sense of things

    It didn’t last

    I went to empowerments, sat on a cushion in the mountains for a month, trying to make sense of things

    I got bored, watched the stories of my mind, tried to create more stories to destroy the boredom and it seemed to work. It all made sense.

    It didn’t last

    I dropped the search, left it on a shelf, went off to the world, searching for success

    I found success, it was a hard trip and when I got to the summit, I fell down a hole and nothing made sense

    I started the search again, tired, feeling feeble, this time knowing I needed a guide, someone who had made sense of things

    I found him, oh my, hard to believe, I’ve gotta believe, he’s been my everything, year after year after year

    Nothing makes sense, I sit on my cushion, it’s all right!

    I look within, the stories go on, who cares?

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