On this day was Man Martin born.
Well, that's not exactly true. My birthday was yesterday, but today I celebrate.
I'm fifty-two, which is a remarkable age. Somehow I imagine Odysseus was around this age when he finally returned to Ithaca, still hearty, but with gray hair on his chest. I won't say there's a wisdom that comes with this age, but there's a degree of comfort in one's own skin that comes of long aquaintance with it. I spent the morning my favorite way, working in the garden. I wore a red tee-shirt from my daughter's old sorority, green bathing shorts with a drawstring, white socks, shoes similar to crocs - easy to slip on and off - and a stained Panama Jack hat. I toted buckets of water from our rain barrels to tomato plants and foxgloves.
I looked - still look, because minus the shoes, I'm still dressed the same - the total dweeb. In my adolescence, I would never dressed this way. As a teenager, I wore jeans even in the heat of summer because I was embarrassed by the sight of my own hairy legs. Now it's all about comfort and practicality. I am no wiser, but I know when life is good and to be grateful for that.
When Odysseus is found by the Princess Nausicaa on the shore of Phaecia he compliments her by comparing her to a tree. An odd sort of flattery, "Yore prettier na magnolia!", but the sort of thing a sailor who had spent years at sea would understand: "Yet in Delos once I saw such a thing by Apollo's altar. I saw the stalk of a young palm shooting up...And as when I looked upon the tree, my heart admired it long; since such a tree had never yet sprung up from the eart, so now, lady I admire you and wonder..."
Odysseus probably would have eaten lamb on his homecoming. When the Odyssey mentions "cattle," it's usually sheep. Nancy's making me her special leg of lamb tonight as well.
The last part of Odysseus' life was not without misfortune. Even after killing the suitors and making peace with their families, he got into some sort of fracas sooner or later, and ended up dying far away from home, dispossessed of his kingdom. The wisdom of the Greeks to know no happy ending is ever permanent. Jason returns in triumph with the Golden Fleece only to have his dreams blighted and sons murdered by the woman who helped him obtain it. Call no man fortunate, Sophocles says, until he is dead. Still. The wise man, or the man who passes for wise, knows when life is good and when to be grateful. My wife has just stepped out of the door, and the sight of her is as gracious to me as the crown of a familiar magnolia to someone who has been long away from home. Life is good. I am grateful.