Today—Leap Day—one of our friends had her baby. The lucky kid will have an automatic interesting fact about herself in those insufferable getting-to-know you events at college and office parties and speed dating sessions at which everyone else will be standing around with blank faces as they realize that they have nothing—absolutely nothing—interesting about themselves. Of course, she’ll also have to endure relentless teasing about being one on her fourth birthday and five on her twentieth or something like that.
I read tonight that babies born on Leap Day are known as “leaplings.” I can’t imagine the sheer confusion that a leapling might experience as his parents explain that he will only have a birthday once every four years and only in years divisible by four because of the length of time it takes the earth to orbit the sun and that if we didn’t have leap year, eventually we’d end up celebrating Christmas in July which would be almost as unusual as only celebrating his birthday once every four years.*
I hardly remembered that today was special, until I got the email with news of “casual Monday” in honor of Leap Day.
I thought about the gravity of the day—an extra day in which to accomplish one extra day’s worth of accomplishments, an extra day to do something momentous or particularly purposeful. And I tried, Lord knows, I tried to think of something Laura and I could do to set this day aside as special.
But wearing jeans to work—that was the best I could come up with. Around lunch time, I gave up trying to figure out in what special way I would celebrate. I settled for doing my job well, being kind to my co-workers, and calling my parents on the way home from work.
When I drove into the apartment complex parking lot, the geese were grazing in the front yard, paddling through the murky pond, and honking judgmentally at the mallards splashing in the tiny stream of water draining off the pond. Apparently the geese didn’t know it was a special day either.
When I walked up to the door, my pot of tulips gaped up at me, the brown anthers visible just inside the pink petals which had opened to capture cups full of warm sunlight.
After dinner, Laura and I watched the sky outside our sliding door turn all purple and orange, the sun lingering just a little longer than it did last week in its lengthening rehearsal for summer.
The insignificance of this bonus 24 hours made me think of every other ordinary day. And it made me think of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day,” in which she says
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.I do know how to pay attention, how to fall downinto the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done?Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I don’t mind that I couldn’t think of an exceptional way to commemorate this day—because every day is a day to celebrate by doing our best at our tasks, appreciating our blessings, living to the fullest, no matter how ordinary or unremarkable the fullest may be.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious day, tomorrow?
*Information taken from today’s Writer’s Almanac email.