Before I owned it, I would look through it for hours and hours at the Barnes & Noble located at 500 S. Main St in Royal Oak, Michigan. It closed in 2014 and I’ve since added that place to the nostalgia box of my youth entitled, “ That No Longer Exists.”
During my junior and senior years of high school, driving to “downtown” Royal Oak after school or on a Saturday afternoon was an adventure. The nearby suburban city I grew up in didn’t offer the possibility of walking. Purposefully getting lost on foot was difficult. Royal Oak wasn’t as far or as potentially dangerous as downtown Detroit, so my parents didn’t ask me as many questions when I said, “I’m going to Royal Oak.” The “downtown” of Royal Oak consisted of a small stretch of stores, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. I’d spend my time in thrift stores, boutiques, the Chinese tea house (Goldfish was its name), and Barnes & Noble.
After arriving at Barnes & Noble, I walked up one flight of stairs to buy a grande peppermint mocha latte (a frappuccino if it was summertime). Then, I wandered into some cross-section of signs labeled Philosophy, Astrology, New Age, and Self-help. I would find, “The Secret Language of Birthdays”– or what I call, The Birthday Book. I grabbed this dictionary of birthdays off the shelf, opened it up across my lap, letting its weight sink my legs deeper into the comfy leather chair. I sat in the armchair at the end of the aisle that faced the window. I looked for each friend and family member’s birthday. This chair was the perfect spot to read a book with no intention of buying it.
Birthdays of Record
A couple of years later, when the book lived in my dorm room, I started writing my family’s names in the book. I’d scrawl their name in the upper right-hand corner of their birthday page. I knew I didn’t need to write this information down, of course. I wasn’t trying to remember, I was making a catalog of everyone’s birthday. If I knew two people born on the same day, I would think about how they were similar. After listing my immediate family, I added aunts and uncles, cousins. I moved onto college roommates, friends, classmates. When I met a boy (or man) I liked, I put his name in the right corner of his page. I would use the book to predict the outcome of potential dates, research future boyfriends, and confirm post-hookup afterthoughts.
I read my own birthday page every other month or so to see if anything had changed. Had I improved upon any of my weaknesses? “Sensationalistic and Restless.” Yes, the birthday book lists your weaknesses.
It also lists famous people who are born on the same day as you.
The Grand Cycle
In the book’s intro, authors Gary Goldschneider and Joost Elffers explain how they’ve sorted people out according to their birthdays. By making connections based on psychology and history, they believe the “personality” of each day emerges. This helps explain why you are the way you are.
In the study of personology, just as certain plants and animals emerge at different times of the year — some animals hibernate in winter, while others grow a full coat of hair to survive the biting wind- the same thing goes for people’s personalities.
For Goldschneider and Elffers, personology is cyclical in nature. Instead of thinking of history in a straight line, you think of it in cycles. What if you thought of life and time as 2,000 year-long periods where we go through the same patterns and cycles then begin again every 2,000 years later?
This concept reminds me of reincarnation. Repeating life, again and again, hoping to eventually break the cycle and reach nirvana.
Each day of the year represents one experience in one human life, or what they call life in the book, “The Grand Cycle.” That is why each day is noted as “The Day of …” My personality is “The Day of the Supernatural.”
Goldschneider and Elffers aren’t the only ones to pose this idea of cyclical time and history rather than linear. Irish poet and mystic, W. B. Yeats developed an intricate symbolic and geometric system based on the cycles of the moon to explain history and the human personality. He even drew a picture to share his theory with us:
Yeats believed that this image (he called the spirals “gyres”) captured the contrary motions inherent within the historical process, and he divided each gyre into specific regions that represented particular kinds of historical periods (and could also represent the psychological phases of an individual’s development).
So, do I exhibit the same traits and life experiences as my birthday mates? We were in the womb at the same time of the year and came out into the world on the same day of that yearly cycle. So what do we have in common?
Born At The Right Time
December 25th, The Day of the Supernatural includes Clara Barton, Sissy Spacek, Rod Serling, Carlos Castaneda, Annie Lennox, Helena Rubenstein, Barbara Mandrell, Vladimir Tatlin, Anwar Sadat, Noel Redding, and Jesus of Nazareth (to be fair he wasn’t born on this day, but they list him in the birthday book). However, this book does not list Jimmy Buffett who was also born on December 25th and I take issue with that!
What do I have in common with Clara Barton, Sissy Spacek, and Annie Lennox?
I watch when they put needles in my arm at the doctor’s office or when I give blood. I find it interesting. If it’s a gory film scene or real-life accident I find the sight of blood nauseating, but if it’s in the clinical sense I find it interesting to watch. Like the glowing goo that floats up and down in a lava lamp. I want to see how it moves.
But I’m not a nurse or in the medical profession. I am a Unitarian Universalist and Clara was a Universalist! Close enough. I read more about Clara:
“Her parents tried to help cure her timidity by enrolling her to Colonel Stones High School, but their strategy turned out to be a catastrophe. Barton became more timid and depressed and would not eat.”
I have done this before. Not wanting to eat because I felt so small and afraid.
“In 1855, she moved to Washington D.C. and began work.”
I moved to DC in 2013 and began to work.
Did you know that Clara Barton ran the “Office of Missing Soldiers” at 437 ½ Seventh Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. in the Gallery Place neighborhood? I used to live one metro stop away from that neighborhood when I lived in D.C.
At the end of the Civil War, Clara Barton learned that thousands of letters from distraught relatives to the War Department were going unanswered because the soldiers they were looking for were buried in unmarked graves. Many of these soldiers lay in graves marked, “missing.” Barton contacted President Lincoln and asked if she could officially respond to these unanswered letters. She was given permission, and “The Search for the Missing Men” began.
The office’s purpose was to find or identify soldiers who had been killed or marked missing in action. Barton and her assistants wrote 41,855 letters. They helped locate more than 22,000 thousand missing men. Barton spent the summer of 1865 finding, identifying, and burying 13,000 individuals who died in the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war camp, Andersonville. She continued this task for four years, burying 20,000 more Union soldiers and marking their graves. Congress eventually appropriated $15,000 toward her project.
I have never buried a single man. I have stood in front of open caskets at Catholic funerals. I have thought that was enough. Where do we go after this? Into another body, another cycle.
“Spacek initially aspired to a career in singing.”
As did I.
“Spacek was so adamant about getting the role that she pored through over 4,000 pages of research to prepare for her character.”
I enjoy research, too.
Sissy Spacek is from Texas. I lived in Austin, Texas for three years. Has Sissy ever looked up at the starry Hill Country sky at night? So many more stars to see in a Texas Hill Country sky. Has she attended a wedding held in a 19th-century gun club? Has she stopped her car on the highway to get out and take a picture sitting in a field of bluebonnets?
“Lennox was unhappy during her time at the Royal Academy and spent her time wondering what other direction she could take.”
That sentence definitely sums up my entire undergrad experience. Also, possibly, the entire third decade of my life.
When I was 12 years old, I saw the album cover of Annie Lennox’s “Medusa” in a music store at the mall. I didn’t know who Annie Lennox was. I only bought it because of the cover. It looked off-limits and familiar all at the same time. It’s still one of my favorite albums to hear. I think her cover of “Waiting in Vain” is better than Bob Marley’s.
Annie Lennox has an air of sadness but also a little hope. You can hear it in her music. It’s heartwarming and icy at the same time.
Do we have anything in common? The human experience, I guess.