Birthday Reminiscing


Jean Van't Hul

I turned 36 yesterday. 

I know I say this every year, but 36 seems like a good age to me. A good year. (Will I say this when I turn 40?)

I came across a word on my birthday that opened a torrent of memories. A simple word:



As part of my morning ritual, I've been reading creativity books after my morning pages. This is a sort of "as I have time thing." If I wake up late, I barely have time to scribble my morning pages. If I wake up early, I follow my writing with some inspiring reading. These last couple of days I've been reading an incredible Lynda Barry book called What It Is

Amongst her pages on her life, creative writing, and word association exercises, I was surprised to see a word that I used to know so well but hadn't crossed my mind for years. 

I grew up (mostly) in Pendleton, Oregon, which is in eastern Oregon—dry, high plateau desert. Tumbleweeds, sheep, cowboy boots, rattlesnakes. That kind of country. Anyway, seeing the word tumbleweed opened up memory after memory of my childhood. I wrote pages and pages and pages. And then more today. 

It's amazing what a single word will do.

(And if you don't know what a tumbleweed is, take a look at these images.)


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  • Reply
    April 2, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Happy birthday Jean! I’m turning 36 this year too and I agree, it’s a good age (although I’m quite enjoy 35!). xxx

  • Reply
    Jeanette Nyberg
    April 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Happy Birthday! 40 is wonderful. (I’m 42 and didn’t turn into an old crone at 40 like I had envisioned.) How cool that you were inspired to write that much by a single word- that feels great. I love tumbleweeds, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life. They’re fascinating and cool; I can see how they would inspire if you grew up with them.

  • Reply
    April 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Happy Birthday! You have inspired me to start writing again. I really need to make time for this. But I will tell you what TUMBLEWEED makes me think of.
    When I was 12 we moved from a big city, to a smaller city. I remember my Mom telling us it wasn’t going to be like what we were use to. That there were not many street lights, and it looked like the desert. When we got to the new house…I saw tumbleweeds rolling down the street. I felt like I was in an old western movie. My mom told us we would have to start wearing cowboy hats! I was certain we were in the twilight zone. :)

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Happy birthday Jean!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Happy Birthday, Jean!!! 8*)

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Happy belated birthday Jean!!!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Happy birthday ! I turned 40 a week ago today, and so far, it’s a good age, too ;-)

  • Reply
    Ashlea Walter
    April 3, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Happy Birthday!
    I just turned 36 in February too. So far, so good. It’s all about the attitude…
    cheers to many more!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Happy belated Jean, hope you enjoyed your day and that 36 is a wonderful year for you and yours.
    Tumbleweed reminds me of our family car trips out west, we thought they were so funny. Good times.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Happy Birthday Jean! Love tumbleweed – don’t think we have it in Australia (at least not in Melbourne where I live). What a great sculptural element they make just on their own!

  • Reply
    April 4, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Happy birthday, Jean! (A little late. Because I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t a little late…)
    Thirty-six was a great age for me. My daughter came to us when I was 35 and my son came to us when I was 36. I think I will always look back on those ages as very good!
    I also seem to think every year is a good age; I will be 40 at the end of this year & I will let you know if the attitude holds! Hoping you have the best year yet… xo

  • Reply
    April 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Happy Birthday; I have a feeling that 36 will be a great year! I grew up in south central Washington, not terribly far from Pendelton (although I’ve never been to the round-up). I will never forget the cow-sized tumbleweed that rolled into my car the first time my dad took me driving out on the back roads with my permit!

  • Reply
    Sara R.
    April 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Happy Birthday! I lived in Pendleton until I was 6. :) I still have dreams about the wheat fields and Round-Up.

  • Reply
    April 6, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Happy [Belated] Birthday, Jean! The tumbleweeds are still here in Pendleton, although the sagebrush and bunchgrass are greening up nicely for the spring. :)

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