A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me what I find myself wishing for, as I approach my 40th birthday in the middle of February.
Where can I possibly begin?
Health and comfort for everyone I love. A light at the end of the COVID tunnel. A lifting of the madness that seems to have gripped the collective consciousness more tenaciously than ever before. Relief for the multitudes suffering the world over as a result of the delusion of human supremacy. Planetary healing. Inner peace. Outer quiet.
But perhaps that’s a bit too much to ask of the candles on my cake.
Maybe I should just settle for morning sun…
I do have a serious wish for my birthday though. It’s ambitious, admittedly, but with the help of others, it actually has a chance of being granted.
Serendipitously, my 40th birthday happens to be occurring in parallel with the 40th anniversary of Gentle World, which came into existence as an organization just four days before my appearance on this planet, over 4000 miles away.
I suppose one might say we were made for one another. :)
To observe Gentle World’s 40th anniversary, our organization has been provided with a matching funds grant; a challenge to raise $10,000 in donations in order to have it doubled.
The resulting budget would make it possible for us to embark on a whole new journey of educational outreach, and bring our unique message to more people than ever before.
Thanks to our contributors, our site has been at the top of Google search results more than once. Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati’s 2013 piece about the birds of the down industry has been shared on Facebook almost 5000 times.
10 Things Everyone Should Know About Free-Range Turkeys still brings our site to the top of Google results every Thanksgiving, when searches for “free range turkey” are at their peak.
Butterflies Katz has contributed dozens of articles through two essay contests that created the books I’m a Vegan and Why I Will Always Be Vegan. Her co-written article A Call to Feminists has been shared on Facebook over 2700 times.
With the launch of our new site, and with the assistance of this matching funds pledge, we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities to expand our reach as we look out over this new decade.
GentleWorld.org has been my service to the world ever since I launched it over 10 years ago. I may not have written all of the 400+ articles making up its pages, but I have had a hand in every single one of them, whether by dreaming up the concepts, co-writing and collaborating on the content, formatting and illustrating, or simply by carrying out the essential practice of editing and proofreading.
Since GW.org was born, it has augmented the other aspects of our educational program by providing a global audience with (conservatively) over 40,000 hours of education, offering information and inspiration on topics ranging from growing and preparing wholesome food, to being a more responsible consumer, to finding that place inside oneself where our veganism becomes absolute.
To see the $10,000 matching pledge fulfilled would be nothing less than a dream come true for me, and the perfect way to celebrate not only my 40th, but also the decade I have spent tending to my labor of love.
As someone who has always gravitated toward those who are my senior in years, seeing the age of forty on the horizon sometimes feels like no big deal at all. On the other hand, any new decade tends to exert a singular pressure as it looms in the near future. And forty? Well, it seems to be presenting me with a challenge I’ve never quite faced before, as I wrestle with how I can appropriately make the most of the turn of this particular ten-year span.
Who am I becoming as I step over this threshold? What have I accomplished in the precious time that life has so generously granted me? Am I doing all I can to help move myself and the rest of humanity forward? Am I living up to my own expectations? Or do I owe more?
One needs no more than ask to find the answers to such questions.
Lately I find myself reflecting on previous iterations of this self I am inventing; one day, one year, one decade at a time.
When I was 20 years old, I had only recently discovered my home in Gentle World’s New Zealand sanctuary, and my new veganism was just beginning to soften the mental and emotional terrain that had become hardened in response to all the sadness that life had already revealed to me.
As strange as it feels for me to say it, it was hard for me to really, truly become vegan. This wasn’t because I found it inconvenient, though I might have told myself that was the reason when I tried internally to justify my transgressions. It was hard for me because I fought against it. I suppose, in retrospect, I was so embarrassed by my willingness to participate in what I suddenly had to admit was unjustifiable that I just didn’t want to see it for what it was. When I think back, I can almost remember viscerally the denial and the absurd clinging to my belief of having already grown into the self I was yet to become.
What a relief it was when I was able to finally put that battle firmly behind me.
10 years and a whole lot more understanding later, I was 30 years old when I hesitantly made my writing debut on the (now closed) green living website known as Care2, where I was granted a remarkable opportunity to find and develop my voice, and share it with a community that welcomed me, rejected me, challenged me and empowered me all at once.
I might have been ten years less skillful and ten years more ignorant when I was pouring myself into those words, but the experience seeded in me the desire to build a space online where my deepest writings would truly be at home; a digital haven where the work of my heart could be shared, and where the Gentle World vision would be seen, and its message heard.
Ten years later, that home is ready for some much-needed renovation.
And so, my friends, if you have read this far, you will know why my 40th feels so significant to me, and why, with more than 20 years behind me as an activist and educator, I am raising money on my birthday for the first time.
So… What do you say, dear readers? Will you join me in celebrating all this magic, all this providence, and all this perseverance?
My gratitude extends to all who choose to contribute to the next ten years of building our online oasis, one carefully-constructed piece of content at a time.
If you’re still with me, I thank you for reading.