Friday, October 29, 2010

Homage to Mama

I've been considering what to write about next, and decided that I would share a few essays that I've written over the years.  I often write to make sense of what I am feeling or seeing in the world, but I've only shared with a very limited audience.  The time has come I've decided, to publish these to a bit larger audience in the hope that you will find a common thread...or a theme, if you will, that helps you in your daily life.  I often focus on relationships, and perhaps these will help you view your relationships in a new or different way.  At the very least....may you be entertained! 

So, here, from the "archives" is a musing on motherhood.

A few months ago I stood to say a few words at my mother’s memorial service.  As I stood there, unprepared, looking out at the faces of her dear friends and family I really only needed to say one thing.  She was a good mother. 

That statement simply summed it up for me.  A whole lifetime of nurturing, loving, protecting, feeding, clothing, advising, correcting and teaching was contained in one simple sentence.  I told her that she was a good mother many times before she died.  She believed me. 

Yesterday, I visited a good friend who is an art therapist. She often has an art or craft project in process and all visitors are invited to participate.  This time I was encouraged to make a stained glass stepping-stone.  She recently lost her mother also, and she entitled this project “Homage to Mama”.  She offered her mother’s costume jewelry, shells and other bits to add to the stained glass mosaic pieces.  The idea was to assemble the glass and trinkets into a design for a stepping-stone that will be added to an area of her garden dedicated to mothers. 

Now I don’t consider myself especially creative, but the design to honor my mother simply flowed from my fingertips.  In fact, it represented flowing water in various colors of blue and green punctuated by red.  My inspiration undoubtedly was the sound of lapping water from the shores of Lake Pend Oreille just a few yards away.  But for me, water represents my mother’s spirit and love flowing through my veins.  Water is the stuff of life.  Mothers are the stuff of life. 

I love to watch the water to see its various moods.  Some days it is vibrant and stormy green.  Some days it is calm and serious blue.  The stone contains these colors.  But, also it is fiery red.  This is the lifeblood and energy...the nourishment of our souls.  And also, the red reminds me of the times when my mother seemingly interrupted the flow of my life to criticize, complain or do what I thought at the time would hamper my growth.  I may have disliked these interruptions, but they, too are the stuff of life.  These punctuations bring contrast to the calm, providing us with spark and energy.  My mother made me think.

As I worked, I thought about my own motherhood.   How would my children characterize me with glass and shells?  What will they say at my memorial?  How would they quantify my lifetime of nurturing, encouraging, love, mistakes and disappointments?  Have I provided them contrast?  I think I have.  Part of my soul flows through their veins and by default I gave them the good, the bad and all that is in between.  And I have made them think.

As I write this, I remember my mother and thank her again for my life.  I thank her for mothering me with all of the joys and pains that brings.  And then my thoughts, just like the water, flow to my own motherhood.  I tell myself that I am a good mother. 

And finally, I believe it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Sometimes I describe my marriage as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  It’s just like the Disneyland ride they had when I was a kid.  I remember stepping blithely into a little car that took me through a tunnel where around every corner were new dangers….barrels tipping over, creatures dropping from the ceiling, stoats lunging…you get the idea.  I never knew what was coming next.  Like yesterday.  My husband Noel and I went for a quiet hike in the woods.  The evening before, I innocently said, “Gee, we haven’t been hiking lately.  I miss our walks…let’s go tomorrow.”  And so we did.  Noel wanted to check out some possible deer hunting grounds as many of the places he used to hunt are now housing developments.  We drove for half an hour or so up the mountainside on a wonderful crisp and clear fall day. We found a road we remembered from the winter that had been groomed for cross-country skiing.  We’d had a blast skiing that day.  This road is on National Forest land and as we turned off the main road he passed through a gate and blew past a sign that said “Road Closed.” 
“I don’t like this,” I said. “What if someone locks the gate?”
“Oh, we’ll just stay on the road and we’ll see or hear if a logging truck comes down.  Come on…it’ll be fine.”  The warning bells were sounding in my head, but too often I’ve been the doubting Nellie and the party pooper, so I got out of the truck and followed along. 
Walking with Noel is always an adventure.  It’s really a lot like walking with a small child.  Everything is wondrous and needs to be closely examined.  Today, he focused on the mushrooms.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain this summer and fall, so they were everywhere.  He took a mushrooming class sometime in a distant life and knows just enough to be dangerous.  “Oh, there’s a different kind of bolete!” he would exclaim and off he would go, turning it over, examining the soft, spongy underbelly.  We probably saw fifteen different kinds of mushrooms over just a couple of miles.  Soon, the plastic bag came out of the back pack so that he could take some home for identification using one of several books he owns on the subject.  “I think those are oyster mushrooms,” he said when I pointed to several growing out of a tree stump.  “Let’s take some.”  Then, out came the camera to photograph especially interesting ones in their natural environment.  “This is so much more fun that just walking,” he said, as we stopped yet again for another photograph.  He was right.  But, I would have to say that if aerobic exercise is the point, you really shouldn’t go for a walk with Noel. 
Finally, it started to get even colder as the sun was setting behind the mountain, and we turned back for the truck.  It was great to climb in and find that it had been warmed by the sun.  I had thoroughly enjoyed the walk and the mushrooms and all, but in the warm truck my thoughts readily turned to home and the waiting cod that I planned to cook for supper.  Our snack of green grapes had been too long ago.  We made our way back down the logging road and around the corner and…yes…
Someone had locked the gate.  “Oh, s__t!” was all he said.  I wanted to say much more, but what would it have mattered?  “I told you so” really gives no satisfaction and “You knucklehead” reduces me to name-calling.   So, after a thorough examination of the double-locked tamper-proof gate, we just stared at each other.  I was thinking that we’d have to settle in for the night with our few remaining grapes and a bottle of water when he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.  I don’t know that I would have thought of that particular strategy, but it really was up to him to resolve it.  Kinda like…”you got us into this mess, so you can get us out.”  As he made his call, I foraged around the truck for something…anything to do, and found a phone book.  “No time like the present to get caught up on my reading,” I thought, and opened it up to the Yellow Pages.  I was deeply engaged in the listings under “Farm Equipment-Repair and Parts” when Noel’s cell phone rang.  I heard him give our location and then overheard a weary voice say, “Alright.  I’ll be up to let you out.” 
Almost an hour later, after I’d made it to “Roofing Materials-Wholesale and Manufacturers” we both looked up to see a white Forest Service truck making its way down the rutted road.  Noel got out to talk to the ranger, whose name turned out to be Jack.  The scene that played out in front of me as I watched through the windshield made me shake my head in wonder.  Now, if I had been the one responsible for this ordeal, I would have slunk out of the truck with my head bowed, apologizing as I approached the Forest Service Ranger.  But, not Noel.  He bounded toward him with a huge smile on his face, chatting as he went about the wonderful day, the mushrooms we’d found and the possibility of hunting this country in a few weeks.  I saw Jack gesture toward the “Road Closed” sign, and Noel just looked at it as if it had recently sprung out of the ground.  And before I knew it, Jack was pulling out Forest Service maps and they were talking like good buddies about the area. I thought, “Well, at least there is something to be said for Noel’s bravado.  He’s making the best out of a bad situation,” and I was quite proud of my husband and his approach.  That is, until Noel came back to the truck and Jack followed him.  He looked through the driver’s window, introduced himself to me and proceeded to give ME the lecture about not driving on closed roads.  I was astounded.  Didn’t he know that most women would never do something like this on their own?  That we are simply the innocent bystanders, getting caught in the slipstream?  That we are the ones shouting “Yeah, but I don’t like the feel of this!” into the wind?  Apparently not, because I got the full lecture of how expensive it is to come up and unlock the gate, (didn’t we see the sign?) and how he wouldn’t give us a citation this time (because the loggers shouldn’t have left the gate open at all).  For the second time in a little over an hour I was totally speechless.  Again, what could I have said that would make any difference?
I thought about all of this on our quiet trip back down the mountain.  (Gee, it was great to see that gate swing open.)  And I’ve come to a conclusion that may be a bit surprising.  I wouldn’t trade this kind of life for anything.  I’ll take the lectures from all of the Jacks in the world just for the privilege of tagging along on Mr. Toad’s adventures.  Because, when all is said and done, I don’t prefer the safe and sane world.  I may say that I do.  I may shout “No!”  But, when I am totally honest with myself in the deep of the night when no one is around, I think that this is all kind of fun.  I would step blithely into that little car and head into the tunnel over and over again never knowing what to expect.  I would choose this life over the bland and expected any day of the week.  Now, when it comes to eating those poisonous mushrooms he gathered, well….maybe I’ll draw the line.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gathering Days

The weather suits my mood perfectly.  Is that fog or are those clouds?  I never really can tell for sure.  All I know is that the sky is grey, muting even the oranges and yellows of this fall day.  I feel like flying low under this hanging sky.  I’ll quietly go through my day willing no one to notice me or talk to me.  I plan no great things for today; no major goals will be accomplished.  I expect no great bursts of energy and I’ll probably have no significant insights. 
I like it that way.  Days like today are for waiting, for going within to re-center.  They’re ordinary muted days, perfect for wearing fuzzy sweaters, eating chicken vegetable soup, and lingering over fond memories.  Days like today remind me of who I am.  They are the ordinary days that form the platform from which I can later launch myself into a new project, strike up a conversation with that girl at the coffee shop or act on those creative impulses.  But for now, today was meant for quiet, for gathering my thoughts, my energy, my strength.  It is a comfortable day gently unfolding underneath a comfortable sky.