Riffing on Roses, Beauty Past Knowing

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Lately I’ve been playing with roses, photographing them at different stages in bloom, at different times of day, against varied backgrounds, just to see what I could capture.

I love this first one, the delicate color, the fat soft petals, open, exposed,  framing the center. The way the gentle light catches the edges of the petals and swirl in toward the center where the deeper shadows lie.

The eye moves from the edges spiraling ever inward, round and round toward the tight bud.   This is where the eye rests, at that center, probing the inner depths, where the spiralling continues past where we can see. 

The spiral is a symbol of infinity, an inward eternal flowing.  Water spirals, wind spirals, dancers spiral, galaxies spiral. Thought spirals round and round, ever inward, toward a place past knowing.

This next one stops my heart, I don’t know why.

The color is so tender, the center so closed, the outer petals so utterly open, leaving the center defenceless.  There’s a feeling of vulnerability, a careless disclosing, an utterly unstudied becoming.

Here it is again from a different angle.  See the way the light flows upward through the petals?  It breaks my heart.

And the one below . . . I have no words.Now we go outside to where I pluck the roses from the only bush that has survived the deer and gophers.  It’s a tall, gangly bush that grows outside our bathroom window where we see it every morning, watching the roses burst and bloom from one stage to another.

I cut only the ones that grow below and above where we can see and bring them into our home–orphans, offerings, honored guests, gracious gifts.

This first one is stunning.  The contrast between the deep rose and deeper blue.  I’m thinking flags flying, sails billowing, kites dancing across the sky.

Hotdogs? Baseball? Blasting trumpets?  There’s something heroic, cheering, utterly wholesome and deeply comforting about this photo.

That shade of blue in contrast with bright colors heralds all our summers, all our bright hopes, all our pride and enduring optimism.  Endless summer.  It lives like a flame in our hearts, in the faces of laughing children, in the roar of jets, in  fireworks bursting against a twilit sky.

This deep blue sky is the background for all our hopes and dreams and unites us wherever we live in the world.  The whole rounded globe is cupped in this blue.

The next is especially sweet and hopeful.  The way the light shines through it conveys a sense of innocence, purity. There’s a freshness here.  You can almost smell the sweetness.

The following seems more serene, mature, even though it is the same rose against the same sky, but the light is different,  There’s an intensity here, a romantic allure.  I’m thinking candlelit dinner, silk stockings, love letters strewn on a bed.

The one below is pure happiness.   I can only smile and smile.

What more can I say?

The following photos evoke something else.  The rose and the clouds seem to drift across the sky, lightly as feathers.

We sense movement here, of passing time, fleeting moments.  

There’s a dreamlike quality with the soft focus, the soft petals, soft as the clouds they float upon.

I’m thinking of a rowboat rocking gently on a pond, fingers trailing in the cool water, eyes gazing at the sky above, clouds gentle as a breeze gazing downward, stroking soft skin.No we go indoors again.

These roses are shot against a gold wall. I like the way the pink  and gold play against each other. The contrasting colors startle each other, but they do not clash.  The boldness of the gold deepens the warmth of the rose, releasing its sweet aroma. Can you smell it? 

There’s a tropical feel here.  It reminds me of a conch shell I have sitting near my bath, the deep rose at the center of its hollow, the broad lip curling outward turning shades of gold, the whole sculpture a study of pink and gold, of curls and whorls and crowns.  The smooth inner lips reflecting the light, the rough and rugged shell absorbing it.

This following was shot out of focus against rippling water. I filtered it to see what would happen.

It’s hardly a rose anymore, hardly water, it’s all melted together, water and rose. 

There’s a surreal quality, what a rose might look like painted by Van Gogh, underwater, floating among the seaweed.  A still face just below a rippling surface, holding you with its gaze.  Trying to tell you. You strain to hear.  What is it?  What do you hear?

The next is also filtered, shot against the travertine tile. Romanesque, don’t you think? An old world quality.  Ivory and old lace.There’s a coolness and stillness here, yet the light still brightens.

I’m reminded of ancient statues, the way the light wraps around them, tempering the cool marble with its warmth.  The skin of the rounded limbs, the muscled thighs, the bent elbows, broad shoulders, soft and silky to the eye’s touch, the embracing gaze.

Can you feel the cool, soft petals?

The following is one of my favorites.

She’s just past full bloom, just a shade before fading, still buoyant, full faced, gracious in her giving, nothing hidden, nothing withheld.

The sepia tones capture that inner light, the golden glowing, the gracefulness and graciousness.We know where this ends. But the end is not here, not here at all, not in her, not in this elegant awakening, this gathering awareness, this full-throated opening to all there is.

Here are my lovely ladies, gathered in a crystal vase, growing old together.See how the petals sag ever-so-slightly?

You want to cup them and hold them up, you want to feather your face against them, you want to say, it’s okay my sweets, I love you still, I love you ever more, I love you just this way.

Never has your beauty been more achingly tender than in its fading, its falling away, it ethereal effervescence.

Your beauty is past knowing, it’s all past knowing.

This post, still one of my personal favorites, was written six years ago. I had only one rose bush then. Now I have at least a dozen. Here’s hoping your summer is blooming as lovely as these.

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Dancing Through Time and Space, Pinching Ourselves Awake

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As you read this, I’ll have flown across the Atlantic and landed in Madrid. I may be strolling through the Prado marveling at the artwork, climbing castle steps in Segovia, or sipping espresso at a sidewalk cafe in Paris.

It all sounds like a fairy tale to me now, sitting here tapping out this post to the beat of Jimmy Buffet’s “Trip around the Sun.” Wondering at the wonders to come.

Our whole lives are like this, spinning through time and space on this tiny planet. Traveling through a transient present, glancing back at the slide show of our past, gazing forward into a hazy future full of airy phantoms zooming toward us.

Who knows how this all will unfold?

“We’ll have to keep pinching ourselves to believe we are really there,” says my cousin who I’ll be traveling with.

And so should we all, every day of our lives. To keep present in the moment, right here, right now, before it slips into the past. Before the future with all its airy uncertainty settles around us like a warm blanket and slowly unravels into mere memory.

This life is too loose, too swift, too fluid, to do anything but marvel at its passing, to be dazzled with dizziness as the earth spinning beneath our feet spins around the sun.

Sometimes I think I must keep dancing in place just to keep up.

If only we could live every moment of our lives as tourists, pinching ourselves awake.

I’ll leave you with the song I’ve been listening to.

Romancing Europe – Coming Soon!

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Sailing by the Almafi Coast, Italy

The last time I was in Europe we were sailing on La Gitana. We came up the Red Sea, through the Suez canal, and stopped in Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Malta, Spain, and the Baleraic Islands. I waved wistfully at Italy as we sailed by. We have to save something “for later, ” I consoled myself.

We were on our way home then. We wanted to get there in time for our daughter to start High School, and to bring our son home, who had stayed behind in Australia with friends.  They were eight and eleven when we sailed away from Ventura Harbor six years earlier.

Now, at long last I am returning to Europe, this time with cousins, one of whom won a grant to visit the castles of Europe to enrich her 4th grade classroom. Lucky kids.  Lucky me! I get to tag along.

We will be flying into Madrid and visiting Segovia and Barcelona as well, before heading on to Paris. From there we will take a train to Bruges, Belgium, then on to Frankfurt where we will rent a car to tour Germany and all the castles along the way.

At Freiburg we’ll catch a train over the alps to enter Italy, at long last.  From Milan we’ll head down to Lake Como and the Almafi Coast we had sailed by so long ago. We’ll spend several days there and on the island of Capri, before heading to Rome, and from there home again.

A whirlwind romance in 30 days! For me, the highlights of the trip will be the art museums. To see some of my favorite artists’ paintings in person will be such a thrill. But the castles, the cathedrals, the cities, the hillside villages, the architecture, the history . . . all will be a close second.

Sadly I will be missing all of Tuscany, including Florence, Vienna, and Venice. For an art lover, this will be a huge sacrifice. But I can’t complain. I’m thrilled to be going at all.  Besides, I remind myself: I need to save something for “later.” Hopefully it won’t take this long to return.

I don’t want my blog to go dark while I’m away, so I’ve pre-scheduled a few posts to cover the month I’m gone. That way I can keep in touch with all you lovelies through comments on my blog and on yours. I won’t be blogging about my trip until I return though. I promise not to turn this into a travelogue.

A few photos from our last trip to Europe before I go. Ciao!

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My daughter in Athens, Greece

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In Spain. (Note the limited wardrobe, poor baby.)

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In Marmaris, Turkey, with her friend, Sarah, another yachtie child living her parents’ dream.

Kalossi Castle, Cypris 1989

Two fair maidens listening to Heavy Metal in Kolossi Castle, Cyprus

 

Within the White Hot Flow of Writing

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Spirals, spirals, spirals

That’s where I am. Where I love to be.

I began a new novel almost as soon as I finished the last. An idea I had entertained years ago kept coming back to me. You may remember a blog post I wrote a while ago about wishing I could find a really good steamy novel that was also a novel of ideas, that had substance and depth. Some of you encouraged me to write one if I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and that stuck with me. You should write the novel you want to read. I’ve always believed this.

I also love long novels set in exotic places that reveal the political unrest of the times. And having spent so much time in the tropics when we were sailing, I’m drawn to that kind of locale.

It all fit perfectly with an idea I had played with some years ago about a young naive girl from California who travels to Central America to find her missing mother (I must get the bottom of all these stories I write about missing mothers!) and gets swept up in a political struggle and the revolutionaries fighting to free their country.

As I began preparing to write, I noticed how similar the process of writing this novel is to the one I wrote last time.

First there’s a germ of an idea, and then the need to anchor it in reality. The need to immerse myself in some aspect of the history, the setting, the geography, the larger ideas that underpin what I’m aiming to write: Research.

I went of a shopping spree and bought Salman Rushdie’s memoir of traveling in Nicaragua during the Contra wars, Smile of the Jaguar. I also bought Blood of Brothers, Life and War in Nicaragua by Stephen Kinzer, a journalist for the New York Times during and after the revolution; The County Under My Skin, A Memoir of Love and War by the poet, Gioconda Belli, who fought in the revolution; and The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems. I already had Tom Hayden’s The Long Sixties, a signed copy I got at a fundraiser I organized years ago. Although my novel will be set in a mythical country along the isthmus, studying the war in Nicaragua would help me get a better understanding of what was going on in the region during those turbulent times.

Next in the process comes the need to discover the names and voices of my main characters. I cannot write a word without that.  This  almost happens simultaneously. The voices must have names to embody them, the names must have voices to bring the alive. The names evoke the voices, the voices evoke the names: Lena and Raoul.

Once I have these, there’s not stopping them. They take over my life. They start telling me their stories and I run and grab a pen. I keep on writing, pages after pages in my notebook and on my computer. I look up and morning has turned to nightfall. It doesn’t matter. They follow me to bed. I sleep with them. I dream them. I wake up writing love poems in their voices.

Then I need at least a vague sense of how the novel will open, how it will close. It may change along the way, but I need this parenthesis to contain my writing and to show me where it’s moving. They tell me.

When I have the beginning and the ending, keys scenes in between emerge. I write them down quickly before they disappear. They may change over time, but at least I have key points upon which to hang my novel.

By then my characters have become real to me. They have flesh and bone, names, voices, histories. They have deep, deep urges, conflicting desires, inner and outer struggles, a sense of transformation.

It’s like watching a miracle unfold. How they seem to come from nowhere, out of thin air, then suddenly they are breathing bodies, passionate, possessed.

This miracle of the white, hot flow of words.

Next comes the need, for me at least, to discover the title for this novel, something that embodies both of their stories and what happens to them.

I need a hook, like I did with From the Far Ends of the Earth. Whenever I felt I was becoming lost, a bit overwhelmed, unsure about where the story was going, how to proceed, if this fit or that should be cut, I went back to the title, which embodied my main theme. Then I knew.

The title was a thematic blueprint for what I wanted the book to be. The impact I was after. A book about gathering up and bringing home all the lost parts of ourselves and our families.

So I searched for something like that, some touchstone that would lead me back to that germ of an idea I began with. The point around which all else revolves. And I found it: This Sea Within.

Lena, a California girl, a surfer in love with the sea, restless, passionate, caught up in the turmoil of her times, the Sixties, travels to a mythical country in Central America where her mother was born, searching for the woman who abandoned her, but finding instead a people and culture and land that feels like home, like a part of her lost self. And there she meets Raoul, the leader of a band of revolutionaries whose base camp is on a remote stretch of the sea. And well, you can imagine the rest.

But this is also meant to be a story of ideas, of the tension between a life of contemplation and the life of an activist, the urge to save and savor the world at the same time. It’s about the tensions between a huge, powerful county and what it sees as its smaller vassal states below its border. It’s about the need to find purpose and place in one’s life, to serve a cause greater than one’s self. And it’s about how poetry and art can keep the spirit alive when the world we live in is bathed in blood, figuratively for some, and literally for others.

It’s also about the cycle of time, this never-ending (r)evolution that creates the ever-changing world we live in. It’s about the slow march of history, whose arc is indeed long, but hopefully, must, must, bend toward justice.

This Sea Within. The restless times from which great movements and revolutions are born, and two lovers caught up in that turmoil. That pretty much sums up what this book is meant to be. For now.

It’s all subject to revision.

“To Be Replaced by Love” – George Saunders’ Wish for Graduates

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With graduation season upon us, I thought I’d re-share the most inspiring graduation speech I ever read. One by the acclaimed writer George Saunders that went viral five years ago. Below is a slightly altered version of my original as well as the poem by Hayden Carruth that inspired his speech.

It’s not often you get major writers speaking of such mundane and seemingly trite things as “regrets” and “kindness” to students graduating from ivy-league schools. But that’s what Saunders spoke about at Syracuse University five years ago..

You can read the whole speech HERE.

Saunders starts out with this amazing statement:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Then he lists sensible ways to learn how to be kind:

Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well, everything.

But not to worry, he says, because kindness, hard as it is, becomes easier as we grow older. As life kicks us around a bit we learn to become more kind, because we realize how much we need it, and depend upon it, and want it for our loved ones.

Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.

Wow. To be replaced by love. I can’t think of a more worthwhile goal to strive toward for anyone starting off in life. Or winding down, for that matter.

Here is Carruth’s poem.

Testament

by Hayden Carruth

So often it has been displayed to us, the hourglass
with its grains of sand drifting down,
not as an object in our world
but as a sign, a symbol, our lives
drifting down grain by grain,
sifting away — I’m sure everyone must
see this emblem somewhere in the mind.
Yet not only our lives drift down. The stuff
of ego with which we began, the mass
in the upper chamber, filters away
as love accumulates below. Now
I am almost entirely love. I have been
to the banker, the broker, those strange
people, to talk about unit trusts,
annuities, CDs, IRAs, trying
to leave you whatever I can after
I die. I’ve made my will, written
you a long letter of instructions.
I think about this continually.
What will you do? How
will you live? You can’t go back
to cocktail waitressing in the casino.
And your poetry? It will bring you
at best a pittance in our civilization,
a widow’s mite, as mine has
for forty-five years. Which is why
I leave you so little. Brokers?
Unit trusts? I’m no financier doing
the world’s great business. And the sands
in the upper glass grow few. Can I leave
you the vale of ten thousand trilliums
where we buried our good cat Pokey
across the lane to the quarry?
Maybe the tulips I planted under
the lilac tree? Or our red-bellied
woodpeckers who have given us so
much pleasure, and the rabbits
and the deer? And kisses? And
love-makings? All our embracings?
I know millions of these will be still
unspent when the last grain of sand
falls with its whisper, its inconsequence,
on the mountain of my love below

Pinch Me! Writers House Accepts My Novel

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Writers House, New York City

I’m so excited. Robin Rue, a senior agent at Writers House, one of the top 20 literary agencies in the nation and the largest in the world, will be helping me find a publisher for my novel, From the Far Ends of the Earth.

I never expected it to happen this fast. I’d planned on giving myself six months to a year to find an agent and/or publisher for my book. If it didn’t happen by then I would turn to self-publishing. I really didn’t want to go that route. All the work involved sounded exhausting, but it was important to get the book out there, one way or another.

I had been working on it, on and off, over the last several years. It went through dozens of revisions, two sets of readers, a period where I absolutely hated  it and was tempted to quit, and a long 18 month period where I didn’t work on it at all when going through some major life changes.

It was time to put this baby to bed.

So I created a list of about 20 agents who I thought would be a good fit, and created a list of about 20 publishers who would accept manuscripts without an agent. I worked and reworked my query letter a dozen times. And then the first person I sent it to, Robin Rue, asked to read it. A week later she wrote to say she loved my novel and would be proud to represent me. Yesterday she sent the novel out to a dozen top-tier publishers.

But I had help, and a foot-up in the process. A writer friend who had read and loved my novel offered to refer me to her agent. So that’s where I sent it first. And that’s where my search ended. I am so grateful to her and humbled that I lucked out in such a wonderful way. I’m still pinching myself.

For you writers out there, and those who want to know what my novel is about, here’s the body of the query letter I sent to Robin:

From the Far Ends of the Earth is a 100,000 word literary novel with strong upmarket and book club potential. It tells the story of three family members left behind when the mother at the center of their lives mysteriously disappears. How they cope with her disappearance, learn to reconnect with each other, and forge new relationships in her absence create the heart of this novel.

One day Fran heads toward the grocery store and keeps on going till she reaches the tip of South America. Meanwhile she leaves behind an empty hole in the lives of her family: Kay, a cranky grad student studying archaeology who adores her mother but distrusts men in general, her father and brother in particular; Cal, a heroin addict living in his parents’ home when his mother disappears, left with a father he fears and no other means of support; and Walter, a dedicated  husband but distant father whose random bursts of temper have always set the family on edge.

Adding to the mystery of the mother’s disappearance are the “gifts” she sends her family: The breathlessly elated messages she leaves on her daughter’s answering machine, but never when she is there to pick up. The strangely distorted photographs she mails her son, who studies them like hieroglyphs he must decipher to save her, and save himself. The credit card bills she leaves for her husband to pay, allowing him to continue caring for her as he always has, while he uses them to track her journey across the continent with push-pins on a map.

Except for the beginning and ending when we hear the mother’s voice, the story is told from the perspectives of the three family members left behind. The mother remains an absent presence that permeates the novel without inhabiting it. She is seen only through the filters of her family’s memories and perceptions of her.

Ultimately the novel is about the journeys of self-discovery each protagonist takes to piece back together their fragmented lives and make themselves, and their family, whole again.

Writing this novel was certainly a journey of self-discovery for me as a writer. After some time to celebrate, and a long-awaited trip to Europe, I’ll be starting a new novel.

 

 

More Feeling Than Memory: Flowing Leaves, A Swirl of Fish

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Lately I’ve been leaning toward the abstract in my painting, but it’s hard to resist that representational pull. Especially when trying to capture a feeling grounded in memory, like a swirl of fish, or flowing leaves.

I came closer to the abstract with the flowing leaves. Here I was trying to capture what I felt when watching the wind streaming through the birch trees during my morning meditation. It was mesmerizing, the way the wind played with those strands of leaves. Like fingers gently parting,  lifting, letting go. All that light filtering through. I couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve caught something of that here, I think, but not enough.

This was done with oil pastel and watercolor, with a touch of gold acrylic to add sparkle.

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For the swirling fish, I was looking for a mosaic effect.  Like what I saw on the walls and floors of ancient ruins when sailing through the Med in Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, and Malta. Like what I saw beneath the surface of the sea when I was snorkeling, swirls of color fractured by light.

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The oil pastel-watercolor combo lends itself to that effect, although I didn’t quite accomplish what I had set out to do. Still I like it well enough.

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I’m at the place now where I think I need to work in series, painting one after another of the same theme or subject, playing, practicing, seeing how close I can get to what I hold, not so much in my mind’s eye, but in some deeper more inarticulate place. That scattering of light through leaves. That swirl of sea and fish, broken into tiny bits of brilliant color.

More feeling than memory drives the urge to capture what I experienced then. What I experience still when I close my eyes and allow that felt-sense to rise up deep within.

 

New Paintings – Tangled Limbs, Roots & Rocks

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I haven’t been painting this year as much as last. But I wanted to share a few that will probably find a place on my wall. All of them are a mix of watercolor and oil pastel, which I’ve been playing with a lot lately.

I’ve included two paintings in this post, both proof of my love affair with trees. The one above, Roots and Rocks, is from a nearby creek bed. I love the way the roots of the old oak hug the rocks around it. The reference photo is below.

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Paintings always look better when matted.

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The second painting, Tangled Limbs, and its reference photo are below.

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This is one of the rare paintings which I think looks better the closer you get to it, where you can see the texture and marks better.

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You can’t see it in the reference photo, but the light streaming through those limbs was dazzling. I tried to capture a bit of that by dripping on yellow paint from the top.

I’ll have a couple more paintings to share soon.

 

Mothering the World, A Tall Order

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Margarita Sikorskaia 1968 | St. Petersburg, Russia | TuttArt@ | Pittura * Scultura * Poesia * Musica |

Margarita Sikorskaia

My novel From the Far Ends of the Earth is about relationships between mothers and children and all the ways that is expressed, from the most fearful and destructive to the most trusting and freeing.

A huge influence on my understanding of what “mothering” is, or could be, is found in the Tao Te Ching (CHXXV):

There was something complete and nebulous

Which existed before the Heaven and Earth,

Silent, invisible

Unchanging, standing as One,

Unceasing, ever-revolving,

Able to be the Mother of the World.

This Mother of the World, of course, is Tao, the all-pervading, all embracing, unchanging, and unceasing. It’s the thing that evolves, supports, nurtures, protects, and provides space for its “children,” all individual being.

A tall order for a mere human.

Yet something about that passage spoke to me as a woman and mother. It drew within me the desire to embrace my children in that spirit. And I found the mothering of my own two children improved immensely when I was able to step back and project in some way this more expansive sense of mothering that allows them to feel loved and supported without all the worries and anxieties and criticism and fear that accompany a mere human sense of mothering.

This mothering is not as personal, intense, or myopic, as the latter. It doesn’t hover, it doesn’t obsess, it doesn’t fret. It frees them “to be,” and is based on an immense sense of trust—in myself, in them, and in the universe at large. In God, or Tao, or some divine presence or higher power that embraces all of us, and gives each of us the capacity to mother each other.

This is not to say that I often meet this ideal. Far from it.

But I know I mother my own children best and make fewer mistakes when I’m able to embrace them in that larger, more expansive way. And it feels more natural, less constricted, to mother that way.

I find this kind of mothering works best when all-inclusive. When I embrace all around me with the same mothering spirit. Not just my children, but all children, all people, all things—my home, my community, my work—even the individual objects that fill the space around me and the space outside my window.  When I’m able to actually feel and identify with that potential, to “be” the “Mother of the World.”

Mothering, I learned, is a capacity that anyone can embrace: man, woman, child. You don’t have to be a mother, or have children of your own, to mother the world. When you adopt that stance, all things become your children to nurture, cherish, support, love—to help bring to their full potential.

Here’s wishing you all a lovely day of “mothering.”

First printed on these pages in 2015.

 

Right, at Last, and Wide Open

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Women Combing Their Hair, 1875-76, Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917).

Women Combing Their Hair, 1875-76, Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917).

I’m letting my hair grow out. Like a girl again. It’s past my shoulders already, still mostly brown with a few shimmers of light woven through.

I don’t feel old. Few of us do, even while seeing the signs.

When I was young, I always felt young. Too young. Young in a lost, vulnerable, deer-in-the-headlights sort of way.

I could never understand how other children, teens, young women, seemed so confident, sounded so sure of themselves. When everything about me felt tentative, like I was only half-made, not fully formed, still waiting for some sense of wholeness to emerge.

I felt too-young even when I wasn’t.  When I should have known better. When others were counting on me being full-grown. Like my children.

Other young mothers seemed so secure and self-assured in their mothering, in their interactions with the adult world they inhabited. It was always a mystery to me, how they did that, how they could slip so comfortably into something that was clearly beyond me.

With my own children, at one level, we were one. When they were in my arms, on my lap, when we rocked and thrummed together, they were more me, more mine, more us than anything I had ever known. The circle was complete. I was all womb then. Part of some great mothering movement that wound round us. We were one, not two.

But when they stepped away, when we stood face to face, two again, these little people, staring back, startled me. They were like exotic flowers from some distant land who had been plucked and placed, amazingly, in my hands. Under my care. A person who had no idea what she was doing, who was improvising all the way, first this, then that, no gut-level knowing to clue me in.

Not a mother at all. Just this over-grown girl play-acting at best. Even my children, I’m sure, knew. But they played along.

I’ll be the mother and you be the children, we agreed. Sort of. Sometimes. The line blurred. Lots of give in our roles. But we grew into them eventually.

Somewhere along the way I became mom. The sense of wholeness I had been waiting for settled around me and I can’t really point to the moment I knew I was fully grown, at last.

I do not feel young now. But neither do I feel old. I feel somewhere in-between, swaying cozily in some hammock strung between the two. It feels wide open. I don’t feel the years bearing down. I don’t feel something precious slipping away.

I feel right, at last. And wide open.