I Am Mother

What was your mother like? she asked, with pad and expensive pen in hand.

Like any mother, maybe. Locked in the bathroom, in the tub crying. Taking litte blue pills when she thought I wasn’t looking.

Dad would come home and always pick the bathroom lock. Try to soothe her in his rough around the edges ways, sit on the floor at the edge of the tub until he could get her to crawl out, off balance and dripping wet and cold from the hours-old water.

Mostly what he did helped, but her cry eyes would swell for days, and she always tried to line them with wax pencil, thinking it hid her secrets behind what she called a smoky eye. She seemed to think a melancholy look was beautiful.

I thought sometimes she faked the crying in the bathroom thing for attention. But Dad said no, that if she didn’t hide in the bath, she’d have walked out into our Wyoming desert with the coyotes, lain down in the sagebrush, and we’d have never found her again.

I wondered why she didn’t just leave us if she was so unhappy. Go to California or something, someplace with sun and not so much snow and coal. But I knew in my heart she was too faithful and loving and afraid to know what real leaving was.

Dying, she could do, if she’d have loved us just a little less. But she loved us more than the sun, more than the God she wrestled with, more than the stones and bones and Bibles she kept in her special drawer, and mostly she loved us more than herself.

And that was maybe what saved us all.

Leaving God

I haven’t known what I am for some time, now.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the God of the Christian faith. It’s not that I don’t have faith that he exists. I’m actually quite certain that he does exist, in some form or another. It’s that I have no faith in what he is. Truth be told, I think he is an uncaring, aloof asshole. Unreliable. Cold.

The final marker for the death of my former faith was laid down on December 14, 2012. Oh yes, I’d had troubles with Christianity before then. It was a slow dying, one that I fought hard, and by the end, I was clutching at my Bible with every bit of please help me that I could muster. But it wasn’t enough. All my clinging, my pleading wasn’t enough to salvage what was left of the strong convictions and sureties I’d carried with me for almost 40 years. Does that make me weak? To some, yes. But I know otherwise.

I go through phases. At times, I am completely stable and balanced in knowing what I don’t know. I feel good and solid in my earth-bound spirituality, knowing that, yes, there is something behind it all, inside of it all, around us all. For me, nature-based spirituality is more sensible, more attainable, and even more comforting than my old our-father-who-art-in-heaven beliefs. Some may ask what’s so comforting about nature? Well, it’s the surety of it that I find so peace-inducing. We generally know what to expect from nature.

We know that storms come. We know that the sun will rise in the East. We know that ice forms on the lake in the winter. We know when to watch for fawns and robins’ eggs and ducklings. So many things in nature are essentially promised. There is great comfort in unbroken promises. Nature is powerful, and can bring about great destruction, too. Scary, sad, awful things that we aren’t expecting at that time. But, even still, we know that earthquakes and hurricanes still exist, and that they are more likely in certain areas and during certain times.

I once watched a documentary about penguin babies. To be honest, I have watched many documentaries about penguins and their babies, but this particular documentary has stood out in my mind for many years. These penguin babies were hidden by their parents in little seaside hills in Australia. This type of penguin is the smallest penguin in the world, and as you can imagine, the babies are unbearably adorable. The parents swim out to sea to find food in order to feed their babies, and are often gone so long, that the tiny babies have died by the time they return.

A scientist in the documentary who has studied and watched these “fairy penguins”, as they are called, for years, said that it made her sad when the babies perished. She said that many people would call nature cruel for allowing, or perhaps causing, the babies to die. She went on to say that nature was not, in fact, cruel. Nature is neutral. It just essentially is what it is. I thought that was so simple and profound. So sensible. Yes, nature just is. 

And perhaps it’s this philosophy that has contributed to my departure from Christianity. If nature, being so powerful, is not cruel, yet not loving, it is simply neutral. If God, being so powerful, allows bad things to happen to the innocent among us, then he must not be loving. As such, he is either cruel, which Christianity states is untrue, or he is neutral. Like nature. Emotionless.

But aren’t we told in Sunday School that God is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful? Those are not descriptions that denote neutrality, or that denote a lack of emotion. We are told that God is vengeful. Jealous. So, obviously, God has emotion. Jesus wept. I can’t tell you how many books and essays I’ve read on the topic of why bad things happen to good people. And by good people, I am not referring to myself. Primarily, I’m referring to children, and the horrendous things that adults seem to repeatedly do to them. Pages and pages and pages of reading on where is God when bad things happen. And after all that reading, the conclusion that I haven’t been able to chase away is that God is there, but he just isn’t powerful enough, or doesn’t care enough, to fix what’s happening. To stop it. So he just goes on letting it happen.

I’m told that God doesn’t do bad things to people, people do bad things to people. So, by virtue of that argument, if I sit and watch while someone is beating up one of my children, if I just let it happen because the bully has free agency, or some such nonsense, then what kind of parent am I? A shitty one.

And so, I have deduced that God is a shitty parent, and I’ve essentially disowned him as dysfunctional and lacking. I will try to talk to him every once in a while. Just to see if things have changed. But so far, no luck. Oh, he’s there. He’s just got more important things to do than saving abused children, feeding the starved, healing the terminally ill. And he is certainly too busy to help me get the job I’ve applied for or to help ease my depression.

After Sandy Hook, a cousin posted on Facebook (the worst place on earth to interact with the insufferable) that if prayer had been allowed in school, God would have been there for the Sandy Hook children and teachers. I came undone, tried to reason with her over private messages, and she wouldn’t budge (and, to be fair, neither would I). In the end, I told her that if that is the kind of god she believed in, then her god was a dick, and I’d have no more of him.

I still stand behind every word I wrote.

godNone-the-less, the void that is left, after the leaving, after the disowning, is still achy sometimes. Most of the time, I can cushion it with feathers and flowers, with a ray of sun or two, a cuddle with my puppy, but not always. Don’t tell me it’s a god-sized hole that’s needing filled. Don’t quote Bible verses. And, sweet mother of all that’s holy, don’t tell me you’ll pray for me. Pray for yourself. Pray for children who are suffering. Pray for something that matters. And I hope that your prayers will work better than mine ever did. I strongly doubt they will, but I sincerely hope they do.

 

 

Of Here

It’s difficult to hear someone you admire say something that is, or seems, contradictory to all of the things they’ve said before. An author and spiritual mentor wrote this week that, because we feel pain in this world, perhaps it means that our spirits are not of this place, but of elsewhere.

This, from a teacher of Earth Medicine, whose writings and teachings are of the medicine of plants and animals, the magic of the soil, the air, of nature.

It’s not so much that I completely disagree with the sentiment, that perhaps our essence is not originally of here. But, the idea flies in the face of all that I’ve admired and learned from this teacher.

It feels like she’s changed her tune. Which we’re all free to do, at any time or place, but perhaps an introduction to a new idea, a preamble to a complete change of heart, a warning that everything has changed, would have been a gentler way for the student to learn.

The concept that my spirit, my soul, my essence, whatever I choose to name it this week, is not of here was a very difficult and damaging, and long-held, belief for most of my life. I clung to my Christian faith, in its many forms, ferociously, desperately, and forced it to bleed me dry and empty in its not-of-here-ness. It was a cop-out on my part. If I was not of here, I could simply rely on the “fact” that, some day, there would be an escape. And sometimes, I wanted to make that escape come sooner than it should.

I’ve had several suicidal times in my life, and still think of death in rare moments. However, it has been Earth Medicine, my faith in nature, that has brought me the farthest from the precipice, and has kept me away from swinging out over the edge. I consider the doe. What does she do? She survives. Her absolute purpose is to survive. Why? It doesn’t matter. It’s just what she does.

She is of the earth. She is earth. She survives.

And that is the belief, the knowledge, that has changed me. When I feel desperation slipping into the cracks of my fragile peace, I look to such things as the doe, the rabbit, King Prawn. I look to the sun and the moon, to the stars, the darkness, the breeze on my face. I pick up a pretty, round stone, pluck a sprig of wild sage, a cornflower, hold a twig of just the right size.

And these pieces of the mundane, these bits of silence and birdsong, these things that circle around, season through season, remind me that it is the simple things, the basic and earthly things, that are my sustenance and my refuge. A pink wildflower reminds me of my beautiful daughter. A leaf, grown so large it seems unreal, reminds me of my wildly ambitious son. A buck in velvet tells me tales of my loving husband, my best and most faithful friend.

The moon is my mother, the sun my father, and the world in green and sea blue is my realm, a place of every possibility, every emotion, every wish and desire and dream. I sit on my patio chair, watch the hummingbirds drink scarlet juice, see the ants busily and endlessly about their work, watch the clouds float by through a curtain of aspen leaves. And I am home. This earth is my home. It’s where I come from, and to whence I’ll go.

Yes, I am fully of here. It appears I am my own teacher now. And that is a story of evolution.

 

King Prawn

Last night
I floated on seawater,
And a glowing King Prawn
Darned my womb
with silken thread,
And clicking fingers of burnt sienna.

Sol Invictus in an exoskeleton, with full Mother Moon
looking on.
I’d have been afraid,
Had Mother not been there.

Threads, he said.
You are made of threads,
Each one a break or a bond.
It’s braids you must build,
To keep it all together.

White silken braids,
Made of love and longing
and the bleeding silver
in your hair.
(Which you must not hide,
he added.)

Red silk in warm water
Is not the path,
Even when the beckoning
Is strongest, stronger than
Even the pull of the tide.

Seek the threads,
Save the threads,
And remember what tapestries
The Mother creates
From gossamer.

Never let the warm water
Bring you under.

So said the Invincible Sun
With his King Prawn eyes
And tiny feet that tickled my belly.

I believe him.

We Are

So many things I wish I could be, wish I was, wish I wasn’t.

My mind often tells me I’d be happy if I weighed 120. 127. 135. 140. Even 150. But I once was lighter, and once was at each of those weights, at one or two or three times or another. And I wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t happy, because happy doesn’t depend on weight, no matter what the weight loss commercials, magazines, and diet books tell us. Happy doesn’t depend on weight.

My mind still replays the old monologues, still hurls the old slams and insults. Fat. Frumpy. Lazy. Disgusting. Pathetic. Old.

My mind still tells my stomach, my upper arms, my neck and my chin what they are, and what they aren’t. What they should be, what they may never be again.

And then my Spirit steps in and says, whoa, Mind. Chill. Remember we’ve been through this before, and you were wrong last time. Everything you said, turned out to be wrong.

Happy looks a lot different than I used to believe. Happy isn’t about whether my skin is saggy or not, whether I have wrinkles around my eyes or not, or whether there’s a bit of a muffin top above the waist of my jeans. Happy isn’t about white furniture and clean kids and dinner on the table at six each night.

I’m finding that happy is actually much simpler than I ever realized. Happy is about getting a little sunshine, sitting on the back porch, being in the right place, and being here, right now. Happy is this moment, a deep breath, the sweet, pungent smell of sage, and remembering that this is sacred. I am sacred. You are sacred. 

Happy is holiness, and gratefulness is bounty.

I am here. Here, I am. Be here now.

Hush, breathe, and let the sweetness of the air sink in.

One Time I Tried…

Once I tried domestication, and accidentally turned into someone else. I wanted so much to be one of those women, the ones with the smiles, the doting families, the Scentsy-infused living rooms, the halos.

Didn’t last long, and then Coyote ran across the road, as I drove away to nowhere, morning sun across her back.

Run, baby, run,” she called out.

I know she was calling to me.

So I retired the apron and the guilt, and now just dabble a little with wooden spoons, herbs, a sweet potato or two. No list of daily to-do’s. Saute’ a little red onion, rinse off a can of pinto beans, gather and stir, but always with the door slightly open, to remind me I’m free.

Once a runner, always one. Coyote always knows.