Dear Soul Beings,
The scent of pine and dust fill my nostrils as I trample through the bushes and under the barbed wire, that separates our property from the arroyo and our neighbors. I brush off the sand from my knees and trudge on. Toffee, my German Shepherd-American Eskimo dog, leaps ahead, exploring new smells. Many times we have walked here. I tear off a piece of pine branch that is sticking out of the undergrowth. It breaks sharply as if it’s dead. But the virescent core gives off a fresh scent of juniper. I inhale deeply and say out loud to the trees:
“You are here and YOU are here and this is why I am here.”
Some days I wonder. Like I wonder, why did I want to become a mother? Why did I fancy myself a giver and a nurturer? Why did I need to magnify my life? I was older, more mature, more stable and newly married. I know, I know. It was a dream as old as my bones, to be a mother. And my daughter is the light of my life. Seriously, her true self is a brilliant beam of light. I cannot imagine life without her. And yet, when her sixteen year old persona becomes fractured and out of balance, (as most adolescents can be), I sometimes forget, that it is the persona acting out. She is casting her heart in love and hate. She is testing me.
Does Mom survive when I love? Does she survive when I hate? Will she break when I hate? Will she leave me?
I wonder, how do I hold her when the arrows are being slung? How do I stop my own fire from igniting? These emotions that drown us need to be contained. A strategy is in order. I know, I need to breathe.
When I feel adrift, unable to focus, worn out and angry, I break the malaise with trips into nature. Sometimes twice a day, I walk the arroyo, or climb Sun Mountain. The arroyo is out my back door and behind the house and the other is around the next block. Hiking up Sun Mountain, one has 350 degree views of Santa Fe. Sometimes all I need is to feel the wind on my face and my breath quickening. In the arroyo, the land is flat and my pace hastens, until I pause for a splash of color or a parade of stone altars left by a previous hiker.
As a child, in my quasi-Jewish atheistic household, Mother Nature was the only God we were allowed to refer to. “There is no such thing as god, there is only Mother Nature.”
Summers were spent in Northern Michigan. These trips to Lake Superior were carefully worked into the change of seasons and my dad’s work schedule. Late June was still late Spring up there, and that’s when teh holiday started. Grand Marais on the lake was our favorite spot. There the rugged peninsula faced Northerly winds, long days and a short growing season, with wild irises blooming late into the summer.
For me it was a time of freedom and exploration, even though I was still under the watchful eye of my mother. I don’t know what I loved more, the mystery and beauty of walking in the woods with my family or the sense that everything was as it should be when we all let the inner dialogs fall away and there was a sense of wholeness and connection. I remember letting go of how I felt about my body, releasing feelings of stupidity. . I felt in awe of Nature when I saw a Lady’s Slipper sprouting out of a damp woodsy patch of moss or a field of forget-me-nots in the middle of the forest.
I remember at the time, I was reading D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Sons and Lovers. I was completely entranced. It was a story of human relationships and throughout the story, he described, in poetic detail, the rural English countryside pitched against the mining town of Nottingham. It seemed very similar to parts of Northern Michigan. He described Summer Snowflake, Foxgloves, Gentians and Crocus. In the woods of Grand Marais, I would find Foxgloves, Crocus, Forget-Me-Nots and wild Roses. I remember those summer days as sun-baked, whimsical and happy.
We had rented a cabin, a stone’s throw from the beach of Lake Superior. My younger sister and I shared a bed and the middle one slept on the sofa. At night I could hear my parents’ bed creaking and heavy breathing. By morning’s light I would awaken, pull on shorts, sweatshirt and sneakers. I’d skirt the tall grasses and head towards the beach. There, with the wind tearing at my hair, I’d throw off my shoes and run to kiss the waves.
After her coffee, my mother would come down to start her day of agate hunting.
She was at her best, looking for these special banded stones. My father would set up his easel on the beach, with a straight view to the lighthouse. She and I would sift through the rocks, looking for the stone that had a translucent matrix holding patterned bands of quartz.
I cannot remember the specific conversations I had with my mother. She seemed to like the local boy I had taken a shine to. A Mennonite lad. But she did warn me:
“He’s religious. Watch out for that.”
His name was Rod. He was tall and lanky with curly blond hair and piercing blue eyes. I have vague recollections of talking about religion but mostly I liked the way he kissed me. I hated to leave Grand Marais that summer. We wrote letters for a year and then he disappeared.
That was the summer of love and rocks and D. H. Lawrence. It was a time with my family I remember with love. I say this, because I can’t remember a lot of the good times of teen age-dome. I didn’t explode with anger, I just pushed the internal angst down deep. The delayed rebellion didn’t happen till my thirties.
But now I am raising a daughter who is sixteen and I’m fraught by the number of cross fires that so easily ignite. I am slowly learning to let go. Little by little we are learning about love. She gets to run up against herself and so do I. It’s a process. I am so willing to show up because the process takes us deeper. We grow into ourselves more, just when we thought we knew all there was to know.
She says, “Just be my mom.”
I love that. I could have never said that to my mother.