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In the Forever Wilderness of Mother

“Every human death takes with it an entire and unrepeatable world, a whole realm of memories, dreams, reflections, beliefs and observations. “
-Susan Murphy
from Spiritual Ecology

My mother passed away two months ago.  I am still very much in an altered state of reality and I wonder if this is a common feeling that others have when that most significant person is gone from this world.   It is a blessing to have feelings of gratitude for the grace of her death. She had a swift ascension and I was fortunate to be at her side along with my brother and his family.  I feel fine most of the time but I know there is something profound unraveling that I have never experienced before.  Not in a negative way, rather an unwinding like thread on a spool that is stretching the length and breadth of our connection into a new territory, an uncharted place.

She was 99 years old and ready. One day she was really tired and the next day Ibrahim, one of the wonderful souls who worked with her in memory care, picked her up, because she could no longer stand, laid her down in her bed and she never rose again.   I have many of her photos around me now including one in a little blue enameled locket that I just put on a chain to wear around my neck, it falls to my heart.  She is smiling broadly in that tiny photo and I wonder where she was and what she was doing.  Maybe she was at the seaside in Baltimore, it looks to be taken around that time in her life in the 1940s.

On a farm in Iowa where she grew up, she told me how she would climb up into the hay loft and reach out onto a ledge and pull in a baby pigeon to hold.  She loved those pigeons and I imagine they may have been fond of her as well.   One day when she got home from school, her father and another man had shot them down off the ledge and she was crushed. I can recall that story as if it happened to me, my empathy for how she must have felt is so palpable. What she could not have known then was that there would be more pigeons to come in the future. Young birds and old birds: racing pigeons. The man she married, my father, his brother and their father, my grand-father, all raised homing pigeons.  I wonder if my own love of birds is connected to my parents? Could there be a genetic link?  Was I destined to paint feathers?

 In the days just after my mother’s death, I was texting a good friend to let her know what had transpired, and the words that slipped through my fingers about the place I had found myself in were, these: “...in this forever wilderness of mother.”   The phrase stayed with me and not long afterward, I felt the urge to investigate more about what that might mean.  How might our individual relationship to mother effect our relationship to mother earth?  

Wilderness by definition comes into our language through the word wild.  But that has connotations that are so removed from the way in which I understand wilderness.  In my etymological dictionary, I find “wild” to mean self-willed, violent, untamed, uncivilized, savage. The opposite of what I consider wilderness to be.  Hiking in the forest, is the soft place where my heart opens, where I generally feel most connected, safe, alive and nurtured.   In our so called civilized cities where there are high crime rates, poverty, homelessness, pollution of all kinds including industrial waste and noise from machinery of all shapes and sizes, there seems to be much more evidence of the etymological definition of wild. The annoying leaf blower outside my studio door, I am resisting listening to as I type, for example!  But no matter the romanticized notion that nature is some how apart from us, untamed and out of control, it seems collectively, we humans are frequently the beast, the one’s self-willed and violent.

How might our personal experience of mother help us to reflect and heal our collective experience of life on earth in the early 21st century?  Does the ecology of self in relationship to mother mirror humanity’s relationship to the great mother, to Mother Earth?  Our mother’s bodies are our bridge to experience life on earth.  A bridge to the earthly realm from the supreme place from which we come, the mystery we cannot recall prenatal. At conception we are immersed in liquid love, a place that is dark where our physical form begins to grow like a seedling underground. We emerge like micro-greens, tender into the world and dependent. We often spend our lives pushing and pulling against that dependence though some seem to make their life easier than others.

When I consider my own relationship to mother as an exchange of immense complexity, I know we as a collective are reflecting infinite complexities in relationship to the greater mother.  Consider the dependency of infancy, the struggles to individuate that come in adolescence, and later on for the lifetime as families grow and change, break apart, experience loss from the inside and out.  We are always involved in intricate states of being with our earth mother and Mother Earth.  Currently, we are in a stage of development on and with Mother Earth comparable to adolescence. Hopefully we are developing through puberty into adulthood in healthy ways though it is often hard to fathom that on the planet in 2017.   We live with her, on her body, but take her for granted. We are abusive and we lack respect; our hormones are raging and we are often out of control. We take and give little back.  We drop bombs, we explode, we are destructive. We dig up her vital oils and clear cut her forests. We lack gratitude.

But in the sacred space of ceremony, working with the medicine wheel, acknowledging our symbiotic connection to all that is, I have seen a new matrix, a pattern of rainbow colors, crystalline.  I hold a vision that we can shift to our better natures, that we can mature into clarity.  We are blessed when love abides; I know I was immensely blessed to feel unconditionally loved.  Not everyone feels that original love bond with their family of origin or with the collective family. Perhaps that is partly why we act out against Mother Nature. No doubt this is deeply rooted in fear, the feeling of lack.  Many feel only the separation from the feminine, or rather the illusion of separation from abundance on earth.

I miss my mother, and yet, I know she is within me.  I am a biology of connection to her and I am aware in a new way that she is a part of every cell in my breathing body. I see the shape of her fingernails in mine.  I recall how she placed her palm to my palm a couple days before she passed away.  It was a transmission, a great seal and one of our last gestures of exchange, a precious memory in this forever place without her.

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