Monday, May 9, 2011

the incarnations of the mother and child

On Mother's Day, I took some time to re-read a section of a favorite poetry book. I found this piece by Nancy Rose Meeker:

Here am I,
but also vessel of creation.

Rhythms of the ages
stir the Womb of Woman,
my own womb -
ancient pulse in my own heartbeat,
nourishment in my own breast.
This life through me
was fathered deep
in fire-consecrated flesh,
and here, behold!
A miracle,
that what was not before

This piece stuck out because I have friends who have welcomed new babies this month. My first child was born in the month of May as well and I was reminded of those first days - nothing brings you so fully into the present. The exhaustion, wonder, worries and love shift you into a space that allows for a concentration only a mother will know.

After focusing on the experience of birth my mind wandered to all the women who are mothers and did not birth their children. From there the definition expanded to grandmothers and sisters who have taken over the care of children and those who travel across oceans to find the one they will nurture and protect. Early in the morning I heard Sylvia Boorstein, a Jewish-Buddhist teacher, mother, and grandmother speak about loving and teaching children on Being with Krista Tippett. She said, "Parenting is a spiritual practice" Providing care makes you a care-giver; embracing the practice makes you a Mother.

All of these mothers are complicated and mysterious. I know this now because I am one and I can see there's only so much my children need me to be, or want to see - what I am beyond that doesn't need to be revealed even if it's essential to the practice.  I will wait out those years of first independence when they will inevitably turn away in one way and another so that, after a time, they can look again and we might understand each other differently. They will, like I did, start to piece together a life that happened while I was right there next to them - the incarnations of the mother and child. 

Uma and baby Ganesha

Florence Owens Thompson, the so-called "Migrant Mother," whose photo was used to help raise awareness of the plight of migrant pea-pickers in the Great Depression.

Achomawi mother and child

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