Upon the doorstep of Mother’s Day, I know many women who chose not to become mothers. Some due to circumstance, some due to intention.
I have written before about my strained relationship with my own mother and it seemed to hit a nerve with a number of readers. Of course, mothering doesn’t come naturally to a lot of women and many struggle to provide a nurturing environment for their children. Who can fault them? Mothering is hard work, often self-less work. Work that never ends. How are we to make sense of it? Mothers are often left to their own devices and children pay whatever price is to be paid. The lucky ones are made whole through their mothers. Others are left scarred.
The quiet and pensive poet Mary Oliver made her own “mother” memory in the poem Aunt Leaf. She writes of a woman she finds in nature, one who shares her soul and understands her heart:
Needing one, I invented her – – –
the great-great-aunt dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
Dear aunt, I’d call into the leaves,
and she’d rise up, like an old log in a pool,
and whisper in a language only the two of us knew
the word that meant follow,
and we’d travel
cheerful as birds
out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us both into something quicker – – –
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish – – – and all day we’d travel.
At day’s end she’d leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;
or she’d slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;
or she’d hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,
this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.
Her own version of Peter Pan, but in the guise of a nature woman, wild and kind, able to rise up and embrace her through shared adventures and shape-shifting…so healing and sustaining.
There is a reason they call her Mother Nature. Always there, always re-inventing herself. Always being nourished and nourishing. We all share this mother.