Springtime has arrived in California. The birds are busy building their nests, the cherry blossoms are blooming, and we are planting flowers and veggies in our little garden.
I took the kids to Lowe’s last weekend, and we walked through the store and came across the plant “clearance” section. Tilley and Mason asked me why the plants looked so sad. As I picked up a bag of birdseed, I told them that those were the plants that no one wanted anymore and they were probably dying. Before I knew it, Mason had filled the cart with as many plants as his little arms could carry and told me that we were going to save them. My son’s great big heart of compassion couldn’t bear to have even one plant left behind.
We spent a good portion of our day in the backyard. We planted our new, sad flowers in their pots, soaked our flower seeds in jars and re-filled the bird and hummingbird feeders with fresh food.
As a child, I remember feeling very connected to nature and animals. My parents would constantly ask me to clean my bedroom, as the aroma of my hamster, mice, frogs and turtle was enough to keep anyone away. I grew up in the outskirts of a small town, and I have fond memories of hiking through the wooded areas that lined my street; writing poetry, sitting by the stream and just relaxing in nature. I could spend hours in my backyard looking for grasshoppers and other creatures, keeping them as pets for a few days before releasing them.
As a mother, I’m trying to help cultivate that same connection to nature for my children. Although we live in a sprawling city, there are many places to explore and enjoy. From the ocean, to the canyons and desert, to the lake right down the street, my kids have more than enough to be wondrous about in nature. Tilley loves bugs and will happily pick up any creature she finds. Rolly pollies, worms, and snails… Tilley carries them around like her little pets. I try not to make a squeamish face when she picks up the slimy ones, as I really don’t want to discourage her fearlessness.
Last weekend we went to the park and walked the trails to find nature’s treasures; empty snail shells, acorns, pieces of bark, flowers and rocks. The kids were busy climbing trees and didn’t get excited when I found a miniature snail shell. I laughed and wondered who was acting more like a kid. Then I remembered… I’m usually the one that anxiously sits by and waits for the caterpillars to transform into butterflies. And it’s me who marks the transformation from larvae to pupa to lady bug.
Even if I am the one benefiting from these childhood activities, I know my passion will one day transfer to my children. Even now, they help me remove the snails and worms from sidewalks before the sun gets too hot. They use their shovels to dig holes in the earth, as I re-pot our vegetables and flowers for the summer. They mirror my excitement as the baby birds chirp and joyfully follow me to the nest to catch a peek.
Connecting our children to the earth and the ultimate “Mother” is one of the most beautiful things we can do. Mother Earth whispers her secrets in every flower, every tree and in every living creature.
Notice the difference between the noun and verb definitions that come from the word Mother. Of course there is the traditional “noun” definition which describes a woman that has “given birth”. But there is a separate, distinctly different “verb” definition that speaks to the day in, day out actions of providing “care and affection”. As we know, it is not always the birth mother that raises a child and “the art of mothering” goes well beyond the act of giving birth.
Through my actions, I am the same mother to Mason, Elisabeth and Evelyn. There is no difference in my actions of reading a book, cooking and feeding them dinner or taking them to the park. Although I didn’t give birth to Mason, he is my son through and through. He has adopted my mannerisms, my many food preferences, and he takes joy in similar pleasures. I can see myself reflected through him and his approach to life. His wide open heart, his joyful nature and his willingness to experience life are things I see in myself, now coming alive through him.
It is through the art of mothering that this transference has occurred. In my daily actions of love, care and affection, I have helped to shape the life of my son. I understand his needs and what makes him happy and scared. I know what to say to inspire him to take action. I know his favorite foods and what books will encourage him to read more. I know which parks have his favorite slides and the stuffed animals he asks to snuggle with at night. I know all of these things because he is my son, and I am his mother.
Nature and mothering go hand in hand. There are metaphors around every corner; in the new sprout, the bird’s nest, even in the strong climbing branches of the mature tree. I feel it in the energy of the buzzing bees, butterflies, and birds that pollinate my garden to grow. And although none of these beings have come from me, through our actions we participate in their creation and we help them grow. If I hadn’t soaked and planted a seed one week ago, then the sprout of this Morning Glory wouldn’t be here today. We are the ones that help the seed to sprout, by cultivating the soil, and by watering them until they bloom. Through our actions, we are all “The Mother”.
Just like a mother, we are… …the planter that transforms the seed into the sprout of the Morning Glory. …the provider of food that nourishes the plants and birds so they can grow. …the fertilizer that helps the vegetables achieve their fullest potential. …the watcher that lives through their eyes to make sure every need is met.