Matter. Mater. Mother.

Already the sun is hot
out of season.
Our Mother’s breast
is going dry.
She is taking all green
into her heart
and will not turn back
until we call her
by her name.

(Marilou Awiakta,
Cherokee poet)

cropped-mother-earth-midwifery2
The Mothers Days of my childhood (with construction paper and crayons) were overshadowed by the Mothers Days of my young adulthood (in the shadow of my mother’s alcoholism), and the Mothers Days of my own motherhood (overshadowed by exhaustion), followed by the Mothers Days without a mother (because she died too young); so that by 50 years of age, with almost-grown children, I find myself leaning toward something altogether new…

Celebrating MATTER.

ORIGIN: from Latin from mater ‘mother.’

I want to celebrate the Earth, as Mother. I know this is cliche, but suddenly, for me, this expanded sense of Mother holds deep resonance, particularly after my most recent experience of mothering:

Yesterday, I appeared at the appointed time at my son’s college for student retrieval day (aka. the last day of the semester.) My husband and I, along with throngs of other parents, mostly fathers, hoisted belongings down flights of stairs, around corners, across parking lots and into cars.

Some of these belongings were packed neatly into bins and boxes while others were stuffed into trash bags (where I imagine they’ll stay until August); and yet others were simply abandoned in piles.

I was entirely unprepared for this day. Unprepared from just how much “stuff” there was. Unprepared for how much I’d see left behind–from bed linens to clothing, to furniture and appliances, to books and equipment. Trashed.

I was also unprepared for how much my son and his roommate seemed to neglect the  gift of their living space; and equally shocked that no one else who stopped into their dorm room seemed to notice how terribly trashed it was… despite the colonies of dirt and dust and debris… socks, wrappers, bottles, caps, pencils, books.

The whole afternoon left me soul sick. And I’m not putting this all on two 18 year old guys living on their “own” for the first time. I’m putting this on the lack of true love we hold for Mother in this culture. For how much we consume at any expense. For how much we waste. For how little we care about place. For how careless we are with our bodies and our belongings.

If we claim to celebrate Motherhood, we better start there.

Matter. Mater. Mother.

 

 

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To be

sun-rays-under-water

The first time I ever slunk up onto the dock without a swimsuit, I wore bravado to cover up: “I don’t care if anyone comes; I’m a middle-aged woman for goodness sake.”

Moments later I chaffed my bare skin by rolling across the rough wood slats after hearing the click of a car door.
(No one came.)

This time… is different.

Yes, I am still middled-aged.
Yes, I am still in the nude in the middle of a lake at mid-day.

But the dock is so warm,
and the water so crisp,
and the last rays of summer sun so delicious.

I roll this time too,
but I take it slow–

Turning across the floating dock from front
to back, and back to front, and front to back
So that one side of my body is warmed by wood
and the other by sun

I roll like this for a good, long time,
anxious that someone will come,
but too delighted to let the luxury of skin and water and sky and sun…
end.

For a moment I question whether my nudity is an invitation
to assault.

I hear the vulnerability
of women
whisper to me
through the ages

And so, I remain still.

Claiming our space.

When every last drop of moisture has been kissed by sunlight
I turn onto my belly once more,
Lifting my head to look out into this world…

Yes, I am exposing breasts,
but there is also this–

A reflection
in the water
of–me.

A silhouette of my
head
surrounded by
rays of light,
streaming in from all sides.

No matter who comes now,
I know that I’m right where
I’m meant
to be.

What Solstice Means to Me

woman bed, reaching toward lightFuessli
Fuessli

I have always been a woman of faith. Of many faiths. As a child, I lived in Philadelphia, New Port News, Denver, West Point–and in each place I came across faith–from shades of Christianity–Southern Baptist and Mormonism–to Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

I grew up tolerant and curious.

When I had my own children, I wanted to share the rich world of faith with them, but I didn’t know where to turn. We joined a Native American Prayer Circle, a Wiccan celebration, a Unitarian Universalist Church and an Episcopalian congregation. Each had its own gifts, but none felt entirely like home.

Eventually, I resigned myself to home-churching my children like some do with school. I created ritual and tradition from all that had been vital to me on my own spiritual journey: poetry, silence, reflection, candles, music, dance, yoga, community, service, contribution, stewardship, teachings, conversation, questioning, birth, death, rites of passage, devotion, understanding, love.

In this way, I’ve come into a deeper relationship with myself, and the seasons inside and out… as the wheel turns. It’s too soon to tell if I’ve served my children well. This morning we shared a Solstice Brunch before they left for school. There was a quiche from our neighbor’s eggs.  There were orange bees wax candles. There was a poem and a teaching about the importance of the darkness. Of balance. Of rhythm. Of rest.  And then they hurriedly removed their plates and rushed out the door.

In the silence of my home, my thoughts turn toward the massacre of a week ago this morning. I remember a Pema Chodron quote I read yesterday and make a mental note to ask my boys what they think of it:

To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.

I don’t know what this world will render of my men.  I know I will learn from them as they expose and improve upon my weaknesses and strengths. But neither will be central to me, as my job will be to continue my walk with faithfulness–steeping into the seasons, learning from what comes, growing when I can.

This is one of the first years that Solstice has been especially significant to me. Of all the holidays that I love, it’s the only one that is not made up, not assigned a time or meaning, or laden with traditions and expectations. It’s just the Earth, right outside of my door, tilting as far away as it can from the sun, as Winter sets in.

The older I get, the more I appreciate all this tilting and turning, and the more I understand it–in my bones.

That’s where I like my religion.

Up close.

Solstice
by Lloyd Meeker

Of my blood, my generation’s now the oldest, the link
between the lives before and lives unfolding behind me;
carries a slow simplicity, imperfect and complete.

Ancestors circle, surround me tonight, I hear them
more plainly every year. This night they ask
questions that have no words, and no escape.

Tomorrow when the new year’s sun
strikes the keystone of my heart, what light
I’ve kept alive, all I have to give, will answer.

Kelly Salasin, 2012

a timeline of heartbreak

Bouguereau, visipix.com

Last night I wrote about the loss of innocence–something that can surprisingly still happen at my age. This morning I woke thinking back to my first loss, and the ensuing ones after–wondering if a timeline might reveal something–about who I am and how I want to be.

In selecting my history, I discovered that it was hard to distinguish between the loss of innocence and simple heartbreak. As I traveled through time, the searing heartache of the past week returned–climaxing at the defining loss of my life (large-texted below), and smoldering where it ended–in the excruciating initiation in which I find myself now.

It’s embarrassing to admit my innocence here–the shock that my writing is incendiary; the hurt of being thought selfish when I come from a place of healing, devotion and love; the unfairness of being labeled arrogant because I’m willing to teach and to lead, despite self doubt.

In my ever need to be “savior,” it kills me to be assigned “villain.” And so it is, that another layer of innocence is seared away, and what is left is the cold reminder that I am not the apple in everyone’s eye, no matter how “good” I try to be. Duh.

This sobering truth offers a precious freedom–not defined by what others perceive–whether with praise or condemnation; but at a  painful cost–the death of illusion.

In my heartbreak timeline below, you’ll find the loss of pets, the hurt of betrayal, and the shock of mortality–just as you might in your own. My loss of innocence is also shaped by being misunderstood, and that is a layer that I’m quite ready to burn.

My Timeline of Heartbreak

Pet turtle died

New classmates pinched me

Watching my mother labor

Next-door neighbor’s father died of a heart attack in his sleep

My aunt didn’t show up for our special date

Schoolmate’s family died in a house fire

My inability to bring my sister’s decapitated rabbit back to life

Licorice’s kitten killed by a truck

Licorice disappeared

Best friend’s sister tried to commit suicide

Soldier Blue at the drive-in

My mother drinking in the middle of the day

Falling asleep to the sound of my parents screaming

I ran away from home (a few blocks) and no one came to find me

Breaking my arm and no one caring

The Viet Nam War on TV

My mother’s tears when we left Colorado

My mother’s banishment

Adjusting to a new school and a new home without a mother

My father getting drunk

My best friend’s stepfather molesting her

~The accident that took my grandmother’s life~

Stealing/drinking a beer at summer camp/facing being expelled

Roots, the mini-series

Love=lovemaking=unwanted pregnancy

Extended family affairs/divorces/remarriages

The dissolution of my own family

Graduation Day

Loss of intimacy with my father

Loss of family home

Siblings separated by my mother’s drinking

Loss of access to siblings

First love betrayal

Strength labeled as bitchiness

Recurring rejection by life partner

A misunderstanding with a dear friend

First real job

Work focus mistaken as snobbery

Sibling relationship strife due to faith differences

Learning that love doesn’t always make the difference

My best friend getting drunk on our wedding night

Visiting my mother at Rehab

Loosing sense of identity when slide show summed up life: “Hero Child”

Operation Desert Shield, televised

Love=Marriage=Miscarriage

Burning out as a teacher

Carefully planned homebirth=emergency C-Section

First playgroup

My brother-in-law’s 1st affair

Relationship breaks with new family

Loss of Mother

Recurring relationship breaks with sibling

9/11

Our Nation’s response to 9/11

Getting a Mini-van

Removal of the rose colored glasses on my childhood

The murder at the Co-op

The disappearance of roads after the flood

Realizing that my family was fractured

~Doubting my life’s work…

(Your turn.)

Kelly Salasin, Imbolc, 2012

a gift for you in the loss of your own innocence

for Brigid’s Day

the loss of innocence

Archimbaldo, visipix.com

Who knew you could have a loss of innocence at fifty minus two.

Should I be proud?

Or concerned?

Just how many layers of innocence are there?

Are they meant to insulate?

Is that a good thing?

Or is it make-believe?

Is it better to toughen up?

Questions like these are the ones I ponder this Brigid’s Day.

Because, I like innocence.

It’s spring-like… tender. delicate. full of promise…

but so fragile

~like our community after the Co-op tragedy;

~and our state after the floods.

How do we suffer such loss without hardening?

How do we feel… and then release… pain?

Do we want to?

Kelly Salasin, First of February, 2012

The post before this one: Just Say No

The post that came after: a timeline of heartbreak

The Christmas Vase

Cortes, visipix.com

This Christmas I received the gift of a vase.

Three of them.

Each has a full body and a very narrow opening.

Each was a gift from a child.

My post could end right there.

It is enough.

…Except that after the day I’ve had, these vases are speaking to me:

about my fretting and my overextending:

“Be full inside yourself.

Direct what it is you have to offer.

Let a strong focus give your gifts the space they need.

The way may be narrow, but anchored so, your bloom will express an inner fullness.”

Kelly Salasin, December 30, 2011

Drunk for the Holidays

Flegel, visipix.com

Is it me or has “Drunk for the Holidays” trumped “Home for the Holidays?”  Maybe it’s always been that way.  Maybe I’ve been so distracted by the lights that I never noticed.

It’s not that I’m above alcohol.  I like my chardonnay at dinner; and my cider spiked at Thanksgiving; and a glass of Baileys by the tree; but there’s a difference between enjoying a seasonal beverage and getting bombed.

Even back in my party days, holidays were a time of familial devotion for me. I spent time with little ones or reconnected with the little one in me.  I visited elder relatives and sent cards. I shopped and cooked and made merry with rituals and connections.

During those college days, I remember visiting a friend over the Thanksgiving break, and was surprised to find that all her people got trashed. No doubt this was a tradition linked to homecoming and football; but what’s that connection all about?

I’m no sports fan, but in my assessment the diehards are so drunk that they miss the game, not to mention waste time and money in ridiculously long lines for $8 Budweisers, followed by bathroom lines twice as long.

But I digress.

It was my own alcoholic mother who taught me how to celebrate New Years without drunkeness. On this one night of the year, she asked me not to go out (she was afraid of the drunk drivers); and in exchange for my compliance, she let me have a handful of friends overnight for a fancy dinner. I even got to use the dining room and the china.

Staying in on New Years then became a lifetime pleasure.

It may seem cool to get drunk at 20; but by 30, it’s grown stale (whether you’ve noticed or not;) and if you’re still partying at 40, you’re fraying around the edges, and no one even wants to look after that.

Don’t tell me you’re having fun because fun isn’t slurring your words, and spilling your drinks, and waking up miserable. Fun isn’t a DUI at 45 or rehab at 17.

If you’re not an alcoholic, why act like one?

Maybe you can’t see yourself. Maybe it’s a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes; but ask any child, and she can tell you.  She sees the pain you’re hiding. And the sadness. Or the anger. And the fear. And the boredom. She knows how to play the fool without a substance that ultimately steals the joy.

Wake up! Why do you want to repeat what your parents did? You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re different.

When it comes to getting drunk, we’re all the same.

Kelly Salasin, December 29, 2011

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