Like the mother of the world, touch each being as your beloved child. ~ the Buddha
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mother of grown children. My own two are in their twenties. The lives we all lead today – in three different parts of the country — are wildly different from the life we shared under one roof just a few short years ago.
And yet, although my duties have changed dramatically, I’m no less a mother today then I was then. In fact, most days I manage to find some opportunity to bring a bit of maternal energy into the world – perhaps on the other end of the phone with a son, or simply by watering a thirsty houseplant, offering a meal to someone who could use one, or sitting quietly with a friend.
Which makes me think: Aren’t we all mothers, whether or not we have biological children of our own? To be fully present for another is, in a spiritual sense, to be a mother.
Each time we support the dignity, health, and growth of any living being, we are mothering the world within our reach. To be a mother is to nurture life. To be a mother is to love without condition or expectation. To be a mother is to recognize the divinity of all beings, everywhere. To be a mother is to honor the invisible and the intangible – kindness, humility, tenderness.
More than ever, our broken world is in need of mothers — mothers of all ages and shapes and sizes, mothers who are both life-giving and life-affirming, mothers who know in their bones what it is that we’re really here to do: Take care of each other and of our precious planet.
I made this video for all of us moms – and for the many beings we mother, human and otherwise. It’s my early Mother’s Day gift to you, in honor of all that you are and all that you do. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I loved creating it. (Big thanks to my own spiritual daughter, Lauren Seabourne, for putting my words and images together so beautifully.)
And while we’re on the subject of mothers. . .
In honor of Mother’s Day, May 14, I’m offering personalized, signed, gift-wrapped copies of all of my books (some at special discounted rates — while supplies last). Details below. But don’t delay: deadline for all orders is Tuesday, May 2.
signed, sealed, delivered, they’re yours
– in time for mother’s day
Want to order a signed book (or several) for the special moms in your life? It’s easy. Here’s how:
1. Click here.
(Note: This link will brings you to my own landing page on my husband’s website, Earth, Sky & Water. Steve sells beautiful posters, note cards, and laminated nature identification guides. And because his business is already all set up to take online orders and fulfill them quickly, he’s kindly offered to handle this special sale for me. While you’re there, feel free to browse his offerings, too.)
2. Want your book(s) personalized? Leave instructions for me in the “ORDER NOTES” FIELD on the shipping address page. Include the book title(s) you’ve ordered, the name for the inscription, and any special message you’d like me to write.
3. If there are no instructions, I’ll simply sign your book(s), gift-wrap them, and have them sent to the address specified.
4. For Mother’s Day, I’m offering a reduced price that includes free gift-wrap by yours truly. Spend $80 or more and your shipping is free. (Use promotional code 4JOY on the shipping address page.)
5. Every copy of my NEW book, Moments of Seeing, will include a bookmark featuring quotes from the book.
6. Hurry! Deadline for all orders is Tuesday, May 2.
It’s January, 2009. I’m sitting at the desk in my older son’s bedroom, putting finishing touches on a memoir about the fleeting beauty of ordinary life — a book I began in an attempt to hold on, just a little longer, to my two children as I want to remember them in these years right before they grow up and leave home: tousle-haired, always hungry, generally happy, busy, and still (blessedly) around.
I’ve been writing The Gift of an Ordinary Day while living it for a while now, living it with a bittersweet awareness of just how good life is when we are fully present to its small mysteries and miracles. Despite the inevitable complexities of parenting adolescents, for the most part our family life seems rich and satisfying. And this winter, the end of the writing is in sight at last. I have only to complete a brief, upbeat afterword — a glimpse of Henry midway through his freshman year of college and a trip I’ve just taken to visit him — and the book will be done.
However, even as I’m revising these final pages, the plot of our family story is taking a new, darker turn. The irony is not lost on me. I’ve just spent the better part of a year celebrating and honoring our family’s life together and now, it seems, our family is falling apart. And I have no idea what to do about it.
One gray winter afternoon, I email my editor that I’ve finished, attach the final pages of my manuscript, and hit the “send” button. I bundle up and go outside for a walk, to clear my head.
And then I return to my computer and Google the words “video game addiction.” [continue…]
A few weeks ago, I called my son Jack for advice.
I’d been invited to California to speak to parents of teenagers, and I was just starting to think about what I could say that might actually be of practical use, especially to parents whose kids are giving them cause to worry. It occurred to me that the best person to consult was my own son, whose challenging adolescence is still fresh and raw in my memory. (I imagine it’s pretty vivid in his memory as well.)
At twenty-four, Jack is sober, self-sufficient, and making a difference in the world. Working full-time as a mentor in a residential treatment center for troubled teenaged girls, he’s been able to transform his own youthful experiences with addiction and recovery into a gift to others who are struggling. Had he not walked this walk himself, he couldn’t extend his hand so whole-heartedly to the young people in his care now. He’s received extensive training on the job, first during a year-long stint as wilderness-therapy counselor and, for the last seven months, as a team member at this therapeutic facility in North Carolina.
But I think he’d agree that his effectiveness at work is as much a product of his own first-hand knowledge as it is a result of his training. In fact, it’s both, in combination with his innate curiosity, his sense of humor, his gift for listening deeply, and his calm demeanor, even when things get tense and crazy. Jack isn’t attached to being right and he doesn’t get flustered, the way we parents so often do. Yet when he speaks of the young women with whom he works, I hear the pride in his voice, especially as he describes moments of growth and change and healing. I couldn’t be prouder of him.
And as it turned out, Jack really was the perfect person for me to call. “I figured you might have some thoughts about how parents can stay connected to their teenagers,” I said. “I do,” he replied. “Every single girl I work with has some kind of conflict with her parents. I think about these kinds of things all the time.” [continue…]
We need to recover an oasis of silence within the rhyme and reason of our active life, for it is in the silence that we meet the face of God. ~ Max Picard
It is still dark as I type these words. The sliding doors of the guest room at my parents’ house in Florida are open to warm night air, the rolling sounds of distant traffic, the first low laments of mourning doves. For the last week my mom and I have been alone here together. Our plan when we arrived was to spend these precious days taking walks, reading our books (I ambitiously mailed myself a whole box from home), exercising, making healthful meals and enjoying each other’s company.
We’ve done some of that. But in all honesty, we’ve been distracted from our modest intentions. The drama playing out in Washington has overshadowed too many waking hours. Instead of immersing myself in the novels on the bedside table, I succumb to the pull of three or four different newspapers and magazines on line.
In years past, my mom and I would spread craft supplies out on the table and create home-made cards and tiny hand-sewn books with leather covers. This year, we’ve been sharing articles and posts from our Facebook and Twitter news feeds. And watching Colbert and Saturday Night Live clips. And making phone calls to senators and representatives. And signing petitions. And donating money. (And, as I mentioned here last week, not sleeping all that well.)
A few minutes ago, when I switched on the bedroom light and reached for my laptop, this quote about silence was the first thing I saw. It arrived at the top of an invitation to a contemplative retreat. The words leapt out — an oasis of silence. I wanted to sign up immediately.
It is still dark, not yet five, too early to be awake. But here I am, eyes wide open. It’s a new habit, this four a.m. restlessness blossoming into a low-grade anxiety that makes going back to sleep impossible. But this morning, oddly, it’s a question that nudges me to consciousness:
How is your heart today?
I lie in bed for a while, taking stock. How is my heart? There’s no easy answer. And so I try to remember, instead, where I first heard or read these provocative, tender words. In a book? A conversation? A blog post?
More curious now than sleepy, I turn on the light, reach for my glasses and phone, and Google the words “How is your heart today?” [continue…]