to the mothers

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. 

 

books!   

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.

the family we choose

IMG_2949“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.”
~ Chinese proverb

I always wanted a daughter. Last year, I finally got one.

She arrived not as a newborn into my arms, but into my heart instead, and fully grown. And yet the mysterious, compelling process of attachment has changed us both. Perhaps that’s because as long as we’re fully engaged in forging deeper relationships with others, we’re also continuously being formed ourselves, sculpted and honed by the invisible hand of love.

The first email from my daughter-to-be came a couple of years ago, through my website:

Hello…. Today I watched the Ordinary Day video and found myself crying in my cube at work. I am not a mother (yet). I am a Connecticut native who became a transplant in Atlanta – working and dating with no long-lasting luck.

Your video moved me because even though I am 32 years old, I have always longed for my parents, or perhaps more so my Mom, to share with me her feelings like you did. . . .Funny enough, I am much like you: Nostalgic, and with a plethora of stories of the five kids I grew up babysitting, and I long for those “ordinary days” even for myself!”

Lauren wanted to order a book for herself and one to give to her cousin for Mother’s Day. And, Lauren being Lauren, she wanted to make her gift special by having me inscribe it.

That was the beginning – an innocuous exchange similar to hundreds of others I’ve had over the years. But, Lauren being Lauren, she followed up her request for books with a thank you note. What’s more, she told me she’d now read The Gift of an Ordinary Day and sensed in me a kindred spirit, the kind of mother she herself aspired to be one day.

Fast forward a few months, to early autumn 2013. [continue…]

Motherhood Realized

motherhood jacket imageFlying to the west coast recently, I found myself seated on the plane alongside a young couple. They appeared to be about twenty-four or so, the same age as my own older son. She, five months pregnant, was immersed in a how-to book about mothering newborns. He, sweet but distracted, played a video game on his computer.

I couldn’t help but watch them with tenderness, these two innocent parents-to-be with so many joys and challenges and unknowns in their future. The young woman spent a long time bent over a page of diagrams showing, in step-by-step detail, how to swaddle a baby. At one point, she summoned her husband’s attention to the page as well. She went through the motions of blanket folding in the air, concentrating intently, referring back to the directions. It was clear she wanted him to take the swaddling lesson as seriously as she did.

“We have lots of time to practice, honey,” her husband said, before turning his gaze back to the screen on his laptop.

Shyly, she turned then to me. “Do you have children?” she asked.

I told her I did, two sons.

“Did you swaddle them?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But not for long. That only lasted for a week or so. By the time I got good at it, they didn’t want to be swaddled anymore. And then I had to learn something else. That’s pretty much the way it goes all the way through motherhood — just as you get one thing figured out, your child is on to some new stage, and you’re trying to keep up.” [continue…]

A healing journey

L5 xray
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to learn

~ Pema Chodron

We looked at the X-rays together, my son Jack and I.

“This is last August,” the orthopedist said, pointing to the image on the left, showing two clear fractures in Jack’s L-5 vertebrae, fractures that, after 6 months, were showing no signs of healing on one side and only a minimal feathering of bone growth on the other.

“And this is now,” he said, indicating the scan from last week. “Completely healed.

“I can tell you,” he said turning to Jack and raising his hand for a high five, “this hardly ever happens.”

I remember my very first glimpse of my younger son: the dark, cool room; the ultrasound wand sliding through the goop on my swollen stomach; my husband peering over me to get a look at the shadowy little curlicue of a person floating deep within my belly. It was, I am suddenly realizing, twenty-one years ago this summer – my son’s entire lifetime ago, and yet still fresh and vivid in my mind’s eye. The technician asked if we wanted to know the sex of our baby. [continue…]

Guideposts

shadows at Bailey IBefore the first winter snow flies here in New Hampshire, some of us pound stakes into the ground alongside our driveways, to remind us later, after the landscape is blanketed in white, of exactly where the pavement ends and the lawn begins.  Nothing fancy, just a few metal rods, perhaps with a reflector at the top, to keep the plow or the snowblower from straying off track.  They are, quite literally, guideposts.

As I sat holed up in my bedroom today, making notes for the talk I’ll give to a group of parents on the West Coast on Tuesday, I realized that some of the quotes that have shaped me as a mother are really the spiritual equivalents of those guideposts poking up through the snow:  words that keep me on track when the familiar landscape of our family life is suddenly altered by some challenge or unexpected turn in the emotional weather.

It’s so easy, when things get stormy around here or seem a bit out of control, to lose my way.  But if being the mother of two sons who have now attained the impossibly grown-up ages of 20 and 23 has taught me anything, it’s that storms pass and that control is an illusion anyway.  Still, it helps when the weather is wild, to have some markers pounded into the earth, words that remind me of where I want to put my feet, of the solid ground I know is there for me, just beneath the blinding swirl of whatever’s coming down.

Attachment to outcome has probably been the biggest challenge on my own parenting path. Little wonder then that my central task as a mother seems to be practicing the art of nonattachment.  And so I look to the wisdom of others to remind me of what I already know:  I can love and care for my children, but I can’t possess them.  I can assist them, and pray for them, and wish them well, but in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their choices and their destinies, not on my wishes.

It surprised me to notice today that none of the quotes that keep me on track as a parent actually come from books about parenting.  But perhaps that’s as it should be. For the other thing this journey of motherhood has taught me is that my children are not extensions of me, and my real work isn’t about changing them, or shaping them into the people I think they ought to be. It’s about changing myself – learning to soften, to trust, to pay attention, to accept, and, most of all, finding the faith to let them go.

So, here are the guideposts I’ve placed along my own path, to keep me moving in the direction I aspire to travel.  What words serve as your guideposts on this journey?

(A word about this photo, taken ten years or so ago at sunset on a summer day in Maine:  I love the joy in these shadows, the memory of a vanished, distant time, the fact that Jack and I danced and played in that golden light and Steve grabbed his camera and captured the fleeting, precious moment.  It still makes me smile and get a little teary at the same time. And it reminds me: be present; we will not pass this way again.)

Words for the Journey

“To bow to the fact of our life’s sorrows and betrayals is to accept them; and from this deep gesture we discover that all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds more freedom and compassion than we could imagine.”   — Jack Kornfield

“I try to remind myself that we are never promised anything, and that what control we can exert is not over the events that befall us but how we address ourselves to them.”   — Jeanne DuPrau, The Earth House

“It has something to do with submitting rather than dominating. Surrender, submit. Have faith, trust in the mystery. That’s not easy. Surrendering one’s life to living in, and serving, the beauty of a mysterious world is a big step. . . .The purpose of the journey is compassion.”

— Joseph Campbell,  An Open Life

“Who you are is made up of three persons.  There is the one you think you are, the one others think you are, and the one you really are.  Work towards making all three the same. Then there will be peace and bliss.”          —  Sri Sathya Sai Baba

“Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold.”  — Peace Pilgrim

 “Life is change.  Growth is optional.  Choose wisely.”  — Karen Kaiser Clark

“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”   — Jon Kabat-Zinn

 “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”    — Buddha

 “To look deep into your child’s eyes and see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then to develop a zealous attachment to every aspect of him, is to achieve parenthood’s self-regarding, yet unselfish, abandon.”

“We must love (our children) for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do.  Loving our own children is an exercise in imagination.”   — Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree

 

A Magical Journey update

Some books are review books. (Think a quotable rave from the New York Times).  That’s not this book.  Some authors appear on The Today Show or The View, with answers to all your questions about how to be happy.  (Think instant ascension on the best-seller list.)  That’s not me.  I am an under-the-media’s-radar kind of writer.  And I’m pretty sure  Magical Journey is a word-of-mouth kind of book.  That’s fine with me.  And I am deeply grateful to every single one of you who have bought a copy, shared a copy, or urged a friend to give it a try, saying, “Here, I think you’ll like this, too.”  Thank you!

Last week, Magical Journey was #1 on the best-seller list at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH.  Sure, it’s a small independent bookstore in a small city in the middle of my home state, but I’m pretty thrilled to be #1 anywhere.  And yes, readers made it happen.

Want to spread the word?  Here are three quick things you can do.  (With huge thanks in advance for your help.  It really DOES make a difference!)

1. Write a brief review on Amazon.

2.  Like my page on Facebook and share posts with your friends. (I update there often, and post news of every appearance too.)

3. Share the book!  (I just received a new box of beautiful, blank, custom book plates.  And I’m happy to personalize as many as you’d like and mail them right out to you.  Just drop me a line and let me know how many and where to send them. Valentine’s Day gifts, perhaps??)

Also, check my Events page to see if I’m coming this spring to a bookstore near you. Thanks to the generosity of fans and friends, I’m on my way to the West Coast this week:  La Canada, Laguna Beach, and Pasadena.

If you missed Priscilla Gilman’s thoughtful interview  Click Here.