The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

The Current May 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 6:57 pm

There are moments in life when something seems to open the divide between past, present, and future.  Time merges together, swells, but also stands still.  I find these moments to be quite difficult to explain, but I know them when they happen.  At times I have looked at my son and can almost imagine him as a man.  I know the way I care for him now is intimately connected to the relationship we will always have and the way he will move alone in this world.  Another example came yesterday as I heard my grandmother singing “It’s A Wonderful World” to my son upstairs.  I froze in the kitchen with my tears for just a moment as all of that truth swirled around me.

These moments connect us deeply to one another and to God’s reality among us.  I have lingered in this state over the past months as I have dealt with the reality of my miscarriage.  I would have been 10 weeks pregnant on the day of my emergency d&c and would be six months pregnant now.  The pain of the loss is not as strong today, though pregnant bellies are still hard to watch.  What fascinates me most about this experience is the way I feel more connected to other women all around me and the current of life-time-story-Divinity that surges up at times.  We are moving around doing life each day with all of this other movement inside and around us.  

Perhaps my description is still vague.  Wendell Berry articulates this phenomenon in his book Jayber Crow.  (Great book.  Read it.)

Jayber reflects: “its presence you might say, was a sort of current, like an underground flow of water, except that the flowing was in all directions and yet did not flow away.  When it rose into your heart and throat, you felt joy and sorrow at the same time, and the joining of times and lives.  To come into the presence of the place was to know life and death, and to be near in all your thoughts to laughter and to tears.  This would come over you and then pass away, as fragile as a moment of light.”

I also recognize that we cannot function in this light all the time.  It’s not sustainable.  These moments are perhaps too raw and too intense to bear at all times, but the current that moves beneath us and connects us to each other is always there.  Always ready to swell up.  If we desire at all to be present in the moment, present to each other, present to ourselves, then we must be present to the current.  How does it swell up in your life?


A Memory May 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 4:29 pm

I imagined breast-feeding to be the most natural, organic experience between newborn and newmother. My son would breathe lungs full of air and then immediately latch for his first meal at the breast.  Some women claim to have these experiences, but learning how to nourish my child from my body was a challenge.  If I recall correctly, it was a full eight weeks before we really figured it out and he could latch on properly every time.  Whew.

In the earliest of weeks, when the sleep deprivation fog was dense, I remember watching my son as he writhed and wailed but would not latch on.  I looked down at him and said, “Open your eyes.  I’m right here!  All you have to do is just move forward.  Everything you want is right here in front of you!”  Finally, he found his way to me and silently nursed as I held him close.

Some weeks or months later I came across a passage in Frederick Buechner’s Telling Secrets that provided new depth to that exchange with my son.  He is describing the constant busy-ness within us of thought and noise that keeps us from ever really encountering God.  It’s true, is it not?  We are busy people even when we move away from the computer or the cell phone (or the Netflix envelopes seducing me from across the room!).  Our very minds are writhing and wailing with “the endless chatter of human thought,” Buechner writes.  

He goes on to speak of times when he has attempted to truly be silent:

“I have been conscious but not conscious of anything, not even of myself.  I have been surrounded by the whiteness of snow.  I have heard the stillness that encloses all sounds stilled the way whiteness encloses all colors stilled, the way wordlessness encloses all words stilled.  I have sensed the presence of a presence.  I have felt a promise promised.”

It’s a difficult thing to capture, this presence.  Elizabeth Gilbert, in last summer’s uber-popular Eat, Pray, Love, describes it as sitting in the palm of God’s hand.  Buechner suggests we look to the Psalmist for a better image of this stillness; Psalm 131.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
     my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
     too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
     like a child quieted at its mother’s breast,
     like a child that is quieted is my soul.

We are in need of mothering.  We long to be calmed and quieted.  Today is a sabbath day at our house, and I am enjoying silence and rest as I reflect, read, and listen to the birds outside.  Open your eyes, my friends.  Everything you want is right in front of you.  May you be like a child at it’s mother’s breast on this spring day.


Why now? May 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 6:57 pm

I have considered a blog several times over the past couple of years but never felt focused or inspired to explore a specific theme.  Motherhood has challenged me to think differently about the ways women connect with, teach, and learn from one another.   From the early days of nursing, I began to sense glimpses of God’s nurturing, maternal ways with humanity.  One day this week, all of these thoughts and insights somehow merged and inspired a blog.  So here we go.

My husband has been out-of-town for work this week, and that means I have been alone with a two year-old for many days.  Nine, in fact.  On night four, my son got in bed with me at about 2:30 a.m.  We managed to get a little rest before breakfast time.  As the coffee was brewing in the kitchen, I went downstairs to the basement to move clothes from the washer to the dryer.  The load of whites was pink.  Inadvertently, I threw a red pillow cover in with the whites.  And they weren’t just regular whites, they were whites with color.  

Frozen in the basement, my son came downstairs to look for me.  He’s learning to use the potty and was wearing cute frog underwear with his pajama shirt.  I called my mother and grandmother to ask for advice and waited as my grandmother decided how I should proceed.  Meanwhile, my son forgot about the underwear and went poop on the basement steps.  I cleaned up the mess and the boy, listened to my grandmother again, then went back upstairs to begin the laundry rescue.

I slowly soaked the pink-whites in the kitchen sink with a little bleach.  I chose items I cared for the least as my test cases.  The colored parts–blue toes on socks, green trim on washcloths–all began to fade.  I had to use more water, and that meant the pink just wouldn’t come out.  I decided to leave the second batch for a while to test what time would do.

This was Tuesday.  The only day of the week scheduled to be warm and sunny, so I knew I needed to take advantage of the weather to get things done.  I dressed the two of us, we looked good.  We grabbed our things, loaded the car, but the car wouldn’t start.  Grinding noise, but no ignition.  

We are fortunate to have a great mechanic in our church, so I called him immediately.  The only option was to have the car towed to his shop, so I did.  I did not panic.  I made a healthy lunch, we ate our food, and then the tow truck arrived to carry the Subaru away.  

By then it was nap time.  My two year-old has also decided he does not want naps this week.  Instead, he takes all of his clothes off.  I went in every 30 minutes to redress him and put him back to bed.  This went on for two hours.  No nap.  

Meanwhile, ants have taken over our home as they flee the rain outside.  Striving always to be the great mother, I had attempted various all-natural remedies to chase the ants away.  In between fighting the no-napper, I fought the ants.  Then I took the poopy items from earlier outside to hose them off.  By 4:00 p.m. I was tired and also had a tired, grumpy child.  

I was scheduled to attend an important meeting at church that night but no longer had transportation.  I called the team leader for the night’s meeting to tell her why I’d not be in attendance.  As I recounted the day’s events to her, pink laundry-poopy steps-ants-no nap-bad car-no hubby, I almost fell down the basement stairs.  The woman on the other end of the line, a true friend, said, “You need to stop.”  It was something of a mom voice–the kind rooted in wisdom that hears and sees deeply.  “You need to take a deep breath,” she continued.  “Let that one out and take another breath.”  I burst into tears.  I don’t remember quite how she put this part.  Something like, “That’s exactly what you need to do.  Let all of those toxins out of your body.”

Another call beeped in.  It was the shop.  The verdict on the car…it started at the shop on the first try.  The engine was flooded, but there was no clear reason why.  Lesson learned: try to start the car again before the tow truck takes it away.  Cost: $77.50.  

I got off the phone and locked myself in the bathroom until I was calm again.  I heard scooping and pouring going on not far away.  My son was emptying most of the cat food into a bowl of water, rendering it useless.  I heard the great mother’s voice, though, and took a deep breath.  We gathered the mess and tossed it into the yard.  I came back to find nine puzzles all scattered together in the living room and took a deep breath.  We sat down slowly and quietly to put all the pieces back together again.  

Later that day I had the opportunity to sit and read from a daybook I quite enjoy.  In the day’s entry were these words:

“Though we are grown, we never outgrow the need for someone special to hold us close, stroke our hair, tuck us into bed, and reassure us that tomorrow all will be well.  Perhaps we need to reacquaint ourselves consciously with the maternal and deeply comforting dimension of Divinity in order to learn how to mother ourselves.”  

–Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

My hope for this writing experiment is to give regular thought to mothering ways and how those ways connect us to the Divine.  What are the daily lessons of motherhood?  How do women nurture one another?  As Breathnach challenges, how might we mother ourselves?  I am listening for the voice of the great mother.