The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

Eagle Nature September 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 8:44 pm

My husband and I really fell for Netflix after our son was born, and we have regular date nights throughout the week with our favorite red envelopes.  The latest obsession, months long now, is Northern Exposure, and we’re currently in Season Five.  He got ahead of me by an episode, so I sat down to watch that one during nap time today.  I always enjoy the show but was unexpectedly drawn into a particular storyline in this one.  Marilyn, Dr. Fleishman’s assistant, tells his visiting mother that she is an Eagle–that she has an eagle spirit or eagle nature.  Intrigued, Ma Fleishman goes with Marilyn to look for eagles at a place known as Lookout Point.  Why is she an Eagle?  Marilyn tells her this story.

The Eagle wasn’t always the Eagle. The Eagle, before he became the Eagle, was Yucatangee, the Talker. Yucatangee talked and talked. It talked so much it heard only itself. Not the river, not the wind, not even the Wolf. The Raven came and said “The Wolf is hungry. If you stop talking, you’ll hear him. The wind too. And when you hear the wind, you’ll fly.” So he stopped talking. And became its nature, the Eagle. The Eagle soared, and its flight said all it needed to say.

I am someone who can easily get lost in words.  My life is filled with the noise of living in the city (firetrucks, buses, car stereos), child (music, banging, laughing, whining), and the cracks in between are filled with my chatter or someone else’s.  Dr. Fleishman’s mother continued to go to Lookout Point throughout her visit until the noise and chatter finally ceased and she was able to hear the wind.  Literally, as only Northern Exposure can pull off, she trips and glides down the hundred foot drop to the ground.  She becomes her Eagle nature.

This week I also read an article in Ode magazine about Nyepi, the Hindu new year and day of silence and meditation in Bali.  The entire article is worth your time, but I’ll highlight one paragraph.  We know our lives are noisy, right?  Tijn Touber elaborates on the Western problem of noise (he earlier compares the need for regular periods of silence with the body’s need for regularly going to the bathroom, though most of us deny the former need):

In Western countries, the modern, runaway 24-hour economy has clearly won the battle against people who want to “go to the bathroom” regularly. Forget about days of silence, occasionally leaving the car in the garage or shopping-free Sundays. Many countries are literally never silent. A few years ago, a Belgian radio journalist was given the task of recording five minutes of silence somewhere in the Flanders region. The poor man spent months working on the project, day and night. Each recording was interrupted by trains, cars, airplanes, radios, voices, sirens. He was finally forced to conclude it was impossible to find five minutes of silence anywhere in Flanders.

All this noise is keeping us from hearing the wind.  It’s fitting, then, that the Hebrew word for wind (ruach) also means breath and spirit.  When writing about the very spirit of God that breathed the world into being and hovered over the nothingness, it is this Holy Wind that the Hebrew writers recall.  It is the noise, my own and that of the world around me, that keeps me from listening and hearing.  If I can be still, if I can be silent, and if I can listen…then maybe I can fly.


Mom Reality September 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 8:41 pm

I try to save the funny highlights of my mothering for the journals I keep for my children and the random facebook status update.  But for you parents who read, I must announce that some poo-poo potty is going on in my house right now.  My son likes to make this an event that lasts for quite a while, so I’m glad he seems to save it for home instead of preschool.  But the dialogue between sweet husband and sweet son is absolutely hilarious.  Over the course of a decade we have gone from trying to be charming and exciting mates out and about in the after 7 p.m. world to staying at home and checking in for poo updates.  This is the reality.  We make up songs about going poo-poo.  We cheer and wipe and flush.  It is not always glimpses of Divinity but is almost always fun.


The Palin Thing

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 7:04 pm

I’ll avoid the easy political comments about McCain-Palin vs. Obama-Biden as there are plenty of forums for those conversations.  But one dimension of the pre-Wall Street disaster commentary fits perfectly with this blog.  Michelle Cottle in The New Republic says the “mommy wars” are back as people debate about “how, and whether one should even try, to balance career and family.”  Barbara Curtis, The Christian Science Monitor, declares liberals who question Palin’s ability to lead (because of family obligations) to be hypocrites.  She asks, “What happened to choice?  To having it all?”

What do you think?  It seems to me that mothers keep their mouths shut on the local, personal levels.  We don’t tell each other directly that the other is working too much or not enough.  But by Palin appearing on the national scene, are we being forced into honest conversation about what parenting and motherhood really require of individuals?  With only one child I find it next-to-impossible to work more than 10 hours per week in a job where very few people are looking for me the rest of the week.  So the notion of having several children, one of whom is an infant with special needs, and working a job with no clear off-time seems ridiculous to me.  

Is this about women’s abilities or a glass ceiling?  I don’t think so.  I think this is another layer to an emerging dialogue about authentic living.  The “have it all” narrative is false when what is being offered is less of oneself to everyone and everything rather than living well but with simplicity and boundaries.  Is it sexist to say a woman with a still growing family would be seriously divided by the demands of work and family?  Not at all.  The same should go for a man in her position, too.  Frankly, I wish Obama’s kids were a bit older before he takes the oath in January.  

We lie to ourselves and to each other when we pretend our families are accessories to already full lives rather than central to our present identities.  This isn’t about sexism, it’s about balance and wholeness and speaking the truth.  Men in leadership haven’t done a good job of this.  The old model is one where men go off to work for 50-80 hours a week while someone else, often the wife, does everything else.  That’s not a picture of balance and wholeness for him or for his family.  That’s not a life I want.  So for women to fight to enter this world only to take on the same behavior is not really bettering anyone’s life.  I believe fully that my generation of mothers can and will function differently.  We can set a standard for an honest, healthy life not just for our children but for the women who come behind us.


Sabbatical September 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 11:50 am

My family is taking a sabbatical from our local church this month.  Sounds a bit strange, I guess.  The whole thing just crept up on us as my year-long interim came to a close.  I have served on the church staff in a couple of roles over the past four years, but this time I feel I need to take a step back if there is any chance of remaining in the congregation.  Appropriately, I just finished Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church yesterday and took comfort as I listened to her own struggle for balance, space, and identity.  

A stark difference, though, is that Taylor’s life was all but consumed by her role as parish priest.  She had to leave in hopes of saving/rediscovering her life.  I am fortunate to have mentors who have modeled healthy boundaries well for me, particularly in my earliest years of ministry.  But it is my son who has taught me the most about carving out space for myself, for my family, and for unstructured life.  The time I spend away from him, which is really not that much these days, is now time that I demand be valuable and meaningful.  I want to use that time for great study, great conversation, great endeavors that change and transform the world around me.  (Or those that at least attempt greatness.)  

So this past Sunday, dear husband and son and I set out to skip church.  That’s hard for a life-long churcher like me, but we did it.  We had breakfast out among the folks who read the paper on Sunday mornings, and then we spent a couple of hours at our botanical garden.  I’d just begun Taylor’s book and sat quietly on a bench to read while husband and son hunted for frogs in a small stream.  She talks about moving to a new piece of land in the country and the way her body ached for the land:

“Where other people see acreage, timber, soil, and river frontage, I see God’s body, or at least as much of it as I am able to see.  In the only wisdom I have at my disposal, the Creator does not live apart from creation but spans and suffuses it.  When I take a breath, God’s Holy Spirit enters me.  When a cricket speaks to me, I talk back.  Like everything else on earth, I am an embodied soul, who leaps to life when I recognize my kin.”

I read this and put the book away to pay more attention to our setting.  The shade, the cool breeze, the sound of my son attempting to catch tiny frogs, the goldfinch and cardinal couples splashing upstream, the crickets, the dragonfly, the darting butterflies among the flowers, and the still of the Sabbath.  This marked time of rest for our family is intimately connected to that nurturing, mothering Spirit I long to hear.  This time we are being still for a few weeks to listen together.


Christmas Shopping

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 11:33 am

It’s a bit early, right?  But I’m home in bed with an upper respiratory infection and started catching up on magazines.  I came across this site: and can’t wait to order gifts for all sorts of friends and family.  Hand crafted, eco-friendly products made by some tough, amazing women in Nashville, TN.