This was originally published The Village Magazine (April 2013
I was a curious child. A unique thinker. A real dreamer. I slowly acquired street smarts and I sought a college education. But at the heart of it, I was a free spirit who loved to seek and explore the alluring facets of life on a regular basis.
Growing up in Hawai’i, my childhood was saturated by beautiful and inspiring natural backdrops that kept my mind busy and intrigued. I could sit idle for hours by a riverbed, studying the bouncing ripples of the water’s surface, watching leaves drift by, convinced there was a deeper meaning to it all. Days at the beach were spent learning respect for the tremendous tides. The thrill of fearlessly leaping from a waterfall into a crisp, cleansing pond was a skill I had acquired. The wind almost always spoke to me and and I could feel a dramatic tilt in my heart when the it shifted suddenly. I often stood with my feet planted in the wet shoreline of the Pacific, sinking slowly into the saturated sand, listening for life’s lessons in the roar of the sea.
While attending college on the mainland, I was captivated as Summer faded into Fall, and as Fall dropped into the arms of Winter and as the Winter gave birth to Spring. How remarkable that the seasons of my life could twist and flow in the same methodic cadence. More than anything, it was the natural element in which I felt most at peace and all knowing. Mama Earth was my favorite teacher and I listened attentively.
Motherhood was always one of life’s transcending phenomenons that fascinated and called to me. So when the time came for me to become a mother, I felt beautiful, jubilant and frightened. As my belly swelled, I diligently dived into all the baby books, studied parenting methods, labor options—an entire book on vaccinations alone. I absorbed every piece of information I could that would all but guarantee my success as a parent. And like most relationships when you become a mother, my bond with Mama Earth was neglected and all but forgotten. It is unfortunate that in the most naturally raw and pivotal times of my life, I turned away from Her voice and instead listened only to science and societal directives. But my mind shifted, like the drastic winds of an offshore storm. And a glorious storm it was.
It is so true, so true, that nothing and no one can prepare you for Motherhood. It is a crazy and quick crash course on the total sacrifice of self and a huge commitment to making studious and instinctive decisions with the best interest of the wee one in your care. The early days of Motherhood are quiet and very loud all at the same time. It is the memorization of a midnight hunger cry and forgetting to brush your hair. It is a striking paradigm shift in your life, and when the dust settles you look in the mirror and you too have changed. You are Mama.
It is also suddenly caring more about what is going on in the world. Suddenly, things like unemployment rates, milk prices and the fluctuation in the bee population mattered to me. I began to pay attention. So much attention. This knowledge was important to me, because anything that may affect my child, is important to me.
Yes, I had long stopped listening to the wind, and instead, habitually watched the morning and evening news. But the smarter of a parent I became, the more anxiety I had, the more I felt helpless and frantic. I was a good parent. I made the best, informed decisions I could for my family. I made sacrifices. I taught them many things. But as Mama, something was missing.
I regularly experienced panic attacks when morning routines went awry—it would ruin by whole day. I spent too much time agonizing when my child didn’t excel in athletics or academics, and I displaced this pressure on them—I regret this the most. I would look in the mirror and criticize myself for not meeting unrealistic standards. Our “family time” was spent running errands and performing household duties. My children didn’t want for nothing, but I was pushing for perfection in the wrong areas. I taught them responsibility and instilled in them a thirst for knowledge, but we failed to explore the world and breathe in the stillness solitude of Mama Earth.
In all honestly, it was always right before my eyes as a forsaken fragment of my existence. I caught a sunset or sunrise at least once a day, and while I appreciated the creamy sorbet of colors, I took for granted the miracle of life that is renewed and gifted to us when we begin a new day and see it to it’s end. I would rush off to school and work without taking a moment to appreciate the song of morning birds. I spent an embarrassing amount of time scrolling through social media while I sat outside and watched my children play. Life was moving all around me and I was missing it.
All it took was a quiet walk on the beach to realize that deep into my parenting years, I had neglected my connection to and honor towards nature and as a result, I failed to demonstrate for my children reverence for the unseen spirit that is Mama Earth. Most importantly, I have come to realize that the best example and teachings of Motherhood come from Mama Earth herself.
I walk the beach regularly now. Alone and open, I find myself in the free state where nature can speak to me. I’ve noticed that the wind has two moods here, gentle and salted or a whipping brisk breeze that’s almost wet to the touch. Moods like my toddler, moods like myself. What you get one day is hardly indicative of what you will see the next day. You just never know. And even in the richest of tempests, there is beauty to be seen.
I look out towards the unknown depths of the ocean. I feel the sun, a bleaching heat, making the sand white and warm. I soak up the warmth and send gratitude to the spinning happenstance of human existence.
I collect seashells that resemble past regrets; the beautifully broken parts that once served to protect us. Sometimes we take them home, on display, or sometimes we throw them back into the sea, never to be seen again. It’s up to us.
The shore comes and goes with the tides, cleansing everything as it sweeps and shifts vast areas of beach, necessary to keep things clean and anew. The current is there—unseen yet powerful—perhaps a necessary threat and warning from Mama Earth Herself. She is modest, yet demands respect. But like all Mama’s, she forgivingly welcomes you into her nourishing waters of streams and seas. She shows you that buoyancy comes easiest when you release and relax. As in life, it takes trust in something greater than ourselves to let go and flow through the tides of life.
And I return home, with a reassurance as obvious as the salted kiss of the sea; a renewed hope in my weary heart.
My heart is peaceful and my mind is clear. Reflected in Her strength, is my own; reflected in my strength, are my children’s beautiful and trusting faces.
Our time spent embracing Mama Earth are often short, but full. A morning at the beach, visiting a nearby forest, observing Her many nourishing offerings at a Farmer’s Market. The drive home is silent, peaceful and the rest of the day is surprisingly free of chaos. When routine consumes our free time, I can easily seek the same tranquility by simply being in my back yard. Bare feet to the earth, eyes closed, circled by children on bikes and running around with plastic swords. I feel their energy in life, the promise of their determination and spirit. Beyond them, the smiling presence of Mama Earth awaits me.
I still struggle with anxiety. I am still an imperfect mother. There are still standards to meet and responsibilities to fill. But now I know of a place where I can breath with the wind, open my heart to the sun and float down the stream of life, ready for bumps and allowing for change when necessary.