Gratitude for Mothers of all Sorts

Mother's Day reminds me to appreciate mothers, those of the heart as well as those who bear us. Thank you to all who nurture and support life, whether human or any of the other life forms who take part in the community of this breathing, animate planet. Your love is a gift.  

(That's my mom, Joan Cannon Tweit, in the photo above, on her last wilderness camping trip. She was 78 years old when we hiked to a yurt in Colorado's Never Summer Range to celebrate Dad's 80th birthday.)

As I worked in my yard today, I thought about Mom, and how much she would enjoy the daffodils blooming in clumps here and there (I planted 150 daffodil bulbs last fall, and they are rewarding me abundantly this spring). And the peonies peeking up from the soil with their red stems and finger-like leaves; the lilacs, purple buds sill tight-fisted; and the green spears of the lily of the valley leaves emerging in the backyard, where the roof runoff waters them after each wet snow or spring rain. 

She would have loved the native plants I'm adding to my once lawn-bound yard too: the new leaves on the spreading phlox and the penstemon, the tiny golden buds on Jones goldenaster, and the yarrow, mallows, and Lewis flax appearing the back-yard meadow. 

Mom taught me to love plants. She is the one who led our family's clandestine expeditions to rescue wildflowers from development sites, digging up their fragile roots carefully and nestling them in soil in plastic bread bags, and then pedaling home on our bikes to replant them in her woodland garden. (Mom was legally blind and didn't drive, but she was fearless on a bicycle.) 

The "bellyflowers" she would kneel on the ground to admire on hikes to windswept alpine tundra, the breathtaking swaths of gold California poppies on the Big Sur Coast in spring, and the rainbow of flowers in the Sonoran Desert. She wasn't picky though–if she couldn't have wildflowers, Mom was just as happy burying her face in fragrant peonies, admiring brilliantly colored tulips, or smiling when I twirled hollyhock flowers like full-skirted ballerinas. 

California poppies on Big Sur

She loved redwoods so tall I got a neck-ache from trying to see their tops, as well as twisted and wind-blasted pines at upper timberline. She took joy in spiny cactus, even the fishhook cactus that six-year-old me sat on accidentally, and Mom, magnifying glass in hand, had to tweeze each hooked spine out of my butt. 

Mom was, as I wrote in Bless the Birds, 

the wavy-haired, blue-eyed college student who met Dad at the University of California, a six-block walk from her Berkeley home, and made him wait until she graduated to get married. …Who earned a master’s degree in library science despite being legally blind. …Whose smile could light up a room; who prized birdsong, wildflowers, and mountain hikes as much as chocolate. And she really loved chocolate.

Mom died on February 3, 2011, two months to the day before her 80th birthday, and nine months before brain cancer took Richard, the love of my life. I think of Mom every day, and especially when I work in my yard, or go for a hike to see wildflowers. Or eat some chocolate… 


For a plant-person like me, a day with time to hang out with my green kin–whether wild or in my garden–is an excellent day, whether it's Mother's Day or any other day of the year.

The ony thing that could make Mother's Day better is getting this note from Molly, the daughter of my heart, along with a gift certificate to one of my favorite mail-order nurseries:

Happy Mother's Day
You have always been and always will be a mother to me. When I think about my strengths, I see your hand and voice in all of them. 
I'll send you a longer note, for now just sending love.

Oh, yeah. That one made me cry. Thank you sweetie! I love you too. Always.  

Stand-up paddleboard lessons with Molly and her fearless dog, Roxy. Molly is like a dancer on a SUP; I excel at falling off with a huge splash!

A Day for Mothers and the Earth

Since my mom, Joan Cannon Tweit, isn’t around to celebrate Mother’s Day with (she died in February of 2011, the same year Richard died), I decided I’d spend Mother’s Day weekend doing things she taught inspired me to do.

(That’s Mom in the photo above, the California girl who loved the mountains posing on she and Dad’s old sedan on their honeymoon at Mt. Lassen National Park in July, 1952. They intended to camp for the week, but the snow was still so deep the campgrounds weren’t open yet. So they stayed at a lodge and went hiking anyway. Probably not in saddle shoes though!)

I didn’t go camping or hiking–the weather was too blustery and cold. I did the things Mom loved to do around home: garden and tend nearby wild places. 

I planted some new plants in my rock garden, including this yellow ‘Sundancer’ daisy, which has the inglorious official common name of Stemless Four-nerve Daisy. (Could we be a little more creative?) This high-desert native not only sports cheerful flowers and blooms early, the plant also grows a lovely mat of silvery-green leaves, and will thrive for decades in soil as poor as the road-base on my former industrial site. 

Stemless Four-nerve Daisy (Tetraneurus acaulis, which means the same as the plant’s common name, just in reverse order) 

With the help of my friend Maggie, I hung a bluebird nest box from the fence Richard built a decade ago along the edge of this property. I’m a little late getting box put up, but perhaps there’s a pair of mountain bluebirds or tree swallows still looking for nesting real estate… 

Today, I spent two hours picking trash out of the creek and weeding along “my” block of the Salida Trail and Ditch Creek. The bonus for continuing to work on my ongoing (18+ years so far) urban ecological restoration project is that as I clear away windblown trash (thank you, Safeway shoppers, for those receipts, plastic bags, hand-wipes, and other trash) and pull weeds, I get the joy of seeing wildflowers and native grasses return. 

Like this Lewis flax (Linum lewisii) named for Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, growing next to a clump of native bluegrass.

Mom’s the one who taught me to love wildflowers–she nurtured a woodland garden of native plants rescued from development sites long before that kind of thing was cool–so I feel a strong connection to her when I’m working in my restored mountain prairie yard or along the creek. I know I that in this work especially, I am honoring her spirit and her love for this planet’s magnificent diversity of beings of all sorts, from the tiniest creatures that animate the soil underfoot to the towering redwood trees that shaded the creek behind the house where she grew up. 

Thanks, Mom, for loving me just as I am, and for teaching me to know and care for the wonders of this planet.  

After I got home from my creek work, Molly called and I celebrated Mother’s Day all over again. We talked about life and work, motivation and mothering, dogs and her daddy. It was one of those glorious conversations that had no agenda and included some wisdom, some laughter, some sadness, and a whole lot of love. 

A conversation that made me feel lucky just to be alive, and to have fallen heart-whole for she and her daddy almost 34 years ago. 

Who could not love those two? At our backyard wedding reception in Laramie, Wyoming. 

That’s what Mother’s Day is really about. Not cards or flowers or brunch or any of the other trappings. Those are lovely, but the real point is about honoring and enjoying the mothers we love, whether they’re with us here or not.

Birth mothers, step-mothers, mothers of friends who took us in when we needed love too, mothers of our life-partners, mothers in creativity and inspiration; and, of course, Gaia herself, mother of us all. A day to celebrate motherly nurturing and love in all forms. 

Thank you to mothers of all kinds, everywhere.