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.