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. 

The Best Gift: An Abundance of Love

One of my rituals between Winter Solstice and New Year's Day is to "listen" for the word that will serve as my intention for the coming year. I don't consciously think of a word; I tune in to my inner voice for what word presents itself. This year's word, "abundance," came to me as I was journaling one December morning.  

As I wrote in this blog, I resisted the word at first, confusing it with giving, which I am as guilty as most women of overdoing. Until I looked up the definition, which includes the words "plenty," "plentifulness," and "prosperity." 

Oh, I thought, duhAbundance as in "plenty": plenty of joy, plenty of time, plenty of ideas and words and readers, plenty of money, plenty of fruitful opportunities, plenty of energy and vigor, plenty of love… 

And in fact, this year is yielding all sorts of abundance, including many that I imagined when I wrote those words: Opportunity, joy, ideas, words, readers. Not so much abundance of energy (my Lupus has definitely been more challenging this year) or money (ditto for life on the financial plane), but I am managing well anyway. 

The form of abundance that has been the biggest surprise–and gift–is the last one on the list above: love. Specifically, love from Molly, my 37-year-old "kid." (As biology sees it, she's my step-daughter; seen through the lens of the heart, she's mine, and has been since I met she and her daddy when she was three.) 

Richard and Molly on her 31st birthday, when he was recovering from his radiation treatments.

In early January. when I was off on a personal writing retreat in Santa Fe, Molly texted one night to ask if we could talk. It's been difficult for both of us since her daddy died, and she had been incommunicado for weeks. I knew something was wrong.

I had felt angry and hurt by this latest withdrawal–the longest since Richard died–but I put my feelings aside. If she needed me, I needed to listen. 

We talked. I learned that she had just separated from her partner of 12 years, a decision that took enormous courage. 

"I'm sorry I've let this come between us," she said. "I miss you."

In that moment, nothing else mattered. "I love you, and I always will. Sometimes I don't like you very much, but the love is always there."

We talked through some difficult stuff, cried, and by the time we ended the call, I felt like our healing had begun. 

In February, Molly flew to New Mexico to join me in Silver City during my Write & Retreat workshop. Those four days together were precious time. 

Me and Molly in the wind in Mesilla, New Mexico, visiting old haunts. 

Since then, it's rare that more than a few days go by without us being in touch via text, email, or phone. She says "thank you" and "I love you" often. I do too. 

Which brings me to the photo at the top of the blog post. On the way home from my regular end-of-the week run yesterday afternoon, I impulsively stopped and shot a photo of the storm clouds blowing in over distant peaks. I texted it to Molly with an "xoxo" message and then ran on. She responded with, "Beautiful. Thank you. xoxo"

Later that evening, she texted the locket photo above with this message: "Was just organizing the bathroom and found this." 

"Love it and remember dearly the moment when you guys gave it to me." 

I had forgotten the locket entirely, but as soon as I saw her photo, I remembered picking it out, finding the photos of her daddy and me, and fitting one into each tiny compartment. 

Today on the phone, Molly reminded me of when we gave her the locket: "It was for my first period. You made a celebration of it. Such a gift in a time that was very difficult. You made it special, and made me proud of myself as a young woman."

We had moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, for Richard's university position. Molly went from grade school in a Midwestern town to middle school in a much more difficult social and cultural environment. And then she got her period–it was all scary and stressful for her. So I came up with a celebration of that passage into womanhood. 

"I loved you then and I always will."

"I know that," she said. "That's my miracle."

It's mine too, Sweetie. Thank you for this abundance of love–the best possible gift of this year of abundance.

Molly and my sister-in-law, Lucy Winter