Birthing a Mother

cowcalf

Her fate seizes her and brings her
down. She is heavy with it. It
wrings her. The great weight
is heaved out of her. It eases.
She moves into what she has become
sure in her fate now
as a fish free in the current.
She turns to the calf who has broken
out of the womb’s water and its veil.
He breathes. She licks his wet hair.
He gathers his legs under him
and rises. He stands, and his legs
wobble. After the months
of his pursuit of her now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.
~Wendell Berry  “Her First Calf”

PDRM2068

 

PDRM2106
Seized, brought down, wrung from, heaved out, pursued, then eased:
there is nothing gentle in what it takes to be birthed a mother;

once emptied, mothering becomes sweetness
as never tasted before,
a filling back up
in a face to face meeting
destined from the beginnings of time.

I have known you,
I knew each of you,
you have known me all along,
born in covenant promise
and set free at birth.

morning514172

247784_505751663934_3429_n
back of the pickup 1994

When You Get There

Empty Hospital Bed
Vigil at my mother’s bedside

Lying still, your mouth gapes open as
I wonder if you breathe your last.
Your hair a white cloud
Your skin baby soft
No washing, digging, planting gardens
Or raising children
Anymore.

Where do your dreams take you?
At times you wake in your childhood home of
Rolling wheat fields, boundless days of freedom.
Other naps take you to your student and teaching days
Grammar and drama, speech and essays.
Yesterday you were a young mother again
Juggling babies, farm and your wistful dreams.

Today you looked about your empty nest
Disguised as hospital bed,
Wondering aloud about
Children grown, flown.
You still control through worry
and tell me:
Travel safely
Get a good night’s sleep
Take time to eat
Call me when you get there

I dress you as you dressed me
I clean you as you cleaned me
I love you as you loved me
You try my patience as I tried yours.
I wonder if I have the strength to
Mother my mother
For as long as she needs.

When I tell you the truth
Your brow furrows as it used to do
When I disappointed you~
This cannot be
A bed in a room in a sterile place
Waiting for death
Waiting for heaven
Waiting

And I tell you:
Travel safely
Eat, please eat
Sleep well
Call me when you get there.

noahgrandma
Great Grandma Elna meeting Noah 5 days before she died, 2008

 

elna
Elna Schmitz as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a WSC production in Pullman, Washington in 1940

Staying Connected

Just as true as five years ago. Mothering has been the greatest privilege of my life.

Barnstorming


There is nothing comparable to the smell of a newborn’s skin, still awash in amnion and vernix, still waxy with protective coating.  It is a timeless brine, pungent with salt and sweetness, instantly magnetizing infant to mother.

Each of you were still soaked as you moved from an inside world to the outside, placed dripping skin to skin on my bare chest.  Your eyes opened, blinking, lids scrunched, focusing on the light and shadow of our faces, trying to memorize our shape and color, learning our smells, knowing the rhythm of our voices.  We could only marvel at that first glimpse, that first touch, knowing only moments before you had been floating, anchored deep inside.

I fell headlong into the brimming pools of your eyes.  My heart raced with the anticipation of sharing everything with you who had been knit together by invisible fingers.

You thrived, grew, and now as…

View original post 60 more words

Call Me When You Get There

Empty Hospital Bed

Originally written April 26, 2008
A vigil at my mother’s bedside

Lying still, your mouth gapes open
I wonder if you breathe your last
Your hair a white cloud
Your skin softened from disuse
No washing, digging, planting
Gardens or children
Anymore.

Where do your dreams take you?
At times you wake in your childhood home
Rolling wheat fields, boundless days of freedom.
Other naps take you to your college student and teaching days
Grammar and drama, speech and essays.
Yesterday you were a young mother again
Juggling babies, farm and your wistful dreams.

Today you looked about your empty nest
Disguised as hospital bed
Children grown, flown
You try to control through worry
Travel safely
Get a good night’s sleep
Take time to eat
Call me when you get there

I dress you as you dressed me
I clean you as you cleaned me
I love you as you loved me
You try my patience as I tried yours
I wonder if I have the strength to
Manage mothering as you did
As you need
Forever.

When I tell you the truth
Your brow furrows as it used to do
When I disappointed you
This cannot be
A bed in a room in a sterile place
Waiting for death
Waiting for heaven
Waiting

And I tell you
Travel safely
Eat, please eat
Sleep well
Call me when you get there.

elnaElna Schmitz as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a drama production at Washington State College, Pullman 1940

noahgrandmaGreat Grandma Elna meeting Noah 5 days before she died, 2008

Rough Edges Smoothed

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

What does it feel like to be alive?
Living, you stand under a waterfall…
It is time pounding at you, time.
Knowing you are alive is watching on every side
your generation’s short time falling away
as fast as rivers drop through air,
and feeling it hit.
~Annie Dillard from An American Childhood

I had hopes for my rough edges. I wanted to use them as a can opener, to cut myself a hole in the world’s surface, and exit through it.
~Annie Dillard from An American Childhood

Mothering is like standing under a waterfall, barely able to breathe, barraged by the firehose of birthing and raising children, so much so fast.  Nothing rough remains after child rearing — all becomes soft and cushiony, designed to gather in, hold tight, and then reluctantly and necessarily, let go.

I’m well aware, even after my children have grown and flown, my rough edges still surface, like Godzilla from the primordial swamp, unbidden and unwarranted.  I want the sharpness gone, sanded down by the waterfalls of life, and smoothed to a fine finish.

My children continue to polish me, now from afar.  Time pounds away at me.  I can feel it hitting, every drop a blessing.

From the Beginnings

1280px-HighlandCowAndCalf2Her fate seizes her and brings her
down. She is heavy with it. It
wrings her. The great weight
is heaved out of her. It eases.
She moves into what she has become
sure in her fate now
as a fish free in the current.
She turns to the calf who has broken
out of the womb’s water and its veil.
He breathes. She licks his wet hair.
He gathers his legs under him
and rises. He stands, and his legs
wobble. After the months
of his pursuit of her now
they meet face to face.
From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.
~Wendell Berry  “Her First Calf”

Seized, brought down, wrung from, heaved out, pursued, then eased.
Nothing gentle in what it takes to become a mother;
once birthed, mothering is sweetness never tasted before,
a face to face meeting
destined from the beginnings of time.

I have known you, I knew each of you,
you have known me all along,
born in covenant promise
set free at our birth.

The Moment of Leaving

back of the pickup 1994
back of the pickup 1994 — only yesterday but another lifetime ago

And once, for no special reason,
I rode in the back of the pickup,leaning against the cab.
Everything familiar was receding fast…

Whatever I saw
I had already passed…
(This must be what life is like
at the moment of leaving it.)
~Jane Kenyon from “What It’s Like”

Moving forward, looking back at what is already passed.

Our children begin coming home today for their summer visits….