For the past week, flowery advertisements for Mother’s Day have hung incandescent in stores and flashed on phones almost incessantly. Each time I see one, I am reminded of what we’re not saying in a society obsessed with consumption. Because every year this day is filled with joy and gratitude for our incredible mothers and every year it is also spiked with grief. This day is not always easy, not scripted, not sugar-coated. And, there are many ways to be mothered, some of them traditional, some of them less so.
The biggest Mother of all is our earth. And today, I am thinking of raging streams and red apples and oceans and wild sage. “My work is loving the world,” writes Mary Oliver. Sometimes it really hits me, what we’ve been given, getting to be alive. The bright green of asparagus, the rush of storm clouds overhead. The small things are so lovely they make me wince, because to be honest— I’m afraid. Afraid of the things being done to our planet, afraid what is so beautiful will be taken away for my possible future children.
On Mother’s Day, I’d like to give thanks to the earth by recommitting to action: recycling, using less water, eating less factory-farmed meat. I’d like to also give thanks by, as Mary Oliver says, “standing still and learning to be astonished.”
How do we announce our love for this place? How do we help save what we’ve been given?
As I write this in a cafe, a new mother is bouncing a tiny baby in her arms, nestled in her jacket. She looks tired. I want to tell this stranger: thank you. I am thinking of my own mother. I was recently sent a home video of her holding me. I am maybe two years old; I have a Bamm Bamm Rubble ponytail. My mother’s hair is long and dark, her smile is luminous, and I’d like to think I look like her. When I watch that video, my throat catches and my eyes burn, because it’s an archeological record of her love, a love which has lit up my whole life.
I am thinking about her love as I watch this stranger. I wish it was an acceptable thing, thanking people we don’t know when we catch them in the small human moments that feel part of our stories, too. Because isn’t paying attention to each other a form of mothering, a form of nourishment?
This Mother’s Day I will call my mother and thank her for more than I can name. I will call the many women in my life who have also mothered me. I will think of the pain this day can bring for some and I will light the candles, I will put my hands in the earth. I will look at the sky and the wide expanse of trees in the park and put my hand over my heart. And as I’m saying thank you, I will stand still and I will be astonished.
Writing by Raisa Imogen
Raisa Imogen was born in Portland, OR, grew up in Chicago, and currently lives in Queens. She is the co-founder of Siren Magazine. Her poetry and other work can be found at www.raisaimogen.net.