Out my window I see the dark shadows of trees waiting for grandmother Moon to climb above their branches.
This is the time when I mourn summer passing, seen in the petals that settle on the patio stones, which are themselves cool to the feet. Leaves drift from neighbouring trees, pooling as though afraid to step out alone. I sweep them out, sending them out to seek adventure. Cool nights, misty mornings, sun-kissed afternoons. I grudgingly unearth wool socks and revel in the luxury they offer, warmth when I step out from under the blankets. The unexpected joy of discomfort and comfort doesn’t escape me.
Moments of flaming red leaf cause me to focus on light, uplifting my spirit in ways that are much needed. Moving back into the world offers a way out of the fog that I have found myself wandering in.
A few days ago I was browsing the local Canadian Tire (hardware store). They have household goods, garden/BBQ, small power tools, auto parts & services, and home improvement stuff. Camping stuff. And kitchenwares, which is a personal favorite. I love gadgets, as does my husband, and at certain times in our lives we've declared a moratorium on gadgets because of limited storage space.
The kitchenwares section is where I spied a beautiful metal funnel - the wide mouth kind for filling mason jars. It was perfect, but I didn’t buy it. Why? Allow me to explain.
I didn’t buy it because it seemed extravagant. Price tag? $10 for this little item. $10 for something that would make a messy kitchen task easier. My inner voice told me that $10 was too much, not because I couldn't afford it but because my brain deems this as unnecessary.
As I ground coffee I was reminded of this when I took out the plastic funnel I use to guide the coffee into its holding place. This funnel once had a narrow neck until I cut it off. My first (unsatisfactory) effort involved a kitchen knife. Months later I tried again more carefully, smoothing the cuts from that first effort. I thought again about the shiny metal funnel, deciding that “I’ll put it on my Christmas list!” I thought about that; why not just buy it? How did I get here?
When I was young I couldn’t understand why older folks seemed happy to get household items. They were thrilled about kitchen items, tools, socks, but why? Now that I'm older I finally understand, and it's entwined with life in ways I've only recently realized.
I grew up in a low-income home. We had days where there was no food. I can remember my grandparents showing up with groceries. There were days where eating was an adventure. Peanut butter on a spoon seems like a treat when you don't know it's the only food in the house. A half-dozen cupcakes stands in for a birthday cake. Growing out of your shoes feels like an affront to the household budget.
As a young adult I had the same limited budget and I seldom could afford little conveniences. At first it was because I couldn't afford it; later, it was a habit.
What does this have to do with gifts, you wonder? Plenty.
There's a lot to unpack in gift-giving. I used see gifts as a reflection on how much I was valued. The idea of household items as gifts didn’t convey that I was valued. And in the narrow view of a young person, I was convinced that everyone should feel this way.
Life brings lessons, and insight has unfolded some new perspectives for me. I can see a gift as something that recognizes and responds to a need: a way to say “I see you”. At times a gift brings delight. And a gift can carry the message that we are worthy.
Cooking is something I love; surely asking for a funnel is a gift to myself simply by speaking it. Something that will make me enjoy the kitchen more? Yes please!
Useful gadgets, small comforts, seemingly mundane things can be thoughtful and personal gift. It's an incredible feeling to give a gift that says "I see you. I see your need, your desire, your life."
Today I spoke to a group of young adults about Mother’s Day. We talked about what ‘mothering’ looks like in the real world. The act of mothering is nurturing; it’s done by mothers, aunties, grandparents, cousins, dads, uncles. Can we celebrate that?
Let’s add this to our shared understanding of how we value and cherish the lives of children. Let’s normalize the ‘other’ mothering that happens. Let’s give kids a feeling that this isn’t a bad thing.
Happy mother’s day to the moms, dads, aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins, and other community members who support children. You’re rock stars. Thank you for pitching in when needed.
It takes a village.
Happy mother’s day, whatever that looks like for you.
Do not try to serve the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently, until the song that is yours alone to sing falls into your open cupped hands and you recognize and greet it. Only then will you know how to give yourself to the world so worthy of rescue.
What images come up for you? Are you inspired to wait?
I imagine sitting in the front garden, smiling at children and adults (old and young) and dogs as they stroll past, leaving space for their smiles to reflect mine. I feel sun on my face, breeze brushing my skin carrying scents: lilac, smell of rain, pungent medicine of skunk, airborne seeds and bees and birds and leaves. I imagine my hands in the earth, bringing seeds to home, inviting them to grow to nurture my body and soul. I sit. I wait.
One evening not long ago a friend’s post on social media really got my attention. Reshaped from a couple of years prior, the post was a picture of soup along with a comment about the event of soup-making; my friend had spent time with a community group she is part of, making soup for a funeral. That was it: no people, just an enormous pot of soup. And that got me thinking about how these moments are the essence of how we experience and perceive life; the communities that we become part of inform our answers to basic questions about the world. Is it a good place? Will my needs be met? Where is my place in this world?
There’s a cycle of community and relationship. We project, reflect, revise, renew, re-engage. Refresh. Rekindle. Repair. Cycles go back to the beginning of me, eventually. I close my eyes and see such beautiful moments/memories: the neighbourhood of my childhood where we wandered unfettered by rules and restrictions. Wild, free, and aching for boundaries we lived dangerously. I have scars to prove it, each a story for another moment. That’s the outer story, what the world could see had they been looking, the moments that I share when I get nostalgic or feel compelled to explain a scar. It (the outer story) is just one part of what I carry.
I also have other stories, inner stories, anything but bright; the layers of these stories are still (slowly) peeling away. (I’m reminded of post-it notes, the ones that pop up one after the other. Like those notes after years in a drawer, some story is crumpled and hard to read. I try although some mag be better not examine too hard, simply examined and left to be. The inner stories are the pieces of life that reflected darkness that wasn’t mine but into which I was dragged from time to time, a place with no safety nets. Dragons lived here, sometimes sleeping and other times awake, sometimes peaceful and other times pursuing me. Dragons will do that. It’s not our fault if they do, is it?
Even though we keep them shut away it’s important to acknowledge the more powerful stories, and the trauma stories. And important to support and partake in work to set stories where they belong. Sometime we were tangled into other stories through no fault of our own, kind of like when you walk through the background of someone’s picture. Wrong place, wrong time. It happens. But still, I was there.
My sense of self exists within these stories and how I’ve been able to recognize moments that have marked a change in me. Moments that have revealed answers to big questions. Also, too, I recognize the moments that brought uninvited but necessary change. Moments, connected to stories, connecting to community that ties me to myself. This is the magic of stories: they’re where we find ourselves.