–by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Feb 2, 2017)
Being a good mother means teaching your children to care for the world, and so I’ve shown the girls how to grow a garden, how to prune an apple tree. The apple tree leans out over the water and makes for a shadowy arbor. In spring a drift of pink and white blossoms send plumes of fragrance wafting down the hill and a rain of petals on the water. For years now I’ve watched her seasons, from frothy pink blossoms, to gently swelling ovaries as the petals fall away, to sour green marbles of adolescent fruit, to the ripe golden apples of September. That tree has been a good mother. Most years she nurtures a full crop of apples, gathering the energy of the world into herself and passing it on. She sends her young out into the world well provisioned for the journey, packaged in sweetness to share with the world. […]
Paula Gunn Allen, in her book Grandmothers of the Light, writes of the changing roles of women as they spiral through the phases of life, like the changing face of the Moon. We begin our lives, she says, walking the Way of the Daughter. This is the time for learning, for gathering experiences in the shelter of our parents. We move next to self-reliance, when the necessary task of the age is to learn who you are in the world. The path brings us next to the Way of the Mother.
This is a time when “her spiritual knowledge and values are all called into service of her children.” Life unfolds in a growing spiral, as children begin their own paths and mothers, rich with knowledge and experience, have a new task set before them. Our strengths turn now to a circle wider than our own children, to the well-being of the community. The net stretches larger and larger. The circle bends round again and grandmothers walk the Way of the Teacher, becoming models for younger women to follow. And in the fullness of age our work is not yet done. The spiral widens farther and farther, so that the sphere of a wise woman is beyond herself, beyond her family, beyond the human community, embracing the planet, mothering the Earth.
So it is my grandchildren who will swim in this pond, and others whom the years will bring. The circle of care grows larger and caregiving for my little pond spills over to caregiving for other waters. The outlet from my pond runs downhill to my good neighbor’s pond. What I do here matters. Everybody lives downstream. My pond drains to the brook, to the creek, to a great and needful lake. The water net connects us all. I have shed tears into that flow when I thought that motherhood would end. But the pond has shown me that being a good mother doesn’t end with creating a home where just my children can flourish. A good mother grows into a richly eutrophic old woman, knowing that her work doesn’t end until she creates a home where all of life’s beings can flourish. There are grandchildren to nurture, and frog children, nestlings, goslings, seedlings, and spores, and I still want to be a good mother. […]
Among our Potawatomi people, women are the Keepers of Water. We carry the sacred water to ceremonies and act on its behalf. Women have a natural bond with water, because we are both life bearers. We carry our babies in internal ponds and they come forth into the world on a wave of water. It is our responsibility to safeguard the water for all our relations. Being a good mother includes the caretaking of water.
–Robin Wall Kimmerer from the her book Braiding Sweetgrass [Picture of Water Protector Cheryl Angel. She is a Lakota elder and Medicine Woman from the Sicangu tribe in South Dakota. Cheryl is a lifelong, devoted water protector, who has been part of the Standing Rock camp since April 2016, and was vital in helping stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Her voice among the water protectors is one of integrating deep prayer with nonviolent direct action, guiding two women-led actions at Standing Rock. She moves from a deep space of nonviolence and Love, as guided by her ancestors and Lakota traditions and ways of being. Illustration offered as an anonymous gift :-)]