Many of you who read my blog regularly know that I write about my mother from time to time. She was a loving, generous spirit whom we lost to breast cancer two years ago in October. Last Thursday would have been her 70th birthday.
She is always with me and often in my thoughts, but this weekend, in celebration of her birthday, I wanted to take some time to slow down and remember more purposefully. Life gets so busy, its important to give ourselves time to be with our memories.
Before I went to the cemetery, I took the dogs for a long walk around our property here at the farm, with my big basket and scissors in hand. As I walked, I collected bits and pieces of various wildflowers, herbs, and other plants I passed. I came back with quite a collection.
I laid them out, cleaned up the stems some and appreciated the various scents and colors as I arranged them into a bouquet. The apple mint burst with freshness. The catnip might bring her some furry friends. The peonies were full of color and fragrance. The little yellow wildflowers were happy and bright.
With my bouquet prepared, I drove to Spring Grove. If you've never been there and you live near Cincinnati, you should plan a few hours to walk the grounds. It is an absolutely enormous and beautifully kept cemetery and arboretum. We used to visit as children, with my mother, to see the flowers blooming in the spring and feed the swans that live on one of the main lakes.
It always takes me a while to find the section where she's at, but it's an enjoyable ramble as I pass slowly around lakes and old castle-like chapels. Finally I found her spot and parked the car.
My brother had been to visit on Thursday, so she had a bouquet there already. I pushed my vase into the ground and added my flowers from the farm. There were some lovely white peonies overflowing with flowers nearby so I added one of these to mom's bouquet too.
Then I just sat with her for a while, enjoying the peacefulness of the morning and the place. There's something powerful about allowing yourself to just be present for a bit.
After a while, I was drawn to a tiny Redbud nearby, with its heart-shaped leaves. I laid some of leaves down on her grave and said goodbye, for now.
Before I left for home, I walked down to the lake and strolled at its edge. It is surrounded by imposing, ancient trees like this huge bald cypress, which I sat under for a while.
I have always loved trees. As a child, I could spend hours and hours by myself in the woods around our house, collecting natural objects, telling myself stories, building things, drawing... I loved to lay on the ground and watch the leaves on the top of the trees sway. Trees always felt so calming and grounding, even before I had language to describe that feeling. When I look back through my sketchbooks and journals, I see that I drew trees everywhere, always with elaborate branches, sturdy trunks and deep roots.
I found this lovely little poem this morning about the powerful presence of trees.
"The Presence of Trees"
by Michael S. Glaser
I have always felt the living presence
the forest that calls to me as deeply
as I breathe,
as though the woods were marrow of my bone
I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching
arc of the larger canopy
beside a brook bubbling to foam
like the one
deep in these woods,
that whispers home
Feeling grounded, I made my way to the car and then on home.
My final project in my day of rememberance was to make mom's signature carrot cake. I wrote about this last year on my blog. The first cake I made was last October, to commemorate when we lost her.
She made this cake for us almost every year of our lives and so now I make it for her. I love that food, particular dishes, can make me feel so connected to certain people. The clang of the pans as I get them down from the pantry, the swirl of mom's old Cuisinart as it grates the carrots, the smell of the cakes as they come out of the oven, the sweetness of the cream cheese frosting as I lick the knife when I'm finished icing the cake... it all takes me back to the many moments in time with her. What a gift that our senses offer us if we can take the time to do these rituals and pay attention.
Happy birthday mom! You are with us always.