There’s a new book on my ever expanding to-be-read-list. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. “In her new book” writes Jonathan C Slaght of the New York Times, “Simard contends that at the center of a healthy forest stands a Mother Tree: an old-growth matriarch that acts as a hub of nutrients shared by trees of different ages and species linked together via a vast underground fungal network.”
This seems at once obvious and astonishing. According to the article, Simard’s meticulous science affirms long held Indigenous wisdom. This too, seems obvious and astonishing.
What strikes me is the depth of mothering in this world. The long, deep cut of it. The exchange of care and communication and sacrifice. By sacrifice I mean sacred offering. A kind of giving that is holy in its generosity rather than exhausting abandonment of self. The mother duck with her ducklings tucked under her wings. The chickadees bringing tiny green worms to the very loud hatchlings in this dilapidated birdhouse in my garden.
My grandmother who died two years ago: her resilience, her strength, her stubbornness. She was not a soft woman but a woman of great devotion and love who flew across the country to attend every ballet recital, play and graduation. I am thinking of my mother who is woman of warmth, of generosity, thoughtfulness, strength and kindness. I am thinking of my friend who, at 37, became the matriarch in her family when her mother died too young. She too is generous, strong, resilient and loves out loud.
And I am thinking of the mothers who’ve lost their children and the children who’ve lost their mothers. Or the mothers who are not kind or resilient. And everyone in between.
We’re all just doing what we can.
Whether we are women or men or anywhere along that spectrum; whether our children are human babies, grown babies, furry babies, winged babies, aquatic babies or plant babies; whether we have a good relationship with our mothers or not, we all carry the Mother archetype within in us. We all have the potential to “act as a hub of nutrients” shared by the different parts of ourselves. We all have within us some capacity to nurture the development of one another.
Notice the word “nurture.”
The process of nurturing, of caring for, of fostering, is long, slow and deep. Like an old-growth tree, it takes time. And a lot of letting go.
I wonder what it is like for the Mother Trees when the saplings they’ve tended grow up, or are destroyed by fire or a plague of beetles. Surely the Mother Trees must know the holy arts of sacrifice and surrender. Does it cause them pain, this letting go? What parts of themselves do they give up only to find greater riches hither to undiscovered?
I pray that you take time this month to honor all the mothers in your life – biological or otherwise. Honor the women who’ve tended to your growth. And more, I pray that you take the time to celebrate all the ways you mother your self.
Photo (c) Melinda Emily Thomas