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Monday, May 3, 2010

Scratching in Dirt

My mother was a simple person - a humble, modest, unassuming woman who spoke her mind plainly and did what she thought was right, especially with her children.

Since I was the youngest child and raised as an “only”, I tagged along beside her often. She was nearly always busy doing something and I’m sure there were times when she would have savored some solitude. Nevertheless, she’d patiently listen as I’d rattle on and on about things that seemed important to me. In between my chattering, she’d share her thoughts and give her opinions. Sometimes, in no uncertain terms, she’d let me know how I’d gone awry. We did not always agree, and I did have to mind her, so sometimes the sparks flew! But that was the exception; usually we’d just be together, working and talking.

She loved the great outdoors. Sometimes, judiciously and with great care, she’d attempt digging up a wild plant and planting it in her garden at home. It did not always work - still, she’d share with me the care needed and emphasize our responsibility. She was very proud that wild ferns filled a shady spot in our yard, and even then I realized how special that was (That was in dry, hot Montana, not wet, cool Washington.) She explained how humans work the earth slowly - cultivate, grow, sometimes disturb and neglect. Nature reclaims quickly because each kind of living thing has its own particular niche. It is better to work in harmony with the natural world.

She loved good food and food is where you find it: apples gleaned from a deserted orchard make wonderful pies; wild berries, while a pain to pick, are well worth it when served with fresh ice cream; a hook, carefully baited, tossed into the stream to float down into the quiet, deep, dark hole, may grab the attention of that big Brook Trout; a Lake Trout may just be a “sick one, passing by” - but it nearly always took her hook. Holidays need home cooking to be complete. Food, and the pursuit of it, nourishes much more than the body.

She loved family. She told that the rabbit pulls soft underfur from its chest to prepare a nest for its litter; the bird does the same with its feathers - and so the parent gives of itself to its offspring. Abandoned young can sometimes be saved, but they must be individually cared for, kept warm, hand-fed and watered often. There is no guarantee they will survive, but if you take on the task, you must stick it out to the very end. Being a parent sometimes causes pain and heartache - it takes time, effort, unwavering commitment and the love of a lifetime. There is no greater aspiration nor joy.

She loved well. If she was around now to hear how our scratching in the dirt side-by-side influenced my entire life, she’d quickly pooh-pooh the idea. She’d be wrong.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9

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