Born a poor young country boy, Mother Nature’s son
All day long I’m sitting singing songs for everyone
Sister, I’ve been sitting for some time now, long enough that the days slip into months and on into years. My lips are cracked from singing and frankly I’m unsure who, if anyone, has heard it. My posture has taken on our father’s and my gaze has been steady, but my heart hangs weighty in my chest.
It’s high time that you and I come to terms with the the fact that our mother, the source of everything we are, is slipping away. She is not unlike the dry stems of echinacea that stand in withered resignation out in the hard-frosted evening. Sketched caricatures of their former glory, they sway with the breeze as if alive, but the swaying is a ruse for life in the same way a marionette is a ruse for a Real Boy. If we can allow for clear-eyed awareness of what is happening to the puppet echinacea, or the naked cottonwood, or the petrified milkweed, we might stand a chance of understanding or at the very least accepting what is happening to her, and by extension all of her offspring. Awareness leads to connectedness and no-self. Once aware, then we may feel obliged to define the terms of our surrender. Upon surrender we may finally lay down our childish things, like Pride for example, or even Hope since our stubborn clinging to it is the ugly habit that is in fact responsible for our misery.
Sit beside a mountain stream, see her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies
Her waters rise indeed. She’s awash in the world, and since the world is her as much as she is it, they mingle indistinguishable and with foaming undulation. Friends mutter words of concern: she’s not her old self, they say, and as proof they produce unconvincing documentation of her “old self”: an entry into the Encyclopedia Brittanica; a swinging keychain tchotchke with poorly rendered geography; a glamour shot whose original is long lost but whose image passed countless hands as increasingly distorted photocopies, each generation a grotesque imitation of the former but carrying with it none of its inceptive integrity.
And by the way, she’s never really been flying any more than the sun has been setting. Rather she’s spinning, and orbiting, and creating an illusion based on our limited point of view that a particular star is rising and retreating for our own benefit as the fulcrum of our food and oxygen and everything else, when in fact the sheer happenstance of its rays glancing our mother’s surface at just the right distance so as to provide us with our own lives is little more than a lucky break. You and I have never fancied ourselves gamblers and yet we’ve been riding the tumbling dice for eons.
Find me in my field of grass, Mother Nature’s son
Swaying daises sing a lazy song beneath the sun
I’m guessing you and I cherish similar mental images, let’s call them memories, that flicker like videotape on pause: the curtain-like opening of a wild meadow at the end of a mountain hike, or the guttural pulse of grasshoppers in pasture on a warm summer evening. It’s time to relinquish memories, because they too make us miserable. Relinquish lazy afternoons with bare feet in cool grass. Loosen our grip of fine morning mist on cheek skin. By relinquishing, we are snipping the film and letting the scrap fall to the editing room floor. We are surrendering our roles as shoddy record-keepers, a line of work for which we were never really cut out.
Our own sons and daughters may very well become the first generations to only experience the aforementioned simple pleasures (wild meadow, grasshopper pulse) vicariously via stories and songs. I would venture to guess that my own reckoning with this fact is the heaviness that tugs at my heart as of late. At times it seems too ponderous to bear. And yet in this moment our mother offers herself as before with true unconditional generosity so that they might enjoy this day. Unkempt patches of wild brush between sidewalk and street bustle with growth as biodiverse as a savanna, if our children are curious enough peak into the periphery. Let’s remind each other to forgo the linear path on our way to wherever, if only on occasion, so that we might introduce them to the vigor that finds its way through capped concrete. That’s our mother’s way of making do.
We’re suffering, and she’s suffering too, of course. Both are true and we must hold these multiple truths to the same light. And yet her suffering is hers to bare but ours to carry ad infinitum if we fail to put it down. In her own way, through violent storms and sudden shifts in pressure, she has been whispering words of wisdom. We’ve plugged our ears and shook our heads “no” like toddlers, and still she stands right in front of us, not as Good Old Mom but as This Mother, This Tether, This Cradle. This is the only mother we’ve got. And yet by wriggling free of her embrace we find ourselves hurtling through a very dark place while she patiently plods away at her quiet revolutions. At the moment of this surrender, there is still a chance that we can see the answer, and sing it for everyone who happens to cross our paths.