It’s Not Mother’s Day. Still, in Gratitude.

Of the many things my mother did right -and there are many many right things in spite of some wrongs, was the way she never let a birthday, holiday, or life event pass without giving me another beautiful book in which to write it all down. Perhaps she knew I’d be less concerned with the poignancy of un-realized greatness lost in anonymous pages. Perhaps she knew that something good might come of blank pages, pencils and sketch books in my life; that if she played enough Bach and Bluegrass, Beatles, and Beethoven and simply got a great soundtrack going in the threadbare background of our lives those early years, we’d be vessels to carry the beauty of life she always felt the world could never have enough of. She let me run wild and was more than less around for the retelling of neighborhood tales at the end of the day. She insisted on a two hour afternoon nap most afternoons until I went off to school at 5. I was given a lot of space to be creative although I realize now, that space was essential for her as well.

Such a girl herself, I see my mother in bare feet, smoking, flicking ashes on the front stoop, the teenagers of the neighborhood coming to sit with her as she watched my siblings and me at 6, 7, 8 climb the downspout to the flat roof over the screened-in porch. The girl who was my mother passed along the great gift of her life- long girlishness, too.

Firefly jars, cut off shorts, footballs and hula-hoops, boxes of cast off dress-ups from all those 1950’s shotgun weddings, satin high heels, and cheerleader skirts. I can barely tell the story of my own girlhood without telling the story of hers. I wore her tap dance costumes, her spangled headdresses, I camped in her moldy childhood sleeping bag, wore her gray moth-eaten sweater when I was ten. The girl of me watched her hands run up and down piano keys, ran screaming from her cheerleader aspirations straight into the marching band, ran foot races, expanded on her fort designs, and learned to throw a perfect spiral football across a field. Under her benign neglect, I slammed screen doors, and stubbed toes. I tried her experiments: sandals out of musk melon rinds and string, brown sugar sandwiches, and submitted to the occasional recital or poetry contest thrown in there for more refinement and character-building.

BLR and Mom

My mother, Anne, shared a really good girlhood with me and taught me how to give my own girls their tomboy girlhoods and diaries too. She gave me privacy and a place for words, books and music and a safe backyard, where my best ideas grew in the mossy roots of trees…, my aimless humming in harmony with the cicada buzz, my sweetgrass skin alight, pliant, alive in its own fluid possibility.

Giving thanks for the gifts of my Motherline today.

Beth Lodge-Rigal for The Poplar Grove Muse

My Dog, My Teacher

This fall, sixteen women have embarked upon WWFaC’s 2015 Conscious Feminine Leadership Training. Speaking for myself, I seek to better understand, embody, and manifest the open-hearted, truth-telling, community-building principles of the conscious feminine in my world.

As a group, I can say that we are finding the journey transformative, as individuals, as women growing in our understanding of and capacity for leadership, and as members of a vast network of overlapping and far-reaching relationships. So many new ideas, new learnings, and new friendships are being discovered and developed within this spectacular, surprising group of seeking women.

Much of our reading has emphasized important characteristics of solid, healthy relationships—reciprocity, being able to both receive and give equally in our healing, sharing, caretaking relationships; remaining clear-, full- and open-hearted; telling the truth without judgement or blame; being radically present to ourselves and others; always bringing our authentic selves into interaction.

I have not been alone in pursuing new “laboratories” for exploring the workings of relationships. One friend, not even part of this training group, has had a recent breakthrough in deciding to use her toxic workplace as a personal laboratory for her renewed spiritual practices. However, since I have been spending a lot of time alone recently, reading, writing, chipping away at a backlog of small (and large) tasks that I haven’t been able to tackle for some months, my new “relationship laboratory” opportunity wasn’t immediately clear to me.

And then it dawned on me: Lupin, our new-within-the-last-few-months shelter dog, almost certainly abused, afraid of everything and hence a fierce barker at almost everything, and the fastest, most athletic dog I have known personally, is an ideal “lab” for me (he’s not a Lab). Just as I learned long ago with my toddlers, if I am not fully present to him, and he needs my attention, he starts to bite playfully at my hands, whine, ask for inappropriate attention, create minor mayhem if he can’t get me to notice any other way. Home together for long hours, our relationship, presumably one of master/mistress and pet, can bear my being barely present to him for only so long.

When I bring my full self to him, on the other hand, and we go out into the sun to play, and I throw the ball for him, he chases it joyfully, easily running past it to field it from the far side, and turns back to me in a big, graceful, looping arc to run past me, and field me from the other direction; my heart immediately soars, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t bring him out sooner, or let him bring me out, sooner, more often, more…. Whatever attention I turn toward him is returned to me in such full measure: walking, he calls my attention to so many little things, makes certain I notice every tiny moving creature anywhere in our vicinity; lying on the back edge of the sofa (he is that small, and can even sleep balancing up there, with limbs drooping down, but not interfering with his balance), he patiently waits, follows my every move with his eyes, always ready to meet any attention I offer with his radically present, infailingly authentic self. My dog, my friend, my teacher.

Mary Peckham for The Poplar Grove Muse