It is March 15, 2012, about 6:30am. It’s the kind of morning my mom would have loved… an orchestra of birds performing a sweet concerto; a crispness to the air that enlivens the skin, lungs and spirit; and a sky of blues and pinks with a quarter-moon reminiscent of the Maxfield Parrish painting that used to hang in her parents’ den. It is, to say the least, gorgeous.
I think of her as I breathe in the fresh country air, and say “Thanks, mom” for the gift of appreciating beauty and nature she instilled in me.
It’s hard to believe she’s been gone for eleven years. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday we were laughing, sharing stories and admiring my kids together. Sometimes it seems as if her presence here was some wonderful dream from another time. Either way, I miss her, and I know my kids, our family and friends do, too.
St. Patrick’s Day is in a couple of days – one of her favorite holidays. I remember as a kid waking up every March 17th with much anticipation to walk to town with her to see if the green stripe and four-leaf clover that dons the entire length of Main Street in Murphys every year had appeared. We always delighted in the fact that, indeed, it had.
Mom had a way of living life to its fullest that everyone admired; she glowed with a joie-de-vivre that was infectious, to say the least. She was a truly brilliant model of George Bernard Shaw’s wonderful quote:
My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
This morning, as I stand beneath this beautiful Mexico sky, I am celebrating that and the gift of her presence. Although she died far too young at the age of 60, I am deeply grateful for having had her in my life as long as I did.
It feels somehow fitting to be writing from here in Mexico today, the land of a portion of my father’s heritage and a place my mom wanted to visit more, had she had the opportunity. There is a sense of completion being here, of coming full circle in celebrating my roots.
In 1989, my son, his father, my mom and I visited my mom’s great aunt Sheila in Aboyne, Scotland. Sheila was well into her 90′s and quite frail, but she had a powerful presence that was undeniable. She had lived a full life. It was such an honor to meet her and to visit the home of my Ross ancestors.
Here in Mexico, although I will likely never meet anyone to whom I am related directly, I feel a powerful, deep and tangible familiarity with the land, the people, their stories and the slow, easy and courteous way of life. It feels like home, as if it is in my bones and blood.
It has been deeply healing to remember and reclaim yet another part of who I am in being here, in letting go of some of the rushed, driven and frantic way of life in the states. It has been wonderful, too, to reclaim my facility with the Spanish language, in some ways more attuned to my spirit than English. I find myself speaking Spanish with everyone I meet, even Americans… it feels almost unnatural to speak English when I’m out and about, and I often find myself thinking in the language of this place.
I have also had the opportunity to rewrite my book and am profoundly grateful for the insights and experiences that have given rise to new, deeper perspectives on “mattering” in my exchanges with the people here. There is a rich heritage, a deep pride and a complex weaving of old and new that has provided the perfect backdrop for my growth and letting go. I believe the book will be much better for my having been here. Today, I am truly celebrating my roots… those from my mother and those from my father. They are deep, true and expansive. They have sculpted me into who I am. They matter to me.What are you celebrating about your roots this month? Who are you honoring? What do you love about yourself that is the unique combination of your parents’ heritage and stories? What about your roots matters to you?
I invite you to walk outside regardless of where you are, breathe in the air, look up at the sky above and down at the earth beneath you, and remember to give thanks. Today, let us celebrate our roots and the fact that we matter.