The Mother in Mother Nature

by Mary Clista Dahl

a mother and daughter standing on the beach

It is a tribute to my mother that draws me outside to admire a Western New York sunset.  It has been ten years since I’ve had the privilege to enjoy her physical presence.  As happens often with those we love, she passed away suddenly. I missed my opportunity to say goodbye directly.

Tonight the landscape is shadowy in the dimming light.  There is an oversized brown rabbit in the long grass in my path.  I redirect my footsteps so as not to disturb his munching.  His large brown eyes shift toward me in caution, but he stays.  The warm air is heavy tonight, wrapping itself around me.  I am comforted by Mother Nature, which is different from the comfort I received from my real Mother, yet a welcome substitute.

The relationship I had with Mom was unlike any I’ve ever had with anyone else in my life.  Truth be told, it wasn’t exactly perfect.  As a matter of fact, sometimes it was downright horrendous.  Yet she was always there and would listen to me intently when I needed her to.  Sometimes it was out of concern, other times it was for the golden opportunity to declare, “I told you so.”  That latter part makes me smile.  Regardless, once I grew into adulthood and had children of my own, there was never a moment when I ever doubted how much she loved me.

Although I’m blessed to have caring people in my life, there is no one to support my decisions or ask what my dreams are or wonder what I hope for the way Mom did.  So when I feel the need to express those things, I venture outside because Mother Nature also listens.  The birds call to say, “I hear you.”  The breeze caresses my face.  The creek flows steadily to remind me of persistence.  “Look at me.  Let me be the one to give you strength and energy.”   The animals and plants recognize my presence.  The sunsets and rises are dependable as are the stars.  The trees protect and the gardens blossom.  They are there for me.  Unconditionally.

Mother Nature knows my mother’s love.  She wants me to be happy so she slows time allowing for uninterrupted thought.  She provides entertainment through clouds to find images in, woods to hike in, brooks to wade in, sand to put toes in, tall grass to get lost in.  She invites me.  I come to her to speak my peace.  She carries my struggling voice away from my body to a faraway place where my mother’s spirit thrives, and the response is carried back on the wind.  “I am here.”

And as the sun sets this evening, I encounter Mom in nature so that missed goodbye is inconsequential.