On the Friday before what you and I might habitually call Columbus Day weekend, my fourth grader and I went for a hike down by the Mahicantuck. I’m quite certain you’d simply call this “river that flows two ways” the Hudson.
This river is tidal. It rises and falls twice in a day and the salt from the Atlantic can reach all the way to Poughkeepsie during drought conditions. I am an ocean girl, born and raised, and the Hudson Valley can seem so desperately land locked… I forget that the river is just a few miles from my front door. I certainly forget that it has salt in its hair and sand in its shoes.
If only my mermaid self could remember that she has always been at home here. Then, maybe I’d be able to put down roots that would help me better weather the storms - those in this New York sky and those that churn on the internet and in the ethers beyond.
My daughter was born in this place. She’s made of this river and its tributaries. She’s held by its ridges and mountains and she skips along the trail and navigates the uneven ground as naturally as a grown faun - or is she now a young doe?
She tells me what she learned about Indigenous Peoples’ Day, about the story of Taíno boy who had his doubts about the men who arrived in their great boats. We talk about the way the boy was right and how the explorers became colonizers who would destroy the native way of life. We talked about how complicated it was, to feel grateful we lived on such beautiful, sacred land while knowing that it meant the removal and destruction of those were here first.
Conversations with my daughter enliven and exhaust me sometimes, especially when we’re trying to sort through stories about our beautiful, brutal, complicated world. Trying to put things into words she can understand when I realize I don’t even have the words.... This is one more thing they forgot to teach us in parenting school.
I hadn’t had time for my morning meditation that day and was craving it, so, as we approached the river’s edge, I suggested we do a “sit spot,” a mindfulness practice she’d learned in her wilderness program.
The water was high. All this autumn rain was keeping the salt-kissed currents well south of us, but I swear I smelled the sea. Tucked between the trees and the underbrush, we found a clear boulder, a perfect place to rest, our feet dangling over the steadily moving river five feet below.
I was entwining myself with the elements, feeling the sun and the wind and filling myself with the splash of the wavelets. I needed this. I needed to arrive at a point in motherhood when my older child and I could enjoy a long moment of silence, when she could respect the dance of nature’s movement and stillness.
So much felt possible now that I had a daughter who could allow her mother some stillness. I’d spent so many years of going through the motions of mothering. I felt like I’d earned the pause.
As I let my mind fly with the gulls, my girl was quietly busy beside me, grinding a tiny stone against our rocky seat. She was making a fine pile of dust. I glanced over to see her dabbing it on the tip of her nose, her eyes crossed as she focused.
Perhaps it would have been nice to mediate a little longer, but this was a rare afternoon, just for the two of us - the first hike we’d taken alone since her sister was born four years ago.
I think it must have been her idea to paint me. I didn’t know if it crossed her mind that this is how kids have “played Indian” for hundreds of years, but I didn’t mention it because I was caught up in a different world of history and myth.
I’ve been rereading The Mists of Avalon and felt that old yearning to be amongst the priestesses with the blue crescents between their brows. This book had rewritten my relationship with the Catholicism that raised me back when I was not so much older than my daughter is now. It was necessary to make that sacred sisterhood real in this moment with my girl, here at the rocky edge of a rushing river, so I asked her to draw the moon on my forehead. And then, with the last bit of powder, I did the same for her.
It felt necessary to put words to this sweet little act, so I suggested we speak a prayer to the moon and ask her for a blessing. My wise, huge-hearted daughter, who has been raised to see the Goddess in the earth and in the sky and question why many people think God lives only in a Church, suggested “peace and love.”
This was the end of the week when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Around the country, women in particular were holding their collective breath. We waited to see if that man would be confirmed and added the Supreme Court. I didn’t have any peace and light left in me, and the kind of love I had was the fierce kind that felt more like a hurricane than a mild October breeze.
Though I was filled with prayers that began something like “by the power of this mighty river, by this great mother earth, women must be believed,” I was doing all I could to just look like Mom on the outside. My daughter has been raised to call her a feminist and she’s more politically aware than most nine year-olds, but I’d barely mentioned the Supreme Court. She knew it as one more messy political thing that would inspire mommy and daddy to go to an event in support of our democratic congressional candidate that night.
And so, I was called to walk the edge between speaking the truth and protecting the last shreds of my daughter’s innocence yet again. I couldn’t erase or disown my weary heart or my boiling blood - this was a prayer to the Goddess, after all, and I needed to be straight with her about what really needed on this earth right now.
I tried to tilt the specifics of my rage and said I was thinking about justice and about protecting people who are less powerful than the guys who have been in charge for so long.
We threw stones into the water to seal our prayers. We walked back to the car with golden moon dust on our faces. Later in the day, I’d listen to Susan Collins’s long rambling speech in support of the lifetime appointee who showed himself to be anything but an impartial, even-tempered potential jurist.
And the river would keep flowing with moon blessed tides. The autumn would stretch to become more brilliant before the weather turned and the leaves would be stripped and laid winter bare.
My daughter would grow and her innocence would slip away with every conversation, newscast, and great big book.
I would hold this story in the treasure chest with those that make me a woman raising up children, a woman with her eyes widening further open day by day, a woman full of rage and hope, a woman trying to find her way home.
In honor of my daughter's ninth birthday, I invite anyone who loves this story to book a Story Healing Session for just $109 (offer valid through November 1, 2019).
Book your one-on-one session with me to talk about the story you long to tell, the story that gets stuck in your throat and needs to be healed before it can be told.