I am delighted to welcome my first ever guest blogger, Marija Smits. A mother of two, Marija’s poem captures a moment that so many mothers have experienced: the desire to slow time, to hold this moment with our child forever and savour it completely. We know our children will grow up all too soon, and it is a bittersweet joy to watch them develop independence and grow the wings they need to fly away from us.
Marija gives us a wonderful insight into the moment that inspired this poem and her development as a mother in the prose piece that follows the quilt piece. I hope you enjoy it and welcome your feedback. — Lisa
The Ballad of the Beach
I walked along a golden beach,
Awash with stones and shells.
I felt the sand beneath my feet
And heard the children’s yells.
I watched my daughter run ahead
To climb a grassy dune;
I gladly followed where she led,
For well I knew too soon,
She’d be too old, ‘grown up’ she’d say
To share these things with me,
And then I’d be here all alone,
Just staring at the sea.
So wanting very much to keep
This moment evergreen,
I took in all the sights and sounds
The seen and the unseen.
This memory-to-be got saved,
And fixed within my brain,
The way we laughed and “misbehaved”;
The sudden fall of rain.
Now years have passed, my daughter’s grown
And gone beyond my reach,
But when I close my eyes and pause
We’re back there on that beach.
by Marija Smits
This poem first appeared in Musings on Mothering published by Mother’s Milk Books 2012 www.mothersmilkbooks.com
Conceiving a child bearing a child: this is the first part of a unique initiatory step in a woman’s life. In giving birth to a child, breastfeeding and caring for the child this initiatory process is continued. The woman has gone from not-mother to mother, and her life will never be the same again…
Society urges new mothers ‘to get their lives back’; to get back to their pre-baby body shape, to go back to paid employment, to return to socializing, housekeeping, lovemaking… all manner of returns. Some mothers may be happy with some of these ‘returns’ but for many they no longer give the kind of satisfaction they once did. Yet the path ahead may seem unclear too; the future full of parental responsibility and mundane chores, with no time or space to think, to rest, to retain a portion of ‘self’.
Given time though, many mothers do find a path that gives them soul satisfaction; and that path lies within familiar terrain, as though the woman has always known this road. And she does, for this path returns home – to a comforting, welcoming home. But where is home? The place in which we were born? Where we spent most of our childhood days? Not necessarily. Home is the something that gives soul refreshment. Often this something is found in the natural world – the smell of a rose just come into bloom; the peachy softness of a baby’s skin; a stroll on a beach… For others it is in the creation of a something – a knitted cardigan, a painting, a line of poetry.
I wrote ‘The Ballad of the Beach’ a couple of years after spending a day on a beach with my eighteen-month-old daughter. I savoured every moment of that day, aware that these few hours would soon pass; for the months leading up to this moment had already flown by. I spent them mostly in a sleep-deprived haze. My daughter’s joyful smiles and appreciative gurgles whilst she fed from my breast were the only encouraging communications that gave me much-needed respite from that tiredness and the ‘helpful’ advice of family, in-laws, friends, neighbours, health professionals, strangers…
When I learnt to drown out their grating voices I began to really trust my daughter. I understood that her needs were not mere whims or ‘wants’. And I was rewarded two-fold: first, my sensitive child grew in confidence and independence (something I was warned she would never do if I continued to keep her close and breastfeed on cue). Secondly, she helped me to find my own confidence: she taught me to listen to my instincts, and to tune into the soul-voice that was calling me home. I let go of all my previously-held perceptions of childrearing and what my daughter ‘should’ be doing. That day on the beach, I listened to the sound of the waves, watched my daughter playing in the sand and found myself returning home – where I felt cherished and empowered. By returning home on a regular basis I continued to grow in confidence, allowing myself to explore new avenues of creativity. I picked up my pen, which had lain dormant for many years, and began to write.
Whatever ‘home’ is for you – and however you choose to get there, one thing is key; to make the journey often. In doing so a woman can feel refreshed, energized, and more open to creativity, whether that be in mothering, artistry, writing, crafting or gardening. Whatever makes you come alive.
The path to home is close by; a mere step away. Go often, come alive, and all around you will benefit.
© Marija Smits is a writer and mother-of-two. You can find more of her writing here: www.marijasmits.wordpress.com