I'm drawn to the outdoors and to witnessing all that these woods, fields and mountains have to offer up to me.
As I came back down the mountain side this morning I got thinking about how I am now an orphan; there is no parent to me in this world any longer. I guess, at my age, this isn't uncommon and more and more of us 'boomers' are facing elderly parents and their eventual death.
Both my parents nurtured in me my love of all things outdoors. My mom, raised as a Maine farm girl, was completely comfortable with cutting the heads off a chicken. She once validated that they do run around without their head if you don't hold them tight enough while you bring the axe down. This same woman was terrified of the little meadow vole. She literally would scream at the sight of one or shiver at the mention of them in my house, stating, "OH! I hate mice!"
She instilled in me my need to remain independent and not be taken in as just a girl by some boy. She always encouraged that I go 'double dutch', slipping a $20.00 bill into my pocket when going off on a date in high school. Somehow it was understood that if I paid my own way I wouldn't "owe" that young man anything. This teaching served me well as I grew from girl to woman.
My mother always expected me to be able to do the same jobs my brother did: shovel snow, haul brush, cut down a tree, bury the compost, mow the lawn. Mom was in her 80's when we finally convinced her it wasn't safe to use her chainsaw when no one was around. And so I grew, knowing that I was strong and capable of following my own path and carrying my own load. I have never cut the head off a chicken though ... and to this day I'm not sure I've got that in me!
My dad was a poet and gentle man who was compassionate and caring of others. He took a career where his poetry could be spoken every Sunday from the pulpit. His need to care for others could be used in his counseling for those grieving a loss or in the kind discussions of marriage with a young couple. My dad was far more spiritual than religious. He taught me that God could be felt in all of nature; including the small, fragrant Mayflower or the exotic Lady Slippers. These treasures needed to be hunted down in the deeper woods. We were taught to never pick these precious beauties, but rather to worship them in those deep, sacred woods.
It was in these fields that led down to the rock ledges and the sandy beach that dad would take us out at night to stare into the night sky and listen to the call of the Whip-o-will. Lying on our backs he pointed out the constellations and taught me how to follow the curve of the big dipper's handle to find one of the largest stars in our solar system, Arcturus. "Arch to Arcturus" he would say, sweeping his arm across the the dipper's handle and landing on another bright speck. He would talk of infinity, light years and eternity ... concepts as big as that glittering sky that were impossible to grasp and yet opened the mind to what endless and possibility meant.
My parents encouraged me to go outside and allowed me to run wild in the summers, barefoot and free down by the sea. They instilled me a respect for myself and also for the natural world around me and all the living organisms that share it.
Today, I went out into my own spot of earth, living again in the western Maine mountains, and learned of some of the other beings that share this land with me.
With the greatest respect I send up a thank you to my parents, who taught me how to be in love with it all.