I Ask Everything Beautiful That I See: “Are You My Mother?”
Just like baby bird in the book, I don’t know where she is but I am determined to find her.
I went to the beach this weekend. Ever since I scattered my mom’s ashes in the ocean, I feel like I can talk to her when I see the waves. But, this time, I couldn’t.
I looked at the ocean but I was consumed with so many things: anger and sadness over what has happened to the state of the United States, grief and shock over the death of one of my kid’s beloved teachers from elementary school from Covid, worry that my youngest kid wasn’t feeling well, concern for my husband who was having body aches after his second vaccination, and angst about my dog who is turning fourteen this year. The list went on and on.
I did not want to look at the ocean and “commune” with my mom. My mind was racing and I wanted to call her on the phone. I wanted to put her on speaker and hear her say hello. I wanted to go over my anxiety list and have her hold my worries for me, the way only a mother can.
As I was walking along the shore biting my nails, a large crane landed nearby. “Are you my mother?” I wanted to ask it. I felt like the baby bird in that favorite Dr. Seuss book by P.D. Eastman, the one I used to read with the kids when they were little.
Baby bird hatches and goes off to find his mother but he doesn’t know what she looks like. He meets a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a Snort before he finally finds his mother. He asks everyone, “Are you my mother?” That’s what I do when a crane lands near me. Or when I see a butterfly in the back yard. Or when there is a pink sunset painted across the sky. “Are you my mother?” I ask out loud. Just like the baby bird in the book, I don’t know where she is but I am determined to find her.
I went to the beach because I had this fantasy that comfort could be found outside of me. If I could be with my friends the way I used to be, I would feel comforted. If I could get away from home, I would feel comforted. If I could see the ocean, I would feel comforted. It’s a fantasy that I can place my body somewhere else on the globe and feel differently. I am reminded, again and again, that comfort can only be found on the inside. This sucks for me because my inside is a ball of black and blue and purple swirled together like weird-looking cotton candy.
Nature does take the edge off. But the field of serenity I am looking for is not somewhere I can hike to in my Nike sneakers. It’s not a place I can drive to or visit with friends. It’s on the inside. My grief therapist told me it is okay that I am not there yet. That it is normal and healthy and appropriate to feel how I am feeling and to just let myself have my feelings. But I find it hard not to want to “do something” about it, like escape to the beach or hike up a mountain or talk to cranes.
“Are you my mother?” I ask everything beautiful that I see. I ask the waves and the stars and the sunset. But I don’t want a sign; I want that lady with the frosted blonde hair and the fingernails painted in primary colors and the leopard-print scarf. I want to call her and talk to her and tell her everything that troubles me. But I have to content myself with knowing that when I ask everything beautiful if it is my mother, the answer is yes.