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  • Mj Pettengill

Marya of the Wood: We Are All Someone's Child



Child, Wolf   CC0
Child, Wolf CC0

When I was but a maiden, some referred to me as a flower child. I spent much time in the woods—seemingly a tomboy at first—yet almost always connected to my inner girl. This optimum balance could be elusive at times. Still, for the most part, it was intact, fueling the energy necessary to navigate the upper reaches of the arduous road to maturity. The foundation of my unbroken rooting in the land, honoring the ancient ones, carries infinite wisdom. This well does not go dry.

I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t singing, playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, throwing clay, and writing. I didn’t just scribble in notebooks. I bound my books by hand, sewing them, filling the pages with handwritten poetry and short stories. I was thrilled to use India ink and an assortment of nibs. What a mess my fingers would become, but I learned the art of calligraphy while penning my work.

To create was to live and breathe. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my mother did not know what to do with me. I think that I scared her. She couldn’t respond to my constant stream of creativity, accompanied by a desire to play in the woods, climb trees, and fill my pockets with unimaginable things.

When I shifted from maiden to mother, creativity took on new meaning. First off, I planned to stay home for some time and then return to my job. Everything changed on the day that I gave birth to my first child. There was no way that I was leaving him anywhere. This is a personal choice, and I chose to immerse fully in the art of motherhood.

Yes, motherhood was and still can be messy; it is not for the faint of heart. It is also remarkable. I learned more as a mother than I did at any college or university. The lessons are still rolling in. I would not have chosen anything else. This is my path, but I do not solely exist for it alone.

For me, it has always been essential to not only survive but to thrive. This rule may sound simple, but if one is not careful, it is easy to break. There are guidelines for being an Earth mother. You become one with the land and its inhabitants. You see, in addition to my children, I find myself nurturing most living beings that share our space.

I homeschooled my children because I could. Again, it was a choice. Now, we live in a very different world—unrecognizable at best. As I have said before, in these times, I pray for children and their parents as well. The saying, it takes a village to raise a child, may very well have been a prophecy. We are needed to come together now more than ever.

I review how this part of my life—mother, teacher, farmer—unfolded. (We had a respectable farm.) How did I do this? In addition to a strict academic curriculum, we were closely aligned with the arts. We owned our place in the natural world, remembering that we are the land, as it is us.

I maintained an active music career. Somehow, I did this single-handedly. If I failed to frequently descend into my creative depths or not preserve my place in the wild, I would have wilted, possibly facing a silent death. However, I did not. I knew enough to stay with it. At times I thought that I was lost, not aware that I was already on the path. When this happened, I had to dig deep and acknowledge the silence of being.

Earth energy rushes through one’s veins at all times, but especially when needed. This is true even when we don’t know what comes next. Whether we are lost or grounded, burdened, discouraged, or carrying a heavy heart, that is not the point. As long as we have all of the pieces of ourselves, we will find our way. Giving up means accepting the death of your authentic self and all of the fragments scattered about.

You must rest, practice self-care, and remember to dream. It is in your dreams where you will retrieve the missing pieces. You cannot live for others, not in a way that you lose yourself. If you are consumed by fear or concern over your children, remember that you must inspire them rather than do all things on their behalf. Do not live for or through them. If you want them to thrive, teach them to do so. If you want them to come home, have all of your pieces intact. Be worth coming home to out of desire, not desperation. Be the firm shelter, not the ruins.

Sometimes, when it gets too wild, an Earth mother may have the urge to fly free. There is indeed great satisfaction in nesting, growing, and preparing food and medicine, providing safety for those who call upon her. However, she must not serve others to the point where she loses her ability to care for herself.

One of the dangers of giving away too much of self is we lose the ability to create. When this happens, the creative Earth mother may tumble into the deeps—depression, numbness, sleeplessness—becoming so tired that it may be impossible to dream. This must be avoided. First and foremost, we must never forget who we are—our pure selves—knowing where we belong.

Now, with all of the tumbling and swirling, we must reach for the roots that push up from the rich black earth. Even if from your heart, do you call out for your children, wanting them to come home? Do you long for the safety of your own mother and father? This can be a challenge for the undaughtered girl or impossible for the long-orphaned boy. But just as there is no avoiding what we know, there is no avoiding what we do not know.

Provide a sacred space for all. Rise up; lift your voice in song. As long as we continue to let it in, love will prevail. We may or may not share the same perspectives, but we are all someone’s child.