In my first year of college at Bridgewater State, I took a literature class called “Sustainability: Reading and Writing the Environment.” We read a book, “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. It delves into nature scientifically, then spiritually and then merges the two ideals. “Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Wisdom and the Teachings of Plants,” reads the cover’s subtitle.
The chapter that I have bookmarked and underlined and highlighted to disgrace in my copy is “A Mother’s Work.” Kimmerer tells the story of trying to fulfill her daughters’ wishes for their new home: most laboriously, a swimmable pond. Algae has taken over the pond in their backyard, green mats of it allowing ducks to walk on the water. She rakes and shovels up masses of the algae in an attempt to clean it and discovers one of the algae species contributing to this eutrophication is Hydrodictyon. It forms as a sort of honeycomb mesh net, multiplying quickly due to its clonal reproduction. Daughter cells are born inside of the mother cells; the mother cell must therefore disintegrate to disperse her daughter cells into the water. The newborns fuse with each other and with preexisting cells, weaving more of the net-like structure of Hydrodictyon.
The passage that I have underlined reads as follows: “I look out at the expanse of Hydrodictyon visible just below the surface. I imagine the liberation of new cells, the daughters spinning off on their own. What does a good mother do when mothering time is done? As I stand in the water, my eyes brim and drop salt tears into the freshwater at my feet. Fortunately, my daughters are not clones of their mother, nor must I disintegrate to set them free, but I wonder how the fabric is changed when the release of daughters tears a hole. Does it heal over quickly, or does the empty space remain? And how do the daughter cells make new connections? How is the fabric rewoven?”
In honor of the recent global events, I would like to give a special shout out: moms. Around the world, moms are putting dinner on the table for families through this weird and scary time. They are delivering and raising babies, they are homeschooling. They are doctors and surgeons and nurses working around the clock putting their own lives in danger and they are waitresses losing jobs. They are your local grocery store employees keeping the world functional. They are listening to all of us college kids whine about this lockdown and the whole while, they are raising the next generation of this society that they are the backbone of. They shape our kids, who hold the future.
From the first time we enter this world, to our first fall, our first heartbreak, no one comforts us like our moms. Even on a strictly scientific basis, there is no one we connect with like our mothers. The moment we are conceived, oxytocin begins to fuse that unique mother-child bond. Still they do not get the respect they deserve. Although things undoubtedly improve every day, ideals prevail that women are lesser than men. Women make less money than men and pay more for everyday products. They work harder to prove themselves in male-dominated industries, like STEM, for example. These are first world problems; women are also much more likely to be victims of human trafficking, which is even on the rise. Women are also at a greater risk of rape and domestic violence.
In a time of fear, panic and uncertainty, like the one we are in right now, there is no one I wish was here more than my mom. She was the strongest woman I knew, a nurse, a lover of fun. What I’m trying to say with all of this, is if you can, give your mom a hug. Throw in a “thank you” and an “I love you” in there for good measure.
And if your mom isn’t around, for whatever reason that may be, think of who in your life has fulfilled that role of comfort, strength, support, protection and love. Give them your gratitude. Maybe you made it this far by yourself, you can show gratitude to yourself too. Think of the powerful women that have made you. We all have women in our lives that deserve a thank you.
Madison Cushing can be reached at [email protected]