Yesterday, as I drove to the beach, I found myself driving the route of a running race in progress. Judging by the distance that I drove alongside them, I guessed it was a marathon. The runners and I were traveling in opposite directions, so I was able to observe faces and bodies. Joy, struggle, effort, and perseverance emanated from their gaits and their expressions. The runners came in all shapes, sizes and levels of fitness, but they shared a common look of determination. After passing hundreds of these running, jogging, walking and stretching humans, I felt a wave of emotion and tears began to form. I was witnessing human potential being realized.
Each of these individuals had set their sights on a goal (likely a stretch for many of them) and I was getting to watch their final reach for it. For most people, race day was probably the culmination of months of training which, of course, includes planning, hopes, sacrifices, disappointments, and successes. I know the routine; I used to run long distances. For me, the race was very important. It offered a goal, something to move towards, a reason to keep running even when I didn’t feel like it. But the greatest value I gained from running was in the training, not the racing. During training, I learned to stretch my limits, find a reliable pace, and persist through discomfort or malaise. On race day — and every other day — these new skills gave me confidence, courage and capacity for any opportunity that I pursued.
Watching these runners, I was reminded of the vast potential available to each of us. Humans are infinitely creative and capable. I suddenly imagined that the same determination and inspiration that allows humans to run marathons, heal illnesses, solve problems, overcome addictions, etc… will help us heal our relationships to one another and to the earth. I envisioned that when we turn our singular individual devotions to the collective need, we will begin to cultivate the peace that is possible. On some days, I believe it is already happening. Yesterday was one of those days.
When I arrived at the beach, I walked directly to the water’s edge where the receding tide was exposing more and more walkable beach each minute. Standing there, I gave thanks to the Earth, mother of us all, for its boundless capacity to nurture my body and my soul. Earlier this week, I had written a card to my mom, feeling gratitude for the gifts of life and love that she gave to me. And then I had written a note to my oldest son, thanking him for turning me into a mama. Our possibilities and intentions are nurtured in many layers. Mothering unlocked my own potential for growing and loving, while creating tangible hope for the future and tethering me (and our children) to our ancestral lineage. Mothering provides daily training for the work of nurturing the wider community that I feel called to do.
At a workshop last weekend, Indigenous attorney, activist and teacher, Sherri Mitchell, shared an interesting bit of biological fact; Every woman carries eggs from her grandmother and her mother. This means that in every woman alive at this moment, there is the embodied ancestral wisdom from two previous generations as well as the potential for the future. We not only have the disposition to walk and run towards the positive future that is possible, we have inherited wisdom to help guide our way. Jack Kornfield writes, “The warrior in your heart says stand your ground. Feel the survival of a thousand years of ancestors in your muscles and your blood. You have all the support you need in your bones.”
This Mother’s Day, I am remembering my grandmothers with gratitude. I am thinking of my mom with appreciation. I am celebrating my children with presence. I am honoring the Earth with love. Mothering is a devotional act. It’s as hard, and as rewarding, as training for that marathon. I am leaning into the challenge… And, I am going to start running again. There’s a half marathon on a nearby wooded course in October. Want to join me?