When the last bluebird sings

September 28th, 2009

I’ve been watching it for some time now, anticipating the end and knowing what it would mean.

When I left my lonely life of accomplishment behind, when I first moved with my husband to this house, to my stark empty-handedness, I called my mother soon after. She had raised three independent daughters, three whiz kids, and I had never said the words that tumbled from my blubbering lips:

I need you.

She came to visit, but before then she sent me a houseplant. It was the kind of plant sold at grocery stores and florists, just a pot of common ivy and indistinguishable indoor greenery. For decoration, it had a slender spike stuck into it with a bluebird on the end of it. I’ve had it since then, all 12 years, in one spot and then rotated to another. I treated it like a talisman, and then a memorial, thinking to myself:

This is my mother.

About a year ago it started to fade. The ivy yellowed and dropped off. The other stalks shrunk. Little remains but the spike with the bird on top. It seems to have bugs now, or some kind of blight. I know it’s time, and so I moved it to the patio. As part of every morning service at the Zen Center we chant this line, and so I chant it now:

The four elements return to their nature as a child to its mother.

It’s time to let the old girl go, to let it all come to rest. My mother is telling me to go, to take flight, to sing my own song. A few weeks ago I heard myself say, as if reading my own heart, “I don’t want to write about parenting any more. Motherhood is about so much more than the kids.” Yes, it’s true the kids are part of it, I said, pounding my chest, but my life and work have moved to a larger purview now. Like what, you might ask, if I haven’t lost you in this pile already. And so I tell you:

The laundry.

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  1. Hi – I havee read you for a while but never commented until now. I think this was an incredibly healing post to let go and move on. I'm looking forward to reading where your journey takes you.

    Comment by Christine — September 28, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  2. i can only really hear the newly born daughter. it's amazing, how quickly we can turn over and become so new in a moment.

    i like these words, i can feel you, for real, really, real.

    still working on the tackle for my piece for PM. Bare with me.


    Comment by mb — September 28, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

  3. My thoughts exactly…already started this morning.

    Comment by 1stdaughter — September 28, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  4. All of your writing is beautiful. Thank you for all that you share. I found you when I was seeking a better understanding of motherhood and Buddhism. I am grateful I found both in one book.

    Sometimes the river headed to the sea must bend and diverge. I look forward to seeing where you head.

    Comment by happynik — September 28, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  5. I have felt this same way for some time now and it's probably the reason I'm so quiet on my blog. I'm still trying to find that person I've become and her voice in writing — not writing about motherhood. Yet most of the time that's all I can think about!

    Comment by Shawn — September 29, 2009 @ 12:54 am

  6. And there is so much to tell about the laundry. Washing and hanging and drying and folding and ironing – such repetitive tasks in my house. And some of my favorites of all the chores. I hope you do write about the wonder of owning and washing our clothes.

    No matter what the topic, please keep writing. Often.

    Comment by GailNHB — September 29, 2009 @ 2:28 am

  7. I am a bit late in saying this: Happy birthday!! I hope you felt joy and love in the celebration of your life (and your mother's life, and her mother's life, and…).

    Comment by Kathryn — September 29, 2009 @ 6:39 am

  8. Love the reflection on letting go -I struggle with that each autumn. There are always new avenues opening for us, new paths to follow, new interests to persue. I wish you luck in discovering your path. But there will always be the mundane, routine life tasks that help keep us grounded. May we find contentment in it all.

    Comment by Donna — October 1, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

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