Memories of being a young mother:
I gather the flour, yeast, salt, and honey.
I find the old recipe book my aunt gave me years ago when I was newly married.
I haven’t made bread in years. I feel a deep uncertainty settle upon me. “It’s only making bread”, I tell myself. Why such doubt and lack of confidence?
I take a deep breath and light a candle for Brigid, Irish goddess of my ancestors; goddess of “the holy fire”.
Brigid is connected to the creative act of writing poetry as well as the creative act of transforming a house into a sacred temple. She is revered by my ancestors as a wise, anchoring, spiritual guide.
I am transported back to my younger self. I see myself as a young mother, standing in my kitchen on a cold winter morning, preparing to make the bread. My three children are with me.
My daughter, who is about 8 and the oldest, stands next to me, eager to help. Wearing her little red apron, her generous, enthusiastic, and creative soul shining through.
I see my 6-year-old son, running back and forth between the kitchen and the other rooms of the house, energetic and joyful. Free to be himself, knowing he is loved. Excited just because it is a new day and we are together, cozy in our house.
I see my youngest, who is about one year old, sitting in his high chair watching his older siblings with the same love and curiosity I see in him today, 27 years later; the observer who takes in everything quietly while fueling his own creative fire.
In this moment, I remember the feeling of joy in mothering these three souls. I also remember how the responsibility would keep me awake at night, how I was so afraid that I would not be able to give them what they needed.
As a young mother, I was navigating the terrain of motherhood without a map. It felt so very scary. I was trying to give to my children a life that was never given to me; a life of safety, stability, love, health, joy, support, and unconditional acceptance.
In this map-less navigating of motherhood, time and time again, day after day, I returned to the kitchen. Always beginning the day in the kitchen; ending the day in the kitchen. Cooking, baking, and tending to my children became the daily rituals for not only nourishing our bodies but nourishing our souls.
In this returning, in this daily rhythm, I was finding my way. I was discovering wisdom, solace, healing, and peace. I was finding the mother self within me. I was discovering the essence of mothering deeply buried within the simple tasks of daily life. These pure and simple tasks sustained life and were opening me to love.
Day after day, I invited my children to join me in these tasks. In part to build their confidence in their ability to help, contribute and participate in our family. But even more than that, I was inviting them into a sacred hearth-space with me. I was inviting them to share the flow of daily life, to co-create the map by exploring the unknown terrain together.
Together, we were constructing the architecture of our family life, made up of the sacred moments hidden in this daily simplicity. Hidden in the ebb and flow of the days. In the nourishing, delicious meals. In the dreams, stories, and conversations shared at the table, in the mornings and in the evenings.
Day after day, I cooked and baked and ate with my children. We lit candles. We read books. We played and used our imaginations. We listened to music. We danced. We celebrated the rhythm of the seasons and let nature guide and inspire us.
Slowly, fueled by the creative energy of our hearth-fire, I was teaching them how to play, how to trust, how to follow their natural rhythms. I was teaching them all the things not spoken, given, or lived in my childhood home. And I was learning how to be a mother.
It has been years since I made this bread. My children are no longer little. Slowly, I wonder if the uncertainty and doubt I felt at the beginning of this task today is representative of something bigger? Have I lost the raw courage I had as a young mother? Have I become less determined to forge my own path? Why have I stopped this ritual when it connects me so purely to the life-force?
I knead and feel Brigid and the Divine Feminine flowing through my hands. I feel the gentle nudge of my ancestors. They remind me that I am strong. That my returning to this ritual now, after many years, is perfect in its timing.
They remind me that returning to the simple, sacred tasks of the hearth is how I have always found my belonging. It has always been how I create space for others to feel their own belonging. My ancestors remind me that it is time to honor this once again. It is time to come back to the simple tasks of living, loving, and expressing my soul’s creative fire.
As I knead the dough, I feel grounded into my roots that reach beyond my own life. I realize that every aspect of my life is never an isolated incident; nor did I grow and change and heal in a linear progression.
I realize that I am deeply connected to a circular, eternal energy. Each past moment, experience, and phase of my life was meant to be just as it unfolded. And it is woven into my present day and will be woven into the unknown, continuing journey before me.
This loving essence of circular, eternal energy has always held me, tenderly. Every aspect of my life has been inspired by the ones who traveled before me, uplifting, encouraging, and guiding me. Every experience has brought me to the next and then back around again; each turn of a cycle bringing me back to my soul’s truth with even more conviction and clarity.
As I knead the dough, I am grateful for all the healing and the growth I have experienced. I am grateful for all the spirit guides and ancestors and angels who have protected me. I am grateful for those sacred years of mothering my young children. I feel the grief that many mothers feel when children grow up and no longer need their mothers in the same way they did as little ones. But I am so grateful to witness their adult lives. To see them create their own hearth-spaces and tend to their souls’ creative fire.
I especially love it when I hear my oldest son ask me for my bread recipe; when I receive the bread my daughter makes for me; when I observe my youngest son’s respect for the healing power of food. I love it when I witness my children’s love of nature and the seasons and how they incorporate rituals into their daily lives now.
So as I knead my bread, I feel all of this: the grief, the love, the gratitude, the safety, the belonging. I feel the blessing in the circular, eternal energy and in the return to my roots and to my soul. I remember that learning to be a mother came to me, gently, in the inflow and outflow of my days; in the daily rhythms with my children.
I remember and hold these truths close to my heart. Most of all, I remember that the hearth-spaces and hearth-fires we tend to and nourish throughout our lives are the doorways into an abiding, healing, potent and eternal love.