I Ran Away on Mother’s Day

I ran away to the Oregon coast on Mother’s Day week-end.

I am not so fond of this day that singles out and demands we pay attention to mothers. For one thing, I think when mothers are loved, they know it. There are a multitude of signs families provide all year long, their deep affection expressed in comments, a touch or a look, small gifts of time and random treasures offered. The day commercializes what should be a celebration any old day. I believe random acts of love are better than ones that happen on a calendar basis.

But the main reason is that this day is a time of melancholy reflection for me. A longing rises up and grabs hold of me hard. Tears soften my vision and I pause.

My mother died a few days before Mother’s Day in 2001. The funeral home viewing was held on the date meant to enjoy our living mothers. I remember most her hands from that day. In peculiar repose when I knew them so intimately as hands that created and worked every day, they were still lovely. She lived a robust, demanding life into her nineties and was possessed of a quick mind, a vivid imagination and a generous soul. Only when she could abide no more discomfort did she slip out of flesh and bones.

I still miss her, as daughters always do miss their mothers when fortunate enough to be loved by them. To have shared stories with them that last long after the leavetaking.

So off I went to the sea. Edna Kelly Guenther did not like water very much, at least not moving, spirited water. From a distance she admired its power; she could not swim and feared drowning. But I am drawn to it in every form and when the forest gathers around it, I am pulled even more. My husband and I have been staying in humble, old-fashioned cottages near Yachats, the emerald coast village, for twenty years. We were happy to return last week-end.

Every year I do things in memory of my mother’s dauntless curiosity and joie de vivre. She was fascinated by natural history, botany, entomology, and geology as well as the creative and domestic arts. As I roamed, observed, rested and hiked I felt her presence. It was a soul-satisfying time, even with bittersweet moments.

On childhood trips we stopped at wooden bridges often. This one was built in 1918, 9 yrs. after my mother was born. The wind in the trees and the river made gentle sounds.
Wild iris on one of the trails. Her favorite flower.
A strong athlete in her youth, she would have been as impressed as I by the wind surfers.
At Cape Perpetua, a look-out built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Depression. She loved the grandeur of nature.
She’d have found this visually interesting, and wondered over the great distances wood travels before adorning the sand.
I can see her place her index finger on her lips and gaze at the horizon: more presence of God, she would have thought. Like me.
We sang the old songs for you, mom, like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” I love you.

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