A Walk of 1000 Mothers


I think we made a mistake in calling it “Mother’s Day.” I think we meant to celebrate “Someone Loves me Unequivocally” Day.
For those inside the bounds of a healthy mother’s love, you are blessed beyond measure.
For those who live outside of that sense, I honor you and acknowledge your experience.

I happen to have gotten lucky, in that I do have a mom who loves me like that. Also a handful of uncles and aunts, friends, surrogates, and have even amassed quite a number of moms-for-a-day along this hike. I think my definition of mother’s love was loosened by necessity and divinity.

My mother’s biological mother, Patty, was carried away on a river boat to heaven when my mom was but a few months into life.

She was taken in by her uncle and his wife, Masue, who, uncertain about adoption, called to confer with HER mother in Japan. They agreed and family lore tells of a tender night when Masue tiptoed into the blonde, curly haired little foreigner’s nursery and hugged her to her bosom and held her and rocked her, “until she came from my own tummy.”

Still, she was raised by an army of mothers. Her grandmother, Barb Johnson, friends’ mothers, a church family. Each fit into the story. And each was mourned when she slipped beyond.

Marva and faye

Little Marva and Faye Anne.

One year, as a girl, I joined my mother and aunt Marva in Kansas City for a motherless daughter’s gathering. It was bittersweet to taste both the fortune of being there with my mother and to be accepted into the circle of grief.

Until that point I had only watched my mother go through it and felt it second hand; sitting on the ground outside of the bathroom door as she wept for GG. Her indignation when Barb died. Waking up to her crying wearily over a packed bag as she left us yet again to travel back to the US when Masue finally managed to slip away.

That ceremony inducted me to a wider sense of mothers; the ManyMothers. Those who took a pass, who were passed over, or who have passed on. I no longer merely beheld it, I swallowed both loss and comfort in a circle of women bearing and sharing their most tender wounds, and that made me a keeper of the flame.

In that way, I first took on Patty. By being allowed to feel her loss, that ceremony gave her to me. It made her part of me, along with many others.

Thus I came to see what I have come to frame as my Constellation of Mothers.
They oversee my path, protect, and love me as I birth each step in this journey, painfully and imperfectly.

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The physical reminders I carry of the love which protects me: Patty’s High School ring, a camel from my mother’s life in Saudi, a firefly for Masue, a charm from a necklace both my sister and I had, a quartz to represent my friends, 2 rocks were a gift from a grandmother in Ollantaytambo who told me of the uses and power these rocks had to the Incas, the round rock a the top, I picked up from the Beagle Channel to bring as a gift to the Arctic.

I knew they would be with me, as they always have been. What I did not anticipate, was the legion of earthly mothers who awaited me in South America. Literally from the first days starting from the Beagle Channel, mothers were there.

They love as mothers do: with protection, tenderness…and feeding us. Mending our clothes, giving us places to sleep and assuring safe passage but only after we ate something. Insisting that we call them once we arrived safely to the next town. You know, mom stuff.

Taking us into their homes, sharing their kitchen and hearths. They bake, give us jams, fruits, and breads. They sneak an extra avocado or five into our food supply. They run out from their shop doorways to slip a piece of candy into our hands or send their children to bring us a bowl of potatoes.
They take us into their hearts, giving us their confidence and blessings. The blessings are very literal; a “stop what you are doing, hands laid upon you and earnest words spoken to the heavens”, type ordeal.
They give directions, then walk with us to make sure we find the way.

They hug me to their bosom when I weep because it is all too much and I am tired and weak and scared.
They hug me to their bosom when it is all too much and I overflow with their love and faith and kindness.

A story before I sign off:
In one town, Neon was ill and while I went to find us a place to stay, she huddled on the corner of a sidewalk to rest. It began to pour. When I made it back, grandmothers were hovering and circling like condors.
“The poor thing!” the cried at me when they realized I spoke Spanish, swooping out from the eaves.
“She is too thin. Can’t you see she is cold?” they scolded.
“I told her to get under the awning and out of the rain but she doesn’t understand and is too weak to move,” another cried.

In fact, Neon was just being obstinate as she is of the “prefers to be left alone when ill” variety,.I managed to placate them and we hustled away.
“If you can’t find someplace, bring her to my house, I will have hot water for tea.” one called over her shoulder for good measure.
We literally CAN’T get away with not taking care of ourselves under the watchful eye of a continent of mothers.


This is a video for my mom as a thank you for her supporting us on Patreon. Meet us there!

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