Wild moms or mothers of the wild, this one is for you!
We have lived on our land for ten days now, and we have seen its immense heart stopping beauty, the dawn on the mountain and swallows swooping into our yurt as if to claim it. And we have seen how it rains and how the ground beneath our feet turns to rivers of mud and how in this inbetween season the damp seeps into everything.
Spring, like autumn, is a season of surprises, where a misty morning can burn into a blaze of sunshine or a bright blue sky can become heavy with storms.
We’ve built our yurt and dug our first vegetable bed. We’ve hung a rope swing and been on late night star lit walks with the girls. I’ve planted six different herbs – the thing I have been aching to do all summer because I’ve decided I want to be a herb kind of a person. I want beds of herbs for every ailment and meal. I will fill my head with an ancient knowledge of which leaf or root can heal each condition. In another land, in another age, I’d be dropped in a river for making this deep-urge for plant knowledge a reality.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The role nature has played in the last couple of years in my own restoration, and the way women I know are beginning to discover the wildness in their hearts again. We are the global wild moms, mothers whose very biology is tied to the moon.
And also, how society has tended to stop to those pulls of the wilderness that run through the veins of many women. Hundreds of years of witch-hunting across Europe and America wiped out any woman that showed an interest in nature, along with the vast, vast quantities of knowledge they’d recorded. And then there’s the far less bloody, but still torturous, patriarchal model of motherhood that we are really only just beginning to break- sanitised, restrained, tied to the kitchen, not venturing beyond the gate unless it fulfills some other idea of the perfect mother. (Not in the wilderness, that’s for sure. It strikes me that men, on the other hand, even in those most stereotypical “family life” models have had a free pass to to the outdoors, be it through fishing or sport…)
I think this history impacts our ability as mothers to give into those wild beatings of our heart. We get these precious months of maternity leave and have to spend it in in church halls at mums and tots groups. In her lovely blog on rewilding Rachel describes how motherhood spelled the end of her nature-loving lifestyle; “my outdoorsy life came to a juddering halt just over two years ago, with the birth of our wonderful son. For the first time in decades I was stuck inside with a tiny child, alone but not alone.
That’s not to say we didn’t venture out, we did. To church halls and cafes, where kind people told us to sit and relax and to eat cake. In early parenthood you do need to sit, you spend a lot of time sitting. Sitting is good and necessary. But I didn’t feel nourished, I felt disconnected. The cake made me feel lethargic and stodgy. I longed to be outside.”
There is still this sense that mothers only meet over coffee, on sofas, or at soft play. That time off is spent on box sets and wine. (I love all those things too, and if that is only what you want then massive thumbs up to that. My question is really; is it what all mothers want, all the time? Do we long for more? I know I did.)
Why do mothers need the wilderness?
We all find joy when we reconnect with our natural environment. There has been a huge resurgence in supporting children’s relationship with nature. I’ve recently contributed to the We Are Wildness Wild Child programme which is this totally awesome resource. And through this awareness I think parents are going YES I want this for my children and I NEED this for myself.
Mothers, as much as anyone, need to feel the liberation of the outdoors. We need the silence of the forest, the fierceness of the ocean, we need to feel small beneath a canopy of stars and powerful on the crest of a mountain.
When we have to be so much to so many people, being in nature gives us chance to just be. A walk in the wild can restore a heavy heart or jumbled mind and a swim in the sea feels kind of raw, open, and supported.
I reckon the natural world also gives us a model of how to be with our children. We can’t happily tame nature, we will only suffer if we try to control it. But if we observe, respect and partner with our environment, together we can do beautiful things. It’s a strategy for perfect parenting!
And nature can centre us. “I learned to be slow. This seemingly simple concept had eluded me through most of my twenties. It was a very hard and very necessary lesson for me, something that took the combination of having a child combined with mother nature herself to teach me. I have finally learned to stop doing so damn much. I have learned to say no to things I would never have dreamed of turning down in the past. I have chosen not to spend my precious time on certain things and people. I have learned to be more present and deliberate and I have learned about the incredible ability of nature and it’s shifting seasons to calm and centre me.” Hannah, so eloquently on nature’s power to slow her down, in her memo on Rewilding herself– also full of beautiful photos like this one of her and her little Frankie.
In my book, 30 Days of Rewilding, I interview a mother called Nadia who is part of a group of women who gather under the moon to share stories and rituals to fill their cups before heading back to family life. These are becoming more and more common, ways for women to find their place in nature again.
Nadia explains “When I leave a full moon circle I feel confident and connected with myself, my women and far beyond. I feel like I have filled my well with gratitude and love – and this keeps me in my wellness! This is absolutely tangible, and accumulates month after month. My family will often receive a shining, grounded and calm mother back from circle. I know that I have realised an innate power and knowing that is within all women who gather with love. This brings me much more willingly and reverently into my everyday life, and being with my children.
I have sat and breastfed 3 babies within my full moon circle. All of my children have been blessed by the adoration and loving intentions of my circle sisters. Through these deep connections I have had a circle of women stand and sing with me during birth, bless my belly and babies, give gifts and promise for my daughter’s future first bleed, and show my son the glory of walking pathways etched into the mountains that surround us.
All that I learn from my children, I bring into the circle; all that I learn from the circle, I bring to my children. My children and I sing the songs, talk about and discover the characteristics and powerful gifts of the elements and acknowledge our own rhythms and cycles and how they mirror the seasons. Finding and celebrating myself as nature, through my full moon circle gatherings brings me to discover the same in my children.” (This isn’t actually an excerpt from the book, but from my interview with Nadia… read more about moon gatherings in the book, of course!)
I’m totally in love with that picture of women supporting each other under the moonlight.
But it doesn’t have to be that of course. Meeting under the moonlight in my old rough ‘hood in South London would have got us more than we bargained for, ha! I’m actually cracking up thinking about a women’s circle amongst the fried chicken bones and junkies of Peckham…
But it might be outdoor playgroups or hikes or over night camp outs.
In no way is this a burden for your weary shoulders, not another thing you must do to be a good mother. NO WAY!
It is simply an invitation for those who feel these wild urges to give into them! That is nature calling your name, wanting to restore an ancient connection.
Find a way, my friend, to answer…