If I were to list the things I want in this life, really want, many of them would sound exotic.
To visit Provence, and stay in a little white cottage tucked in lavender fields. I would write near a window overlooking the hills, and keep my pens near lavender-filled vases. I would walk the fields as the sun rose and set, praying, thinking.
To visit and have access to a true English garden, and cut from its glories. With foraging bag in tow, I would stop to cut scabiosa, larkspur, and wild roses; heirloom roses, sweet pea, poppies, heuchera, begonia.
To create a home space that is truly mine. It would be clean and spare, with only meaningful things. There would be things from my travels, and books of poetry neatly organized. Good linens, and a raw silk tablecloth. Jugs of olive oil, and flower vases. I would arrange tall branches in bottles, and keep them on my mantle or in a little alcove. When I came home from work or travel, I would feel like it was just that—home. My home.
To write something real, crafted, and tangible. A book, or anything that mattered.
To travel and walk in a city all by myself, and buy things that please me. Food at the farmer’s market, scarves, and good balsamic. I would walk with confidence and my steps would take me somewhere, would matter.
To pray in old churches, and to see and really savor art, frescoes, and stained glass prayers.
All of these things matter to me, deeply. I want them to all to happen for me at some point or other. But the thing that matters most of all? It may surprise you, but there it is, the dream closest to my heart, the dream that indwells me.
Nothing, no one dream, shapes my present life more. I am very conscious of the kind of life I want to create for my children. So when I work, or take on certain projects, a part of me is always considering—will this be good for my family, someday? Does the woman I want to become, the mother I want to become…. Does she do this?
My spiritual journey is, in so many ways, my journey to becoming the kind of mother I want to be. So everything I’ve mentioned, the travels, the gardens, the writing, and the lovely home, all culminate in this. Motherhood. I want to create and live well now, so that I can give my children a pleasing and interesting life. Our home will be a reflection of the life I have lived prior to them; the life I have, in so many ways, prepared for them. If I want a home and a life that sparks stories and welcomes beauty, I have to start crafting it now.
But one must start small, so I begin by finding the lessons in my everyday. I buy linens and simple, well-made things; things that last, and feel meaningful. I try to keep my life orderly. I try to find the intersections between art and life, and make my days as intentional as my work.
As I collect flowers and vases, I sometimes ask myself, If I were a mother, how would I set the table? What kind of things should I collect in the meantime? What kind of flowers, and what kind of spirit, will fill my home?
I thought of this last evening, when I went out foraging for branches and grasses close to home. I tried to imagine this trip with small children; tried to think of the stories and lessons I would share with them along the way. Cutting down silver poplar branches, I would tell them, the things close to us don’t always appear special. But we have to look at them with new eyes, because they are (and people who didn’t see them every day would recognize them as such). We have to be resourceful, and we truly are capable of creating beauty from anything we’ve been given. So I took my pruners and my shears, and cut heavy branches, then snipped small, delicate flowers to ornament the vases.
As I brought my forages back home, I thought, I won’t always be the one teaching them. After all, to see something through a child’s eyes is to reawaken. How many more flowers would I have cut, how many more things would I have noticed, had a little one been there with me, to help me see?
Reflecting on all of this, I set the branches on my studio table, in shapes and heights that pleased me. As I did so, I imagined a common table, one in a home. The table means so much to my work and life: it is the place where beauty & hope meets the everyday ritual. Coming home to flowers on the table, or a lovely meal, is salvation. The table hosts our conversations, our stories, our moments. So as I made flowers, I imagined them there: at an ordinary altar where a family could bless meals and one another.
And I imagined the conversations and the activities that we– my children and I– would share exactly here. If I have a daughter, I will allow her to clip roses while I made breakfast. When she comes inside, her fists full of flowers, she will arrange them to her liking in vases I have set out. Together, when we have time, we will practice botanical names and the art of flower sketching. If she is anything like me, she will want to abandon technical drawings for the creation and illustration of little stories. Maybe she will give me a story, and when she does, I will delight in receiving it. Maybe she will use dried flowers and daisy chains as bookmarks, just like I used to do. As I move the dried bouquet off the page, I will see how we, as parents, pass down not only the color of our eyes and hair, but the shades of our souls as well.
We will talk about the practical & the poetic things. And we will read so many stories here, at our table dressed with flowers & books, papers & bits of our days. Some days, the stresses of daily life will crowd out the pleasures of being together. Homework & lists will replace books & flowers. But we will fight to keep rituals alive, and to keep our home welcoming.
Someday I will sit at a table like this, and my dreams and trials won’t matter so much anymore. I’ll have a soft hand in my hand. I’ll be holding the very life I prayed for, sent from God, made of my body.
It’s never too early to plan for the lives we want. It’s never too early to pray over our children. I like to believe that these are little prophecies. If we want something badly enough, we will work for it, plan for it, and create it. I’d like to think also that our better angels will guide us toward it.
There is so much we cannot see, and even the best laid plans fall through. But I believe in working in harmony with God to create a life I want. I believe that the desires of my heart will be fulfilled through obedience, hard work, and faith. And I believe in this table, and the children who surround it, in a way that helps me face tomorrow.
For Mother’s Day, I encourage you to look around you, and notice all the ways in which grace and goodness are with you. I encourage you to cut flowers from your garden or areas where they grow wild. I encourage you to use what you have to set a pretty table, because what we have is always enough. And I encourage you to bless all that’s yours– all that has been placed in your care, if only for this time.
And I want you to remember who came before you. I am who I am, a sensitive seeker and lover of beauty, because of my mother’s influence. No one knows how to recognize and create beauty like my mom. No one knows how to fill a home with beauty and a kind spirit the way she does. I don’t, and never will. It is her gift to anoint spaces and people.
And it is her gift to love, to mother, and to speak words that change lives. My love of words and beauty flowed directly from her heart. She is the one who read me books long after I should have fallen asleep. She is the one who taught me also about holy words, and taught me how to pray, from my heart. She is the one, still, who helps me take photos, make deliveries, tie ribbons, and keep whole weddings on track. I can’t do it without her. I mean that in the most practical sense, and the most poetic. My life would not be what it is without her presence, which I love more than any earthly presence.
A mother is too often behind the scenes, letting her children shine. My mother is. Although I am grown, and need her in different ways, I know this. She has never assumed the proper credit and never has she been properly thanked for the ways she keeps life going. When I was girl, she made the meals, braided the hair, and all the drives to and from the ballet classes and ice rinks and private lessons. And she supplied the prayers, the encouragement, and the love that shaped my little heart. She was the recipient of my tears, illnesses, and heartache. She hurt when I did. And she pulled me up when I couldn’t do that for myself. She also is responsible for the softer, invisible things—the prayers and words I keep written on the tablet of my heart. She kept my alive, she made me who I was. She still does.
To mother is to nurture. You can mother a child, a plant, or a project. So I can practice the art of mothering well before I am one. I can raise my garden, and watch its life begin. I can tend my life, and prepare a space for other lives. I can practice the art of selflessness, when all the world tells me that my twenties are for self-fulfillment. Because my heart tells me that we are most able to receive love when give it. That we find our place in this life when we lose our lives for other people.
I hope your Mother’s Day is beautifully spent. Mine will be spent, in part, popping up at Evocation Coffee. I highly recommend that you go to the pop-up if you want to design your own table, or to give flowers to your mother, wife, or daughter. Each bouquet will be customized for the recipient or table in question, wrapped in brown paper, and sent off with love. And for their part, Evocation will have a gorgeous brunch spread for Mother’s Day dates. Their space is such a sincere pleasure to visit– so bright, so, clean and happy. This is to say nothing about their coffee, which is unmatched; the owners, who are a delight; and the collections of artisan coffees & pastries, which make wonderful gift. With fresh flowers in the mix, I can’t think of any more beautiful gifts you could give.
The spirit and atmosphere of our holiday pop-ups is always so positive. I hope you’ll come and experience it firsthand. And I hope your Mother’s Day has all the simple pleasures & everyday miracles that makes life worth living, and sharing.