Mothering takes grit and soul

May and Mother’s Day — and women are coming to town this week, dancing and playing music and telling stories, and drawing energy like trees in the rain. As I look through this week’s calendar, I read about Portuguese jazz, and I think of my mother singing to Ray Charles and Roberta Flack as she makes bread. I think of all I would love to do here with her.

When my mother and I are together this time of year, we go looking for marsh marigolds along the plank walk in the woods near the house where I grew up. I used to plant snapdragons and Johnny-jump-ups for her every Mother’s Day in the beds my dad made years ago along the driveway. He edged them by hand with cobble stones, and we would get bright annuals for her.

Now my parents and I are close enough for weekend vists, and while local journals write stories celebrating mothers and children, and the lilacs are coming into bloom, I am thinking about how to honor all the women, all the mothers, in my life. My mother and my sister, and my friends and their children, my oldest friend and his wife and their newborn twin girls … how can I give some of the vital energy of May?

This week I could make metal jewelry at IS183, or drink a slow cup of tea at the Bryant House or Ventfort Hall. For my own family I might get on my feet, though.

If my sister and brother-in-law teleported in, I could settle in to watch them merengue — Laura, I could offer you both a night of salsa and bachata at Shire City Sanctuary, at the Latin Dance Party with Ballet Hispanico and live music by Los Hacheros. The dance comany is coming here in partnership with Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Or Mom, we could listen to the Mary Ann McSweeney Quartet perform the Urban Fado Project at The Whit. She lives in in Brooklyn, N.Y., and composes original jazz interpretations of Portuguese music, based on Fado, music that began in Portugal in the 1800s and lives there now in alleys, clubs and concert halls.

And with my friends here, who give me the chance to spend quiet afternoons building Lego air ships with their children, or hold a week-old chick that tries to burrow into my hair — I know the time and energy you put into the quiet places you welcome me into.

I know it like the clean sheets on my bed and the lilac in the bud vase whenever I come home for a weekend, in long talks as my mom and I walk with a year-old puppy in the hayfields, in muddy jeans and bread dough on my hands. Mothering takes grit. It’s warmth and health and honesty. And we need it now.

It’s an active energy, and we need it in this chaotic time. And to everyone who has shared it with me, I would give it in return if I can. If you want clear thinking and forward movement, we might go together to North Adams on Saturday and listen to Civil Rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) give the keynote at MCLA’s Commencement. Or come with me to the Dream Away Lodge to listen to Bernice Lewis sing. We can walk the labyrinth on the ridge at sunset, and maybe they’ll light a fire in the fire pit at night.

Or I could help in your garden and turn the compost heap … or we could mix a May bowl with white wine and spring green, and I’ll raise a glass to you.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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