“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is stronger than natural laws.”
I live in the foothills of the coastal range in rural Oregon. I found myself living in this area after going through a divorce in 2012. Needing to escape the pain and depression bottled up over the previous eight/nine years, I moved to the small town of Elmira to reconnect with the earth and work with my hands in a meaningful way. I had an eight year old son and $500 to my name. After applying to numerous organic farms in the area, Winter Green Farm hired me on as a fulltime farmhand working for minimum wage doing an assortment of tasks from greenhouse work, transplanting, harvesting/processing organic vegetables and a wide assortment of various other tasks in between. It wasn’t easy work and the pay was not awesome but I was exactly where I needed to be. I learned to live frugally in an old, dark and cold farmhouse with squirrels and bats living in the walls. On multiple occasions squirrels chewed through the drywall from the attic and into my bedroom to buried their acorns in the pots of my house plants. It was not ideal but the rent was cheap, there was already an established garden space, an overgrown orchard with all the apples and pears I could eat, and it was only a six minute drive to work on a quiet country road.
Those first few months of farming helped ground me. Waking up to roosters crow and wildbird song, breathing the fresh air and working with my hands in the soil and the sun on my skin was a potent medicine. Though, the most healing medicine during that time was the connections made with the other employees and owners of the farm. Small talk was never my thing and the depth of conversations I shared with total strangers helped me to grieve in a supportive atmosphere.
Fast forward six years later and I still work for Winter Green Farm, although just part time now. I’ve upgraded my living situation to a bright and sunny remodeled tiny home on five acres just down the road from where I was living. The folks I’ve worked alongside over the years have become my second family. We gather regularly outside of work for potlucks and pig roasts, barn dance parties, clothing swaps, holidays dinners, women circles, craft nights, or just to chat after work over a cup of tea. Landing in this wonderful community allowed me to finally, after decades, find my tribe and the place I call home.
The art piece accompanied with this post was inspired by the wave of babies being born into my tribe this year. I am so thrilled to be witness to some of the people I love the most becoming new parents. I’m honored to support them in whatever ways they need and loving being an auntie. Originally, I thought this painting was going to be bright and sunshiny. When it came time to add color, the mood shifted and I felt some remnants of my own early stages of motherhood seep through and thus created a more moody element to the background.
Postpartum depression is more common than many people think. I suffered from it after the birth of my son in 2004. At the time, the only person I shared my condition with was my husband. The shame and guilt that came along with postpartum as well as living in a new community with few connections, isolated me to an internal prison that made every waking moment of every day a struggle. My husband, who didn’t understand the disease, was unable and/or unwilling to support me through it. I was more alone than I have ever been in my life. Some of the things that were said and done to me by my husband during that period put a wound in my heart so deep, I’m still healing from it today. We stayed married for another eight years and it wasn’t until nearing the end of our marriage, in couples counseling, that I realized that I didn’t want to keep showing up for a partner, who had abandoned me when I needed him the most. Showing up just because we had a child together? That excuse wasn’t enough anymore for me to continue to struggle to hold all the pieces together. As a parent, we are role models for our children and ultimately they deserve to see their parents happy. They deserve to see their parents strong in their power and self worth. In order for me to give that to my son I needed to start fresh and step away from the hurts of the past and follow my own heart and stand strong on my own without relying on someone else to be there for me. I just needed to show up and be there for myself first.
Today my son is thirteen. He just started high school this month. He is such a good kid. He looks a lot like his mother although he doesn’t seem to see it and he is sooooo much smarter than me. He consumes knowledge and burns it to memory and likes to contradict people sometimes with facts he spits out from his brain. He can solve a rubix cube in 36 seconds or have the robot he built and programmed do it for him…although it’s much slower. He loves swimming and rock climbing and he is my favorite little sidekick. Watching him grow up has been a total trip and despite what so many parents say, I’m really looking forward to the teenage years.