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The Village: Morgan Nichols

Morgan and Jude at Midsummer Camp

The Village: Who else is here while you mother?

Freedom, Community & Mothering as Creative Soul-Seeker

by Morgan Nichols

“What is inherently free is who you are. Who you are does not become free. It is free. In recognizing this, there is the natural ability to respond. Before that, responsibility is a concept of duty or of something to be shouldered. It may be tempered with love and care, but it is also something to be born. Therefore, your child becomes an objectification, a separation between you and that which you really are. This is a deadly joke! You are this very child. Recognize this and you are not searching around for personal freedom. Then nothing can be an intrusion.” – Gangaji*:

As a creative, soulful, multi-passionate single mother only just emerging out of the early years of motherhood, I struggle with this notion of freedom on a daily basis. I sometimes feel tethered by responsibility, longing to escape and spend days dancing under a wild blue sky. I’ve seen my child as the barrier between me and my true freedom. And yet I know this is an illusion that causes us both pain. Yes, I have real, driving needs for space, quiet, creativity. I am a highly sensitive and introverted person who becomes easily overstimulated and needs regular time alone like a fish needs water. But when I do get a break, much as it refreshes me, after a time I realise that I need my son as much as he needs me. Mothering is an anchor in my life. I have been forced by parenting responsibility to root out a lot of my self-absorption and emotional-roller-coaster tendencies, to become more grounded, present and consistent.

Morgan and Jude

When I allow myself to truly see my son, instead of past him to where I want to be; to look deeply into his eyes that change daily from green to blue to grey, and crinkle up at the corners when he laughs, using his whole face; I can see him as a companion on my journey, an ally even, that I’m blessed beyond measure to have. I see that the freedom I long for is right here now. I realise I’m only given as much as I have the strength for. Being a mother has led me to places that I needed to be: for my soul, for my creativity, for my work to be birthed into the world.

Every step of the way I’ve been given the village I’ve needed. It just hasn’t looked the way I imagined it. I thought I’d have a nuclear family, a safe, cozy oasis in the tempestuous world. When my rocky relationship finally ended when my son was 20 months old, this dream dissolved in ash. We were homeless for several months after the split, reliant on friends’ charity. I was provided for in ways I’d never have expected: finding a house-sit with a country walk at the end of the road, where I could nurture myself with my favourite soul-connector: Nature. I learned the generosity and kindness of my fellow humans in a way I’d never have experienced had I stayed in the nuclear family bubble.

I was terrified to live alone with my son. I had always lived with people; I thought I wouldn’t be enough for him, that I’d be isolated and alone. Then I happened to see a flier for a week long summer solstice community camp. I knew at once that I had to go there. We traveled for a long sweaty 5 hours by public transport with all our camping gear, and arrived on a field to find more than I could ever have dreamed. It was, simply, home.

Camping Circle
Camping Circle

For a week we lived in groups of 20-30 within a larger camp of 90 people, and in those groups grew surprisingly close. In fact, to me it felt like family. We shared chores and everyone did what they were best at – which meant I did far less cooking than usual and much more drifting, daydreaming, and dancing. People shared their skills for the benefit of everyone: chopping wood, making temporary kitchens, massage, teaching yoga. My son, then 2.5, had the opportunity to interact with people he wouldn’t usually: seven year old girls, childless older adults. And of course, we were living right on the land and outdoors most of the time. I unwound myself into the space of blue sky and the simplicity of cooking over a fire, surrounded by caring, open-minded and creative people. I was woken up to a way of living that I recognised in my bones: being in community in openness and mutual respect. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful that one night at the evening meal sharing circle I collapsed into sobs: “I want to live like this.”

Morgan alone at camp

My son was free to roam in a much larger space than was possible back home, benefiting from the input of a safe small group of supportive adults and other children. I felt both free and supported, and came home overflowing with love and a new openness to the world. We discovered other community camps and re-found our home each summer for the next 4 years. This ‘village’ inspired me to learn the ukulele and sing in a scratch band for the first time, finally having the confidence to share my life-long love of music with others; I taught yoga under a big oak tree; tried out new ideas for Wild Writing workshops, and was able to let more of my vivid, colourful, wild self out to play because of the support of such a nonjudgmental environment.

I read somewhere that as human beings, we expect, on an evolutionary level, to live in this way: sharing parenting among the members of a tribe of 20-30 people, living in connection with the cycles and seasons of the land. This is the way we lived and thrived for thousands of years. This affirmed for me that there wasn’t something ‘wrong’ with me because I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, fulfil all my son’s needs 24/7. That I wasn’t a bad parent because my needs as a human being weren’t completely fulfilled as a single full-time urban parent. We could be surrounded by other parents and children at the park and I’d still feel totally isolated; and to meet my needs for mental stimulation and adult companionship often required a lot of exhausting organisation and time away from my child. This set my needs against his. At the camps, this conflict was lessened because our needs could be met by different people – we were not woven into an interdependence so tight it hurts.

I wondered if there was any point in surrendering into an experience that, beautiful as it was, wasn’t going to last and couldn’t be translated into my life as an urban single parent. But the village has been evolving in its own way here. I moved to a smaller, country town and made more connections with other mothers, exchanging childcare and text conversations and coffee chats about being a mother creative and soul-seeker. My local Red Tent community nourishes my femininity. I collaborate with other women on creative projects and workshops. I’ve continued to take little steps towards my dreams, and seeing how these little seeds take root and flower, I find my life barely recognisable from 7 years ago, when I first became a mother and felt so isolated, even with a partner. I am hoping that the roots of community and music will slowly spread right underneath the foundations of my life. Who knows where they will come up to light and flower next?

 

 

 

 

 

*from Gangaji’s question and answer session printed in ‘You Are That':

 

 

Morgan dancing 5 rhythms

Bio:

I’ve been a lover of words since before I could actually write, walking up and down the garden telling stories to myself. I was initiated into the Wild Mother path in 2007 when my son Jude was born. He is my live-in spiritual teacher and often my creative inspiration – the reason that my book, Wild Motherhood: Keeping the Creative and Soul Fires Burning, and the support network Wild Motherhood, came to be. I’ve been running supportive writing groups and workshops for mothers since 2008, and am a freelance writer, published poet and short story writer, and copywriter with two novels on the back burner. See here for some of my published work. In-between mothering and working I love to stare out of train windows, read about astrology, and dance the 5 Rhythms, enjoying the freedom of expression and mindfulness discipline rolled-into-one that this embodiment practice provides.

wobbly mother

Glorious Sunday. #berkshires #beauty xoS

A photo posted by Suzi Banks Baum (@suzibb) on

 

Keep your eyes open and tell me what you see.

after Jena Schwartz and Polly Hatfield

Gray pants and two feet on an ancient, craggy white boulder,
quartz, this could be, all quartz,
and
it is sloped at the top so when I clamber up,
queen of all I survey,
my legs wobble. I wonder if I will crash off.
I persist.
Breathe in one million dandelions,
each petal a cry of jubilant spring,
the sky pollen-glazed.
I stand tall, stretch my arms up
to salute this Sunday morning.
My gaze unlatches from the horizon
where it was keeping my balance for me.
And this is when I see it.
A brilliant blaze of orange
streaking across the sapphire sky.
A Baltimore oriole, its call mingled with a Red-Winged blackbird.
{Oriole: the appearance of joy.
Red-winged blackbird: Black Madonna, divine feminine.}

But there it is.
My eyes open.
One wobbly woman sacrificing balance in the name of beauty.

Suzi Banks Baum
May 19, 2015

 

 

This is what is going on.
Spring.
And the return of the tall children.
Cookies in the jar.
Juice in the fridge.
Crock pot burbling.

Morgan Nichols offers us a guest blog post tomorrow on The Village: Who else is here while you mother? for Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series.

I am off to pack my son home from school.
Much love,

S

My house of belonging

“This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.”

-David Whyte
The House of Belonging

 

white pine buds
white pine buds

Yesterday, after a jarring and relieving small dental surgery, Jonathan and I stopped at Pleasant Valley Audubon for a slow walk. I was no longer in distracting pain and wanted more than anything to listen to frogs and see dragonflies. This was not a terribly dramatic surgery, but enough to keep my attention leading up to it and certainly during it. Now, after sleeping for hours and hours, I am offering prayers of gratitude for the ability to care for my health, for being supported by my husband in every way he supports me, and for my body’s ability to recuperate.

We walked slowly to Pike’s Pond where we sat shoulder to shoulder. His allergies had gotten his attention. He was happy to sit for a while. All morning long we’d commented on the golden haze over the newly greening hills as we drove north to the dentist. The haze is pollen of course, but it is also poetry.

At times like that, with a honking hole in my head wadded up with cotton, sitting unglamorous but shoulder to shoulder with my partner, I felt as even keeled as I could, because of his shoulder. Because of his hand gently slipped around mine. Because of his persistent humor and positive outlook on life. Because he’d left a Mother’s Day card for me, on the day after Mother’s Day, which said, “Thank you for being our ticket to happiness.”

in Boulder this April with J and C 2015
in Boulder this April with J and C 2015

Our son had called right as we pulled in to the parking lot of the Audubon center. This place is where Ben has his first ever camp out. His first ever ride on a body board down the mountain after running head first in to a fence post up at the summit. This is the place where we have spent hours watching the beavers swim silently until an alarming slap of the tail sends us all in to laughter and fright. This is the place where my kids have fashioned wings out of up-cycled file folders and run around like pollinators.

When we told Ben our location, the intention for his phoning fell away and I could hear his memory of this mountain refuge ride through his heart. All of his end-of-semester urgency evaporated for a moment and it was as if we were all right there, sniffing the budding lilacs and watching for Baltimore Orioles.

I am not really sure I am my family’s ticket to happiness, but I don’t want to argue with a compliment. As I put every little bit of living together in to my life, this one full life, I do know that the days I have spent watching beavers and catfish, the hours I have spent worrying through accidents, technical difficulties and end-of-semesters, have all been made more palatable because of the man I sat shoulder to shoulder with at the Pike’s Pond.

It’s not Father’s Day. It is not national husband day. It’s not even his birthday. But it is every day that I notice the blessing he is in my life. Together, we got ourselves in to motherhood and fatherhood. His hand slips around mine, fingering my ring, rippling my knuckles, stroking the thickness below my thumb.

 

at the river
at the river

I am as familiar with his hand in mine as he is with mine in his.
This house of belonging is home.
xoS

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