Mother Earth and Our Mothers
By Alex Clark
Shake Off the Winter. Spring Is a Time for Celebration! A time to celebrate Mother Earth and our mothers.
Wouldn’t you agree?
My blood started pumping the other morning when I finally opened my door to chirping birds. Temperatures that don’t chill the bones are a welcome feeling.
Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. Flowers are blooming. Trees are filling up with leaves.
Could there be a better season to honor mothers than springtime?
But can’t our Mother’s Day traditions also make space for our collective Mother?
Getting Personal… My Incomparable Mother
Pardon me while I gush for a moment. After all, this is a Mother’s Day weekend post. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to sing praises about my own mother.
I can say without exaggeration, I have an actual angel for a mother. Not everyone gets so lucky. But I did and I will always be grateful for her.
In my family, Mother’s Day has always meant time together outdoors enjoying Mother Earth. Songbirds build nests in the maple and redbud trees out back that she has nurtured for decades. In my youth, we often spent the morning sipping coffee on our deck and listening to their songs.
Some years we spent the day together gardening. My mother’s gardens are legendary. With the utmost care, she crafted little plots that dot her front and back lawns.
And my mom put as much care into loving her gardens as she put into loving her sons. Her diligent, mindful work is truly a sight to behold and a symbol of her love of nature. It was her love of nature that made me a young environmentalist.
Some years we went on nature walks in state and county parks near our home. In rural Iowa, we never had winding mountain trails or pristine beaches. But still, she taught us to have incredible respect for natural spaces, no matter where they sit geographically.
One of my biggest Mother’s Day regrets comes from my teen years. My teenage brain convinced me that Mom would prefer a walk by herself rather than with me. I know she cried on that walk.
Of course, she forgave me, as mothers tend to do. But it still hurts whenever I remember my ignorance as a teenager. These days, I will jump at any opportunity to walk anywhere with her.
As you age you learn to see the value in these small decisions.
The Culture and History of Mother’s Day
The origin of modern Mother’s Day in America dates back to 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. A woman named Anna Jarvis organized a formal celebration to honor her recently deceased mother. She marked the event with the exchange of white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower.
In subsequent years, Americans began to informally celebrate Mother’s Day across the country. It was clear that honoring motherhood was important to people. So, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson put the nation’s official stamp of approval on the day. Mother’s Day became a national holiday.
Currently, there are around 2 billion mothers worldwide, 83 million in the U.S. alone. The holiday is celebrated in a variety of forms. Mail increases in the days around Mother’s Day, restaurants claim it’s the busiest day of their year, and florists see their biggest annual sales in May.
Mother’s Day is a billion-dollar industry… And that because we all want to express appreciation for our mothers.
Beyond our borders, people honor their mothers in a variety of different ways. In more than 50 countries people observe some form of Mother’s Day.
So Where Did “Mother Earth” Come From?
Mother Earth is a metaphor, a name to focus on the nurturing and life-giving aspects of nature.
Casting nature as a collective Mother goes as far back as mothers themselves. Cultures on every continent, throughout time, have honored many different Mother goddesses. But our earliest recorded forms of motherhood festivals come from Greek mythology and the Earth goddess called Gaia.
Worship of nature as a mother goes back even further than that though. Mothers are celebrated throughout Mother Earth. Hindus call her Privthi. Romans called her Terra. Indigenous Americans had Gogyeng Sowuht or the Spider Grandmother. Each of these traditions has contributed to our modern concept of Earth as a Mother.
True, Earth is actually just this 4.5-billion-year-old rock hurtling through space 92 million miles from the Sun.
Earth orbits a part of the solar system called the “habitable zone.” This fortunate coincidence is what makes our lives possible.
Earth provides food to feed us, water for us to drink, and air for us to breathe. If you were to thrust humanity into the cold and dark universe, we would die.
In the same way, without mothers, there is no way to sustain human life. When we are born, our mother is our entire world. And as we grow, she is there to guide us. While we age, she can remind us of our origins.
Is it any wonder that humankind connected the idea of motherhood to the entire planet? Motherhood and Nature… the two concepts will be intertwined forever.
Honoring Mother Earth on Mother’s Day
So, how can we pay tribute to Mother Earth on Mother’s Day while also honoring our very own, flesh and blood, mothers?
Well, for starters, if you have traditionally bought flowers for your mom, why not buy her a tree this year instead? Many of the trees in my mother’s yard began as Mother’s Day gifts. We’ve watched them grow taller as the years have passed and they connect us to each other.
If you want to shower mom with gifts, this year look for eco-friendly or up-cycled products. And if you don’t know where to look, you can start in the Ocean Blue Online Shop. Every dollar you spend there helps us to remove one pound of plastic from our waterways!
With whatever you buy or do, seek to reduce your use of plastics. Over 8 million tons of plastic flow into our oceans every year. Microplastics have invaded nearly every facet of our lives and it’s estimated that by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish.
Memories Are Worth a Thousand Gifts
Now, if you want to really impress your mom, build memories with her. Shared experiences will outlast any gift you could buy. If your mother loves hiking or biking or surfing, definitely do that!
But whatever you do, don’t ever assume she wants to go on a nature walk all by herself… Take it from me! Right?
When you talk to most mothers, you quickly discover that what they want most is your time. You don’t need to overwhelm her with gifts, flowers, balloons, or cards. Most mothers would prefer a hug or a handwritten note anyway. My mother keeps a box with every card, letter, and note her sons have ever written her. And she can look back at these any time she wants to feel closer to her children.
But the best way to honor both your real mother and our collective Mother Earth is to volunteer.
There are many ways to make an impact, all across the country. Help your mom clean up her local environment and watch her beam with pride!
If you don’t know where to start, Ocean Blue can help you connect to beach cleanups all over the country. We can even help you organize your own ocean or river cleanup wherever you are.
Then, to go above and beyond, you could turn it into a yearly event and even name it after your phenomenal Mother to honor her for years to come!
Water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth. It flows through her and gives life to all living things. Water is what keeps everything on the Earth alive. Cleaning our waterways cleans ourselves.
Is there a better way to pay tribute to motherhood on Mother’s Day?
Most of All, Remember Your Mother
Your mom does not belong to you. Mother Earth does not belong to us.
Everything mothers offer we owe back to them tenfold. And considering the planet as our most essential mother, we can begin to look at ourselves as one human family.
So, if we teach our children to treat Mother Earth with the same respect we give to our actual mothers, what might be possible?
You do not litter your Mother’s house with trash. Nor do you dump plastic waste in her bathwater. You do not devour every last thing in her pantry.
Would you consider, even for a moment, hurting your mother? Of course not!
There is an important reason we call our planet Mother Earth.
There’s only one of her. She’s irreplaceable.
She gives us life and sustains us.
Without her bounty, we could not exist.
Remember her and honor all mothers this Mother’s Day… And every day.
Author Bio: Alex Clark is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. His focus is on empowering connections between people and the natural world. The outdoors is for everyone!