The real thing is not the goal, the real thing is the beauty of the movement. Osho
My own laugh is the real thing and I’ve had it all my life. Phyllis Diller
Ain’t nothing like the real thing Marvin Gaye
It was glorious. The sun had broken through the clouds and the world was sparkling as I traipsed down the two-track trail west along a creek-sized river near my house. I was surrounded by bird call — the warblers, the white-throated sparrows, the black birds all singing into the clear blue of the sky on this mid-May early evening a month ago, and I was singing too, in my heart, to be out in the wilderness surrounded by all this bird call, all this sun, all this fresh clear springtime air. A pair of mallards lit off from the cattail marsh as I turned on a bridge to start my walk back home again. And I glanced up at the white pine on the other side of the inlet, its tassels glistening, and, for some reason, I thought of my mother.
Maybe it was the birds or the whoosh of spring in the air that brought back my mother — a lover of birds and springtime — to me in that moment. Or maybe it was the day, this particular day, Mother’s Day, that lit me up with an appreciation for my own mother. Whatever the reason, she was clearly present and it was a good thing to be filled up like this with all these mother thoughts. I can’t remember for sure, but I might even have spoken the words out loud, out through the marsh and into the trees. “Mom,” I might have said in my own speaking voice. “I love you, Mom! And I have no regrets” That’s what I was thinking as I stood there on the bridge. It’s true. I have no regrets. My mother and I were in a clear-sailing place those last years of her body-life. I relished each and every trip back to her cottage home at the head of Fish House Cove, in Maine. Our time together was slow and savory, as satisfying as a home-cooked meal. And actually it was filled with home-cooked meals and laughter and silence and good thoughtful conversation. We had cleared what had needed to be cleared and the air was as sweet as it was now in this pine-scented Mother’s Day moment. And then I added a postscript as I started walking again. “Mom, I don’t need a single thing from you. I already feel your presence.”
Sometimes my mother comes to me with a sign, an unexpected visit from a cardinal or an eagle soaring overhead at the exact moment I’m thinking of her. Sometimes it is in the breeze that kisses my cheek as a mother-memory flashes through my mind. Sometimes it is a phrase in a book or something a friend says, something that captures the very essence of my unique mother. In this moment, however, I was so satiated with mother-appreciation that it truly was enough — no sign needed, no added whipped cream to an already wonderful Sunday evening mother-daughter connection on a two-track trail in Upper Michigan. And perhaps that’s why I was so startled when it happened. I hadn’t walked for more than thirty seconds when it occurred, the singing — not a quiet song-in-my-head type of singing and not a bird-chirping singing either. This was a real honest to goodness blasting out into the ethers heartfelt twang — and it was coming from my breast, shouting out from within my very own flesh! “Real thing. There ain’t nothing like the real thing baby.” It took me a moment to realize what was happening, that it wasn’t my breast suddenly taking flight in a country western frenzy after all. It was my cell phone. With no pockets in my summery frock, I had tucked the phone into my sport bra at the beginning of this journey — and now it seemed to have grown a life of its own. I pulled it out and looked at its face. It was the Zac Brown Band in the midst of a song, “Real Thing.” I had never heard of the Zac Brown Band before this moment, nor had I ever listened to this song. But the lyrics were clear — “the real thing baby” — and I was clear, too. This was no simple boob-dialing. This message was from my mother, the real thing.
As I tucked the phone back in my bra that evening and continued to walk, I began mulling over this dramatic mother country western moment. What did she mean by it — the real thing? This didn’t seem like a mere connection, a cardinal bird or an eagle saying, “I’m here, Helen, present with you.” This was conversation, perhaps even maternal wisdom with a message for me. Right away, I thought of the talk I had given that morning at the Unity Circle. The topic had been patriotism and I had shared my personal journey as citizen of this country and this world, how the thread tying the timeline of stories together has always been integrity, mustering up the courage to live from the inside out. I’m not sure what it means to be a patriot. I’m not sure how my talk went over that morning. It felt a bit clunky, if I’m honest with myself, but it felt real, too. And I know that it feels good when I’m lit up from the inside, connected to the divine spark, to the same light that glimmers through the white pines and ripples across the stream that flowed beside me that evening. And I know that when I live from this place, from an inner stream flowing and unbridled, there is sure-footedness and confidence in my actions. It feels good to live like this. It feels real. And, in that very real moment of connection, perhaps that was what my mother was telling me.
Spring tipping into summer in the north country: May 2016 (Photos by Helen Haskell Remien)