Every year I try to paddle to Wild Horse Island in May. I do this to honor my mother who died this month sixteen years ago. Some people have ideal mothers. My brother and I were not so fortunate, thanks to a surgery when she was in her 20s. Medical mistakes set her up for a life of pain, chronic illnesses and multiple addictions in response to physical and mental suffering. Despite these difficulties, and partly in reaction to them, I remain the recipient of so many things. In truth my mother gave me everything I needed—a wariness of intoxicants, desire for a conscious life, my love of language, and attentiveness to the world within and around me.
Because she gave me the gift of life I am able to paddle to the island, hike its ridges, explore its valleys, appreciate its wildflowers.
Almost certainly she would have noticed and called attention to the way Balsamroot turn toward the morning light,
the composition of stone and flower, hard and soft,
an owl feather still wet with dew,
a once-living tree suspended above the current of its journey and the storms that threw it there upon the stone.
Trained by her at the window of sunrise, I notice the way cumulus clouds form the central reflection in ovoids, see the kestrel, on its perch in a pine tree, step in a full circle as it surveys the world.
Given a perfect day for paddling and a chance at life, I am nothing but grateful. In response I offer her the the whole island’s bouquet.