Natural as a Mother’s Love

There is an expression of love in the world that belongs naturally to mothers. Of course, it’s known to non-mothers, too, and there’s no guarantee that a mother’s heart will sustain or can even bear it for any child. But there is a natural caring love of a mother for her child, and it belongs to the music of the spheres. It’s a beautiful form of love—a Godly love—and it’s not restricted to humans. I’ve known this simple truth for much of my life, having a mother and father who loved their children and all life dearly. But my mother’s recent death has brought this home to me still further. She loved her children with all of our differences, gifts, and aspirations. She cared for us before we were born and then she fed and clothed us, disciplined and guided us, defended and protected us, encouraged and believed in us. She also trusted in God and this trust—like her love—matured with every passing year. She loved God, and God worked through her to bless the lives of many—humans, animals, and plants alike. She helped us learn how to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. She nurtured plants inside and outside. And as I was growing up, we cared not only for our cats and dogs and those of our neighbors but for birds, opossums, fish, turtles, hamsters, mice and even snakes. She was brave, too. So when news of her death came, I couldn’t help but think of a pair of osprey that we’d been watching and talking about just days earlier across the miles between her home and mine. The osprey is a favorite bird of ours, only because every bird is a favorite of ours, and the Audubon Society has featured live-cam coverage of nesting pair in Maine for a few years. Last year, we came to know a young osprey pair nicknamed Steve and Rachel who had two young chicks, Big and Little. Each day Rachel cared for her chicks on the nest while Steve hunted and delivered fish. They took turns guarding their offspring from eagles by day and owls by night. Sadly, though, when their chicks were just a month old, not yet fledged, they lost them to an eagle. Life is hard, loss is real, and nature helps us be attentive to all life in the world. This year, however, Rachel and Steve had three chicks, and my mother and I were enjoying the privilege again of seeing them grow. The infrared camera made it possible to watch at night and one night, when I happened to check, Rachel was huddled on the nest with her wings spread over her three mottled chicks while a cold spring Maine rain poured down upon them. Steve was perched on a branch nearby guarding them from the owls we also love. Such was the image that came to mind with a measure of comfort soon after the news of my mother’s death. Throughout her life, with failure and success, she did everything she could to spread her wings across her children to shield and protect, to aid and enable us to fledge from the nest and fly on our own. Even after her young went out on their own, she continued to grow in her capacity to care for all living things, especially where she could see that caring was needed. I’m still checking on the ospreys. Any day now they will spread their wings and leave their high nest for the first time. And when that day comes, and for all the days of my life after, I will give God thanks for the blessing of motherly love—a Godly and natural love—that sings and soars throughout all creation. (In this column, “Nature’s Calling!,” Dr. Bob Bryant will be offering information and thoughts on a broad range of topics on the outdoors, especially for the people and communities of Laurens County.)

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