Wednesday, May 13, 2009

REMEMBERING MOTHERS


Yesterday, during 7 a.m. Morning Prayer and Eucharist at St. Mary’s, we began to recite the “Song of Creation” (“Benedicite, omnia opera Domini”), chanting “Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,/O heavens and all waters above the heavens./Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,/praise him and highly exalt him forever…” and a vivid image of my mother appeared in my mind. The image stayed on the screen of my consciousness for quite awhile, and the rest of the recitation was lost as I envisioned her walking with my young brother, Harold Jr., on a grassy path, loaded with cacti, high above Buchanan Dam near Burnet, Texas. At the time, she was in her thirties, and we were encamped during a trip to the Great Wild West, or to Diddy Wah Diddy, as my father called California. I remember that she was dressed in blue jeans and a khaki pullover shirt my father had bought her for the trip, and the look on her face expressed complete freedom and happiness.

The vision was a nice one and reminded me that I had done nothing in her honor on Mother’s Day – she died in 1978 at the early age of 69, not so free and happy. Well, I thought, I’m two days late remembering my mother in some way, but she must have looked down and thought I needed to commemorate her as I recited the “Song of Creation.” Following services, good friends from Texas came to visit and over lunch at an Italian restaurant in Winchester, TN, we talked about many of our mutual friends, but the face of my mother kept appearing in my thoughts as we conversed. At bedtime I finally remembered her properly in the Prayers for the People, especially those who had departed.

I’ve published some of the introduction regarding Dorothy Greenlaw Marquart in my book, THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL, PROFILES OF MEMORABLE LOUISIANA WOMEN (now out of print) in a former blog but didn’t include those passages that pertained to her love of nature and the “sun and moon and stars,” as well as “drops of dew and flakes of snow…” “O mountains and hills,/and all that grows upon the earth…”( more passages from Canticle 12 often recited during Morning Prayer).

In the introduction to THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL, I revealed that mother was one of the first Golden Eaglet Girl Scouts in the United States, an honor bestowed on her in the early 1920’s when Scouting was in its infancy. I wrote about her love of woodlands, flowers and even garter snakes, one of which became her favorite pet when she camped out, primitive style, in the Dismal Mountains of northern Alabama after winning a trip there on the basis of her scouting performance in the out of doors. I also included this passage: “Friends and family told me: ‘She was proud of you.’ I know she was. I am proud of her. She gave me the ability to perceive ‘tongues in trees,’ the sight to see ‘books in the running brooks, sermons in stone and good in everything.’ She gave me a love of nature, music, humor, and imagination. Mother was buried in a dress with bright red buttons because she not only loved red, she lived red. Vivacious, garrulous, she was a woman who talked back to life situations which would have felled me years ago.”

Perhaps the appearance of Mother in my thoughts yesterday morning during Morning Prayer/Eucharist was a reminder to re-read the quote I included in the preliminary pages of THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL. The quote honored all the women whose biographies appeared in the book…women who embodied independence and courage and who made contributions toward an improved quality of life for Louisianians. The quotation is Sonnet 67 by Edna St. Vincent Millay: “Upon this marble bust that is not I/Lay the round, formal wreath that is not fame;/But in the forum of my silenced cry/Root ye the living tree whose sap is flame./I that was proud and valiant, am no more;--/Save as a wind that rattles the stout door,/Troubling the ashes in the sheltered grate./The stone will perish; I shall be twice dust./Only my standard on a taken hill/Can cheat the mildew and the red-brown rust/And make immortal my adventurous will./Even now the silk is tugging at the staff:/Take up the song;/forget the epitaph.”

Well, there’s the song and the epitaph. And Happy Mother’s Day, Dorothy!

Note: The photograph is of Mother, my older brother Paul, and me, after Mother took us for a swim in the lake at Lake Arthur, LA.
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