Granny Kate is a woman I admire greatly. She says:
We don’t write our stories so much as they write us. With valient effort and attention to detail, we can edit them a bit. Some say we already wrote them between lifetimes, and wrote them the way they are as lesson plans for the next school in session.
This is a picture of a great blue heron standing at the edge of the Nisqually River. I grew up with the Nisqually River practically in my front yard, down by the hydroelectric power plant my father used to operate. We lived so close you could look out the window of the front room and see the bald eagles flying down the river looking for their next fishy meal. We lived in company housing and my father hated being so close to work 24/7, but I loved it. There was a nature trail and I used to walk down there and watch the river changing. Along the trail there was an old orchard with apples, pears, and cherries that someone had planted, long since overgrown and no longer producing edible fruit. You passed western red cedars, douglas firs, and tiny bleeding hearts along the trail. There was a large, shady, marshy area that grew stinging nettles and horsetails alternately. Sometimes people would come in and harvest the horsetails so the stinging nettles took over and vice versa for as long as I lived there.
The river itself was beautiful. It often had a deep blue-green color because originated at a glacier. Sometimes if there were heavy rains, it would run brown with mud. Every once in a while during these rainy times it would flood its banks, and carry huge downed trees along in its rushing waters. With the seasons and the storms, the banks of the river would change, and change the land as well. There was a large sand bar where the nature trail reached the river and this was different almost every time I went down there. There were all sorts of interesting things here. Bugs that skated along on top of the water that my father called Jesus bugs and other bugs that we called periwinkles that built their homes by cementing bits of river pebbles around their bodies until they resembled a multi-colored river hermit crab. It was here on this sandbar that I had my first kiss, and here that I left the physical remnants of that relationship for the Goddess to take after my first break up.
Lately, when I think about the importance of large bodies of water in our lives (for example, L. and I wonder whether we could accept a preceptorship inland, closer to lakes and rivers than to the ocean), I keep returning back to the indisputable ways in which the Nisqually River shaped me as a person. It informed my Paganism and was my first real introduction to the changing of the seasons and the ever-shifting nature of our lives. It sparked in me an on-going wonder and awe of the natural world and its processes. And it was a place of solace and solitude and some pretty important life events as well (I believe I even bridged from Brownies to Juniors on one of the bridges of the nature trail. See what I mean? Life altering.).
When I graduated from high school, I went to college near another river, this time on the other side of the country. Here is a picture of a very famous bend in the Connecticut River, not too far from Mount Holyoke College where I started my journey to midwifery through a doula course I chanced upon my senior year. I also deepened my activism there, learning priceless lessons about what was really important to me, how I could be more effective, and how to integrate this aspect of myself into my whole person.
Recently, the midwife I am studying with asked me why I was becoming a midwife. Unexpectedly, I found myself talking about the river, describing the flow of midwifery in my life as a deep, strong current that could not be denied or ignored. “The ocean refuses no river” as the chant goes and all paths in my life led, small tributary by small tributary, to this beautiful and profound journey that I am now on. Midwifery for me allows me to be more of me. I have found a way to live that connects me intricately to life’s cycles, to the opening up in the fabric of our lives that enables another being to enter the world, to the transformations of parenthood and the creation and expansion of families. It is a journey that allows for and encourages a more full expression of my Paganism and my walk with Frigga, regardless of whether I ever share that part of me with clients. It helps me be my best self, cultivating that wise and humble facilitator part of me I get to bring out to play more and more often. And maybe most importantly, the path of this river is shaped by powerful external forces. Reproductive justice and an ongoing analysis of race, class, sexuality, gender, disability, etc. etc. etc. have cut the path of this river, affect when and where it floods, and are the rocks that create rapids and currents. These are things that are crucially important in my life, things I want to give a lot of energy to and learn as much about as I can. While they affect everyone’s life, I am particularly interested in the way they affect and are affected by midwifery and birth in general. For me, one could not exist without the other. It’s what keeps this journey interesting, challenging, and inspiring all at the same time.