Song of the Sea
A few weeks ago I asked my Instagram followers what they wish to see on the blog for February's theme of "empowerment." One follower reached recommended I publish an article centered on motherhood. She pointed out that, in modern feminism, we frequently forget the value of being a parent.
I was shocked by her statement. It is true. I forget about the strength, joy, challenges, let alone power, of parenthood all the time. And what kind of feminist am I if I ignore a crucial side of reproductive justice–the right to have and raise children!
I was stupefied by my ignorance. A wave of embarrassment washed over me as I replied to the follower, who kindly offered additional suggestions. My shame dissipated slowly, like thick fog fading to a thin veil of mist, and through my haze one mother came to mind: Annabelle Fern.
I know Fern through mutual friends and am awed by her poetic writing, honesty, ideas on feminism, and photography. You know those people you can see yourself being pals with if only you two had the time to invest in said friendship? Yeah, that's Fern for me. (Hopefully, that's not creepy and she feels the same way.)
Fern is a talented writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Colorado. She describes herself as a "Mama. Storyteller. Lover." on her website. At 19, she became a single mother. Fern explains, "Motherhood pulled me out of a dark moment in my life. My daughter was my first love, a light like I had never known, and she reminded me of the lightness that also lived in me."
Fern is now a mother to two–soon to be three–beautiful children. She writes quite a bit about motherhood on her blog, and was kind enough to let me share her post, "Song of the Sea," on The Keen Kind. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do.
Song of the Sea
i'm writing in the sky. folksy guitar and raspy vocals fill my ear buds. on one side, my mom sleeps. on the other, a slightly wiggly effie shifts between looking at the bright clouds outside the window and impishly kicking the back of the seat in front of her. she's been so patient. i'm really proud of her.
i threw a wrench in the predictability persephone and i were used to when our tiny family of two stretched to include two more. i fell in love with nik and lola suddenly, just as i fell in love with persephone. it was like being on fire. i became addicted to the feeling of love. my world started pivoting around it.
i think falling in love is what comes when we meet someone we knew long ago. like seeing the ghost of a passed loved one in the face of a stranger. it's difficult to explain sometimes. people are shocked that i met nik and lola and built a home with them so quickly. but, the way i see it, i waited all my life for them. just like with persephone. why not make the most out of what time we have left together?
i was recently asked about the differences between being a single parent and parenting with a partner. i've been struggling to articulate my answer because honestly, it doesn't feel very different with nik than it did on my own. and i think that's the point. it's rhythmic and effortless when it's right. we have our challenging days, sure, but for the most part, it's really easy. and that's what hooked me on nik. he's easy.
i'm outside a walmart in cancun, mexico. our driver alonzo, a middle-aged man with lightness still dancing in his tired dark eyes, is leaning against his van and checking his phone. effie is sprawled across the seat beside me, sleeping soundly with a balloon animal poodle gently resting in her open palm.
it's beautiful outside. the sunlight is golden.
school children are walking home dressed in uniform. most carry backpacks and walk in groups, some walk alone and sip from red coca cola cans. boys not in uniform skateboard past walls painted with splashy graffiti. there's a mural of a lucky cat inside of a pentagram. it's something nik would notice and smile at. he's a talented visual artist with a love of spray paint.
i watch the people. it's the end of the day and they're all going somewhere. as humans, we share the same basic needs. regardless of what we look like or what we believe in, we all share some sort of commonalities.
that's the side of understanding things i want to stand on. especially when i feel like everywhere i look, i see tragedy. violence, war, hate. so many misunderstandings. i don't want to misunderstand anyone. i want to listen to people slowly. i want to speak with them softly. i want to warm their cold hands in mine. and i just want to look into their eyes and smile at them. for the smile is the simplest, most universal language. i really believe that the smile possesses the power to change the world.
we arrive at casa alux, the homestead we'll be staying at in akumal, mexico. a full moon is rising over the crashing sea in our backyard. casa alux is divided into two casitas that are stuccoed and cylindrical. effie and i share a two bedroom casita with my brother. my parents stay in the casita across from us, a one bedroom with a kitchen and a map of the universe hanging on one wall. inside our room, the first thing i notice are the bookshelves. they're filled with dog-eared, tea-stained novels. i spy some of my favorites. cutting for stone, the river why, the catcher in the rye, the call of the wild, and almost a dozen titles by jim harrison.
i woke up to little p slipping from bed. she toddled into the bathroom to pee and came out with her eyes wide and her hair sticking up in all directions.
last night, before we fell asleep, she held a seashell to my ear and told me to listen. i could hear it all. the rolling, crashing, white and blue-gray waves singing and traveling to shore.
"remember the song of the sea?" she asked as we stepped outside this morning. i know she was talking about one of our favorite movies of the same name, but i nodded as we stepped onto hand laid stones that stretch a short distance to the ocean.
i thought of her holding the shell to my ear the night before. i do remember, i thought to myself. always. whenever i travel to the sea, it feels like coming home, no matter where i am in the world.
my spanish is poor. i took four years in high school, but aside from a trip to cuba in college, i haven't practiced my speaking skills. that said, i struck up a choppy conversation with the two keepers of the grounds we're staying on. candi, a woman who wears a shining gold necklace and travels by yellow bicycle; and candellario, a small, round man with gentle eyes shaded behind the brim of a navy baseball cap.
they recommended places to eat and told me the best times to see the light hit the ocean just right. they asked about the mountains in colorado. is it cold, they wondered. not terribly, i said. even in the winter, the sun shines almost every day. they asked about my tattoo of a hand holding a pen. i told them that i am a writer. they told me they would like to read my books in spanish.
this made me think of the book i wish to write with nik. something simple, accessible and universal. of course, i thought. whatever we write must be translated in other languages. it must be a book for the world.
i called nik and lola on facetime. p ran around the pool wildly, played hide and seek with candi, and occasionally buzzed by the phone to talk to lola excitedly. lola told me that it was too hard to see my face. she teared up. i told her that she is brave, that i love her, and that i will never again travel with persephone and without her. my heart keeps lurching like i've left something behind and it's because i have.
This post was originally published on Annabelle Fern's blog here. She was kind enough to me republish her work here.