Making time to live ancestrally.
This is my mother, holding a very heavy harvest of wild mushrooms. It takes a lot of time and energy to clean, cook, and preserve fresh mushrooms, and if you’ve never eaten them you might watch the process and wonder why anyone would work that hard for some food. But if you have tasted them, you know why. They taste like they have the earth and the sun and the wind inside them. Nothing that comes to you easily tastes that way. My mother, who was raised in Southern Italy surrounded by chestnut trees and potato fields, knows this. She passed that understanding onto me.
While many children of immigrants turn away from the old world traditions, I, for whatever reason, turn to them. While many children of immigrants turn away from the religious customs of their ancestors, because they mark them as ethnic and old fashioned (as if either of those things must be negative), I turn to them. They provide a depth that modern life does not offer. They give me connection to a past to which modern life wants me to believe I no longer belong.
And I’ll confess something, this past week, while my mother worked her way through pounds and pounds of mushrooms, I was particularly slammed with work obligations, and I could not help her. You learn by watching, but the best way to learn is by doing. And I missed that window this year. I miss a lot of windows, being a semi-modern woman who works for a living, and I’ll tell you the truth, it leaves little holes in my heart.
No amount of money takes the place of preparing wild mushrooms with your mother. No amount of prestige, neither accolades nor awards. As I wrestle, like so many of you, with walking the line between the old world and the new, I often sacrifice what I know is truly important for what we are told is necessity. And, a little sad at having done so, I start my prayers for this year that next year mushroom season will find my mother and I both in the same place again, her with her health and energy, and me with just a little less of the world on my shoulders and a little more of her magical, wise way of living at the forefront of my daily experience.