'Logbook of a Mother Who Strives for the Mother Earth Sanctuary' by Wennifer A. Lin

A wood relief panel from Palau, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum in Long Beach. “Palau is known for its strong matriarchal presence … even the government is run by a circle of grandmothers who must “approve” everything before anything is legally passed. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the only country that has officially declared itself to be a nuclear-free zone. Such gumption for being such a tiny island in Micronesia.”

For the past 20 years, I’ve been rather obsessed with the vision of creating a sustainable, matristic eco-sanctuary for birthing consciously, balancing body/mind/spirit wholistically, growing food biodynamically, and living communally.  I had such a “calling” before I became a mother and had kids, and the irony of it is that now that I have three, I see the importance and urgency of it more than ever, but I struggle with having enough time, resources, energy to start one up when my plate is already so full with just being a “mom” and trying to do it all as best as I can, and yet, feeling like I never do it good enough, or fast enough, or thoroughly enough.  I’ve always been a perfectionist and I thrive on working myself to the bone (not necessarily a healthy thing), but I must say, motherhood is the toughest, most humbling, unpaid, and undervalued job ever, where the workload simply seems never ending.  Don’t even talk about working “over-time” because it’s a daily occurrence … you just never get paid for it … sometimes not even in gratitude, and yet, there’s a sweetness and a pricelessness to it all.

So this is a rather huge dilemma I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time now.  In matriarchal/native societies, families lived and worked together communally …. women (and men) shared the joys and burdens of raising kids, making food, keeping the household, the clan, running smoothly.  Now, each woman in nuclear family households is expected to do everything on her own (as well as be a wife, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a school volunteer, a girl scout leader, and a working professional … and even with the best of husbands who do help out, it’s still endless work in and out of the house).  Add to that the time-consuming, labor-intensive approaches to living organically, wholistically, wholesomely [ie, conscious conception = conscious birthing = conscious raising of kids (ie, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, on-demand nursing, elimination communication, aka diaper-free method, something native people have done rather universally and very successfully until the disposable diaper companies started brainwashing everyone and polluting the landfills in the process, etc) = conscious preparation of foods and not relying on pre-packaged, preservative-laden “fast” foods, etc.].

“Image of me nursing my youngest when she was about 2 yrs old … she nursed for about 4.5 years (in total, counting all three kids, I’ve nursed for 11 years!)”

Basically, and this is the crux of my recent talk this summer at the East-West Center at UH Manoa in Hawaii where my cohort and I gave a joint lecture on food and community …. while it is ultra important to preserve food sovereignty and squash out biopiracy (Vandana Shiva – love her work), we forget that just as quickly as our rights to clean soil, clean water, clean foods (ie, non-GMO seeds) are being corrupted and/or taken away by hegemonic governmental and corporate greed, our societal structure, one that really nurtures the community as a whole …. one that I would see as matristic or matriarchal … is quickly becoming extinct, leaving the mothers and the children, as well as the fathers, with very little support and all too much work to do single-handedly.  So for instance, even when we succeed in procuring nutrient-rich, organically-grown veggies and store them in our fridge, who is going to then take out these ingredients, prepare them in a “slow food” manner and give these ingredients the love and attention they demand to make a truly well-balanced, tasty, homecooked meal?  WHO?!?!  The mother who is rushing all day from point A to point B, driving the kids to and from school, to and from extra-curricular activities, volunteering, working, coming home at dinner-time feeling starved, dehydrated, and fatigued and wishing she had 3 of herself so a decent meal could have been prepared in a timely manner?  So she throws up her hands and caves in to buying “fast food” to get by at least one more meal, hoping that perhaps, tomorrow will be less hectic and she can finally make good use of those organic veggies in the fridge before they spoil.  The modern, Western ethic to be “independent” (rather than “inter-dependent”) at all costs to prove one’s worth is sought after at a very high price, and essentially, no one wins.  It’s a lonely, isolating, and disconnecting process, where kids, like the organic veggies, are coveted and cherished, but often more in thought than in action simply because it’s impossible to do everything and do it all in a timely manner when there’s just one of you.

“The Millennial Gaia made by Oberon Zell … I had bought it from his amazing wife, Morning Glory, while at the ASWM conference …. I’ve always felt that this Goddess image is so potent and powerful and universal.”

Recently, I was advised by a Waldorf kindergarten teacher that the little kids need to be kept away from TV and not be allowed to watch more than one hour per week, if that.  I told her that I wholeheartedly agree, but that it’s easier said than done, especially in a nuclear family household.  I shared with her that when I was raised in an extended-family, quasi-matriarchal (I say “quasi” because our family was also influenced by Confucian patriarchal values) household in Taiwan, and later, even here in the US, we all lived together, under one roof, in community, where we had not only our siblings and cousins to play with, but also had multiple uncles and aunties and grandparents to watch after us, so we NEVER felt this “need” to zone out in front of TVs because our household was big, connected, and always bustling with life and interaction.  TV shows and their dramas faded in comparison to our own.  So I asked this Waldorf teacher, do you realize that while all parents would LIKE to entertain and instruct and dote over their kids 24/7, there simply isn’t “enough” of them to do so?  And that our problem with kids watching too much TV isn’t even the TV (or computer) itself, but our screwed up societal structure?  She was rather stumped by my rebuttal.

Within these past couple of years, I have been more proactively searching for others to potentially collaborate with to create this (for lack of a better title) Mother Earth Sanctuary …. “a webwork of sustainable, eco-villages for the conscious birthing and collaborative raising of children, and the matristic/matriarchal rebirthing of our planet.”  With this vision to find sisterhood and collaboration with like-hearted women (and yes, men are welcomed too), I attended the Kihawahine Goddess Retreat in Maui in 2010, the ASWM/MS conference in May 2012, and then my trip to ‘Oahu this summer.  While I have met many wonderful and awesome people, I have yet to create truly productive synergies of collaboration to bring this vision to fruition.

Is there some way our visions, our life’s work …. the Mago Circle/Mago Academy and the Mother Earth Sanctuary …. can somehow intertwine and feed/fuel each other?  In my heart and womb, I feel that such a fusion would be potentially immanent, empowering, balancing, and all together, wonderful …. where research, theory, and application can merge and always be in constant flow and interaction.  On the one hand, we can be in community to help each other flourish, create, and thrive on the Sanctuary, and on the other hand, collaborate with wonderful scholars/sisters/brothers/healers/artists, and actively contribute to the fields of goddess-studies, eco- and spiritual- feminism, the power of birth in relation to female shamanism (as explored by Vicki Noble, Barbara Tedlock, Helen Hwang, as well as myself in my dissertation), etc, etc … feeding the body, mind, and soul multidimensionally.  Enriching, dynamic, and worthwhile, for sure.

“Raw blueberry pie that my daughter had made, with my help, the year she homeschooled with me as a 7th grader…. this was the year she learned that school as we know it is a choice, because she actually has the freedom to leave it (or any institution for that matter) anytime she wishes as long as her choice is supported by her parents.”

Aaaah, I’m afraid I have overloaded you with my ramblings …. ha!  It’s probably best I retire for the day.  But before I go, let me just share with you all that I am grateful for during this Full Blue Moon: I celebrate my fourteen-year-old daughter for her first “crush” where she was brave enough to allow herself to be vulnerable and admit to the guy her true feelings …. luckily, those feelings are mutual; I celebrate my 18 year old son (who struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome) and his autonomy with shaving his facial hair without my asking (sounds trivial, but it was a milestone moment!); I celebrate my 5 year old for finally overcoming her fear of putting her head in the water while swimming and actually swimming for the first time like the most adorable little mermaid ever http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSBLzqddZeg&feature=youtube_gdata_player; I celebrate my husband (and our team members) for having reached their highest sales month in our tiny shop since our opening 3 years ago (yay for community-based, socially and ecologically responsible small businesses!); and I celebrate our sisterhood and collaboration in the name of Mago/Mazu, our Great Ancestral Mother Goddess of many names.  🙂

“A tapa of the three huts (this tapa was made by a matrilineage of women tapa makers from Tonga, and the grandma who made it explained to me that this was what she saw when she envisioned the Polynesian goddess Hina’s houses/village … I saw so much of The Mother Earth Sanctuary in the image, so I had to buy it and support her family tradition in the process.)”