This was just one of the plethora of handy sayings my mother kept in her linguistic back pocket.
While “wherever you go, there you are,” sounded pointlessly obvious when I was younger, it’s turned out to be something in which I find more truth as the years go by.
The saying, and my idea of what it means, turn out to be pretty fundamental to my love of crows, as well as the way in which I look at the world overall.
I explore it a little in, City Crow Stories:
Crow watching is an ultra slow version of birdwatching; instead of darting about in search of new species to add to a list, you find yourself looking at things more closely and seeing the wonder there. My mother had an extensive repertoire of handy sayings, and when I’m enjoying time with the local crows I can always hear her saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
The truth of this saying has become more apparent to me as I get older. It also seems profoundly linked to the increasing need for us all to start finding more real joy in what we already have, and where we already are.
I was reminded this week about the many, many other sayings my mam (as we call moms in Newcastle) used every day when our local morning radio show had a call-in contest for remembered maternal aphorisms. There were some great ones and the more I thought about it, the more of my own mother’s surfaced like flotsam in my cluttered brain.
We knew she was really, really mad if “hells bells and buckets of blood” was uttered. The ultimate sanction for misbehaviour was, luckily, never enacted as it sounded gory: “You’ll get your head and your hands and your brains to play with.” Since she was a very gentle woman, we did not live in nearly as much fear as you’d think such a statement might engender.
Some of her sayings bring back in cinematic detail the occasions when they were deployed. The day she was running to catch the bus with me and my baby brother in tow and tripped on the stairs, spraining her ankle, muttering from a prone position on the sidewalk, “more haste, less speed.” I was quite impressed that she was managing to be so philosophical, but looking back I think she was trying not to scare her kids by crying or swearing, or both.
As a teenager I moved to a faraway town to go to university. During my first term I suffered that inevitable first romantic heartbreak and was feeling pretty crushed. In response to what must have been a tearful phone call, I received a letter from my mom exhorting me to remember that “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and that “every cloud has a silver lining.” She brought it all home with the always popular “it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.”
Of course, I was still heartbroken, but my mom’s borderline unhinged efforts to give me a long distance boost and a virtual hug did make me laugh and cry at the same time.
And I remember that letter as if it was yesterday, while I can’t even remember the name of the boy I was shedding tears over.
My lovely mom’s been gone now for 25 years, but I think of her every day.
The reason I love the hellebores I post about so often, is that she had them in her garden, and looking at them reminds me of her.
Her death was unexpected and I was a mess. As I was sobbing quietly at home, trying to get an emergency passport renewal to fly to England, my son came to offer some advice. For a four year old more usually to be found ricocheting off walls and furniture, he spoke with quiet authority. He had prepared a “to do” list for me:
- Remember her behind your eyes
- Remember everything she showed you
- Paint your house beautiful colours and fill it with pictures of her.
I try, still, 25 years later, to follow that wise advice every day — and that seems to include having all those handy sayings rattling around in my brain and seeing how they fit into my life as I get older … even on those days when I feel like “the Wreck of the Hesperus” or as if I’ve been “dragged through a hedge backwards.”
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