“For after something this powerful, this deep,” I whispered, “There is nothing after here.”
I was five days into a weeklong solo-kayaking trip through the backcountry of Everglades National Park when I spoke these words out to a cove of salty water.
I had just set up camp on a small, white sand key. The water looked inviting, so I stripped off my ripe paddling clothes and walked into the sea. The warm water greeted me with a healing cleanse. I breathed deeply, euphorically. I stood in the water, and began to inspect myself. My arms were covered in bug bites. My hands were lightly bruised under the nails, and calloused on the palms. I saw hair growing from all of the wild places. As I splashed water up to rinse my beaten skin, I was grateful for this trip, and for my body that allowed me complete it.
But in that moment I also felt something larger than the significance of my own corporeal force. In that moment, the salt of the sea misted my own eyes, and I noticed that we were made of the same particles. Through this backcountry trip, this cove of salty water had very much become a part of my own cellular structure. I felt an immense appreciation for this earth, for this mother.
And so I whispered aloud, to myself and to the sea, “I am no longer afraid of what time will bring, for I have lived an eternity in the sweet glow of your smile.”
The words I whispered were not my own. They were those gifted to me by the mother with whom I not only shared the salty tears of my eyes, but the very flesh and blood I now washed in the sea. They were words from a poem she had written for me when I began my freshman year of college. Since then, I have read its lines enough times to carry them with me wherever I go.
Immersed in my Mother Earth, I felt the gift of life with which my mother had blessed me pulse, and the gift of life this planet provided for us all. Although my mother was not there with me, I had her with me in a way that I imagine only she and I will ever truly understand—much in the way other mothers and daughters can only know the true depths and complexities of their own relationships.
In that moment with my Mother Earth, I let my heart swell in compassion for my mother. I saw her work, hopes, dreams, fears, love, and tears, reflected in the scratches and bruises on my skin from my backcountry journey. I contemplated the beautiful and difficult sacrifice mothers make to bring another being into this world so that one day he or she may be able to stand in glory of the wild, to fully feel this existence.
The enormity of this moment moved everything inside me, and I surrendered to a sweet appreciation of the feminine. I encountered a profound sense of duty to honor this Mother to ensure that another daughter one day may be able to stand on these sands and feel this feeling—that life may pulse through her in a way that makes her fall to her knees in love.
“And my only wish would be for this feeling to find a place in the heavens to belong forever,” I whispered, “A new constellation, for future mothers and daughters to wish on.”
Korrin L. Bishop is a California native, Oregon Duck, and current resident of Washington, D.C. where she works on local and federal homelessness programs. In addition to her day job, she is an essayist, letter writer, and cofounder of the outdoor group, Wild Wilderness Women.