For Mother's Day

Mom doing forest work


My mom is the reason I'm connected to our forestland. I'm shy to write about my land connection, which manifests as creative inspiration, much less talk about it, because my mom passed away over two years ago. Now the reasons for loving our stewardship forestland are so deep, so nuanced, and so filled with grief that I fear I might fall apart were I to explain it all. Simply put: all reasons lead back to my mom.

My mother was passionately in love with our property in northern Idaho. She found comfort in the feel of dirt on her hands and the sense of land under her feet. I often used to find her kneeling on the ground near her collection of hardy roses, her fingers in the earth.

Mom would look up and say, "All plants like the dirt around them to be stirred, Renée.”

One time, she had just put on a new yellow blouse I had given her for her birthday. There was already a streak of dirt across the shoulder and some blood on the arm. She'd pricked her finger on the wild rose thorns. But now I'm glad I didn't say anything about that yellow blouse. (I said plenty about all the others.) I'm glad I remember the way she couldn't wait to get outside every day, low down on her hands and knees in the garden or deep into the forest.

When we started our forest work together in earnest, she transferred her "stirring of the dirt" philosophy into our forest clearing and seedling planting.

My mom always said: “Perhaps there is nothing else more important than taking good care of one little bit of earth.” As we worked the forest together, and poured over our stewardship forest plans, we began to say it to each other. Our motto.

And that's the most basic thing I think about now when I walk in our northern Idaho woods without my mom. I think about taking care of our forest--my mom's forest. I walk through the forest glade she "parked out," which means she cleared it to look like a park rather than a forest. I walk through the plantation where we planted seedlings; I need to do some thinning there this summer! I walk by the little area, less than half an acre, where I planted western White pine; however, many of them didn't make it because the area was too shaded by the canopy for the seedlings to take hold.

"Try again," I can hear my mom saying. "Plant again."