God and Mum in the Woods

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March 21st I went up to the countryside above El Escorial again, to somehow connect with my mother. It was her birthday, a day which leaves me unsettled in the weeks running up to it every year, as she died 9 years ago. And there’s something about her birthday that is so powerful, sitting right there at the start of spring. I get blocked about it, get a little bit grumpy sometimes, short-tempered. All because of a date!

This year I wanted to undo some of all that, release it, so I went up to my favourite place, thinking of doing something ceremonial, but no idea what at all.

The skies were amazing. They got me thinking about God…

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“Do I believe in God?” I wondered. Absolutely in terms of the power that created all this beauty and wonder, but as a person, the old white-bearded man, no. More the force, the presence, the ‘is-ness’. So what do people connect with, I wondered, when they feel overwhelmed by the presence of ‘God the entity’? And the answer came as a powerful feeling in my chest which I could name as Compassion, Love.

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I walked up into the oak woods, still bare, hard buds waiting to explode into leaf in the coming weeks, and there I found my mother! Narcisus, daffodils, one of her favourite spring flowers.

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And I stood there, surrounded by these delicate flowers, and I looked out into the trees and I just talked to her for 20 minutes, out-loud, quietly. I told her how I felt about her, how I loved her, missed her, how much I was grateful for. About the fears her death had brought up in me. About my life now, what I was up to, about her grandchildren. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more direct communication. Blocks and tightness and all the stress around that day slipped away, out into the woods.

Up above the clouds tumbled and rolled, and I thought for a moment I could see her face up there staring off into the distance, then it dissolved away again.

I’ve got to talk to her more, I thought. Not just wait a whole year storing it all up, keeping it all at arms length, waiting for this huge pressure to build around March 21st. Perhaps I’ll make the 21st of every month ‘talk to mum’ day, give her an update, keep in touch. Then she won’t be so far away.

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With love from Madrid, dear mum,

Ben

10 thoughts on “God and Mum in the Woods”

  1. Lost mine 7 years ago. Yeah. It’s hard. Not on her birthday, not on the day or week before, not on the day or week after. Just hard. Lost my dad, lost my mom, lost the love of my life, too. Yes. It’s hard. From some injuries, you never recover. You just learn how to bear the pain and keep walking. But I have a good life, a lucky life, and those things aren’t lost on me. Que disfrutes la primavera.
    Un saludo.

  2. Thank you, Ben. So hard to put into words how losing a parent (or any other) loved one feels. It’s been 16 years for me, and I love your ideas about continuing a conversation with those we’ve lost. I’m trying, too. On smaller note, I’ve been sick for the past week and am starting to struggle with keeping spirits up–tired of feeling lousy! Your post was a welcome bright spot in my day. Thanks again.

  3. OK…here goes: “I feel like I know you”. I suspect you hear this all the time. I walk, you see. I walk almost everywhere. Sometimes I walk for spiritual reasons, other times simply for exercise. Sometimes, I am even in your own backyard walking the Camino De Santiago or exploring other parts of Spain, listening to your Spanish podcasts. However now that I’ve heard every episode so often that I’ve memorized most of them, I don’t listen anymore. And so, I catch myself wondering how you are. I have the urge to look for you. Not to worry, this is not a perverse “stalking” instinct that compels me to write. I am just very grateful to you. What a thing it is to have these iPods, these ear buds…this technology. Joseph Campbell called this technology “A hierarchy of Angles”. My god, sometimes in your recordings I could hear the thuds of neighbors or their children below or above your apartment. Whether in the rain or in the desert or at the coast…night or day…it seems like you have been in my ear forever. Now I live in Austria with my Viennese wife, who, I met in Cuba. I met her there using the Spanish you taught me! She was so impressed, she married me! Sadly, I fear there’s nothing like Ben and Marina on iTunes teaching German! You’re a good man, Ben Curtis. And, unless you’re just a marvelous actor, I sense you are a deeply kind man and a profoundly good father. Your mother could only have been proud of you. Here’s to that proverbial other “time and place” where I’m rather confident that you and I would’ve been spectacularly good friends. Take care! Un fuerte abrazo! Steven

    1. Thank you Steven for such a wonderfully kind comment. I’m sure too that in that other “time and place” we’d be very good friends too! For a start I’m quite a walker as well! I’m very very glad to hear that we helped you get together with your Cuban wife, that’s about the best news someone who made lots of Spanish podcasts could hear.

      Un abrazo fuerte para ti también. Ben

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