If you listen to a bunch of passionate hikers discussing what they love, you will hear: remedies for blisters, preventative techniques for leeches, ways to dry your wet socks before the next day's hike in the pouring rain, ways to prevent hypothermia or frost bite, ways to make a semi-decent meal over a butane stove with dehydrated ingredients, reminiscences of times they ended up waist deep in mud, got their pack soaked through and had to sleep in a damp sleeping bag, the time someone turned an ankle and had to be air lifted out of a remote area.
And you'd think - Why?
Why do you do that to yourself when you could be home, safe and dry?
It is rare you hear them discuss in detail the good they see. Mostly, because there are no words. You can sketch out verbally the sunset you saw over the mountains or the rare orchard you saw or the feelings of triumph after a long walk - you can even show photos - but there is no way to recreate the feelings it inspires. A fellow hiker can, with a few words, be inspired to remember their own experiences and guess how you felt, but those who don't love it, will never understand. Those who don't understand, can never FEEL it. And those who do understand, need few words.
So you hear about the aches and pains, the insects and parasites, the blisters and wounds.
So it is with motherhood.
Those who don't understand will never understand, those who do, need few words.
I was talking to a friend the other day and she shared with me about a Catholic mother she knew who did not love having children. When she hit menopause after her six children were born, she cried out in relief, with not a little bitterness to her tone. And I thought, what is the difference between her and me.
Then I realised, I do hard work, she was sentenced to hard labour.
I am Sir Edmund Hillary mounting the summit.
She was a prisoner on a forced march.
I am a sculptor creating a thing of beauty, forgetting to eat and sleep because I am so entranced.
She was a slave breaking rocks in a quarry, denied food and rest.
I LOVE what I do and do what I LOVE.
People aren't shy about telling you how busy you are when you have many small children. "You've got your hands full" "My, you must be busy!" "Gosh, how do you cope?"
I have been painted as a victim of my own choices, trapped with no escape. I have been depicted as a martyr or superwoman.
I am none of those, I am me. Artist, hiker, mountaineer, MOTHER. There is no way I can find the words to make them understand unless they do already. I could no more describe a mountain to a fish or a the deeps to an eagle.
But I know this much, I am blessed beyond words.
And I thank the Lord for it.