Cucumbers in a Cup

It is an interesting time of year to be nine months pregnant. I am heavy with new life. So is the earth. Everywhere I turn, surfaces I see are sticking out, popping up, swelling forth. So is my belly.

The skin of my abdomen is taut and hard, yet yields to the touch and moves on its own accord, rocked by internal rhythms of its own beating and breathing. Dandelions poke. Violets unfold. Iris blades pierce the air.

The shell of winter is cracking, crumbling, shifting, and rearranging its pieces. Something else is coming forward in shape and shade, opening and being opened, seeing and being seen by the light of the sun. The bumps have different sizes—knee or hand, back or elbow.

Even so, as revelations shout forth, the mystery of it all only increases. I can no longer see the ground for the greening grass. Silvery leaves block my view of branches, bark, and the arc of a hill. What was so clear and reassuringly bare in winter recedes behind layers into depths.

Nor can I see what will become of what is appearing to me. I can see the life force in stems and petals, exposed and expressed. I can feel the pulse animating vessels and veins. I bear witness to beauty unfolding.

But what will happen to all these seeds? What will the story of each one be? Will it bend in the breeze or break with the snap of a dry twig? Will it unfurl in all its resplendence or disappear into the mouth of a bug? And what about the latest leaf on the LaMothe/Gee family tree—what will its story be?

Each bump and bang, each movement given, deepens the mystery. At this very moment I may know as much as I will ever know about this life inside of me.

The tomato seeds we planted a few weeks ago are now sprouts, some of them six inches tall. Following the directions, we put three seeds to a cup, prepared to “thin” the seedlings as needed. But thin is a devious word—a euphemism for kill. I find it devastating. Seeds that worked so hard to rupture their skins, emit roots, and reach for the sun must be mercilessly plucked by some hand of fate—mine—and left to die.

At first I waited. I just couldn’t face up to the task of playing eternal judge. I know it is good for the plants that remain to have a cup to themselves. Still. The plucked ones smell so good, so green, so worthy.

Then, as some plants grew faster than the others, the task seemed easier. For here was a clear reason, a definitive principle to apply: sacrifice the smaller. I am still stymied, however, when the plants are the same size. How do I separate twins? Each one has an equal claim. I just want to transplant one of them to another cup.
It is a time of life, and a time of death. We know two people who have died in the past week: the ever-glowing mother of childhood friends, plucked by cancer. The twenty-two year old brother of friend, broken by a motorcycle accident. Life cut off too early.

What will my story be? What will the story of my children be?

This child will be my fifth, and I still don’t know what it means to be a mother. With every birth, the answer seems farther away.

I moved here to the farm to be a mother, or so it seems. I was nine months pregnant, again. I was also here to be a dancer and a philosopher, and to create a way of living that would allow me to weave these three threads of my life so as to think thoughts differently, and think different thoughts.

One thing I had learned during my tenure in the academic world was to look for what was hidden by reason’s clearest revelations. So many tomes of western philosophy and theology—including my favorite books—were written by middle-class white men, educated and often single, cared for by mothers, sisters, servants, and sometimes wives, largely left alone to write. Their tracings of human experience can be luminous in shape and shade, expressing and exposing vital currents of life full and formed.

Even so, I found that each revelation deepened the mystery: how did this life become what it is? How did these thoughts emerge? Where were the wombs?

I wanted to write about this becoming—the bodily becoming that happens as a helpless infant unfolds into a thinking/feeling adult and learns to love. I wanted to hold our western traditions accountable to the rhythms of nurturing life.

I wanted to be a mother—to participate consciously in the process of bodies becoming who they are—and to allow this action to pull my thinking and dancing into new shapes and shades, new stories about what is possible. I wanted to be a mother in order to be a better philosopher—to expose and express what bodies know.

I still haven’t thinned the tomato twins. I know I am going to have the same problem too, in another week or so, with the cucumbers. We planted cucumber seeds in cups to celebrate Eostre—the dawning of desire, its rupture into yearning, and the hard work and patience needed to tend its fruition. We planted two seeds to a cup. Each is growing. How am I to choose which should live and which should die? Who am I to write the sentence that spells life or death?

I am going to get some more cups.

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