In April, 11 women gathered in a lovely home on the Sonoma Coast to contemplate Mother Culture. We considered what it is, why we would want to pursue it, how we can fit it into our lives, and discussed how Mother Culture is supported and nurtured in community. We ate wonderful meals together, took walks on the beach, shared handicrafts, and had lots of great conversation. We drew in our nature journals and encouraged each other as we experimented with new media and new methods. We learned about the wildflowers of the coast in April and admired our finds from the sea. We finished our retreat with a delicious meal in a neighboring town and more great conversation.
We didn’t follow our schedule perfectly, but we did pretty well. We were about an hour late starting our talk on Thursday evening, and we changed the flow of the afternoon on Friday to better match the low tide. Some of us wanted more time for rest and nature journaling after our tide pool walk, so we postponed our “Hows of Mother Culture Talk” to immediately after dinner. Our video was pre-empted by a fire on the dunes, which we could see perfectly through the large windows in the living room. It was remarkable to watch it spread over the dunes as darkness descended, and we were thankful that it did not cause any lasting harm.
The Whats and Whys of Mother Culture
We began by describing what Mother Culture is and what it is not. We talked about mothers as students, and the benefits of Mother Culture for the mother and for her children and family. We also discussed how we might participate in Mother Culture, and different ideas of life giving activities, beyond the very important act of reading. We finished with a quote from The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondeley where she relates a conversation a student at Ambleside had with Mason. “On my arrival at Ambleside I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come. I replied: ‘I have come to learn to teach.’ Then Miss Mason said, ‘My dear, you have come here to learn to live.'” Learning to mother well or teach well involves learning to live well.
Quick Tips for Nature Journaling
Before we headed to the beach as a group, we shared some tips we’ve gleaned regarding Nature Study. We shared some quotes from John Muir Laws’ new book, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and we discussed how it is more important to cultivate wonder and an attitude of asking questions, than to feel like we need to be able to provide all the answers. We also discussed some of the things a journal entry might include, and briefly discussed materials for nature study.
The Hows of Mother Culture
In this more practical talk, we talked about how we can fit Mother Culture into our lives. We emphasized that we can engage in Mother Culture in small chunks of time, and that we should be willing to think in the context of the week and month instead of just the day when we are trying to find larger blocks of time. We considered what to do when Mother Culture feels like a burden, and we walked through the brainstorming process for fitting in a couple common Mother Culture goals.
In our last discussion, we considered the role of community in encouraging us in our pursuit of Mother Culture. We discussed how community can be for us, for our kids, or for both the children and the mother. We wrote up a long list of different possibilities for building community around Mother Culture, trying to emphasize that there are lots of different ways for us to be strengthened in community.