For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a scientist. My first “experiments” involved combining salt, pepper and water (and sometimes flour) and incubating the concoction under my bed, or in the back of the fridge where my parents wouldn’t find it. I’d occasionally test to see how it changed over time, my first time course. I was no more than four years old.
And then I was a scientist. I authored six peer-reviewed research publications in my field, presented at numerous scientific conferences, was awarded grant money to pursue my scientific ideas and mentored younger scientists. I stood in walk-in refrigerators for hours to purify small amounts of protein, I played with glowing molecules, I mastered technically difficult methods of gaining information from things so small they are invisible to the eye or normal microscopes. In the process of doing science, the reality of science made me mourn my idealized concept of science, of pure, intellectual curiousity, of dissecting cause and effect, of uncovering nature’s secrets. The reality of science in which so much of science has nothing to do with science itself popped my vision like a balloon, and I needed a break from research. I still love science. I do. But the thoughts I have about science are complicated.
So, I cast my advanced degree widely like a hook, and reeled in a new career. On the surface, my new career suits me well: I work to make science a better place. I tell myself that I improve the feng shui of science a bit, straighten its tie. In reality, I am now a professional reader and emailer, with muddy, evolving thoughts about science.
In between the science, I made art. I took mud and threw it onto a spinning wheel, sometimes for entire weekends in which I barely stopped to eat. I put my hands inside the wet mud and pulled on its spinning slipperiness, made the mud tall and proud and buoyant, gave it life and identity. For 12 years I created beautiful objects out of mounds of clay. I frequently plot my return to the spinning mud that cleanses me.
These days, I love to work in the garden, often without gloves. I feel the musty soil move with its roughness between my fingers. I push seeds into the earth and watched them spring forth in green.
I am a muddy mama.
So what does this former scientist, former artist, sometimes gardener, former so-many-things have to say that hasn’t already been said? Possibly nothing. All I know is that Two Little Whos came into my world and now I am a mama first, above all of these other things. And it’s wonderful.