How a Book About Heavenly Mother was Written (and illustrated).

Rachel on writing Mother’s Milk:

back coverHow did I write 246 poems on a divine being we ostensibly know little about? In short, I prayed, I listened, I looked, I read, I lived, and sometimes I found Her. In long, I prayed to God the Father, to know more of God the Mother, to be close to Her, to feel Her love, and to be guided as I thought and wrote. I listened to my daughter, Cora, and my son, Søren–their words and their cries. I looked to children’s games–Peek-A-Boo and Marco Polo. I looked to the important women in my life–my grandmothers, mother, sisters, mentors, friends, nieces, and again, my daughter. I looked at the natural world around me–the trees, wind, stars, sea, mountains, birds, everything. I believe the Mother, like the Father, is a designer and creator. I read children’s books, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Pan, The Little Prince, Where the Wild Things Are, and Are You My Mother? I read philosophy books, including by my son’s namesake, Søren Kierkegaard. I read poetry books, including by Amiri Baraka, Li-Young Lee, and Mary Oliver. I read passages from church leaders, including Chieko Okazaki, Erastus Snow, Joseph Smith, Jeffrey R. Holland, and Harold B. Lee. I read scriptures. Lots and lots of scriptures.Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 6.41.20 AM

I learned from friends and theologians (some of whom fit both categories)–Libby Boss, Desiree Buck, Joe Hunt, Meg Porter, Lisa Van Orman Hadley, Whitney Bushman, Carol Lynn Pearson, Jason Kerr, Adam Miller, Gene England, Amber Richardson, Nathan Greeley, Larry Hunt, Katie Baratta, Emily Clyde Curtis, Annie K. Blake, Shaura Meservy, Janan Graham-Russell, Melody Newey Johnson, Twila Warner, Zina Peterson, Samuel Brown, Terry Tempest Williams, Alicia Harris, Judith Dushku, Liz Layton Johnson, Heather Sundahl, Carrie Stoddard Salisbury, Chris Cammock, J.P. Haynie, Calvin Olsen, Jessica Ecker, Joanna Brooks, Lisa Bolin Hawkins, Margaret Rampton Munk, Maxine Hanks, David Paulsen, Martin Pulido, Caroline Kline, Linda P. Wilcox, Margaret Barker, Carol P. Christ, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Fiona and Terryl Givens, Margaret Toscano, Janice Allred, Ryan Thomas, and so forth. I lived my life, as a mother and daughter hungering for a Mother God. I carried something inside for months–a child, a poem, an idea. Then I cried, and tried again, and wrote, giving birth to Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 6.37.22 AMI’m so honored that it is illustrated by my dear friend and dream artist, Ashley Mae Hoiland. (Have you read her own book, One Hundred Birds Taught Me To Fly? You should read her own book, One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly. It is both beautiful and soul stirring.) There is so much I admire about AshMae and her art, but the biggest is that she recognizes when things need to be better, and then makes them better (often using words and pictures). She did this with her Mormon Women posters, her We Brave Women cards, and here. I can also say that she and her art have made my life better. A day or so before giving birth to my son, I scribbled AshMae’s hopeful, strong phrase “We Brave Women” on my the wall of my shower, using my daughter’s bath crayon. By the time I stepped in that shower after giving birth, I’d forgotten about the scribbled words. Seeing them again made me sob and sob, for the fear and courage I had just shown and the fear and courage women have always shown, as well as a friend who sees women. I know Heavenly Mother more, because of her.

Ashmae:

HM016The year I met Rachel, I was a returned missionary of just a few months at BYU.  I had never given thought to a Heavenly Mother.  I just hadn’t.  I can’t explain why or how this happened exactly.  Rachel was such a brave and divine friend to have met at the time I did.  It was at the time she was doing research for an article at BYU on Heavenly Mother and I remember distinctly her speaking those words aloud–Heavenly Mother, and it seeming so subversive, so rebel-like, so brave.

I heard her say them aloud many times before the concept took root in my own heart and eventually, the words were spoken aloud from my own mouth.  The more I spoke the words, the more I felt the presence and love of a Heavenly Mother and the more I saw her take shape throughout my past.

HM014Fast forward nearly a decade later and Rachel and I, along with so many men and women have sought out Heavenly Mother out of a need to know Her.  I am so grateful to be a small part of these poems that now have permanent space within the home of a book.  I made the illustrations in the final trimester of my recent pregnancy.  I was tired, uncomfortable, swollen and very much connected to the project as I found solace each time I sat down to draw.  The illustrations are so simple, and intentionally so.  They are drawings of mostly women from photographs that Rachel had sent me and  few of my own women as well.  Women from her past, both recent and far.  For me, drawing and writing occupy the same space in my brain.  I love the contour line drawing because it feels almost like writing the lines of a person. Getting to know them through their contours, the shapes they make when we stop to really look and wonder what they might be if we tried to tell their story.  And so perhaps, is this project.  An attempt from both of us at better understanding the contours and shapes of a Heavenly Mother we are positive loves us all very much.

Order the book here . Leaving an Amazon review and sharing on social media is the best way to get the word out about this project along with the other two new books, The Third Wheel and The Book of Laman, just released with the BCC Press.

If you are in Utah County, join the authors of all three books at an event at Writ and Vision this evening, the 25th at 7 p.m.

 

Comments

  1. I highly recommend the writings of Valerie Hudson Cassler at squaretwo.org for further inspiration at Mother in Heaven.

  2. Jason K. says:

    I love this so much. I can’t wait to buy the book tonight!

  3. Bringing Heavenly Mother to our remembrance. One tiny poem at a time. Good work, Rachel, dear. (You too, Ashley Mae.)

  4. Just got this today and devoured it and cannot wait to read it again. Thank you so much.

  5. t0008sa, thanks for commenting. I’ve read at least one book by Valerie, and am familiar with some of her writing at Square Two.

  6. Jason K. Thank you. And thank you for all of your support. It means a lot a lot.

  7. Thank you, dear melodynew. And thank you for your own work on our divine Mother. You have inspired me, and taught me, and helped me. <3

  8. Mandy, thank you for ordering and reading. I’m so glad that it meant something to you, and would be delighted if you left an Amazon review. <3

  9. Mandy, you did it! Thank you!!