Sitting in Circle for Mary Ellen

Driving east from Seattle for the weekend of the summer solstice, I felt excited and liberated - excited to see my sister Mary Ellen and liberated at leaving Xavier with his father for the weekend. It was a last minute plan, the kind that sparked on a Wednesday and simply fell together as easily as if pre-ordained. So here I was, 48 hours later taking myself on a road trip, Gillian Welch cranked on the car stereo, my baby girl dancing along in my belly.
This is a special moment in time for Mary Ellen and I as sisters. We are the two girls in our family of four kids and we are both pregnant and expecting little girls. Mary Ellen is 35 weeks pregnant and I am at 24 weeks. While she is my younger sister, Mary Ellen got married first, had her first child first and in so many ways, I look up to her.

My sister's mother-in-law, who goes by the nickname “Rowdy” (how wonderful is that?) was hosting a Mother Blessing for Mary Ellen. Rowdy is involved with an organization called Gather the Womenwhose rally cry is "Gather the Women, Change the World." To give you an idea of her bright personality and dedication to changing the world, Rowdy is heavily involved in Americans for Democratic Action and the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She has been "sitting in circle" for over twenty years, marking special occasions and life passages for women from bridal showers, home blessings, memorials and mother blessings.

After all the guests had arrived and sparkling wine and/or water with huckleberries had been passed around, we settled into a circle of chairs outside on the deck. Rowdy had just found a beautiful-looking and lovely-sounding gong at the art walk, so we sounded the gong to officially begin the ceremony. Rowdy gave a brief introduction to sitting circle and then everyone introduced themselves and explained how they knew Mary Ellen. We lit candles to the four directions and invited special women far away to join us in spirit in the circle. Mary Ellen and Rowdy wore shawls to symbolize grandmothers and ancestors also present with us.
Every guest gave one blessing and one wish to Mary Ellen to help guide her through the rest of her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter. All the heartfelt sentiments were especially poignant as Mary Ellen's first pregnancy had gone a little sideways. She developed preeclampsia and had to be helicoptered to nearby Spokane where her daughter Mabel was delivered at 28 weeks. Thankfully all ended well, but the following weeks that Mabel spent in the NICU were emotional and scary. Now almost four and sweetly precocious, Mabel is excited for her new baby sister. This second pregnancy has been smooth sailing thus far and Mary Ellen is feeling - and looking - great.

The lovely "Oh Baby" banner was made by our cousin Jessica Shaool of Fat Vegan Baby

When Mary Ellen married her husband Andrew, I made them a broadside of the e.e. cummings poem "since feeling is first." Now 9 years later, they have one lovely daughter and are getting ready to welcome another sweet baby girl into their family.  As her older sister, it has been such a joy to watch Mary Ellen's life grow in so many beautiful ways.  For this occasion, I chose another  e.e. cummings poem, “i carry your heart” as a good reminder of the magical and miraculous fact that she is physically and emotionally nourishing this little person.  It is also a reminder of the special bond she will always share with both of her daughters.  I read somewhere that cells from the fetus migrate into the mother's organs and I love this, the idea that a mother will always carry little tiny pieces of her children inside her body.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                               i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 
here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

~ e.e. cummings

And my blessing for Mary Ellen...
May you enjoy the magic of being pregnant and always remember what your body and heart are capable of creating.
May you and Andrew always savor your love, the love that grew a family.
May the birth of your daughter be quick, uncomplicated and full of awe.
May she be healthy, sweet-natured and beautiful like her older sister, in her very own way.
May you delight each day in being a mother.
And may your children bring you endless joy all the days of your life.


  1. This is so lovely Sarah! And congratulations to you both!

    1. Kelly, how lovely to hear from you! Enjoy the summer with your beautiful son! Please give me a shout if you are ever in the Seattle area!

  2. aww, how cute are y'all?! What a lovely thing to experience together... and how wonderful for the cousins so close in age. Sending my blessing to both families! xo

    1. Irene, I love to hear your southern drawl come through in your note! Many thanks for your blessings and more back to you...

  3. How lovely to share this special time as sisters!