What Momma Said

What Momma Said

And the decades it took for me to understand

This tiny fern is thriving at the base of a massive tree

I'm from a generation when moms stayed home to be homemakers and raise the kids. I sense I may have just stepped in something with that opening statement. Just so you know, I spent five years as a stay-at-home dad and homemaker. I know firsthand it's harder than any "job" could ever be. It's also more rewarding.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my mom, who taught me a lot about being a person. One of the things that stuck with me for decades was a comment she made after seeing an acquaintance in a department store. As they passed each other in the aisle, she said, "Hello," and her acquaintance replied, "How are you?" and they moved on. Seems normal, right? After the encounter, my mother commented to me something like, "I don't understand why they ask how I am if they aren't interested in an answer.

That stuck with me all these years, I never forgot that moment in the department store, and I always wondered how to flip the script to make a meaningful difference.

Some time back, I was talking with a friend about how stressful the pandemic had been on people working in stores, restaurants, supermarkets, and the like. My friend commented about how he intentionally asks cashiers, servers, and others how they are. However, instead of asking what has become an off-handed, throwaway question (as my mother pointed out so long ago), he would rephrase the query in a more specific way. Something like, "How has your morning been?" or "How is your day so far?" I was interested in how that might flip the script, so I gave it a try.

The first few times I asked this question, "How is your morning going?" I was stunned to hear full-throated responses. It was shocking, actually. I got direct eye contact with the person I was speaking to and honest answers that seemed to ease them of a burden in some way. The most profound instance was from a discharge nurse who replied that it had been a rough day so far, and she was only getting started. She left and then returned to thank me for asking how her morning had been. She commented that nobody ever asks, and it was a relief when I did.

Whew, I had no idea this could be so powerful. If you decide to try this, be aware; the one-word response of "Fine" (following the question "How are you?") disappears and is replaced by a sense of human connection. Be ready for surprised looks and an honest conversation because that's what happens. An awkward silence may follow your initial question until they realize you are serious and are looking at them, waiting for a response. It's crazy how this flips the script.

Want to make a difference in the life of a total stranger? Ask them how their day is going, and even if there is a moment of silence, wait for them to answer back. It can make a difference.

I have three photos to share with you today. I am fascinated with plants that become extreme due to their environments. There is a certain beauty in how living things adapt to where they live on our planet, and I can't help but to photograph them.
At the top, a fern grows out of a tangle of roots at the base of a giant tree. It seems the tree protects the fern, like an older sibling looking over a youngster.
Below top, a system of roots spans out across rich soil on the edge of a forest. I recall that roots like these are referred to as a "root nursery," but I couldn't find a reference on the internet. So maybe I miss-remembered. Still, I named this photo "Root Nursery" because every creation deserves a name, and that was what I had.
Finally, Trees growing above ground are a comment sight, of course. To see the roots anchoring them to the earth, growing below ground, is something else entirely. So while not totally below ground, exposed to the elements on one side, it is magical how the roots weave around the rocks and other roots to provide nutrients to the trees above.

Roots spread out at the edge of a lush forest

"Above and Below" is the title of this image. It's not often we see what's gong on below the surface