A Middle-Aged Mom Seeks Her Higher Power

During a difficult season, I need somewhere else to turn.

Middle aged mother seeks higher power in forest Westersoe | Canva

For almost a year, I’ve been on a quest for my higher power — a stupid quest, I know. We don’t find our higher powers by sheer force of will. It’s not something we check off our to-do list. We let our higher powers come to us by being open to receiving them.

At age 43, I thought I had the rest of my life more or less mapped out. Now I find myself at a bewildering crossroads, not sure where to turn. My rational mom mind keeps trying to take over — the one that keeps everyone fed and watered and keeps the machinery of our home rumbling along.


I know that no amount of logistical planning will prepare me for the next step, and although I’ve never identified with a particular religion, I find that I’m desperately in need of spiritual guidance. But how can I be open to receiving signals from a higher power when I am measuring out the minutes of each day?

During any given hour, there is little room for error, for anything not to go as planned. If my son can’t find his sweatshirt or my daughter needs to wash her track shorts before she leaves for school or I spill my coffee down the front of my shirt, then everything falls apart. Is my higher power supposed to appear to me before I shuttle the kids out the door, or after I log into Zoom for my morning meeting? I can tell you right now that my higher power, whoever she may be, is never any help when it comes to finding my son’s sweatshirt.


Before the morning scramble commences, I start most days with a run — for exercise, yes, but mostly for solitude and silence and space. These are all things in scarce supply as I navigate the daily chaos and confusion of family life. Although my house is smack in the middle of a city, I run in a forest that’s less than a mile away. The forest has been my escape hatch for over a decade. 

I’m pretty sure my higher power lives there, somewhere amongst the trees.

It’s a small forest, as far as forests go. Spanning about 1.6 square miles, it is routinely interrupted by paved roads, meadows, sports courts, and reservoirs. But the trees there are tall and plentiful and kind. They dapple paths, filter raindrops, and carry the whispers of wind. They have seen me through the highest peaks and lowest valleys of my last dozen years. When I am under them, I know that something is good and right, even though there are times when everything else in my life feels terrible and wrong.  

forest Piotr Krzeslak / Shutterstock


On dark winter mornings, the forest is all mine. Very occasionally, I’ll cross paths with another solitary jogger, and we’ll nod as our headlamp beams intersect. People say I’m crazy to venture out in the cold and the drizzle and the dark — and I’ll admit, most mornings it’s a feat to tear myself out of bed. Even now, in late spring, when the night has already receded and the cold is seeping, not a slap to the face, my down comforter still presses against me, urging me to stay.

A few times a week, usually when the rain is particularly insistent, I’ll opt for a video workout instead. It feels nice to move and stretch my muscles, to feel the pulse of my heart against my chest, but my ears feel clogged by the instructor’s too-cheery voice and my eyes strain against yet another screen. The instructor tells me to focus on my breathing, but when I fill my lungs, it’s with indoor air that already holds the weight of a thousand breaths.

Fresh air and trees, solitude and silence and space — these are all promising conditions for a spiritual awakening, but I don’t think I’ll find my higher power while I’m running. My footsteps fall too heavily on the ground; my eyes are too focused on the path ahead. I try to clear my mind, but I can’t help thinking about the 155 stair steps that await me, the harrowing street I have to cross during my last few blocks, or the current condition of the shower and whether or not there are any dry towels.

Plus, I have exactly 37 minutes each morning to exercise, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about my higher power, it’s that she doesn’t give a crap about my schedule.


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I run regularly amongst the trees, but I also walk, rest, and play. There are so many sepia-toned memories. My daughter with her bottom lip stuck out, mustering the strength to heave her small body from one monkey bar to the next. My son smiling under a daisy chain crown, back before anyone told him, or at least implied, that boys shouldn’t wear flowers on their heads. My husband and I lying in a sun-soaked clearing while the children play, his head resting on my stomach.

Everyone is older now — the kids are too cool for monkey bars and daisy chain crowns. We still make it out as a family from time to time, but I find myself alone in my forest more often than not. As my kids have become more wrapped up in their own social lives and my marriage cries out for space, I’ve found myself with a little more time to wander.

It was in the same sun-soaked clearing where I sat, nearly a year ago, feeling the absence of my husband’s head on my stomach and the absence of my husband in general. He had retreated into himself, to a place I could not reach, and I watched the sepia memories play out in my mind’s eye, wondering if everything we’d worked so hard to build would come crumbling down, willing myself not to cry. 


I stared up at the trees. I watched the wind rattle their leaves, and I felt small. In a good way. These trees had borne witness to a thousand stories, a thousand smiles, and a thousand silent tears. It has only been amongst the trees that I’ve found I can grasp any sense of spirituality, any sense of cosmic force. Nature humbles me, gently reminding me that there are infinite parallel universes that are entirely unconcerned with me and my woes. Or rather, it reminds me that our woes are universal and intricately interconnected.

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This past winter, we suffered a series of storms — a snowstorm that gave way to a windstorm that gave way to an ice storm. For one dark cold night, during which our family huddled together for warmth in a house void of power, I was terrified of trees. They seemed to have staged a coordinated revolt, unlacing their roots from the soil and falling without regard for power lines, houses, or cars. Would the towering pine next door join the fray? No, as it turned out, but her sister up the street toppled violently, crushing a front porch in the process.


The terror wrought by the trees in their brief seconds of falling quickly gave way to grief. The tree up the street was reduced to firewood and kindling within a week, but the downed trees in my forest, all 30 of them, lay prostrate for months. 

Their trunks and branches were strewn across paths and roads; caution tape crisscrossed my forest, glaring yellow lines that rippled in the winter wind. If the trees looked tall standing upright, they looked enormous in a horizontal state, as devastatingly majestic as beached whales. The ripping of their root structures had created craters large enough for a small group of humans to burrow in, and the roots themselves loomed above me – intricate, sprawling maps of time. 

Thirty trees. Three thousand years, give or take, of tree experience carried away by a howling wind. There is so much to grieve in the world, so many death tolls that far exceed 30, but I felt the devastation like a punch in the gut.

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The surviving trees — all 57 species of them — still stand guard. No matter how much time elapses between my forest visits, they always wait, and they always welcome me. The minutes and hours I measure out so carefully are of little importance in tree time. There is one Douglas Fir that has been keeping watch for 496 years. 

I thought I’d explored every corner of my forest, but last weekend I happened upon a new path that led me to a small clearing with a bench I wasn’t sure would hold my weight. I sat, tentatively, and settled in. These were not different trees, the ones that surrounded me, but I was considering them from a different angle, and I felt giddy, almost, like a child who had discovered a secret hiding spot.

My giddiness abruptly turned to tears because I was sad, again, unsure of my future and bewildered by a relationship I’d thought I had all figured out. In some ways, I was in the same spot I was nearly a year ago, except that I wasn’t. I was sitting on a bench I never knew existed beside a path less traveled. The forest had led me here. I must have looked lost, even though I thought I knew where I was going.


I felt the grief momentarily draining from me, replaced by an oozing sense of serenity. I’ve never taken a mud bath but I imagined this is how it would feel, easing into the plush, spongy earth. Giddy, grieving, serene — here I was free to feel everything all at once, or at least in short succession.

I thought about how much we try to pluck things apart and box things in. We box ourselves in — in homes, cars, offices, social constructs. We separate ideas and feelings and people. We are told we can only believe one thing or another, feel one feeling at a time, believe in one truth, and be this kind of person or that kind of person. 

But in my forest, everything is all tangled up. Not tangled hopelessly, not like the knots in my daughter’s hair, back in the days when I tortured her daily with the dreaded comb. It is a liberating entanglement, an entanglement that doesn’t strangle but allows for coexistence. Roots can tangle with soil and lichen can tangle with tree bark and ferns can tangle with wildflowers. It can be messy and live-giving and beautiful.

I don’t know if my higher power is supposed to present herself to me in a ray of sunlight while angels sing, but I felt something that day, sitting on that decaying bench in that secret clearing. The trees clustered around me, whispering in their soothing tongues. They said: Everything is all messed up. They said: Everything is going to be okay.


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Kerala Taylor is an award-winning writer and co-owner of a worker-owned marketing agency. Her weekly stories are dedicated to interrupting notions of what it means to be a mother, woman, worker, and wife. She writes on Medium and has recently launched a Substack publication Mom, Interrupted.