An unnatural mother means one who doesn't behave the way mothers are supposed to behave, and a natural affection is the kind of affection that's right on the mark, unlike the other kinds that make respectable flesh crawl just to think about them. When somebody does or is asked to do something abominable, you can say that it is against nature because nature is not abominable. Natural foods, natural colors, natural flavors, the natural look, and so on are currently the advertising industry's highest endorsement. The idea of Mother Nature represents the same view of things-nature as nurturing, pure, beneficent, on the side of the good.

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve took nature with them when they fell. You've only to look at the sea in a November gale. You've only to consider the staggering indifference of disease, or the field at Antietam, or a cook boiling a lobster, or the statistics on child abuse. You've only to remember your own darkest dreams.

But the dream of Eden is planted deep in all of us too. A parade of goldenrod by the road's edge. The arc of a baseball through the summer sky. The way a potter's hand cradles the clay. They all cry aloud of the might-have-been of things, and the may-be-still.

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words

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