There is something about being a free-spirited wanderer. The adventure. Life on your terms. Then along comes motherhood. It tames us in some of the most profound ways and frees our soul in ways we cannot begin to express.
Then along comes Sarah Menkedick who gives identity to the emotions we have all experienced. Her free-spirited wandering soul reveals the worth of even the most mundane details of life.
In her book Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm, which I received for review from Penguin Books, Menkedick shares a collection of essays, so interwoven that they seem to just exist as one. She shares how she experienced life transitioning from wanderer to life with her husband, in a cabin, on her father’s farm, awaiting the arrival of her daughter.
I love her reflections of her dad. She shares his example of love, kindness, encouragement, optimism and the sacrifices he chose, ungrudgingly, to open the possibility for her own. Motherhood gives her a greater understanding of the instincts that lessons that allowed her dad to shelter her spirit and also send it soaring. I thought it was a powerful shift in roles as her dad holds her fussing daughter while Sarah makes lunch and then feeds it to her father with her fingers. I’ve experienced these feelings and the reality that my parents are approaching an older age. I’ve lived the moments where I am the parent and my grandmother the child.
She perfectly captures those small, mundane moments that mean nothing, and yet everything.
It’s a journey of seeking to be and finally finding a sense of place.
Sarah has a beautiful writing style. It is almost poetry. It is honest, courageous, caring, and seems to hold time still as the reader experiences that moment and the feelings she has written.
About Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm
Sarah Menkedick spent her twenties trekking alone across South America, teaching English to recalcitrant teenagers on Reunion Island, picking grapes in France and camping on the Mongolian grasslands; for her, meaning and purpose were to be found on the road, in-flight from the ordinary. The biggest and most transformative adventure of her life might be one she never anticipated: at 31, she moves into a tiny 19th-century cabin on her family’s Ohio farm, and begins the journey into motherhood.
In eight vivid and boldly questioning essays, Menkedick explores the luminous, disorienting time just before and after becoming a mother. As she reacquaints herself with the subtle landscapes of the Midwest and adjusts to the often surprising physicality of pregnancy, she ruminates on what this new stage of life means for her long-held concepts of self, settling, and creative fulfillment. In “Millie, Mildred, Grandma Menkedick,” she considers the nature of story through the life of her tough German grandmother, who raised two boys as a single mother in the 1950s and then spent her seventies traveling the world with her best friend Marge; in “Motherland,” on a trip back to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit her husband’s family, she finally embraces her Midwestern roots; in “The Milk Cave,” she discovers in breastfeeding a new appreciation for the spiritual and artistic potential of boredom; and in “The Lake,” she revisits her childhood with her father, whose relentless optimism and mystical streak she sees anew once she has a child of her own.
A story of a traveler come home to the farm; of becoming a mother in spite of reservations and doubt; and of learning to appreciate the power and beauty of the quotidian, Homing Instincts speaks to the deepest concerns and hopes of a generation.