This year, I have a few personal resolutions for myself, including a new year’s resolution for reading. I will venture towards two literary genres that I have yet to fully explore. One of these is memoirs. In the past, I have enjoyed reading memoirs because of the personal connection that is created between the reader and the author/protagonist. Although I know I’ve read more than a few, the only memoirs I can recall reading are The Glass Castle and Eat Pray Love.
When I came across Patricia Reis’ memoir, Motherlines : Love, Longing and Liberation, I was deeply intrigued. The first page presents a black and white photograph of the author at age two and a half years old standing beside her mother. In the image, they are wearing matching floral-print dresses. The mother is handing her a flower, but young Patricia’s attention is elsewhere. Years later, Patricia analyzes the power of this simple image, reflecting on her strained relationship with her mother and their differences. She evaluates her own ambitions and her “profound resistance” to the expectations that have been placed upon her as a Catholic woman while growing up in the 1960’s.
Patricia is headstrong, independent, and eager. She is everything that her mother, Sylvia is not. While Patricia is attending college and sharing an apartment with her boyfriend, Sylvia poses a question that arises from her deep disapproval of her daughter’s lifestyle choices. “What about your spiritual life?”. Patricia argues, “I don’t need a spiritual life!”
At the age of 25, however, Patricia finds herself in search of her own spirituality and in desire of a maternal connection. She reaches out to Sylvia’s sister, Ruth, an unconventional Libertarian nun. Within weeks of exchanging letters, Patricia leaves her Midwestern town and purchases a one-way ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica to visit Ruth.
In Costa Rica, Patricia is compelled by Ruth’s free spirit and the energy of the sisters. The women are courageous, compassionate, and free of judgement. Patricia emerges from the experience energized and inspired. Ruth continues to do her mission work throughout Latin America, and Patricia enters her third divorce and pursues her MFA in at UCLA. As their lives change and move separately from one another, they remain deeply connected by the beautiful letters they exchange – revealing their innermost thoughts, dreams, and revelations.
As Patricia strives to find meaning throughout the years ahead, her journey is characterized by uncertainty, painful loss, and awakening. She seeks contentment in the places she visits, the lives of those she encounters, the books she reads, and the artistic pieces she creates. Inspired by Ruth’s community, she even spends time as a New Age nun. But rather than providing her with a sense of belonging, she is left feeling smothered, dissatisfied, and once again, in search of something more.
“How many times have I unraveled what I’ve made only to begin again in a new place? I am almost forty-two and still do not recognize the shape of my life, nor do I know how to make it into something of lasting value.” In Motherlines, Patricia Reis accurately presents the inevitable challenge that we as humans face. Weighed down with the pressure we force upon ourselves to find our “place”, we often undervalue the virtue of the journey itself. As a reader, I found Patricia’s voice equal parts distinct, refreshing, and thought-provoking. Sharp and honest, her words allowed me to reflect on my own spiritual growth and self-development.
Through beautifully crafted and intimately detailed letters, Patricia Reis shares the connection that exists between two unlikely women and explores their power to inspire one another. As they exchange words and visits with one another, Patricia feels compelled write a book about Ruth’s life journey. All the while, however, the most powerful story she could possibly tell was her own.
Motherlines reveals one woman’s extraordinary pursuit for fulfillment. Reflecting deeply on the impact of the experiences we create and the lives we encounter, Patricia Reis makes a statement about the value of staying true to our unique selves. This year, I invite you to challenge yourself in your reading. Read books that inspire your ability to ask questions. A powerful read, Motherlines will nourish your mind’s potential and awaken your heart’s intent.
Patricia Reis is a writer and author of the memoir Motherlines, Women’s Voices (with Nancy Cater,) The Dreaming Way, Daughters of Saturn, and Through the Goddess, and the creator/producer of the DVD, Arctic Refuge Sutra. She has a BA from the University of Wisconsin in English Literature, an MFA from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in Sculpture. In 1986, she earned an MA from the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology and has a private psychotherapy practice. Patricia Reis has held positions as faculty, lecturer, and dissertation advisor and has mentored and facilitated many artists and writers in bringing their work to fruition. She appeared in the film, “Signs Out of Time,” by Starhawk and Canadian film maker, Donna Read, a documentary on the life of Marija Gimbutas. She divides her time between Portland, Maine and Nova Scotia. For more information, please visit find.mainewriters.org.
Read Patricia Reis’ piece The Talking Cure and The Writing Cure
Visit Patricia Reis’ website here
Purchase Motherlines : Love, Longing and Liberation on Amazon