Out of the Mouths of Babes is an ongoing discussion of mothering and creativity. The blog series with over 50 contributors continues here on Laundry Line Divine. Our live event from the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers is featured on our home page. Start here. The Out Posts
Powder Keg Sessions
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Anthology of Babes is here.
Do you feel alone in your mothering, that the last vestiges of your own voice chased out the door with the most recent crowd of small people who slammed out of here? An Anthology of Babes is the voice in the room who urges you to come play, pick up your knitting needles, a pen, a paintbrush, to answer your creative yearnings. Read on
Thursday night of art day here at Laundry Line Divine.
I have been listening to Harry Nilsson all afternoon while I paint Powder Keg Sessions prompts.
I sent out a newsletter on Wednesday announcing the sales page for my painted prompts.
If you didn’t get that bit of news, please consider subscribing to this site.
(In the sidebar on the home page of this site.)
I send out a newsletter once a month, usually.
Winter is coming.
Where are you headed?
This weekend, my Powder Keg Sunday Sessions: writing workshop for women meets here in Great Barrington.
I hold an intimate afternoon of writing.
We prime the pumps of our creative wells with painting and doodling.
And there is always tea.
If you are in the Berkshires and intrigued, please email me.
Wherever you are when you read this post, the space we enter in the Powder Keg Sessions is always available to you.
Clear a spot. Brew the tea. Close the door. Put on quiet music. Light a candle.
Need a jumping off spot? Start where you are.
When you dwell in silence though, your inner ear opens.
“There is a real world that is really dying,” Marilynne Robinson writes in Mother Country, “and we had better think about that. My greatest hope, which is a very slender one, is that we will at last find the courage to make ourselves rational and morally autonomous adults, secure enough in the faith that life is good and to be preserved, to recognize the grosser forms of evil and name them and confront them. Who will do it for us?”
This morning in the woods, a huge old red oak tree (Quercus Rubra) lay across the path I usually walk on. I began to follow the tracks around it when the green-mossed bark called out to me. In a flash, I was astride the trunk. What a rare gift to connect with a tree so viscerally.
I am intrigued by connection.
You could call me a connector.
And connecting fuels my writing process.
I am terribly plagued by this quote I read in Terry Tempest William’s An Unspoken Hunger by Marilynne Robinson- both writers I hold in high esteem. For so many years, I have looked at someone who I knew through their work and check out their hair and faces for distinctions born of age. I would compare where they are and where I am and think, “Oh I still have time to catch up with them. They got there first, but I am on my way.”
Now, when I read Terry’s bio and see she is only three years my elder I know there is no waiting anymore. If I don’t do the work that I feel called to do now, in an orderly fashion so as not to kill myself, then what is keeping me from it? Chaos is no longer an excuse. Nor is making lunches. I debate and debate about feeling reluctant to admit I have been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. Yes, I grabbed this job from a nanny and I have been doing it ever since and WITH NO PAY, just a free ride from my husband who works out of our attic.
It is true. Comparison and guilt run through me sometimes. I want you to believe that they are not present ALL the time, but hell, they are, just louder some days than others. (This is not going to be a soft-spoken easy blog post. This may have a lot of CAPS.)
Yes, I look and weigh where I am in relation to where someone I respect/admire/idolize is and I say, okay…. just a few more months of this and then I have time. Just a few more hours on this project that really feels like chains around my ankles and I will be free to do the work that calls me in raw hours spent at the sink or right before I open my eyes in the morning.
But, there is no project that I cannot say no to except raising this family with my partner.
Our children need me but have grown respectful of my writing and art hours.
I teach on a schedule that supports my own writing and time for reflection.
And if I want to fuel my wild soul, I just have to step out in to the woods, about 10 minutes walk from my desk (even shorter if I bike), stand at the trail head where a Barred Owl winks at me overhead. Soon, I am lying on a towering oak felled by time, looking at layers of clouds whisk past, watching leaves fall slowly, where I hear chiming goldfinches off in the shrubs and feel the aged wisdom of this tree seeping in through my layers of wool.
There is no time like now.
“There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
I spent yesterday in the kitchen. I wiped the kitchen counters after every mess I made, vacuumed up the crunchy droppings from baking and prepared a big birthday snack for my daughter’s play rehearsal cast meal. I generally spend lots of time in my kitchen. Since having kids and taking on this role of full-time mother, I have wiped my kitchen counter about 72,800 times in twenty years- give or take the surge on holidays, birthdays and compulsive cleaning during flu season and the ebb during summer when we are eating out of our hands or over the sink on our way outside.
I was happy in the kitchen. I made granola bars for 45.
But, Marilynne’s quote about the real world vanishing stays in my mind.
It is here with me wiping up bits of millet and candied ginger.
It is with me shaking mud out of the treads of my garden boots.
It is with me watching a Great Blue Heron lift out of the shallows at the lake.
It is with me reaching for my daughter’s hand and her only giving me a finger’s contact, but contact all the same.
Yes. This real world? Is this the real world you mean Marilynne? And if so, then this is my real world, and my real world bears some telling, right? That if vanishing, then this real world bears being described and connected to, in the way that I do?
My real world is wiping counters.
My real world is multiple-y dried tissues stuck in the bottom of my jeans pocket that I discover when I wedge an acorn cap next to it on my walk.
My real world is going to bed hating my husband for being who he is because I am so tired I have forgotten what we stand for in our marriage and failed to accept the permission he urges me to give myself to go to bed.
My real world is waking up refreshed from a complicated dream about making arrangements to sense that hatred dissolved and notice the blossoming of an ordinary day, the morning moon fading under white-capped lavender clouds on the ridge.
My real world is eating the leftover granola bars today and sweeping up the crumbs.
“Evolutionary creators traverse constantly between the private and the public, deepening themselves in silence and study, then reaching out with what they’ve gained on the inner journey. Their energy, then, is whole and integral; their intelligence is embodied; and in their words and every action is a power that others identify as a force for good. It is this integration of inner and outer, self and other, insight and action that fuels the work of prophets and mystics.”
– Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time
When Jan describes evolutionary creatives as she does in this quote, I find myself in her words. My work is a “great dynamic call and response” that is cluttered with sunflower seeds plump with honey stuck to my socks and a passage from Emerson that my “love afar is spite at home”. It is Terry and Marilynne and Jan asking me, why not write from where you are, take your inner journey out, as you so boldly urge others to do?
I get dumped back on my heels every once in a while with writing from inside motherhood. It does not always feel so dynamic or great, but it is real. And it is my life. This struggle marks me, but I run with it because I sense that other women know how this feels. And I am devoted to something larger than the vacuum cleaner and my counters, though they are all part of what makes this world mine.
I am devoted to unmasking the fertility of women through story, particularly the stories of mothers.
I do this by writing my own stories.
I do this by running Laundry Line Divine, highlighting the work of people I admire, sharing poetry, music and an occasional film, but mostly telling it like it is from here.
I do this by teaching writing and art workshops; most prominent today are the Powder Keg Sessions, which you can read about here.
I do this by making my own artwork, mixed media collage, and mail art, book binding and painting and showing this work.
I do this by talking about permission and the sacred and value in women’s lives.
I do this by producing an event called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and a blog series so I can include women’s words from far-off places. Our next live event is March 7, 2015.
I do this in the way that I live in community, with organizations and at the kitchen table.
So, if you, at your kitchen counter or your desk on the 30th floor of an office building wonder, “what is the use of me telling my ordinary story?” or if you plague yourself, as I do, with thoughts like, “who wants to hear about you and your regular assed life?” I say, listen to Ralph. Listen to Jan. Listen to Terry. Listen to Marilynne.
PS If you are in the Berkshires, or near and in the mood for a road trip, I will be selling copies of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, MA tomorrow from 10 to noon. This event lets local authors meet and greet readers and sell our wares. Which tomorrow means I will sell my Powder Keg Sessions writing prompts. You can purchase your own set of hand-painted cards that are perfect for daily writing, collage or photography prompts or as a mindfulness moment on your altar or even, over that kitchen sink. I package 20 of these small jewels in a vellum sleeve that can stand on your desk. They are $15.00 each. You can also order them here on Laundry Line Divine. The sales page will be live in the next few days. Make sure you are subscribed to this site to stay in the loop!
In the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series, Debbie Baron, sister to Stella Elliston, offers us a new post on Motherhood and Creativity.
If I was to sum up the soul of this blog series, it would be in this sentence of Debbie’s:
Under the guise of motherhood lies our original creative self.
Debbie speaks to something that has been bugging me about myself for a long time.
I have for a long while been trying to figure out how to navigate my voice here on Laundry Line Divine.
I am a woman who is an artist and a writer and a mother.
I am a whole passel of other things, like wife, sister, daughter, gardener, friend, Yooper…but when you show up here on this site, you expect to find me operating as myself.
My whole self.
I have been guilty of undervaluing my mothering because I fear those of you readers who don’t have children, for all the many different reasons that is, would be offended or turned off by my work.
Then, last night, I read in Brene` Brown’s Daring Greatly this:
Be grateful for what you have. When I asked people who had survived tragedy how we can cultivate and show more compassion for people who are suffering, the answer was always the same: Don’t shrink away from the joy of your child because I have lost mine. Don’t take what you have for granted-celebrate it. Don’t apologize for what you have. Be grateful for it and share your gratitude with others. Are your parents healthy? Be thrilled. Let them know how much they mean to you. When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost.
The decision to have or not have children is yours alone. It may have caused you suffering or it may have been just what is right for you in your life.
But me tip toeing around my motherhood because I fear I will upset those of you who don’t have kids, who are here at the Laundry Line to read about creativity and seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life, about poetry, art and collaborations, or about the Berkshires or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or pleasure or all the other stuff I write about- the effort of this is giving me aches in my legs. I cannot keep this up.
After one of WAM Theatre’s Motherhood Out Loud performances, a good friend of mine leaned in to me and said, “I am surprised that I liked this show so much because I hate the topic. Motherhood is about my least favorite subject.”
I could only look at her and sense that anything I had to say, whether about motherhood or creativity or quinces, would just not be appealing to her. That is okay with me. Not everyone on this spinning planet will love Laundry Line Divine, which is about raising myself as I raise my kids. I am done apologizing for my life.
Reading those words, on page 125 in Daring Greatly, I knew it is time to own my motherhood again.
It is truly only part of who I am. It is at the center of who I am.
Whether you have felt this conflict in me at all doesn’t even really matter.
I have felt it.
And I am in the business of becoming more clear, so I can do what I do with greater agility and excellence.
Two of my Core Desired Feelings are Traction and Exquisite Excellence.
I am feeling them right now.
If you notice I have changed the tagline to this website, it is with great pondering that I do so.
I still see and celebrate the sacred in daily life, but at the heart of that is how I raise myself as I raise these kids. (even the ones that I didn’t birth)
It is scary somehow, saying this to you, but I need to lift off a filter I have laid over my work on this website. This work is one with everything else I do- with my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers or with Rampant Sisterhood: Engaging Your Authentic Voice Online.
Guess I am waking up a little bit more today.
Thank you again for all your support and comments and participation in all the stuff I have going on here.
Thanks to Debbie too, for offering your wonderful blog post, illuminating Sisterhood in a new way.
I hope this Spring day finds you full of anticipation for all you have ahead of you.
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless. In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater? Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D