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  • Out of the Mouths of Babes

    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

    Ignite your voice in the next Powder Keg Sessions: Writing Workshops for Mothers and Others. I lead two different Sessions in the Berkshires. Sessions resume in September. Subscribe to this site to learn more. Follow the fuse

  • Rampant Sisterhood: Authentic Voices Engaged Online

    Be the change you want to see in the world. Want to learn how to share your work online in an appropriate way that supports your vision and expresses your care for the world? Join me at Women's Voices, Women's Vision in June for beginner and advanced sessions on Rampant Sisterhood. Would you like to host a workshop in your area? Platform building support

  • 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. Find the book on Amazon or in indie bookstores in the Berkshires. Praise for the Anthology

What are you going to do with your power? Social Good Summit wants to know.

SGS 2014 Share Graphic 3

I am at the Social Good Summit at the 92nd Street YMCA in New York City.

The conversation about “social good is for all of us” whirls around me, talking about water, conflict-free campuses, stories that live in the now, digital tools, newborns and childbirth, people working with children in war zones, gender equality, our climate, the future, the now, families and the ways that forgiveness lives in communities divided by war.

To say this Summit is overwhelming would be a true thing.

Manhattan is an “island of action”. Yesterday, the People’s Climate Change march was over 400,000 people strong. They all took a long walk on the West Side to show solidarity with our planet.

I have been bobbing along, meeting people, listening, taking notes and photographs and cheering organizations like World Pulse, HeforShe and Beyond Right and Wrong.

In the closing Sunday session, Alicia Keys said,

“Its not about me, it’s about we.”

I wonder what that might mean for you?
What does having your voice mean?
How do you engage with your inner life and what tools do you use to bring that forward?
Do you feel that you have personal power?
Are you using that power in a way that is soul-satisfying?
Does any of this have meaning for you?

I think women, the world over, are stymied by a silent desperation that keeps them quiet. Their life conditions may vary wildly, but the silence is common. There may be practical issues of survival that keep women from using their voices beyond tending the lives in their care. But a common thread is a societal underestimation of the value of motherhood and of women’s lives in general.

I am about to head for home, but wanted to share a few thoughts with you as I digest this massive dose of intentional social entrepreneurship, leadership and community building.

I read this quote from my One Spirit Daily email. It captures why I am here today, and it captures the way I live, and I believe it is why you show up here at Laundry Line Divine. We all aspire to live soulfully. What that looks like in each of us is vastly different. And that difference is a good thing.

“What is leadership? In a word, service…People are starving for models of how to live soulfully. Anyone who is about the task of discovering a spiritual, authentic way to live serves humankind by example. This kind of leadership, by men and women of all walks of life, is what the world needs most. By letting out true selves shine like the morning sun into our families, our communities, and the world, we awaken the best in others.”

~Kevin Anderson, Divinity in Disguise

Next year, I hope to have at least one of my children with me at the Social Good Summit. The goal of this gathering is to see real change by 2030. Change that comes from empowering each other, from the poorest, silenced. I believe that this kind of change, of care and compassion for our neighbors, and ourselves takes shape in small ways that build.

My favorite quote of the day is by Jensine Larsen of World Pulse.

Jensine Larsen Quote Social Good 2014

You, and your pen, or your laptop, are more powerful than a man with a gun.
However you apply yourself, the act of picking up the pen alone is the most important. Finding your voice and using it in your life gives you a tool to connect your inner life with your outer life, it builds bridges and connections to the people and world around you, and gives your soul’s yearning wings. Be willing today, to listen to what calls you.

“One girl with courage is a revolution.” Girl Rising

Here are views of the Summit from Mashable and the UN Foundation. Please enjoy.
xo,
S

Paper Dresses

A laundry line of paper dresses by SBB.
A laundry line of paper dresses by SBB.

I am part of an art exhibit at PRESS: Letterpress as Public Art in North Adams. The show is called Paper Dresses.

It opens in North Adams, MA on September 25 and runs through November 30.
You can read all about it here.

Today, I am keeping my fingers warm while writing my artist statements and sewing.
A poem by Sharon Olds is running around my head. I do not have permission to publish here so you must,
if you are in the mood for a poem, go here to read it.

The last phrase is why.

xo,

S

Inhaling Ursula

Neon Shoes over Brooklyn by Suzi Banks Baum

When guests leave, I have a difficult time cleaning up after them. I like the presence of guests, at least most guests, to linger. My mother used to stop me from putting all the mess of toys in order before we would leave her house. She said the mess allowed her to see my kids playing on her floors, on the couches or in front of the fireplace long after we’d jetted off the Upper Peninsula towards the East Coast.

I know how she feels now.
Our beloved German family, a family we sprouted five years ago when the eldest son of this family of six children came to live with us, just spent a long set of sweet September days with us. They left the fourth child to live with us until December.

We spent warm days swimming at the river.
Cool days we toured MASS MoCA and Brooklyn.
We hiked and walked and strolled and went to yoga together.
We made many meals, much zucchini and melon employed.
And the mother, my dear Ursula, and I made art around the edges and for one and a half days, we worked plumb in the center of this swirl of teens and plums and a chard eating woodchuck.

This morning, I walked in to the room where she slept and without knowing what was happening, I was engulfed in the simple perfume of her presence. Like when you hug your partner’s neck after swimming and only the soft animal scent of skin fills your senses, an eager poetic soliloquy of scent surrounded me. The smell recalled her to me so fully I was sure she was near. But, only a pile of linens and the paper she’d wedged in to a rattling window frame on a windy Berkshire night were present.

We are both mothers. She has three times my children and just as much appetite to make things while in the midst of mothering. We first met in the airport in Florence, Italy near where her family vacationed in the summer. They’d invited us (inwhited, if you are a German speaking English, which is all I can hear in my head as I write. I recall her voice skipping over Vs when she was tired and letting them be Ws) to spend time with them there, before depositing our son with them for a semester at the Schaubing Waldorf High School.

We fell in step with each others mothering styles quickly. We found ease in each others presence through the affection our children spread and before long we were sketching together on a long table overlooking the valley towards Cortona. Ursula is a landscape architect with amazing drawing skills, so the vistas jump off the pages with just a few strokes of her pencil. That first summer of knowing one another had all the makings of a symphony with many parts yet to come, but each new phrase captivating.

 

Ursula's doodling
Ursula’s doodling

Since that first visit, we have traveled together, spent time in each others homes, sat talking for long evenings and early mornings, picked blueberries, celebrated Full Moons, eaten meals prepared with the other in mind, sent gifts and notes and letters and many many hand made mail art postcards. We have fallen completely in love with each others children and included their friends in the circle of our care. Our husbands are equally eager and engaged and this symphony feels like it will be playing for many years to come.

SBB to Ursula

So when I inhaled Ursula, the longing I felt for her real presence, her laughter, the way she orders a coffee, the endearments she uses for her children, the tone of her voice as she asks a question, her enthusiasm for leaping in to cold rivers or trying new art techniques mellowed from an ache to an exercised response. I have spent many hours with her painting and making books and drifting exotic neighborhoods, photographing laundry or hanging it, laughing over the singleton socks we each collect and seasonally seek to pair. Something about making art together has sewn our friendship, our sisterhood, our shared parenting in to a many-layered blanket that offers comfort beyond what I ever imagined. Now that I know that comfort, her scent, I require it.

 

Italian laundry by Ursula Kern
Italian laundry by Ursula Kern
Ursula sewing a book 2014
Sewing signatures

 

There are many tales to tell about Ursula. We have made art with our combined children now for five summers. As we travel, we create. We formed the Darling Hill International Artist’s Club four years ago and have had four art showings since then, in Vermont, on Cape Cod, here in the Berkshires and at a cafe in Monte San Savino, Italy. We have weathered a hurricane, an earthquake, a car accident, and foreign borne illnesses of our children. We have earned ribbons for our skillet tossing. Our dumpster dive at a bookbinders last year in Munich is an oft repeated tale these days. This past week, while waiting for her daughter at dance class, we sketched the skyline of Housatonic with the iconic water tower on to up-cycled file folders. We cut the drawings in to stencils, and then transferred the images on to vintage book covers given to us by the boyfriend of another of her daughters. We built Coptic Stitch book covers together, filled the signatures with found, painted and plain papers then sewed them up smartly on a sunny September morning. We make books in the same way we make everything we do, in the midst of making breakfast and lunch and planning dinner, picking figs or berries or apples, and delivering kids to and fro, brushing off all but the most urgent pleas for help so that we can focus together for a few hours.

 

Ursula's stencil 2014
Prints by Ursula of the Housatonic Water tower 2014

 

 

The porch art table by Ursula Kern
The porch art table by Ursula Kern

 

My new Coptic Stitch Journal visits Brooklyn By Ursula Kern
My new Coptic Stitch Journal visits Brooklyn By Ursula Kern

 

What we give each other is permission to want what we want.
What we give each other is permission to answer our soul’s calling in the midst of parenting.
What we give each other is the courage to stop waiting to do what calls us and to engage our families with our fullest selves, the selves that snort when laughing, that pick up random scraps of paper on the sidewalks and often bursts in to song.

What has happened is that our children, from 21 to 10, now, all know that this making art is what makes us happy and they too, in their own ways, have inhaled this brand of bravery in to their own lives, making choices that are much nearer to joy than to duty. They know that familial responsibility includes honoring what the other loves.

Processed with VSCOcam with s6 preset

Ursula left this stone circled heart filled with acorns and a marigold for us on Saturday. The squirrels thanked her for it and ate most of the acorns, so I refreshed her heart and filled it with a rose and nasturtiums and more marigolds. We pass our mothering back and forth like this, pass our time together and apart with these young people in our arms, needing rides, needing counsel, needing lunch and together, we make it happen with room to doodle, to discover and to know each other deeply.

So I see you Ursula, across the table from me, I see your hands chopping tomatoes or parsley, I see you holding the nearest child’s cheeks in your hands and loving with that big heart of yours. I am so happy to know there is a spot for me there.

Who knew our hearts could grow this big?

I am blessed beyond measure.
xo S

What Do Mothers Make? Connections

Jenny Laird at Out of the Mouths of Babes
Jenny Laird at Out of the Mouths of Babes

The Lotus Connection

Saturday evening at Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others, Jenny Laird, my neighborhood Buddhist mamaholyladyplaywrightfriend, regaled us with the story of a car ride with her stepson. That 17 year old boy, clad in bullet-studded belt and earrings was not huggable on that particular day. Her story recalled Jenny feeling “launched from the lotus”. If the lotus is the lap of serenity, then that lap is far from many a mother of teenagers.

As I write this I recall the sensation of my daughter, a densely beautiful baby. I can smell her orange and lavender scented diaper crème, her chubby feet kneading my thighs, wedging her heels in to the flesh of my legs which are curled round her as we fall asleep together at naptime.

Serenity dwelt there. I was the lotus.

I recall the instant shot of bliss that comes when she winds her fingers around mine.
From the time she was a tiny pack of joy to now when her lanky self slinks over once on a Blue Moon to linger fingers, I am shot with joy as a tapestry with golden floss, my interior illuminates. This happens not often enough to quell my ache to be close to her.

Photo by Berkshire Magazine's Maria Bakkalapulo
Photo by Berkshire Magazine’s Maria Bakkalapulo

This week, I got to hear (and hug) Gloria Steinem. Students from MCLA in North Adams and people from around the Northeast packed the auditorium. The photo from Berkshire Magazine captures Gloria’s joy. I got to hear my She-ro say,

“God may be in the details, but the Goddess is in connection.”

Has she been reading my journals? When my eldest was a baby I had a revelation while looking at a palm tree, where I learned that God was indeed, in the details. That story resides in Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. But to hear Gloria add “but the Goddess is in connection” illustrates very personally what happens when women connect their inner life to outer expression. It speaks to the holy necessity of telling our stories, of making art from our ordinary lives.

I hunger for connection with my girl, for the Goddess to dwell between us.

I lay listening to the house from my warm bed on this cold morning. The floor is so cold I hear my girl clunking around the kitchen in boots. Sometimes she does not adjust the heat when she gets up early and I find her writing at the kitchen table dressed in everything she can reach including a hat and a hood. Today, I listened to her pursue her thoughts as she prepared for an on-call about Catch-22 in her lit class. She dogged her dad with clarifying points, hammering out her naive but insightful thoughts until she had something of a case to be made about the way violence is portrayed in the opening chapters of the book.

I just happened to have been in a room with Gloria Steinem the previous night and heard her talk about the normalizing affect domestic violence has on the children who grow up in homes infested with this plague in our culture. People exposed to domestic violence as children, are more likely to carry violence out in to the world. The early and consistent exposure lessens their inner boundaries and protective devices. Violence becomes a normal part of human discourse. Domestic violence habituates a hierarchic society, where one can dominate another. It puts the ladder of ascendance firmly in place urging others to climb on the shoulders of others to rise.

There is nothing of a circle of community in a hierarchy.

So I hustle down, wrapped in a sweater to lean on the kitchen counter, squeezing a lemon, grating ginger, mixing in a swig of apple cider vinegar and a stir of raw honey in to my morning cup. Perhaps I can offer something to her query? Maybe I can make a connection here, from Gloria to my girl? I wondered to what is my daughter being normalized? What conditions exist in our household that she will carry in to the world? As a teen-ager, her better qualities are sometimes hard to identify, so hidden is she behind silence and distraction. The temporary squalls that drive ocean waters between us make me cling to the rocks of beauty in our collective past. Back in the day when she’d reach for my hand crossing the street, holding my hand for miles as we walked cities or country roads. I once felt as woven to her as I do to my own skin. Today, when she burns the dinner I carefully leave for her, trying to meet her dietary and taste needs while giving her space for an evening alone doing homework, I find it hard to locate our common heart.

The fact that my friends and the books I read tell me that this behavior is grossly normal, to be expected, that she is finding her own ground and claiming her independence does not lessen the sting of her disdain. The contrasting moments when she leans in to kiss my cheek, wants to borrow my sweater, wants me to rub her back glare against the ones when I find my boots scrunched down at the ankle because she failed to untie them as she wedged them off her own feet, they singe my eyelashes when I notice the note I left her cast aside with hairy hair bands and bobby pins- all set to foul the clothes washer and my heart.

If I apply Gloria’s rubric of casting aside categories and dwelling in the facts, maybe this is easier. Maybe I shall not expect warmth from someone with cold feet. Maybe I shall not expect interest from someone entirely preoccupied with her own life. Maybe I can wait this stormy sea out.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. You have to have sturdy legs for the tossing seas. That is why I do yoga.

#whatdomothersmake My morning hot lemon and ginger. What's your morning drink? XoS

With this post, we welcome Pippa Best to the Out blog series once again. Writing from Cornwall, England, Pippa brings her filmmaker’s eye to her writing, seeing with her words the importance of her creative life and all she makes as a result of that. Pippa and her mother Penny met me in New York City in December at the Museum of Motherhood to make FeMail art and celebrate the Anthology. Here is a video of that event, with Anthology author artist Lori Landau at the helm making a poem from found words from An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice.

All this making continues. As Pippa says, we are made by motherhood.
If you’d like to play with me on Instagram and Facebook, tag posts and images of what you make daily with #WhatDoMothersMake.

Let this celebration continue!

xo S

Poem of the Day 2.18.13 G.C. Waldrep

What Is A Testimony

Brocade of the frozen lake. Diaspora of shore ice, just waiting, wait: the boys with their skates will come, will come with their skates, will come skating. Putting on & taking off. As if there were no difference. Waiting, and wait, the weight of it

As in simple, as in mercy. The quality of which may or may not, as the ice on the lake may be: strained: by temperature, by pressure of the water, by the pressure of that which walks. By the drills of the ice fishermen. By the cutter in the channel. Each with its agenda, each winter’s addenda

Without which, say, spring would not ➔ come. (If a tree falls. If the first fragment of ice detaches, slips into and then finally beneath the current, and no one is there. To see. If

I were to step out onto the ice. And keep walking. Or skating. (Though I have no skates. It’s OK for me to tell you that, now. Though I have never. Told another. So: let us say

Walking. In shoes that slip on the ice. In shoes that just keep slipping. Not made ➔ for this. They know I am going somewhere, these shoes, it is part of their duty to apprehend the artifice of motion, though not the nature or identity of destination. No holt, no heaven. And not happy about that. Shoes are seldom narrative creatures and yet they exist, ideally, in

Pairs and laced: their(s) (a) bondage. As with ice, cinch of ice on the lake, above the current, its darker darkness, straitening of small life. Who would keep going, what fool so late in winter. In love with the ice, with the idea of

(If a tree falls. Nor was I. As you were not. No one to bring back report. And the ice held for another month, in that time and in that place. And no one was lost to the water. And yes. I was lonely. We gave thanks.)))

by G. C. Waldrep

this poem came to me via Gwarlingo’s Sunday poem post.
For more information about G. C. Waldep or to sign up for Gwarlingo posts, go here.

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