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
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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
If I offer you a word-morsel from my heart
does it matter so much, really, if you
deny my soul language?
If I believe this word-morsel is truth
what language could deny it’s reality?
If my last straw is a beginning to know,
how hard can it be to keep myself from the flames?
There you have it. We have crossed the great public divide and brought my work home.
What a joy to clean up the house this morning knowing I was preparing for the arrival of what would happen when women show up with their journals and a willingness to dive in. Sometimes I write along with everyone. Today was one of those days. We answered a prompt I read on poet, Rachel McKibbens’ website. The prompt asks you to list “your last straws”. We took this ball and carried it throughout the afternoon. The writing took on a very soulful quality. We used my new painted Powder Keg Prompts to wedge new words in to our writing. The gathered writers had a really rich afternoon.
What would you put on that last straw list? If you are in the Berkshires and want to write with us, our next gathering is November 19. I can only seat 7 women, so let me know ASAP if one of those chairs has your name on it.
It is Sunday afternoon. JNB is cooking in the kitchen. My girls are doing homework. The sun is setting on another day made good with light.
I wear it.
I knit it.
I fondle it.
I try not to buy it because of the backlog of yarn I have, but some skeins are just meant to come home with me. Two. Two! That is hardly any.
The best part of a large gathering of knitters, felters, weavers and spinners, sheepdogs and herders, shearers and farmers, is what people wear. It was almost too warm in Dutchess County, New York today. Too warm that is-for long sweaters and heavily cabled any things. Today was a day for cardigans and hats, scarves and cowls.
And, for a felted dress that two years ago was a wedding dress. Today, the young woman who wore this dress I had to admire, is a mother. This was the first time her dress came out in to the world since her wedding. A crowd gathered, for obvious reasons. Here is part of it.
My friend Crispina ffrench was there with her upcycled cotton and wool clothing. Her clothing is distinctly Berkshire and uniquely wonderful. I have worn her beautifully made clothing for years. My feet warm on a woven rug of hers under my desk.
Crispina clothed in her creations.
Crispina’s skirts are warm and fun
I would love to wear this top.
Makers stick together. We keep each other warm.
This group of women, a family, wore the same sweater that had to be captured. When I asked which of them knit the sweaters, their eyes twinkled with glee.
“Talbots” they answered in unison.
Where I am is often around other people who make things.
The joy of working with our hands means we all have something important in common, no matter how many other things make us different. The diverse crowd of wool lovers today was a reflection of the autumn tapestry.
The sun sets. Soon, where I am will be in bed.
I wanted to stop here at Laundry Line Divine.
Tomorrow is a Powder Keg Sunday Session.
I’ll be back on Monday.
I hope your weekend has some color in it.
There is a warm undercurrent in the air today, like a swirl of caramel in my friend Janet’s applesauce.
Tart with a warm vein pulsing sweetness.
I have been to several hallowed places over the past few days. This does include the Registry of Motor Vehicles up in North Adams where my 16 year old took her driving test last Wednesday. She handled a very common, but potentially dangerous situation with her understated confidence, which caused the terse RMV instructor to drop her guard for a few minutes and praise my daughter. Both of them were happily surprised and relieved. My girl went on to execute a fine K-turn and forgot to use her emergency brake when parking. She parallel parked behind a van driven by a very attractive electrician who reached for a heavy case flexing every muscle in his angled back for my daughter’s benefit. She pulled in, pulled up and “prepared her vehicle for leaving it overnight” while keeping an eye on the guy. But when her instructor admonished her for under use of the parking brake and praised her quick decision-making and passing skills, my girl was aflutter with joy at having passed her test.
I remained silent, as was requested of me, for the whole trip. She had left my back passenger window open, so I was able to send prayers freely and on the breeze with not one care in the world but to be quiet. We cheered on the sidewalk after the whole thing was over. The electrician had vanished, having hauled himself and his heavy tools in to a storefront.
Thursday, I visited Storm King Sculpture Park over in Goshen, New York. For all these years of passing that outdoor museum, I have never stopped. I was there with two friends. We painted and walked, ate apples and photographed. It was an adventure with lunch and paint.
Then, on Sunday, we took my exchange daughter in to New York City. We like to drift, so having a few spare agenda points in a long set of hours suits us all well. We went from the Upper West Side down to the site of the World Trade Center Memorial Park. There were many people there. People standing, taking photos, praying, crying, laughing, touching the water, running their fingertips over the names names names that surround the terraced fountain.
I drew for a while. This always makes me slow down and see details I might otherwise miss. I noticed people walking up to a tree, different from the Swamp White Oaks that line the park, and special for being fenced with a metal railing and staked carefully with rubber straps around it’s branches. A man stood with his hand on the thick trunk as if he was a doctor feeling for a pulse or a healer applying his energy. I stood listening to him tell the story of the Survivor Tree.
You can read all about it here. This Callery Pear tree grew on the plaza near buildings 4 and 5. It survived the collapse of the Towers and being buried in rubble for three months. When workers at the site found green shoots coming up through the piles of debris in November, they knew these signs of life were worth salvaging. The tree spent a few years at Van Cortlandt Park recuperating and in 2010 it was replanted in Memorial Park. People place offerings, wreathes, flowers in the tree, they put their hands on the tree, as if this one live thing can bless. It is a gorgeous tree. President Obama has spoken next to this tree and many people stand in hushed company with this tree daily.
I don’t know what will bless me next. A tree. A driving instructor. Golden leaves falling in a shower across my laundry line, filling the gullies made by sheets hung between the lines with leaves and pine needles. Whatever shows up has the potential to bless.
When I open my computer to write these posts, I am never sure what will touch you readers. I write to describe what life is like for me, here, in this small town, with these children, with this life and appetite to make things. I write to make sense of my experience. My longing is to express, to digest thoughts and cohere, which makes me think, Co-Hear—to listen along with you, to what traces my day.
There are so many ways to see things.
We could have seen the driving instructor has strict and authoritative, punitive and demanding. Or, we could take her instruction and enjoyed flexing our driving muscles for her to see and receive her hard won praise.
That tree, just a stumpy ruined thing, could have been discarded among all that terrible chaos. But, the signs of life, the green, and the tree’s vitality called out to the people working in that place.
There are signs of life all around us. Signs that we are on to something. Signs of vitality. I just have to be quiet enough to see them.
Have a good old week.
October feels so much like a mature person to me. I love being in its fuzzy golden aura.
I am teaching my Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions on the 15th and 22nd.
This coming Sunday, the 19th is my monthly Powder Keg Sunday Session. Please email me if you are interested in either event.
Coming up on October 31, while some are trick-or-treating, I will be at Skidmore College with the Women Writers Artists Matrix as Siren of Ceremonies for the Friday evening Salon. This weekend of art, writing and wellness is a great boost of nourishment as we head in to November and the triple threat set of holidays ahead.
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