seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life raises my joy.
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
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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. Find the book on Amazon or in indie bookstores in the Berkshires. Praise for the Anthology
John O’Donohue says, “Light is the great priestess of landscape.”
Today is the second talk of our Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour.
We are in my homeland of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
My sister, classmates, neighbors; college pals, teachers and new friends are in the audiences.
The authors from An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, Kathy Drue of L’Anse, Michigan and Monica Devine of Eagle River, Alaska are joined by Terri L.Bocklund of Sykesville, MD here in Marquette today at 2 and tomorrow in Ishpeming at 6:30.
To describe the joy of doing these talks in this place would take more words and time than I have here today. Last night, in Escanaba, Terri described the genius loci of Lake Superior, the great vast “sweet sea” as the first French explorers called this place. Genius loci is the protective spirit of a place. While Lake Superior and this wild remote land can be harsh, offering winter winds that battle with all that is man made, there is also a densely beautiful grace to this location. Just this morning, cedar and birch, a Bald Eagle, 3 crows sitting close on a branch and a gaggle of turkeys greeted us.
Mary Oliver’s poem, Mindful, will say for me, what I cannot yet say.
Thank you for all your good wishes for us here.
I am off to put on my party clothes and get ready to talk.
by Mary Oliver
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
This pain in my stomach and the tears that brim, if and only if I stay quiet long enough, but really, I’d rather write, are all about my children today. One is supposedly leaving for college on Saturday. Aside from purchasing extra-long fitted sheets and a plastic basket for his toiletries, there are few signs that he will be ready to leave this house at 7:30 AM. The other is off at work where she can clean and wipe and do all the chores that she ignores here at home. She snipes that we don’t have guests any more so she can sleep on the guest bed in the living room. Now, not only do we have her shoes cluttering the floor wherever she pauses long enough to pull her feet out of them, we have her balled up shirts and crumpled newspapers on the couch, as if this room where we’ve celebrated Christmas and Solstice and Hanukkah, birthdays and meetings is now just an extension of her impenetrable bedroom upstairs.
The boundaries here are wobbly today. I took a bath and lost myself reading about damselflies and dragonflies. While soaking in water laced with Epsom Salts to sooth me, whatever part needed soothing I could not name, but I needed it, I identified the Twelve Spotted Skimmer that landed briefly on the purple phlox just off the back porch where I wrote this morning. My writing time extended in to three hours out there in my jammies because even though this is the day when I am protected from distraction, even though this is my Art Day as it has been for the past 3 years, even though I had directly stated last night and again this morning that I really need time to focus and work today because tomorrow will be busy, what with packing and all the rest, I was interrupted out on the back porch about 75 times. This included searching for the bike lock for my daughter who was in a rush to bike one hour to her driving lesson and it became my fault she would be late because I insisted on the lock. Then she left not knowing the combination but at that point, I was considering walking off the back porch myself and locking myself in the little playhouse in the back garden where no cheerful children play bagel drive-through with me anymore as I weed the red currants and winter berry. I could surely be secluded out there.
I emerge from the tub and the house is weirdly quiet. While I think they have left, all to their aforementioned pursuits, my worry is such that I think they have all hauled off to family therapy to consult over my not being ready, willing and able to ditch what has become my work and be fully available. Wouldn’t it all be so much easier if I slipped back in to my 24-hour Mart Motherhood? Let us not forget that I have contributed mightily to the going-to-college effort and steadfastly stood by while decisions were made what weren’t mine to make and pitched in my opinions where they were called for. I have hung wash, folded wash, delivered wash in tidy piles. I have helped with the list making and conversed about the schedule.
But at this point, I am pretty sure it is up to him to pack his own bags. I said that. And he did not like it. He felt offended that I would stick to my Art Day while he went off to have two lunch dates, neither of them with me.
So I am convinced that this quiet is all of them at therapy talking about the fact that I just don’t do what I am supposed to do anymore. I make boundaries and consult with them about the calendar, which they always forget. Except my husband, who never forgets, so that when a sudden thunderstorm rattles the teacups, he darts around the house closing windows and is startled by my presence on the porch because wasn’t I supposed to be at a lunch meeting. No, I say, that got canceled yesterday and I forgot to mention it.
So, pondering them all at family therapy, I eat lunch outside again because that storm has passed. My stomach feels only slightly better. I take my vitamins, and then decide on an ice cream bar for added comfort.
I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. That is all there is to this making a decision and sticking with it, my work, this work, this writing and art and time with my door closed, thanks to Virginia fucking Woolf who did not have children and I am very aware of that when, on the 76th interruption something quite beautiful happens that I would not have missed for the world.
It was a call to swim. “Can you be at Whale Rock in ten minutes?” I am thinking the rock about 3 blocks from here, sure, I can bike there. But no, he means the Whale Rock at the river, so I have to drive and I am there in 13 minutes and I even finished the row of knitting I was doing when he called me.
Would I have missed that for writing?
Would I have not painted one stroke for that dive in the head chilling waters of the Green?
Would I have exchanged his long strokes admired by two boys under ten, watching my boy the same way he used to watch others, emulating the swagger, the technique and the tug of the shorts just so?
No, of course not.
No, I would not miss that.
But, I will let him organize his own wardrobe. It is clean. There is plenty of it.
And I will be ready to drive him to school on Saturday.
I will be here when she returns from Driver’s Ed. And I will be nagging her about a helmet for as long as I live.
And today, I will stay behind this closed door because that is the agreement I have made, a family contract which may appear, as I have always appeared- flexible, resilient, malleable, changeable at the drop of a text or a hat or a tea cup.
This all makes me itch, but at least I can work now, my stomach has settled (hurray for the ice cream sandwich and the bathtub biology lesson).
The dragonfly, (mine a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella), is the symbol of metamorphosis and transformation. When a dragonfly appears, perhaps just twelve inches away from you on a morning where your tummy is tight and passing clouds gather stormy between your ears, “Its lightness inspires those who have the dragonfly as totem to use their ability to be flexible and highly adaptable in any situation.”
Perhaps I have to haul myself in to the river to chill or to the bathtub to soak. What will be the benefit of this watery existence?
Maybe a moment’s fluidity? Maybe the ability to keep a light, positive outlook on the impending metamorphosis of our family? Maybe I can emulate the dragonfly’s aerial lightness and take things lightly? Maybe even when the clouds gather?
I am willing. Virginia and me, we are willing to be changed by this watery existence. Sadly, she ended her life in the river. Me? I see my life begins there.
Happy Friday you all.
I am packing and patient today.
PS I haven’t said this in a few posts, if you like what you read here, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and got an email from AWeber about your subscription, please respond to it. I am updating my mailing list and would love to keep you on it. I send a newsletter once a month, except, well, this month because I am leaving on a book tour to Upper Michigan, where, I expect, I will see many dragonflies. Please stay in touch. Comment. Share this site with a friend. Be well.
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.
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.
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.
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.