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  • Out of the Mouths of Babes

    This blog series on motherhood and creativity explores The Village: Who else is here while you mother? Amanda Magee, Barbara Ungar, Marisa Goudy and more... The Out Posts

  • Powder Keg Sessions

    The Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions resume September 23, 2015 in Housatonic, MA at 6:30 PM to 8:00PM. Sessions are free and child-care available on request. Follow the fuse

  • Sacred Refuge Sundays

    Join me for an intimate four hour writing, art and mindfulness workshop, one Sunday a month. Taught in four month sections, the inaugural Sacred Refuge Sunday Session will be held on Sunday, September 20, 2015. Follow your heart.

  • Expressing Motherhood Show in Boston!

    I am in the cast of Expressing Motherhood on September 25, 2015. I'd love to see you there. Be in the audience!

Speechless but not powerless


I missed attending this year’s Social Good Summit, but my friend Nancy Moon did.
In this image, Moon touches on what I am feeling this morning…astonished and angry, sad and fearful about the state of our national attitude toward gun control. I have one child in college and another in high school. My life is swimming with children and teachers, on the faculties of public school, private kindergartens, day care centers and universities. And somehow, somehow, our country has come to a time where these bastions of nurturance and continuity-the way that most of our population figures out how to survive and be of service in life, these places have become dangerous, unpredictably unsafe for even the youngest, most innocent of our citizens.

How can this be?

Will you please start talking about this with your people? Will you please explore gun control issues in your communities and discuss how best to protect and care for our educational settings? And will you enter the movement of raising awareness about mental health issues? Write, call, dance on the desk of your Congresspeople. There is much to be done, my dears, so much, all over the world, and right now, right here, there is pain and agony because a young man was in pain and agony and had the means to take out his feelings on a roomful of innocent people.

I don’t know what else to say.

It is Friday. The caboose of a busy, beautiful, generous week. Let your Saturday include some speaking up.



All my love,





The sacred refuge of a September Sunday

Fruits of the horse chestnut

“Rest when you are tired. Take a drink of cold water when you are thirsty. Call a friend when you’re lonely. Ask God to help when you feel overwhelmed. Many of us have learned how to deprive and neglect ourselves. Many of us have learned to push ourselves hard, when the problem is that we’re already pushed too hard. Many of us are afraid the work won’t get done if we rest when we’re tired. The work will get done; it will be done better than work that emerges from tiredness of soul and spirit. Nurtured, nourished people, who love themselves and care for themselves, are the delight of the Universe. They are well timed, efficient, and Divinely led.”

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie



I started this post as I walked up the hill from yoga class this morning. My teacher, a guest at Lifeworks studio, Karlee Fain, quoted Melody Beattie this morning. I carried that quote up the hill. Then, at the base of a towering horse chestnut tree, I came upon these nuts. This time of year is special to me for many reasons, chestnuts being one of them. Conkers, the nuts are called. They will conk you on the noggin if you linger under the tree when the wind is blowing. (For that matter, don’t linger under the oak in my yard, as it is a banner year for acorns or the black walnut in my neighbor’s yard. The red squirrels in my garage loosen the big yellowy green pods that hit my neighbors shed roof with a startling whack. Then, the squirrels haul them in to my garage, where they are filling up every empty space they can find. In the spring, I will haul pounds of them out, because how much can a tiny little hibernating squirrel eat?)


What the red squirrel is up to

I bowed down to look at the chestnuts on the grass below the tree. I found all stages of nut happening. The pod, spiky and green, still attached to the stem. Ripe fruit lets go in to your palm. This one is not ripe. Then, a just cracked open pod. See the chestnut peeking out? It’s crowning! Then, one in a half-opened pod. And finally, one all the way out. The pod begins to dry, now that the ripe fruit has been released.

Don’t you feel this way sometimes? I do. Some parts of me are not ripe yet, not ready to be released. Others burst forth, shiny and ready for the world.

Today being the Full Blood Moon and a special eclipse, which you can read all about here, is an auspicious day to consider what is ripe within you and what needs more gestation. What is ready to dry up, like the spent pod, and return to the earth?

I could answer this question in all kinds of ways.

In my very personal life, I notice that self-hatred still penetrates my thoughts in very certain areas. I think myself wrong as the first explanation for any complication. Reading this post today, by my friend Laura Didyk, made me able to name the nagging feeling that comes up around very specific relationships in my life, where time and time again, I think I should be doing something different to make the relationship go better. It is time for me to let that nagging go. Really. If the relationship is not thriving in it’s current condition and my best efforts to shift it have not helped, it is time for me to let it go.

(as I write this post, a small vase of nasturtiums sends out a steady perfume of delicate delight. My senses sense ease, even before I do. I wish you could smell them!)


In my work, both literary and visual, there are places where I carry more than what really supports my best expression. I carry it because for so long in my life, I have felt it necessary to justify my place in the world. I have an internal meter that measures my “enoughness” and wicked self-hatred likes to ping that meter on the low side, too often. Moving my expression forward at a pace and rate that feels good is enough. The colleagues I work with, my collaborators and correspondents, the women I teach and study with, the people I play with, see this so much more easily than I do. But I learn. Slowly. Letting go of that feeling of lack feels good to me today.

And in my family life, I win the prize for worrying, projecting, warning. Not that there is a competition, but my kids have developed a way to telling me stuff that budgets for what I might worry about ahead of time. My prayer life mitigates so much of what I worry about. But there are many moments when the habit of worry sits square in my lap, between my kids and me. I wonder what our relationships would be like if I could just shift that worry over to the side? I know that I will likely always be a worrier- in part this habit is what makes me prepared. You want me at your picnic because I will have the napkins, the bottle opener, the trash bag and bug juice. And the after bite stuff. And a tick-grabber in my purse. There is a positive side of worry that is simple preparedness for many options. But worry that sees the car flaming on the roadway or the airplane crashing or the ski boots not releasing, that aspect of worry? I wonder what blessing might takes it’s place in my lap?  ( My four year old niece is obsessed with the movie Frozen, as are millions of other girls. But hearing her sing this song makes me know I can in fact, let it go.)

Having grown up in the Lutheran church, Sundays very naturally are special to me. During the years when we actively worshiped, Sundays were special but also busy. At a key point in our marriage and our family life, JNB and I decided to take Sundays at our own pace. We almost always do something together on Sundays, and outside. Today, it happens that I am on my own until Moon Circle meets for the full moon this evening. So, I can, as Melodie suggests, nurture the parts of me that feel the sting of self-hatred, or are worn by overwhelm. I unpacked from my travels, completely. I went to yoga. I am sitting outside admiring these fruits of the chestnut as I write to you. I have own our apples in the fruit dryer. There is no laundry in the washer, though a set of sheets billow in the breeze. There is a slice of gingerbread waiting for me to enjoy with applesauce. All of these acts feel generous for myself, first. And the way that I savor them means I will have more to give to my people, when next I see them. My well will be full. I have let Sunday be a sacred refuge for myself.

I like to rub the conkers with melted beeswax. A bowl of shiny conkers catches the fall light, reds and browns, making them velvety orbs.

Conker crowning

I hope that you find yourself in sight of tonight’s eclipse. And if you can, send up a little prayer for what is ready to come in to full fruit in your life, what is ready to be shed and what luster lives right around you. I will be looking up, sending love and light your way.





Expressing Motherhood in Boston tonight


I have been on the road quite a bit this season.

I love that I feel pretty much at home, as long as I can communicate with my kids-if not be in physical contact with them-and I have my journal. And my husband is near. My family and my daily creative practice sustain me.

Lake Superior cairn

So it happens that today I am in Cambridge, MA.

Tonight, I perform a monologue of mine in Expressing Motherhood in Dedham, MA along with nine other women. As it happens with women listening to these stories, we have already cried, laughed, snorted snd gasped…so pretty much we love each other already. Here is a link to tickets. If you are in the area, come. It’s going to be a blast. And there will be popcorn.

Expressing Motherhood collage


I’ll be back in the Berkshires tomorrow. Next week is the 51st Powder Keg Ramsdell Session, my free writing workshops for women at the library in Housatonic.

Happy Fall from Laundry Line Divine!





PS. Can you tell I am poking this out on my iPad? Sorry for the cryptic post. Long languid posts later.

Sally Atkins

Tell Me, She Said

Tell me, she said:
What is the story you are telling?
What wild song is singing itself through you?

In the silence between there is music;
In the spaces between there is story.

It is the song you are living now,
It is the story of the place where you are.
It contains the shapes of these old mountains,
The green of the rhododendron leaves.

It is happening right now in your breath,
In your heart beat still
Drumming the deeper rhythm
Beneath your cracking words.

It matters what you did this morning
And last Saturday night
And last year,
Not because you are important
But because you are in it
And it is still moving.
We are all in this story together.

In the silence between there is music;
In the spaces between there is story.

Pay attention:
We are listening each other into being.

-Sally Atkins, Picking Clean the Bones

Summer: Mission Possible

My Brave New Story 1

Do you have any idea what your mission in life is?

When I graduated from high school as a slightly over-confident feminist theatre student, ready to take on the world, my mission was “to have the ultimate too much fun.” The phrase was from a blues song I loved and it seemed  open ended enough to cover just about everything. I have matured in to this:

My mission is to express from inside my life as a woman who makes things and to put the tools for this work in to the hands of others.

Surprisingly though, nearly 40 years later, I could say the phrase that is in my “Class of 1976” yearbook still guides me.

This weekend I spent time on three different evenings, with three different friends- the most recent one I have known for 33 years. (Is it possible I am old enough to have friends for 33 years? How about 35 years? Or 37?)

There is a certain sort of fun that happens with these women and the men who are their lucky partners. We laugh louder, our decorum is a bit rowdy and we make choices like “dessert for all of us please” or “yes, please, I will make one more S’more” that we might not make around people we wanted to show our most shiny selves to. We walk in the rain and don’t care about our hair. At all.

Well. This weekend, I saw that this is my shiniest self. The self that doesn’t edit because I fear someone will judge me, compare themselves to me or vice versa, that all of our scary parts are welcome at the table, the questions about our lives and how we are living squeak out in to our conversation and suddenly, I am having the “ultimate too much fun”. 

Open Coptic Stitch Journal

I have friends who I have known for a brief 17 years who I am heading off for an art retreat with this week. Four days of painting paste papers and building journals by hand. I write in to the books I will make this coming week all year long, so this retreat has a sense of industry about it that carries me forward in to words and days I have not yet lived.

We will be having a ton of fun. And I wager, there will be a moment, maybe in our hotel room after the lights are out and we head off in to another round of story telling or maybe as we sit and sew Coptic stitch books where, we will discover that

in the midst of making art, what we are truly making is a life.

And that life is filled with too much fun.


Open Coptic Stitch  Journal 2


I worried until about ten minutes ago that I am too much. For my entire life thus far, I have feared that I am too loud, too big, too hungry, too big hair, too big curiosity, just too much in every single way. My arms are too big. I pack too much stuff in the car when I travel. I am too much for you to take in.

And so, I have feared, that you wouldn’t- take me in, befriend me, laugh with me, make art or maybe even make a life with me.

I am just about done with that fear.

Being with my longest time friends who have known me with a variety of hairstyles and seem to care for me despite gray, fuzzy out of control hairs, or hat hair or hair that I can’t decide whether to color again or not, I feel buoyed by their love.

This summer, my appetite for “too much fun” is taking me home to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour. We have three scheduled talks and then I am offering a daylong “Slow Time Salon on Superior: writing, art and awareness immersion in Big Bay”.  You can respond to a Facebook invitation to the event here.

My mentor Paulus Berensohn taught me this:

“It is not about making art, it is about making a life.”

You can imagine that when I met him, I did not worry, for a minute, about being too much. I knew instantly that being a woman who is a mother, a theatre person, a visual artist, a writer, book builder, jam stirrer, seamstress, knitter, gardener, singer, yogini and a bunch of other stuff including wife, community member and daughter- that the way I live is my art and my mission of expressing from inside this is what I get to do.

Trailer: To Spring from the Hand from TOTM Film on Vimeo.


Please enjoy this trailer of “To Spring From the Hand” a lush documentary about Paulus made by a devoted friend, Neil Lawrence. This peek at Paulus and the movie may entice you to buy the DVD for your library or the Public Library in your town and even to share with others in your life that are fueled by making.

But before you hop off, tell me in the comment section how you have fun…. and with whom you can have “the ultimate too much fun”. I would love to hear.

Here is all my love to you.
I will be posting from the road with painty fingers.
I trust that will be just plain old fine with you.
xo S

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