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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!

By the way: Laundry Line Divine on the road

With Maike at the refugio
With Maike at the refugio

Maintaining a blog while on vacation is hard work.

The vacation I am on right now has been partly work, so work with work means that something had to go. I could be here with photos and a travelogue. But, I needed time further way from this site, just to clear my head and reassess what I am about here. There are stories to come of this summer adventure, but this morning, after a night of lightning and thunder and tumultuous dreams brought on by either our long hike yesterday and swims in the Mediterranean or by the large helping of Tiramisu I had after a late dinner, I urgently feel the desire to show up.

The path
the path to San Fruttuosa

My friend Marisa Goudy has written in to this theme over the summer of traveling with her two small girls. She and I both live with the aim to see the sunrises and sunsets, to have the conversations and interactions and nibble up the nubbly bits that make up real life with families, and live to tell the tale. We both have book projects brewing and are skating the lands of life, love and liberty while mothering as business artists.

While I have been away, my kids have been wrangling themselves at home. One has traveled with friends, navigated some thorny issues with different people in her life and prepared herself for the SAT test and as of today, gotten her self to her first day of school-without me there with a camera to freeze her briefly in time, new jeans, hair all tied back, off to school in her big girl clothes. She is a senior this year.

To the sea
where I always want to go….to the sea

The other has spent a few weeks getting ready to move in to his new digs at college. We talked this over thoroughly before we parted. What I do know is he is moved in and classes began. Whether the floor got mopped before he set up his bed, I do not know. I do know I did not mop it.

So, if what I share with you here on Laundry Line Divine is what I know, this month I know the space that happens when I take a step back from the spinning gyroscopes of my kids’ lives and let them live those lives, thorns and all, without me hovering nearby, with a mop and a solution. What I do know are some dandy struggles of my own, handled on the road, with my husband and my traveling art kit. What I do know are the tethers of my connection with both of our children are elastic and well founded because no matter how far any of us wander, we are right here, on a phone call, leaving a text, sending post cards, navigating the full spectrum of our lives, in this new way of being together.

I can’t say if I am doing any of this particularly well, but I can say that I have gotten to know my kids better this month, from a distance. I certainly have had long hours of uninterrupted thinking or not thinking, of teaching, of walking and walking, and of being with my husband and getting to those nubbly bits of our relationship and savoring them, together.

My art table in Camogli, Italy
my art table in Camogli, Italy

Life with kids and creative practice is never neat and orderly. Living it fully, on the road or at home, means some days I swim, some days I take cover from the thunder and lightning, for refuge, for reflection or just simply for fun.

Here is a beautiful piece about Oliver Sacks.
Here is a wonderful peek in to the creative process of a mother artist, Valerie Carrigan.
Here is a prayer, that, with the rain last night, falls in to my lap and assures me that in the unexpected is the wonder of real.

For this, all these surprises, I am grateful.

God give us rain when we expect sun.

Give us music when we expect trouble.

Give us tears when we expect breakfast.

Give us dreams when we expect a storm.

Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations.

God play with us, turn us sideways and around.


– Michael Leunig

Fruits of the season



Here, very here

Lake Superior morning
at the lake this morning

Big Bay, Michigan August 16, 2015

I often write inspired by other writing. I have learned to stand on the shoulders of other writers. I use phrases or words as diving platforms, or rocks to jump off of in to my own writing. The short piece below was written in response to Jane Piirto’s fine poem, Here, which I found in a collection of writing by women about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I use poems in this way in my writing workshops. Often, our pens need a little coaxing, something to grease the way for our own words to flow forth. So, today, I share with you Jane’s poem and urge you to find this collection of writing at your library or bookstore.  And I offer you my small piece of writing, a bit raw and immediate, but real, which is what I am after.


by Jane Piirto




Where is the wanderer’s home? 

-Runo 24, Kalevala


at our grandmother’s birthplace,

in her very front yard,

here, my mother, sisters, and I

walk the very path.


Here, very here, this very river

in Vimpeli, Finland,

here this yellow round church,

here, this brown swift river.


Did she swim in it?

Here we, her American children

come to see, to feel, to touch.

No, the river runs fast and deep.


Here, the very view she saw here

her whole young life.

Part of her myth is

she was a very good swimmer.


Here, this very old church steeple,

the one in the old photograph.

Here, these new green reeds.

She would swim out to the middle of the lake.


She would float for hours out there

at camp in the Upper Peninsula.

Here, we are in her dream time.

After she left at 19, she never returned.



from Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

  1. ed. Ron Riekki Michigan State University Press

this poem appears on Laundry Line Divine by permission of the author

Big Bay, Michigan on Lake Superior

and my response:

Here, very here, sand on my ankles and black flies nipping, more aggravation. Here, very here, a steady wind off the bay since early when I lifted out of our dark nest to close the windows because it felt like rain.

Here, very here, just down the road through a channel of filtered light, a honeycomb of shade that we walk slowly through to nibble small raspberries, reddening despite the drought, sandy leaves, sand again and pink dirt.

Part of my myth is over across the bay above Squaw Beach in a buxomly porched clapboard house in the woods, down a stifling hallway to a curtained doorway where my 16 year old self decides to part my thighs for a boy who tells me this will hurt but it will be worth it. Part of my myth is I don’t remember pain, nor do I recall pleasure, not even do I recall a concern about birth control.

I lived part of my life on cliffs above this rolling surf, above clear waves, leviathan basalt boulders and thimble berry paths through old woods, birch, fir, oak. Do I, can I, will I ever recall, what I did just afterward? Or why I am remembering this today? Here, very here, because where else is there, really? I parted my thighs. I walked in shade, and I return to swim in these waters, among the slumbering beasts in my memory who quake and shift at my return. The trees part for my entry, welcome me with green cascades, clear waters and a Pileated woodpecker. Here, is very here.



Tomorrow I dive in to my events at the Escanaba Public Library and the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center. Then, after that, I strike off on a week of hiking with my husband and our German family. I don’t know if I will be able to post, but here are some good posts from the Laundry Line archive to stay you until I return.

On gratitude.
On dancing.
On pleasure research.

In September, my new offering Sacred Refuge Sundays will begin. And I will perform in the cast of Expressing Motherhood in Boston on September 25. I am clearing my desk for more writing time, on my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers, and blog posts here. My daughter will enter her senior year in high school and I will be making what I can from the balance of the plum harvest, from my ripening quince and whatever else the garden yields.

I send you all my love for this fine August day.

Eat berries, hug your people, and dive deep.



What does your day look like today?

The view from here. Big Bay, Michigan

Mine looks like this.
A little gray. A little rain. A soft summer day in the Upper Peninsula.
This is a rest day for me. I can head hummingbirds arguing outside. I hear kids down the beach getting in boats. We are getting ready for a hike around the Lighthouse. In the UP, unless it is a torrential downpour, we head outside anyway. The landscape is just so beautiful.

As I write this, my son’s grade school chant comes to mind, led by his fearless-leader teacher who took his class outside in any weather, “Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.”

quote by Ruth Maki
quote by Ruth Maki

One of the women who attended Slow Time Salon on Superior the other day, Ruth Maki of Aura, Michigan, said something so true. Her wise words made it on to this page and I thought you’d appreciate it.

However messy the weather, may you weather it well.
With love,


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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