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
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
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
These enchantments are medicinal, they sober and heal us.
These are plain treasures, kindly and native to us.
We come to our own, and make friends with matter…
Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays: Second Series Nature
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On this day twenty years ago today I was very pregnant.
I was uncomfortable in the best of ways.
My body was tuning for a symphony that has played on for winters and summers and falls and many, many revitalizing springs.
I have become, my 5’7” frame, wide thighs, strong arms- an orchestra hall with acoustic panels surrounding the conductor, my heart.
This symphonic alignment of my being began with a newborn devotion to love, to my husband and the possible future we conceived before we had an iota of an inkling of how this musical passage would alter the course, the texture, the foundation of our lives forever. Forever, that is, being from that moment until now which has every indication of momentum, of forward motion.
I have learned, while caught in this musical reverie, to be more present, to drop my prospective planning of future to settle in to the melody of now.
This journey, the playing of the symphony of motherhood in my life, in the concert hall of my body, in the acoustic sphere of my emotional life, in the reverberant sound waves that pulse into the world around me has called me in to a vivid kind of listening.
20 years ago, I found myself in the scarlet velvet seat of mothering and I have not tired of the changing melodies, the sonorous undertones, the minor keys, dissonance and cacophony yielding to mellifluous tones.
I have questioned at timorous times whether I could trade my seat for a better view or perhaps a different composition. I have wondered if I could just turn the sound off or at least lower the volume more than many times.
But this all penetrating, relentlessly consistent world of sounds is as steady as sunrise. It has the beauty of Yeats:
“I thought of your beauty, and this arrow
Made out of a wild thought, is in my marrow.”
The music is that close to me, so close it is within me. I pulse with it. Even twenty years in.
Poet Alicia Suskin Ostriker wrote in a poem,
“Oh young mamas
no matter what your age is you
are born when you give birth
to a baby you start over
and both gently, just slightly
separated from each other
like a vine, like an oriole’s nest”
I might doze through a passage, I may flat out sleep through an exciting part, but when I wake the symphony reels on, playing in and though and around me. Curious to me is the fact that no one else hears my symphony of motherhood. They witness the effects of its playing, catch wafts of sound when the breeze carries it just right, but on the whole, I am the only one who hears this sound. I venture to guess each of us have our own symphonies, the ones struck in to our mothers and fathers and the ones that are struck in to us each as parents. This symphony is an ocean of sounds waves that permeate every single thing I do.
So, when 20 years ago, my husband performed the ubiquitous duty of parking the car on 7th Avenue in Greenwich Village at 4:35 AM on a Sunday morning, I clung to a parking sign post that prohibited him parking right there, but provided me with an anchor. I was lost to all social decorum. Lost to the delicacies of how people behave on a city street, albeit the wild frayed edge of morning on a warm July weekend. My bare hot hands pressed in to the green metal, sharp-edged and evenly punched with holes that I could peer through between contractions.
I felt a wave of sound coming at me. I braced myself, as if that parking sign post was the mast of a great ship, bow heading right in to the wind, musical notes pelting me, an unfamiliar melody that now, 20 years later is the sound of my cells.
I sailed in to motherhood and I live in the symphony, square in the center of this haunting, startling, heart-breaking beauty.
This morning I was struck by this phrase from John O’Donohue’s book Beauty.
“Each of us is aware of certain threshold times in the lives of our hearts when such thoughts arrived and changed everything.”
Our son, my boy Ben, is in Munich, warm in the arms of our German family. If he cannot be here, eating blueberry buckle for breakfast, then him being there is a comfort and joy for us both. I will spend the day listening to the current measures of this music, the ones that carry his voice over the airwaves or the cadence of his speech in a text.
Hey Mom. Just wanted to hear your voice.
Mothering is about sound, about hearing, and about listening.
Thank you Ben for bringing this music to my life.
Twenty is very good.
Very good indeed.
That segment of the Alicia Suskin Ostriker poem, Propaganda Poem: Maybe for Some Young Mamas, appears in her book, The Mother/Child Papers, published by University of Pittsburgh Press 1980, 2009. You can find it here.
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.