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
Ignite your voice in the next Powder Keg Sessions: Writing Workshops for women. Special event August 20 in Escanaba, Michigan at the Bonifas Fine Arts Center. Berkshire Sessions resume in September 2015. Follow the fuse
Mapping Motherhood in Litchfield, CT
The International Women's Writing Guild is hosting Mapping Motherhood at their summer conference. Come explore the territory of motherhood with writing and mixed media. Right this way
Expressing Motherhood Show in Boston!
I am in the cast of Expressing Motherhood on September 25, 2015. I'd love to see you there. More here.
I said I would write from where I am this week.
I supposed I would be posting and writing about my upcoming workshops.
I thought I would have all this time to incorporate what I am experiencing in to blog posts that would nourish you like the blackberries I scavenge from along the forest edge.
But instead, I am stewarding a group of women through Mapping Motherhood in the mornings, diving deep in to the heart of poetry in the midday, then facilitating Salon discussions on a variety of topics. Today Kelly Dumar spoke about playback theatre.
What is happening for me is I am immersed in the heart of sisterhood. This summer I keep visiting these pools of sisterhood, leaving my home community of creatives and venturing off to make paste paper journals or inquire in to social justice through the arts or, as I will do in August, make stone cairns along Lake Superior, write and make small collages capturing “slow” like we hold fireflies. Gently. Briefly. Sumptuously.
Suzi and Suzi
I am at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference. Here is where my writing mentors teach. I get to listen to poet Myra Shapiro gather us in to a group recitation of Robert Bly’s The Black Hen. Laundry Line Divine readers know of my affection for chickens. When I am here, I get to teach, I get to study, I get to listen, living and breathing the creative life of a writer for a full week.
So, I ask you the question I have been holding and hearing all week long-
“What meaning does your story make in your life?”
How does your life express what you care for, what brings you joy, what causes a rising in you, a lifting towards light?
Sometimes it is a handful of blackberries, warm in the sun, handed palm to palm.
Sometimes it is a finely wrought poem on fresh white paper, with pencil marks all over it, as if that black hen walked all over it.
Sometimes it is the sweet revelation that comes from a simply made collage that points you towards the portal to your own inner life, towards making sense of the yearning that keeps you itching for what is yet unnamed.
I hope this post finds you well.
And that if you are intrigued by what you read here, that you will share this with a friend. There is so much comfort in finding you are not alone in your yearning.
If you are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in August, I am presenting three events. You can read all about them here. And if you are in Boston in September, I am performing here.
Until then, find me in the blackberry thickets.
a ribald clutch lets loose laughter
a serious look at who we are now
a very different perspective on humanity
an urgency long withheld, surfaces
It takes courage to write about motherhood in a culture that sets women with children on the sidelines, and it takes even more courage to give voice to the powerful emotions and fears that swirl deep beneath the surface of our daily lives, informing and sharing our relationships with our children and the world at large.
-Katrina Kenison and Kathleen Hirsch
This week I am in the thick of preparing to teach.
I am also sitting with my heart-broken son on the phone as he navigates a cross-country trip with his friends and sorts out being single, suddenly. We look up at the same moon.
I am also walking to the river again and again with my daughter, figuring out what her next steps are, if not only in to the blazingly cold clear waters of the Green river, but what of her senior year in high school?
Live your full life.
“Your body does not lie.” -Terry Tempest Williams
Your story matters.
Taking one small step for yourself today makes a difference in everything you do.
Your story matters.
Love your kids, ask for help, listen closely to the world around you, talk to each other, and be outside, every single day. Bring the littles with you.
Your story matters.
There is room for you here, even within motherhood. Take up your own space and urge your sisters to do the same.
Your story matters.
This is what I believe.
Today, I offer you a fresh post in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series by Sara Nolan. She lives what this series is all about, expressing a woman’s life within motherhood. I am so happy Sara offered this post. Please leave your comments for Sara here. I will be at the International Women’s Writing Guild this week, posting from Litchfield, CT. You can expect more Out posts and a running update from my workshop, Mapping Motherhood.
Experiment in the Mini-Essay #16- Infant Poetry has God on the Line
by Sara Nolan
I read aloud to Ronen while we nurse. Gulping is his foreground music; words are his background music. Not Hungry Caterpillar, Not Goodnight Moon– he’ll be well-fed on those classics everyone includes in an early literary diet. Instead, I’m moving through the anthology that Rick, our beloved officiant, left here for our wedding preparation: the “Winged Energy of Delight.” That’s what I want my son to know. Vallejo, Dickson, Machado, Issa, Kabir– the poet’s ardor and specificity. It ain’t Mother Goose’s regular posse.
This morning I read the verses of poet Caesar Vallejo, not so kid-tastic; his existential dreariness is leavened by the abstract, bizarre, and surreal. He’s in depressing Paris, trying to be an artist, being an artist, dying there an artist. Couldn’t be farther from my infant’s reality, but the fuzzy borders between self and world that poet and infant must traverse and explore, and sometimes be confounded by, are similar. The regular old world still reads to them both as nonsense. Vallejo’s lines also have currents of odd joy that would not be everyone’s joy, manifesting in pulses throughout his poems the way Milk lets down in pulses.
My small boy, suckling intensely, is anchored to my body while I read. Nothing could be less abstract than breast-feeding. As counterpoint to that, Vallejo writes: “I feel that God is traveling/so much in me,/ with the dusk and the sea….He is kind and sad, like those who care for the sick;…I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;/because you never smile; because your heart/ must all the time give you great pain.” Just as I read these lines to Ronen, who smacks my breast by reflex in aim-iess rhythm, my dear friend texts me a snippet from her first day in her program for a Masters in Children’s Literature and Research: “Poetry eases an infant’s transition learning division of self and world”(From her teacher Karen Coats). Yes, ease— what I want for my boy, ease.
And yet I read to him about what we all long to keep from our children, from anyone we love, or, if we have the Big View, from anyone at all– pain that cannot be mitigated. Pain that is as elementary and constitutional as blood and lymph. Motherhood brings on a special ache over this pain– when Ronen flinches and whimpers from any discomfort whose source I cannot know, as private and inaccessible as his moment of embryonic implantation, I flinch, I hurt with reciprocal depth, I grimace, I flail. I am on my knees even while standing up, on his behalf, I pray despite myself.
I feel that god is traveling so much in me, Vallejo explains. Pregnant with my boy, not knowing then he was a boy, I too felt god traveling in my body– really! Coursing through the blood, using hormones as floatation devices. Not to say that it was a comfy situation, not at all. How could it be when the infinite moves through the finite? But it was supersonic fullness, continual transit across placental hallways, mood spikes, a tsunami of creative energy working itself into compressed cellular organelles and organs and an eventual organism. Mother Mary, turns out, as special as she was, was nobody special. She was us, you and me, holding the urgent and ineffable becoming.
When John and I made love in those 9 months– when I managed to take a break from being irritated at all of humanity for which he was, in my limited, warped, delusional pregnant viewpoint, the unfortunate front-runner in my household– I’d say to our baby-to-be, this is where you come from, you come from love, and you’re coming into love. Simplistic, yes– and, if you pushed me to admit it, the world is not exactly that straightforward. But mothers fib sometimes for the sake of a good story: egg and sperm and cellular replication was involved, and the baby enters into a lot more than love– into bureaucracy (fittingly hard to spell), burrs, bumpers, a mish-mosh of phenomena. The world is inescapably complex, and not reducible to any one element, however glorious. But still, not a bad creation myth to tell your child or yourself. It is a non-sentimental kind of Love that catches the child, more absolute, more daunting.
With my boy in my arms, feeling the increasing loops of love that tether me to his funny particularities, that twine around the arbor of my body, fixed, from which he is the heavy grapes hanging, I feel something like Vallejo’s god again, that sad god who kindly cares for the sick, a person of great pain, the heavy pain that comes with separation. I feel God in the strange lumpy tissue accruing beneath my C-section incision, I feel God in the tingling that signals the milk truck has filled up the ducts, I feel God in the endlessness of diapers that seem to pinwheel off the table into the garbage, off the table into the garbage. I feel God in the way my beautiful husband razzes and strokes the baby, the way my stepsons ask to hold him and cradle his erratic head with confidence. This holiness is like water, taking the shape of its container.
Sara Nolan finds life amazing and whole, and bios awkward and partial. She teaches young people to write about their lives through personal essays, using the imagination in support of truth. Sara can be found leading classes and workshops in NYC via her education initiative, Essay Intensive, which is what it sounds like. She is also findable via the written word on her blog of sorts, Massive Missive, where she occasionally posts essays that took a long time to hatch. Meanwhile, she learns and mothers with all her might.
Summer is so sweet and so full of life.
But grief has arrived and she cannot be ignored.
We have to speak about loss.
In my community, there has been a terribly sad loss of a teen-aged girl. She is the daughter of people I don’t know well, but know in the way you know people in a small town. She is the niece of our friends, she is the cousin of my daughter’s close friend, her name is Maia, and though I don’t know that I ever saw her as a grown-up kid, I remember when she was born, the ripples of happiness that spread through her extended family and touched those of us further out from that center.
What do you do in the face of this or every other sadness we encounter on a daily basis? The surprising losses like Maia who drowned while snorkeling with her father, or the shattering devastation at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina? Each loss reveals more about us than we’d like to admit. Here, this tender dear girl who resembles so many of her cousins, thick eyelashes and a smile that stops traffic. I sense the utter sadness of her parents and I want to claw my children to my chest. I hold my prayers like shoulders leaning in to my heart. In Charleston, layers of revelation about the sinister presence of past and present oppression continue to disrupt communities. Street names, place names, flags and habit patterns bear not-so-subtle reminders of terrible sorrow.
What do we do? How broken open do we have to be before we start to take steps, remove flags, rename streets, extend a hand to another who cannot even speak for the sadness that has stopped us in our tracks?
This past week, I gathered with my sisterhood of bookmakers. We painted papers and built journals and sat in sacred circle where we wrote and shared. In that quiet held space, grief sat among us and carved a bigger space in our hearts for each other. Sitting there with bare-boned knowing, grief rubbed elbows with celebration and the agonies of our lives return from exile.
How do you sit with grief, yours or someone else’s?
What do you do?
In my town, we start cooking. People trodden down with sorrow need to eat and drink, so we utilize the online tool of Meal Train and the family eats.
In the lushness of summer, grief joins us. She edges in like a dog soaked with skunk, fragrant and impossible to ignore.
It is Sunday morning.
From the church of my heart, I send you love.
My apologies for the earlier draft of this post that misnamed Charleston. Yes, I am right with you #Charlestonstrong.
Please use this contact form to let me know you’d like to register for Slow Time Salon on Superior on August 16.
You can register for the Powder Keg Writing and Art workshop on August 20 at the Bonifas Fine Arts Center by calling them at 906-786-3833.
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”.
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.
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.
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.