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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

    Ignite your voice in the next Powder Keg Sessions: Writing Workshops for Mothers and Others. I lead two different Sessions in the Berkshires. Follow the fuse

  • Mapping Motherhood in Charlotte, NC!

    Come explore the territory of motherhood with writing and mixed media. Space is limited. April 18 10 AM- 4PM Right this way

  • Anthology of Babes is here.

    Do you feel alone in your mothering? 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. Read on

Finding ourselves in motherhood

The daffodils this morning Penland 2015

 

 

If there is nothing new under the sun, then what do I tell the daffodils this morning?

If you have already heard it all before, then would you believe me when I tell you that the horse chestnut across the street has buds on it that look for all the world like taffy apples?
If I am too old, young, fat, slim, boring, overwhelming, inexperienced, over-experienced, naive, worldly, inarticulate or poetic, romantic, practical, extravagant, picky, loose-goosey, oat-ey, sugar addicted, acid balanced, sensual, turned-off, natural, manufactured, organic or consumer-mad and hybridized, then what the heck is the point of all this writing and art making?

Well.
There still is a point.
My point.
The point that is me.
The point that describes my particular vantage on being human.
For this, and for all the reasons that make me who I am, and make you who you are, creative expression is worth brushing your teeth for and getting going in the morning. You may or may not have a coterie of little humans waiting for their cereal in the kitchen every dawn. You may or may not consider creative expression worth the effort it takes to get out your watercolors or even more extreme, register for a workshop.

But maybe you know the ease of wet blue over a succulent piece of paper, where pigment teases out in to the fibers, describing just the way that cloud looks over the copper beech on the hill. Or maybe you know the particular phrase that captures just your brand of loneliness, to a tee, to “a covered basement window” or a “tippy house-of-cards.”

Last night as I filled three thermos for the Powder Keg Sessions at the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic where I teach three Wednesdays a month, I thought about all the women who have sat at that big oak table with me. Over 40 different women have gathered. The steady core of 8 offers a mandala of welcome to the other women who float in and out of our form. One of our core just had a baby, a child, a new being whom we all claim Auntie-hood too. Especially after knowing how longed for that child was, how written in to being that little miracle is.

I read a review of a new memoir by Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness from GrayWolf Press in the New Yorker today. The reviewer, Alice Gregory, draws us in to a reflection on the daily practice of journal keeping. Sarah Manguso, the author, has kept a diary for over 25 years. It is over eight hundred thousand words long. In the meantime, Sarah has written two other memoirs, two books of poetry, raised a family and lived a full on life. But her journals are, what Virginia Woolf describes as,

“a token of some real thing behind appearances.”

Woolf says journal writing can

“make it real by putting it in to words.”

I heartily agree. Gregory suggests that Sarah Manguso has achieved one goal of memoir, which is to “communicate to others a private sense of what it feels like to be you.”

This phrase caught my breath. Last Saturday, I taught my Mapping Motherhood workshop in Charlotte, NC. I was in the studio of my prolific and wonderful friend Catherine Anderson, photographer, writer, teacher, mixed media artist, labyrinth facilitator and Soul Collage instructor. Catherine is a full set of colors. She is a deluxe experience. To be with her, we exchange daisy chains of poems and ideas, sparring with each other, sharing insights about teaching and presence, sharing tea selections and styles of

Mapping Motherhood table in Charlotte, NC
Mapping Motherhood table in Charlotte, NC

art material storage, of which we both have a bounty.

I taught the workshop and followed the plan I had very carefully thought out. The participants very willingly ventured to write and illustrate a bit of their experience as women who mother. We bounced from the literary to the visual, letting one inform the other. My aim was for them to dip in to the value of their experience and to draw from that experience writing that could seed more art making and art making that could inspire more writing. That move from visual to literary allows memories and connections to reveal themselves. I hear women say,

“I never thought my story was important. Now I see how it is.”

Establishing value in our lives is a very important healing. Particularly for women who mother, who are often the last on the list of valued professions. Just take our pay scale as evidence of how our culture values mothers. Or our vacation pay or social security benefits.

 

A woman does not have to be a biological mother in order to be an initiate into the maternal aspect of the Goddess; it comes through her own embodied maternal and feminine nature.

-Jean Shinoba Bolen

Women mother for a variety of reasons, for a big book full of reasons. Some women decide that motherhood is not for them, and they mother others-nieces and nephews , businesses, books, pets. The territory of motherhood is not an exclusive golf club. It is an expanse of geography that we all experience, men and women alike as children of mothers. I have heard some of the most poignant responses after my Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others from the men in the audience. There is value here for everyone.

Women mother because we love it. Or we hate it but do it out of responsibility or expectation or because this is what we always dreamed we’d do. We juggle. We balance. Some lean. We fit it all in and live to tell the tale.

This is why I believe in the value of all women’s stories. For me, tracing the real, tracing what I notice in the small people who become big people because of the nurturing I offer, the communities I build around them, because of every single sock I have washed and lost or found but paired and inched up and over stubborn heels. What goes on inside me while caught in the act of mothering is worth recording.

We have to hear the stories of women at all ages of their lives in order to really present a picture of what it felt like to be alive in our time. That’s what our job is as writers is to present that and create it.
-Marsha Norman
playwright and screenwriter

Motherhood has meaning.
I stand for that.
And in my workshops, even though I am often left with the ache of “we only touched the tip of a very big iceberg” I know that value is established. A “there” is located. Our experiences gather meaning. And meaning builds coherence. And coherence means that I am here for a reason. I matter. I am more than the corsage you give me on Mother’s Day. I am a human and I made a difference.

 

The Chataqua Trail in Boulder 2015

And I am witness to inordinate beauty. Like the line of sweat I see appear on your upper lip as we hike a trail in to the mountains. I know those rosebud lips. I watched them suckle. I have seen them spew venom. I have heard poetry shaped by those lips in to ineffable air.

Catherine in the Canyonlands of Utah by Claire Maurer
Catherine in the Canyonlands of Utah by Claire Maurer

This is why I map motherhood.
It is why on Laundry Line Divine I am contemplating my new tagline.

Laundry Line Divine: Real life, inspired community, sacred connection.

Does this make sense?
Let me know.
xoS

The making of Mapping Motherhood

Mapping Motherhood: A writing and mixed media exploration of the uncharted territory of women's lives.
Mapping Motherhood: A writing and mixed media exploration of the uncharted territory of women’s lives.

Good Friday afternoon.
There is a chill in the air on this rainy afternoon in Charlotte.
My preparations for my Mapping Motherhood workshop continue.
But, in a week of work, writing and planning, I have carved out some artful playtime with my host, Catherine Anderson. We visited The Hive in Gastonia, NC yesterday and were inspired by a line of greeting cards made from images of collages that were sewn and glued, and imbued with a message.

One of the many things Catherine and I share is a passion for sewing. Her machine is out and we have made a giant mess.

How about you? What giant mess are you making today?

I am sending you love today, love to your mess, love to your journey, your work, your planning, and love
for your spring afternoon, wherever it finds you.

xoxo,
S

The Village: Marisa Goudy

Time For All Things Dog Marisa Goudy

A Time For All Things in the Life of a Dog

“Saoirse! Saoirse!” I call over the flat chill of an autumn lake. “Freedom! Freedom!” I am yelling like some warrior from Braveheart. But I am not a wielder of sword or shield. No, I am one of the women, babe at the breast, who stays at home and keens at wakes and tends to the needs of a distracted old dog.
When we sat in a Galway pub and decided to saddle this then-puppy with a name that was the Irish word for “freedom” we didn’t concern ourselves with the briefness of dog years. We didn’t consider the inherent tragedy of the big breeds, the way they slow down after barely a decade of devoted, slobbery love. Back then, we certainly did not imagine that the little Labrador my parents had adopted just before their trip would outlive anyone at that table.
My folks were visiting me in Ireland after I finished a so-so year at graduate school. My grandmother, fading from cancer, was back home in the States caring for the new four-footed family member. Our country was still making things up as it went along in the wake of 9/11 and the anthrax scares. All was not necessarily right with the world, but that night we had Guinness and laughter. We shared the unspoken belief that everything under heaven (which, at the time, we would still have considered benevolent enough) had its season.
Saoirse was always a sweet-faced chore. Out of pity for the folks at the vet’s office, Mom came to spell her name phonetically. My Gaelic-loving soul hated the look of “Seersha,” but this was the first of countless accommodations my mama would make for her one hundred pound lap dog. One might say that my mother’s love for her dog was reasonable enough. Saoirse’s name was never signed to the Christmas cards, but she was always permitted to disrupt dinner by yanking on Mom’s sleeve until all the attention (but none of the table scraps) was lavished upon her.
Their relationship had its rough spots, as all committed ones do. When Mom’s “sweetie girl” would follow her around, panting relentlessly through the hot summer days Mom would growl, “Saoirse, get out of my life!” The exasperation never did outweigh the devotion, however, and when Saoirse moved in with us two weeks after Mom’s funeral, my husband and I worked hard to keep our own frustration from overwhelming our love for a dog who’d lost her soul mate. Plus, it was comforting to know that we were not the first to tell the poor thing she was the most annoying creature alive and then cover her in apologetic kisses a moment later.

My Place at the End of the Leash

To adopt a person’s animal totem is to take on some of their magic, the medicine women say. As I learned to mother a baby and a dog without the help of the charms that my own mother never had a chance teach me, I could only hope that taking Mom’s place at the end of a lunging dog’s leash would set me right with the spirit world. Against my will, I learned that there’s a time for birthing and for dying, for planting and for tearing into that which we call hallowed ground.
It was my father who stood at the head of the church and incanted in his best businessman’s voice “There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.” This passage from Ecclesiastes that has soothed countless mourners does continue beyond those well-known lines: “For the fate of human and the fate of animal is the same: as the one dies, so the other dies; both have the selfsame breath. Human is in no way better off than animal — since all is futile.”

I can understand that they don’t tell pews full of the bereft that all is futile – not when the intention is to comfort us with talk of a divine calendar that dictates our passages and embraces, our laughter and our weeping.  And yet, it’s hard to accept this chapter’s consolation when you can easily spot the flaw in its logic: the fate of a human and her animal is not the same.
You may argue that the most vital part of Saoirse was buried with her mistress deep in the ground, but when she dashed around the edge of a mountain lake, anyone could tell she was still very much alive.
We shared a distrust for still bodies of fresh water. There is too much left to chance when there are no ocean waves to sweep all of the monsters away. During our time together I pretended that I could modulate my voice so it caressed her name just like it did when Mom called her. Saoirse pretended that she is still that puppy we named in that half-remembered pub and that my love was enough for her.
Our dog has long since gone to join our mother. This new reality feels almost normal. Still, I’ll never be free of that bit of chilly comfort that closes the Old Testament verse we all think we know so well: “No one can tell us what will happen after we are gone.”

 

 

 

 

Marisa Goudy headshot

Marisa Goudy is an author and writing coach who supports creative entrepreneurs as they tell their stories and write their way to sovereignty. A Cape Cod mermaid at heart, she now live in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two girls, ages 1 and 5.

Follow her #365SovereignReality project on your favorite social media platform.  Every week, Marisa offers up The Sovereign Standard, publication that furthers your quest for a sustainable livelihood, a compelling message, and your share of everyday creative magic. To subscribe, please visit: http://marisagoudy.com/the-sovereign-standard/

Mapping Motherhood workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina April 18, 2015

 

Mapping Motherhood
Mapping Motherhood image II

A writing and art workshop

with Suzi Banks Baum

Saturday April 18, 2015 10 AM to 4 PM

At Catherine Anderson’s Studio
Charlotte, NC
$95 includes lunch and materials

 

 

Did you get that beautifully made map all midwives and obstetrician’s hand out to newly pregnant women? Did the adoption agency place that treasured Map of Motherhood in your hands when you learned of your soon-to-arrive child?
What? No map?

 

That is because, my love, there isn’t one. There never has been. Until now.

 

Led by writer, maker, and mother Suzi Banks Baum of Laundry Line Divine, Mapping Motherhood is an art and writing workshop that requires your expertise in neither. Bring your willingness to artfully quest in to the regions of mothering that you are now in, have been in or dream of inhabiting. We will illuminate our personal stories with writing prompts and mixed media art techniques to create an illustrated folding map.

Suzi Banks Baum author photo

 

 

 

 
Please invite your sister, mother, daughter or friend.
This intimate workshop will be a wonderful way to share an early spring day, catching yourself in the act of making. Please use this form to contact me about registration. The form I had here previously has driven tons of spamming email in to my inbox. I will email you back within 24 hours to give you instructions for registration and directions to the studio.

Thank you!

Suzi Banks Baum

 

What I Am Not Waiting For

Spruce Lake Water Lily

I am not waiting for the laundry to be done or the floor of the bathroom to dry out from the deluge of a passing 16 year old, nor am I waiting for inspiration to strike or this malaise to pass. I am not waiting for the garage to be organized or the pollen to get washed out of the air. I am not waiting for a clear idea of what to write, for acceptance or comment by my writing peers or for the squirrels that are chasing each other’s very flouncy late summer tails up and around the oak to settle down. Neither sink nor washer, refrigerator shelf nor unfinished projects on the dining room table can dissuade me from my primary spiritual aim today, which is to write.

I was just about to skip it.
I was done with my daily writing in my journal.
The wash waits folding.
The project I am sitting on is pressed and ready for the next steps.
I got up and as I walked in to the house there was this little laptop.

Sitting on the counter, getting juiced up, the red-sleeved metal box said nothing. But I have a Pavlovian enough response built in to my body that I knew to pick it up. Pick it up. Open it. Pause in Facebook long enough to see Holly’s invitation for daily writing prompts, which I hoard and use, usually, but do I really need another when this phrase does it for me?

“Many writers wait to begin writing until the laundry’s done, children are in bed, or their day job is less stressful. Don’t be one whose life passes while you harbor a secret wish to see what happens when you really apply yourself to your art.”

I have been really applying myself to my life, which includes my artwork, for seven years. Before that, I lived my life as a full time mom, managing community projects, and teaching gardening at my kid’s school and maintaining this home front while my husband worked in his office in the attic. I had spent years studying and then teaching yoga. I had clocked hours of service work. I attended a regular Al-Anon meeting and had to tame my urge to do more in every one of the situations I was engaged in. I went from helping with the parent education program at my kids’ school to running it. I went from being on the Strategic Planning Committee at that same school to co-leading the Parent’s Association and clearing a few years of backed up resentment that had collected around that organization. I was hungry and appetitious.

But these community efforts, while immediately rewarding for the direct human impact, did not satisfy me deeply. They were temporal offerings in a grand cycle of re-inventing the wheel that spins within many organizations. I was useful and purposeful, but others had done it before me. Others would see the need and follow after me.

I longed to have a more singular purpose that could be executed within the boundaries of motherhood, but that I hoped would bring more of me forward, more of what I know to be true.

I increased the time I spent writing. My daily journal keeping was a steady feature in my life. I added more writing by taking a class that met one Saturday a month. Like Holly suggests, I made writing a priority before phone calls and meetings. I began to organize my days so that I had a few chunks of writing time a week. Eventually, my husband agreed to cover the home front one day a week so that the fluctuating needs of parenting, which are so immediate and necessary and unquestioningly important would be covered by him that day. On quiet days, that meant he worked in the car while waiting for the guitar lesson to be done. On busier days, that meant he was the one making lunch for the sick child or waiting in the doctors office or attending a school meeting. Something had to give so that I could clear my day and focus. And what gave was my husband.

Truly, there were Thursdays he could not cover. There were snow days when I got an unexpected gift of a few hours alone while they went off to ski. There were Saturdays when I stayed home and wrote instead of doing the myriad things families do on weekends together. I began to make space for my writing. My family survived.

This habit, as Holly includes in her invitation for her daily prompts in September, does what Twyla Tharp says, “Skill gets imprinted through action.” By making my writing a habit, my skills began to change. I started attending workshops and classes and went to conferences. I am still in the soup of this skill building today.

I don’t wait anymore. I don’t wait for all the right conditions to be met for me to work. I just work. I teach. I lead workshops. I give talks on the creative lives of women, mothers in particular. I lead this blog series. I produce events. I study. I mentor. I have colleagues and sisters. I have found, built and participated in a growing community of creative women.

 

Here is the Slow Time Salon on Superior workshop women. We took a lovely walk to the Big Bay Point Lighthouse after lunch.
Here is the Slow Time Salon on Superior workshop women. We took a lovely walk to the Big Bay Point Lighthouse after lunch.

 

Ultimately, I am writing my first book, which offers a magnetic invitation into the life of a woman who rescued her voice while mothering. My current blurb is: “Discover the wild treasures of daily life in Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.”

What waits for you?
What do you choose to do daily?
In those pockets of time in between, do you feed your appetite or squelch it?
What would change in your life if you made time for your creative spirit to play?

I believe that mothers are the most creative folks around, the unsung heroines of creative thinking. Just listen to one tired mother sing a homespun lullaby to her babe, while another part of her brain dreams up a solution to the story she is mulling over. We play at the portal of creative life all day long while raising our children. But in my experience we fail to value this play as important action. The very base activities that mothers engage in are springboards. But, for generations, mother’s voices have not been considered of interest to our greater culture. This is changing, but it is not changed entirely. For every woman I speak to who has begun to engage her own voice to express from inside motherhood- however that takes form, there are five women who cannot even contemplate how they’d spend an hour off from their regular routine of child-raising, career building, and home tending. There is shyness in many women, branded with this question, “What could I have to say? I am just a housewife. I am just a social worker juggling two part time jobs and picking my kids up at the day care center. What does the world want to know of my existence?”

Waiting for confirmation that the world is interested is akin to waiting for the house to be clean enough for you to sit down and write. You might as well just plop in front of the TV and let the people who come for your dead carcass turn it off as they carry you off to the mortuary.

Louise Erdrich’s poem Advice to Myself is a call to action that I answer every single day. I write permission slips for myself on the days when I need an extra boost.

… Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button. …

 

I am not saying that we are all going to be the next Beyoncé or Elizabeth Gilbert by prioritizing time for creative play. I am not suggesting that the very next thing that flies off your knitting needles will be placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I am saying that by engaging your creative voice in whatever way calls you, you will begin to lead a happier, more fulfilling life. You will feel more engaged with what inspires you because you will be able to hear what your inner appetite craves. Ideas will bubble up because you have made room for them. Stories will spin from your pen because you have told yourself that this action is necessary to your joy. Your life will gain an authenticity of which you did not know you were capable. And, you will be a better person, parent, sister, daughter, son, husband, brother, aunt, uncle, unicorn, because you have decided that what you have to say is worth saying.

You are worth the time it takes.
Here, a permission slip just for you.
Download this image, print it out, frame it and hang it by the kitchen sink or glue it in your journal. Prioritize time for yourself. Subscribe to Holly’s September prompts if that calls to you.

Permission Slips 1

 

 

 

There.
Now I shall step off this soapbox and get to that laundry.
All my best,

Suzi

PS I will tell you that this malaise has passed since writing these 1470 words, give or take. And the guilt about the hours spent lurks like a hungry woodchuck, pressing forward even when I have successfully kept it off the lusty cabbages for a few hours. It exists. And in this world, I write.

PPS I would be remiss if I did not say all this and not invite you to my Wednesday evening Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions from 6:30 to 7:45 PM. We meet at the Ramsdell Public Library in Housatonic, MA. The Sessions are free. The library has a lovely children’s room so that if you need to bring your kids, they can be engaged for that period of time. My Powder Keg Sunday Sessions begin on September 28 here in Great Barrington. I charge $30. for a three hour monthly Session. Email below if you are interested. And if you are far-away from the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, then please subscribe to this site. It is my hope that you find nourishment for your creative life here.

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