In the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series, Debbie Baron, sister to Stella Elliston, offers us a new post on Motherhood and Creativity.
If I was to sum up the soul of this blog series, it would be in this sentence of Debbie’s:
Under the guise of motherhood lies our original creative self.
Debbie speaks to something that has been bugging me about myself for a long time.
I have for a long while been trying to figure out how to navigate my voice here on Laundry Line Divine.
I am a woman who is an artist and a writer and a mother.
I am a whole passel of other things, like wife, sister, daughter, gardener, friend, Yooper…but when you show up here on this site, you expect to find me operating as myself.
My whole self.
I have been guilty of undervaluing my mothering because I fear those of you readers who don’t have children, for all the many different reasons that is, would be offended or turned off by my work.
Then, last night, I read in Brene` Brown’s Daring Greatly this:
Be grateful for what you have. When I asked people who had survived tragedy how we can cultivate and show more compassion for people who are suffering, the answer was always the same: Don’t shrink away from the joy of your child because I have lost mine. Don’t take what you have for granted-celebrate it. Don’t apologize for what you have. Be grateful for it and share your gratitude with others. Are your parents healthy? Be thrilled. Let them know how much they mean to you. When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost.
The decision to have or not have children is yours alone. It may have caused you suffering or it may have been just what is right for you in your life.
But me tip toeing around my motherhood because I fear I will upset those of you who don’t have kids, who are here at the Laundry Line to read about creativity and seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life, about poetry, art and collaborations, or about the Berkshires or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or pleasure or all the other stuff I write about- the effort of this is giving me aches in my legs. I cannot keep this up.
After one of WAM Theatre’s Motherhood Out Loud performances, a good friend of mine leaned in to me and said, “I am surprised that I liked this show so much because I hate the topic. Motherhood is about my least favorite subject.”
I could only look at her and sense that anything I had to say, whether about motherhood or creativity or quinces, would just not be appealing to her. That is okay with me. Not everyone on this spinning planet will love Laundry Line Divine, which is about raising myself as I raise my kids. I am done apologizing for my life.
Reading those words, on page 125 in Daring Greatly, I knew it is time to own my motherhood again.
It is truly only part of who I am. It is at the center of who I am.
Whether you have felt this conflict in me at all doesn’t even really matter.
I have felt it.
And I am in the business of becoming more clear, so I can do what I do with greater agility and excellence.
Two of my Core Desired Feelings are Traction and Exquisite Excellence.
I am feeling them right now.
If you notice I have changed the tagline to this website, it is with great pondering that I do so.
I still see and celebrate the sacred in daily life, but at the heart of that is how I raise myself as I raise these kids. (even the ones that I didn’t birth)
It is scary somehow, saying this to you, but I need to lift off a filter I have laid over my work on this website. This work is one with everything else I do- with my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers or with Rampant Sisterhood: Engaging Your Authentic Voice Online.
Guess I am waking up a little bit more today.
Thank you again for all your support and comments and participation in all the stuff I have going on here.
Thanks to Debbie too, for offering your wonderful blog post, illuminating Sisterhood in a new way.
I hope this Spring day finds you full of anticipation for all you have ahead of you.
It is a cool spring morning here. I sit in my bed, back to an open window through which bird song is carried on a cool breeze, truck sounds come up the valley from Route 7, and crows talk in the tall pines. My girl and boy, my husband and our German son headed off early to hike Monument Mountain before she had to be at school. The boys and I will drive off to the train at nine. There is no way I will get this writing completed by then, but this is my start.
My Writing Process begins early in the day. I wake, pee, light a beeswax candle on my dresser, meditate and pray, read a few poems- like this one of Jan Hutchinson in Raggedy Prayers and Crooked Ladders:
Untangle your heart.
the newly freed line
out across the chasm.
Step off onto your line.
Trust yourself and the wire
you have drawn on air.
It is this simple to become
an aerial artist,
a wire walker,
imagination alone. It is like this for me almost every morning. I read my Daily Rumi. I read a bit of John O’Donohue, I read a quote or two off my email and then I dive in to a blank page.
This post is about Showing My Work…so am I giving you the details. (For a sharp, concise post about writing process, go see Jaclyn’s post . For a messy, still-in-my jammies-at-noon-post, read on.)
My notes look like this.
• You have to be a connector
• Write about Julie BG and Tania and SheWrites and IWWG and making happen what happens
• How mothers just step out of the way and do what needs to be done
• “Makes shy persons get up and do what needs to be done” The Rhubarb Eaters of Prairie Home Companion (Use photo of nubs)
• Listening to the morning and deciding- if I want this to happen I need to make it happen for myself
• “All at once I felt like an honored guest in my own life.” Julie BG
• “Give credit and get out of the way.” Austin Kleon
• “If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.” Austin Kleon
• “No matter how famous they get, the forward-thinking artists of today aren’t just looking for fans or passive consumers of their work, they’re looking for potential collaborators, or so-conspirators.” Austin Kleon
• “News from the deeply distracted” my writing about the work by mothers
This is the place that I start. I read. I take notes. I often outline but I don’t always. I start. Because I am totally in love with the blank page and the white expanse or the spaces in a collaged page that take ink and can carry a tune. This collaboration with the nib of my pen or this typing of words and this bare space, unsullied, ready to receive the nub of my being, however messy or garbled, I know that if I keep at it, things will begin to fall in to order.
But this morning, I saying goodbye to part of my family so I must get off this place and go….eat and run. At least I started. This is part of my writing process. Starting.
Now it is Tuesday.
I will answer the Blog Tour Questions posed to me by the illustrious Julie Bond Genovese. Her book Nothing Short of Joy is a beautiful story of one woman’s becoming her own full self. I will write more about that another day. But, in the community of women I have found who write from inside motherhood, Julie is a beam of pure love and hilarity. I dare you to read her post and not find yourself grinning.
What am I working on?
I am working on this blog post, on a description of my Mothers Writing workshop for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers in early June, on my Rampant Sisterhood workshop on social media for authors and artists workshop for Women’s Voices, Women’s Vision in later June and on developing my book tour for late August. If you want to host a reading of the Anthology somewhere between the Upper Peninsula and Milwaukee, please let me know. Right now, Marquette is on the list. I am hopeful to have a reading event in Escanaba, Michigan and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ultimately, I write about how I raise myself as I raise my kids. I write about seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life. I am writing my second book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Now you have me sweaty palmed. My writing is non-fiction, it is personal essay…really long essays, not classically formed essays. It is memoir. I am working on this question of where to place myself in a genre. It ain’t fiction. It is sometimes a mystery. It is sometimes poem. But it is always mine. Differing from the work of others, my writing is my voice. My voice is at times rough and tired, my writing is news from the deeply distracted- what I saw on the way to the lacrosse game and what it made me think about. It is that. Seeing from inside mothering. Others do it. Not quite like me, but they do it and I love that. We are all giving the territory of motherhood a voice.
Why do I write what I do?
Mark Twain said, “Write what you know” and when I first started out, that is what I did. But what has come is that I write what I want to know, how to navigate this time with grace and insight and humor. I write what I wished I’d had to read earlier in this lifetime employment gig we call motherhood. I write about what I love because I love it and I want to capture this world. I write to know myself better. I write to reveal myself to myself and to shed light on you knowing yourself more.
How does my writing process work?
I think I need a professional organizer to come in and help me because if you cast your eyes upon the list I have above, all those ideas, which I really love, especially about the rhubarb nubs emerging from the soil, pink tinged and vulnerable- just like a baby crowning- so fierce and so fragile- those ideas are not making their way in to this post so far. I have a ton of ideas. My writing process is usually writing from what calls the loudest to me, weaving in the inspirations that fuel me (see the list again) and aligning with the theme that has chosen me on the blog, like this month’s Show Your Work- completely stolen and chocked full of inspiration by the wordyword guy Austin Kleon who I’d love to meet sometime.
But I am trying like heck to be clear and concise today.
And I want to take a walk with Janet in the rain and talk this all over.
Because really? I write to reflect the gorgeous tearing mess of real life.
Over and over again, sliding down a hill on icy snow with Janet or laughing till I cry at Karen’s kitchen table, or weeping on the the computer keys to Tania, or highlighting Julie’s book or leaning on Lori’s counter watching my son talk to her husband or finding myself at a bus stop waving to four amazing beings who relate to me as a mother- this life is worth writing about.
“May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is love, warmth, and feeling.
May this change you.”
Next up on this My Writing Process Blog Tour are three women who ever and always call me in to real life, tickle and nourish me and stand for the work of women over and over again in their lives. They are each represented in An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice and on the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series.
Lori Landau you may have met with me at the Museum of Motherhood guiding us in a group poem. Janet is all over the place with me, with Out of the Mouths of Babes and especially in my kitchen. Monica, I get to meet live and in person for the Anthology Book Tour in the Upper Peninsula this August and you can meet here there too!
Monica Devine is the author of five children’s books, among them Iditarod: The Greatest Win Ever, a former nominee for the celebrated Golden Kite Award. Her adult nonfiction piece, On The Edge of Ice, won First Place in Creative Nonfiction with New Letters literary journal. Monica was the 2012 Alaska State Poetry Contest winner, and in 2013 was awarded for her work by the National Federation of Press Women. She lives in Eagle River, Alaska.
Janet Reich Elsbach thinks and writes about the food she feeds her family of five, who live on a small farm with dogs and chickens and sheep (in increasing order of population). That writing can be found on the blog A Raisin & A Porpoise. She edits other people’s writing whenever she is given the slightest encouragement, and teaches writing at Community Access To The Arts (CATA) in Great Barrington.
Lori Landau, who has spent her professional career as a writer and artist, has published articles in a wide variety of magazines. Her poems were published while she was still a teenager. She has written for Silicon Valley Mom’s blog, Technorati, The Middle Ages blog, Laundry Line Divine, and her own blog, ConsciousnessCreativity.com. Her poetry and essays appear in the books; The Dead Father’s Club, andAn Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In addition, her art and photography have been exhibited in several local galleries: most recently she had two solo shows at the New York City Open Center. Long inspired by Tantric and Buddhist philosophy, Landau is also certified to teach meditation and yoga. She leads conscious, contemplative meditation classes that harness the power of quantum theory, as well as visual and language expression.
I have taken up much of your computer time today.
Please share this post with a friend then head outside. Smell spring or whatever season is dawning in our part of the world.
On Reading An Account of Virginia Woolf’s Death
I’m thinking of a woMan who walked
into the waters of a river
with stones in her pockets
thinking of the waters
of the rivers of my life
thinking of the stones
in My pockets
woMen are born
with stones in their pockets
eMpty them eMpty theM swiM
–Karen Ethelsdatter, 2002
This week I have thought about symbols and treasures, what clutters my altars and windowsills, cups of rose petals and postcards wedged between sash and sill to form a gallery of goodness, messages from my friends to flag joy when I pass. As a girl I collected birds, teddy bears, baskets, and stationary decorated with rainbows.
I am very interested in decluttering, my studio in particular. In all the forms of art and craft that I am engaged obsessed with I require materials- yarn and more yarn and needles and pins, thimbles and more needles and a darning egg in a basket, hoes and trowels and jars of seeds, envelopes of seeds, and tightly wrapped tissues bearing my friend Mary’s wine dark red hollyhocks seeds still in a compact circlet of future blooms. If I start telling you about all the papery wonderment I have in my studio you may call out the Clutter Brigade. So, to ward off alarm, let us just say that I have enough vintage postage and chocolate wrappers, maps, painted papers, tickets and labels to press on to long years of collages and mail art without collecting another one. But, every bit of paper tells a story. And I celebrate stories. So, there is always more paper. If you had to select ten of your most potent symbols, what would you choose? In my Magic of Myth class, we were asked to make a big list of personal symbols, then narrow that list down to ten. I can only narrow my long list down to thirteen and I am pining away for the other 13 I had to leave behind. If I select from what I can immediately see, right here from my red chair writing spot, my top thirteen symbols all are within view. Here are the first three. And yes, I notice each numbered item contains many…these are groups of symbols that seem one.
1. Needles, yarn, thread, thimbles, fiber, felt, fabric, laundry, linen, irons, baskets, rope, clothespins, a washer, a tub, water, soap, forgiveness, redemption by the sun’s pardon, another try at this day, fresh air, pillow cases, clothes racks, drying tables, things aired out.
From this chair, my laundry line is waiting for the load of towels I put in earlier. We have guests right now, and it is a good drying day- the first of this spring. Our comforter is out on the porch railing airing out. Somewhere in me, deep in my tissues is an absolute devotion to warp and weft, fiber and symmetry.
2. Chickens…eggs, feathers, their companionable clucks, the way they follow me. Chickens stand for community to me. Other birds too. Eagles in a very big way and bluebirds. And dragonflies. The ceramic bird from Aunt Ruth and the eagle feather laid at Catherine’s feet along Ford River. The Hummel Goose Girl, sturdy girl.
Right now, or a flash ago, a bluebird sat on the top corner of our tree house, waiting its turn to dive down to the bird feeder hanging in front of the window over our kitchen sink. Since I was a little girl, fascinated with the Hummel Goose Girl on our mantle piece feeding two geese from a bowl in her sturdy arms, I have loved birds- chickens, eagles and bluebirds in particular. But it you put a pink galah in my view, I’d be in heaven or in Australia which is equivalent.
3. Rocks. I have been picking up and hauling rocks around since I met the Great Lakes. Heart shaped rocks, rocks with patterns, fossils in them, holes through them.
I have been thinking and thinking of the stones I collect, that I ring garden beds with, tip in to small sculptures in beautiful places, make honoring cairns, how I carry them and set them upon my altars. Karen Ethelsdatter’s poem, reaches me. How I shed the stones as a memorial for our words and our stories. I don’t know how to find this poet, I have searched for her. If anyone knows of her now, let me know.
This is the first of my thirteen top symbols. The others I will write more about. But what I would love is if you’d tell me about yours. What objects tie you to something deeper, older, resonant in your life.
What do you line your windowsills with or find in your pockets after a walk? Acorns? Leaves? Feathers? or what do you prowl tag sales and junk stores for? Typewriters or lamps, oilcans or pitchers? My best friend Benita collects Fiestaware, which counts for a symbol in her life because she is one of the most naturally social person I know, creating gatherings, making family and community blossom around her table set with bright-colored tableware, like a garden full of bursting zinnias.
Do share with me in the comment section here some of your symbols. Extra credit goes to the person willing to post a photo of one or two of yours, With Disqus it is so easy!
I am not the one to read these symbols for meaning beyond my own. There are many who could do that expertly. For me, interpreting the bearing these objects have in my daily life, and in the broader span of my journey leads me to an understanding of what is important to me and why.
Lastly, if I could pick my family up and put them in my pocket, I’d be holding the most important symbol of all to me:
connection, togetherness, communion.
And that is why I am off to lunch and a walk with my German son.