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?
There still is a 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.