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Here, very here

Lake Superior morning
at the lake this morning

Big Bay, Michigan August 16, 2015

I often write inspired by other writing. I have learned to stand on the shoulders of other writers. I use phrases or words as diving platforms, or rocks to jump off of in to my own writing. The short piece below was written in response to Jane Piirto’s fine poem, Here, which I found in a collection of writing by women about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I use poems in this way in my writing workshops. Often, our pens need a little coaxing, something to grease the way for our own words to flow forth. So, today, I share with you Jane’s poem and urge you to find this collection of writing at your library or bookstore.  And I offer you my small piece of writing, a bit raw and immediate, but real, which is what I am after.

Here

by Jane Piirto

 

 

 

Where is the wanderer’s home? 

-Runo 24, Kalevala

 

at our grandmother’s birthplace,

in her very front yard,

here, my mother, sisters, and I

walk the very path.

 

Here, very here, this very river

in Vimpeli, Finland,

here this yellow round church,

here, this brown swift river.

 

Did she swim in it?

Here we, her American children

come to see, to feel, to touch.

No, the river runs fast and deep.

 

Here, the very view she saw here

her whole young life.

Part of her myth is

she was a very good swimmer.

 

Here, this very old church steeple,

the one in the old photograph.

Here, these new green reeds.

She would swim out to the middle of the lake.

 

She would float for hours out there

at camp in the Upper Peninsula.

Here, we are in her dream time.

After she left at 19, she never returned.

 

 

from Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

  1. ed. Ron Riekki Michigan State University Press

this poem appears on Laundry Line Divine by permission of the author

Big Bay, Michigan on Lake Superior

and my response:

Here, very here, sand on my ankles and black flies nipping, more aggravation. Here, very here, a steady wind off the bay since early when I lifted out of our dark nest to close the windows because it felt like rain.

Here, very here, just down the road through a channel of filtered light, a honeycomb of shade that we walk slowly through to nibble small raspberries, reddening despite the drought, sandy leaves, sand again and pink dirt.

Part of my myth is over across the bay above Squaw Beach in a buxomly porched clapboard house in the woods, down a stifling hallway to a curtained doorway where my 16 year old self decides to part my thighs for a boy who tells me this will hurt but it will be worth it. Part of my myth is I don’t remember pain, nor do I recall pleasure, not even do I recall a concern about birth control.

I lived part of my life on cliffs above this rolling surf, above clear waves, leviathan basalt boulders and thimble berry paths through old woods, birch, fir, oak. Do I, can I, will I ever recall, what I did just afterward? Or why I am remembering this today? Here, very here, because where else is there, really? I parted my thighs. I walked in shade, and I return to swim in these waters, among the slumbering beasts in my memory who quake and shift at my return. The trees part for my entry, welcome me with green cascades, clear waters and a Pileated woodpecker. Here, is very here.

 

 

Tomorrow I dive in to my events at the Escanaba Public Library and the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center. Then, after that, I strike off on a week of hiking with my husband and our German family. I don’t know if I will be able to post, but here are some good posts from the Laundry Line archive to stay you until I return.

On gratitude.
On dancing.
On pleasure research.

In September, my new offering Sacred Refuge Sundays will begin. And I will perform in the cast of Expressing Motherhood in Boston on September 25. I am clearing my desk for more writing time, on my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers, and blog posts here. My daughter will enter her senior year in high school and I will be making what I can from the balance of the plum harvest, from my ripening quince and whatever else the garden yields.

I send you all my love for this fine August day.

Eat berries, hug your people, and dive deep.

Xo,

S

What does your day look like today?

The view from here. Big Bay, Michigan

Mine looks like this.
A little gray. A little rain. A soft summer day in the Upper Peninsula.
This is a rest day for me. I can head hummingbirds arguing outside. I hear kids down the beach getting in boats. We are getting ready for a hike around the Lighthouse. In the UP, unless it is a torrential downpour, we head outside anyway. The landscape is just so beautiful.

As I write this, my son’s grade school chant comes to mind, led by his fearless-leader teacher who took his class outside in any weather, “Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.”

quote by Ruth Maki
quote by Ruth Maki

One of the women who attended Slow Time Salon on Superior the other day, Ruth Maki of Aura, Michigan, said something so true. Her wise words made it on to this page and I thought you’d appreciate it.

However messy the weather, may you weather it well.
With love,

S

Listening

Wander by Suzi Banks Baum

Monday Morning in Big Bay August 17, 2015

Good morning from the shores of Lake Superior.
The soft gray sky is clearing a bit.
The rooster who lives down the road has been announcing morning for the last five hours. A regular call to the day, repeated every four or five minutes. At noon, there is a wistful tone to his crows. “Is anyone out there listening?

I am listening.

Yesterday I held my Slow Time Salon on Superior here at the cottage J and I rent on Big Bay. This year, I had two very willing women, ready to write, paint and make small books. We experimented with a variety of mindfulness techniques, like Zen walking meditation, as ways to still the gleeful chatter of our busy minds, and let the quieter strains of our inner voices surface. With the sweet sound of the waves, the delicious heat (rare in these parts) to ease our bodies as I led us in a yoga flow out under the pines, and the pervasive perfume of raspberries to intoxicate our full wild selves forward, the hours we shared together were rich, supple, swift and slow, all at the same time.

Pay attention.
We are listening each other in to being.

-Sally Atkins “Tell Me, She Said”

Ruth begins painting

At one point in the afternoon, I came to a thought that startled me. I have longed to return to my homeland of the Upper Peninsula to teach. This land nourished and fed me as a young girl in to womanhood. I was multiply inspired by the water, the people, and the community in which I grew up. This is not to say that every ounce of my creative enthusiasm was welcomed. The women I sat with yesterday all touched on different aspects of our cultural inheritance as women to “pipe down” or be “seen and not heard” or to speak or behave only in ways that will not upset or offend the people we are with. In persistent and subtle ways, women are expected to abide without revealing our truths, whether that is a shout of pure joy or a revelation that points to pain.

Even typing this right now, I think I am whining. Bringing up things that are better unsaid. I am complaining of restriction that has not bound me in visible fetters. I have a good life. Who am I to say it is anything other than fine the way it is, right now?

I know this is not the case for many women. Fine is just that, fine. Narrow. Repeatable. Discreet and unremarkable.

I do not want to live fine any longer. I want to live full. I welcome what is absolutely remarkable in me, and in you. I want to rage when I feel rage and cheer when cheering rises. I want to sense that my size and scope are enough as they are, but not too much, too wild, too eager, too happy or sad.

There is a Bible verse that rings around my head, “Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.” I read that as every day has enough evil in it, why add more?

I long for my communication to be sufficient to my heart’s longing and my soul’s song. I don’t want to pipe down and collaborate in the expectation of being FINE.

Slow Time Salon at the Big Bay Lighthouse
Ruth Maki, Kathy Drue and me at the Lighthouse.

And this is why I write. Why I make art. Why I gather women in circles to celebrate our experience and express from this rich inheritance. All the work we do, whether experimental or work we polish in to finished pieces to publish or print, rises from the uncomfortable, messy, chaotic but diverse and intricately beautiful complexity of a feminine experience. From the events I have produced that celebrate the creative voices of women, and in particular, mothers, I have learned that this expression is necessary as our culture reaches towards gender equality. As my friend Jan Phillips likes to say, the volume of our cultural listening as for so very, like several thousand years, been tuned to the male perspective that it will take another bunch of years to recalibrate to incorporate the female experience.

Kathy working in to her book

So, though I have said this before, I guess I am still working it out for myself. And sitting with women in a sacred circle to make and share together puts me face to face with stories of subtle silencing supported by invisible but palpable expectations.

Returning home to the Upper Peninsula to teach about voice through creative practice feels more like an honor and hallowed opportunity than I expected when I pitched the proposal to the producing organizations. When is a writing and art workshop just a writing and art workshop and when is it a unique opening of long held stories that seek, like that rooster down the road, a rising attention?

I guess that time is now.
For all of us.

So. Stay tuned. Not every post here on Laundry Line Divine is a variation on my manifesto, but when I am teaching and witnessing the joy of connection through expression, I see joy rising. Just like the thrill with which we witness every new birth, we meet this expression with utter awe at what is revealed.

Rapid River Falls

I hope this August day finds you drenched in something that you love, sweat or blackberries or the arms of cranky children or the lustrous eye rolling of teenagers. May you relish your experience as your very own legacy.
Live it well people.
With love,

S

PS FYI and for the record-My Powder Keg Session writing workshop this Thursday is for women AND men. So if you are a male writer in the Escanaba area, know you are welcome. This writing session is about nurturing and maintaining a daily writing practice and we all need support with that! I hope to see you there.

Here is another post about paying attention.

 

And here is a link to information about my two events in Escanaba on August 20, 2015. That’s this coming Thursday. xoxS

Looking for green

Lake Michigan stones

This week my sisters and I combed a beach on Lake Michigan, looking at the stones.

First, all we had eyes for was beach glass.
We met a trio of boys, armed with jelly jars, each half full with beach glass.
The next day, we began to find stones with bits of fossil in them. Our dream find is a Petosky stone. Without an expert confirmation, we suspect we found a few.
We would hoot and cheer for stones with clear fossilized shells, ferns, or even a tiny feather.
After we cluttered the dining room table with our booty, my brother-in-law joined the search and started giving names to our treasures.
Now, at the end of the week, we sorted our stones to take a few away and offer the rest back to the sand to be worked on by time and tide.

The stones we kept picking up though, no matter what, were green.
Green bits of beach glass.
Green.

A handful of green

Our eyes sought green among the black, reds, grays, whites, shell pinks, iron red orange, Schlitz brown beach glass or the rare tawny yellow stones. We’d dust the sand off our hands and wet the stones again to see them moist, colorful, oohing and ahhing.

Green stones in my palm

I love that the green ones captured our seeking.
I suspect this is true for us as humans.
We look for where there is growth.
New teeth in a baby.
New muscles in our torsos.
New shoots on the grape vines.

What is green seeks light.
Green means go.
We go towards green.

So, my pocket is full of small green stones.

Mojo's barn in Honor, MI
My friend Mojo’s barn is surrounded by green

Tomorrow we will be in Big Bay, up on Superior. More stones to find there.
I will lead my Slow Time Salon on Sunday, then return to Escanaba to offer an artist talk at the Public Library and a Powder Keg Session writing workshop at the Bonifas Fine Arts Center on Thursday afternoon, August 20.

Aronson Island, Escanaba at dusk

How about you? Where do your eyes seek green?
Sending you love,

S

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