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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?

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.

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.


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:

“Write until the truth emerges” Mapping Motherhood in Charlotte, NC

Catherine's window Charlotte

“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

I am sitting in a sublime location.
A pair of cardinals sits within ten feet of me, dipping down to the birdbath. Bluebirds bob through the yard. The fragrance of spring with a ten-pound weight of humidity, North Carolina style, meets me at the door.

I am doing something I have not done yet, in my career as a writer, maker and teacher. I am on the road, preparing to teach Mapping Motherhood this Saturday in Charlotte. The conditions of my travel are sweet and treasured. I spent a week with my daughter in Colorado. Then, I spent a week at Penland School of Crafts in a mindfulness and making workshop. (Yes, you are correct, this is an amazing turn of life events for me…. no lunches to make at home, laundry travels with me and my work is portable)

Now I am in residence with Catherine Anderson who urges me to play bigger, to teach further afield, to collaborate with vigor and to allow myself this time away. She offers me shelter and inspiration in her studio, to be in her home, with her family, sharing her table. We are both busy entrepreneurs, building our work in the world. Catherine has been studiously at her desk all day long. Listening to the fingers fly on the computer keys or catching her shuffling through images for a collage, I see a mirror of myself.


From where I sit I can see her back yard labyrinth.
From where I sit there is green grass.
From where I sit my Mapping Motherhood notes surround me.

Tonight I will go listen to poet Rebecca McClanahan speak as part of the Sensoria Arts Festival here in Charlotte. You can read some of her poems here.


Rebecca McClanahan dream catcher

This is my tidbit of inspiration for you today.
Please share news of Mapping Motherhood with your people in the Charlotte area. I have room for 4 more women and I’d love to fill this class.  Here is a flyer to share. Mapping Motherhood Hand Out NC Final

Tomorrow, Marisa Goudy will take center stage here in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series. Marisa and I are working together in Jeffrey Davis’ Your Brave New Story. I look forward to your interaction with her post. Please do comment when it comes round.

In other Out of the Mouths of Babes news, Janet Reich Elsbach offers a-well, an indescribably beautiful post on love and loss here.

Til then, may the grass be remembering green under your feet.
With love,


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