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This heart is made of many

June Mandala

It is the time of year for visits. Last night I watched my girl play Oh Hell, Bridge with my best friend Daniel. She is not quite the age I was when met him, but close enough to allow me to see myself in her, learning, daring, challenging and laughing out loud with him. Daniel and I have been soul mates since we met, and to see my daughter forging her own friendship with him is quite a gift. The same is happening with my son, who is making his way across the U.S. by camping and visiting friends with his two travel mates. This past week, my best friend from high school, Mary Erin, housed the guys near San Francisco. Knowing Ben was under her roof and within range of her brilliance gave me so much comfort and delight.

I stand before you with a full heart today. I am freshly returned from a week with the International Women’s Writing Guild. I led my Mapping Motherhood class with a brave group of women willing to turn their attention inward and write from their own rich resource. They made maps using a wild variety of mixed media techniques, messy and intuitive work that draws out fresh language about women’s lives as mothers. Here is a little slide show of my week, including views of my beloved mentor, teacher, friends, Myra Shapiro, Marj Hahne, and Dorothy Randall Gray. The leaping photos are from our Playback Theatre Salon with Kelly DuMar. Catherine came to visit on the first night of our open readings. (Another big joy moment.)

I am packing, again. Oh I am home enough to pick berries and can one batch of jam, to tend my tomatoes, take chilly dips in the river, ponder my elderberries and upgrade my art kit. Then, later this week I head to Michigan for a visit with my family and to lead three events in the Upper Peninsula. You can read more about those here. If you know of friends in the UP who would be intrigued, please share this post with them.

Another thing I do when I am home is make Canang Sari offerings. You can see them at the beginning and ending of that slideshow.

I make these small gratitude offerings in my back yard. I make them whenever I feel drawn to a few minutes of meditative presence in my garden. I make them when I am about to embark on a project or adventure. I use them to illuminate my gratitude for the great joy I have in my life, with my family and friends, with the teaching and writing and art I get to do these days. There is something very healing about making tangible the prayers that sing through me all day long. My friend Ursula first laid this particular collection of stones last September. I have added stones to it from rivers I have swum in, my owl stone from IWWG, and what my friends share with me. Brenna Layne shared a box full of her shell collection. I look forward to creating with these small gifts from the sea that washed up to her hands, that she has savored for years and now, allows me to enjoy.

This practice of gratitude offerings is something I will be sharing in my upcoming new offering, Sacred Refuge Sundays. These once a month workshops will replace my Powder Keg Sunday Sessions. I will continue teaching the Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions at the Ramsdell Public Library from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, three Wednesdays a month. I have longed to integrate more tangible visual work with writing with my students and Sacred Refuge will do just that. This past June I spent a long weekend with Lisa Sonora of The Creative Entrepreneur. Over the course of our time together, I began to envision this Sacred Refuge as the next work I want to share with the world. I will open registration for this class within the week. My regular writing students will have first dibs on the seven seats available. I will offer another round of Sacred Refuge again in February 2015.

I wrote this in a post earlier this year but I feel like it is time to say it again:

Your creative fire is not a luxury.
Your creative fire is necessary for your health and well-being.
Your creative fire needs no apology.
You may look at people who work in what we generally call creative work with envy. Why do they get to do this while I am standing behind a cash register at Wal-Mart?

Truly, we are all at different points in the engagement of our creative muscles.
But we are never more than a breath away from assuring ourselves that our fire burns and though it may look like we’ve forgotten this blaze while sunk in the mire of active parenting, maintaining careers and family life, we have not.


Wherever you are in your life today, mired in difficulty, swimming in bliss, it all counts as real.

Your confusion is not pathology, it is a path. If you will provide sanctuary for what is rising in you, you will unlock radiant jewels hidden in the darkness.
-Matt Licata

Your jewels.

Those are the gifts, like Brenna’s shells from the sea, that wash up when we pay attention. Writing and art are how I do that. Some of you make cakes with this same awareness, while others of you lead businesses, families or foundations that blaze with your full presence. The world benefits from the restoration of feminine lives being lived full out. I hope you know the blessing that you are in the world.

So. My heart is made of many. My students at IWWG and my writing peers and mentors. My dear friends who offer shelter to my adventuring children. My sisters about to bake cakes and celebrate another year of full lives while we pause together on the shores of a great lake. And you, my dear readers of Laundry Line Divine.

I look forward to what this coming year will bring.
With love,

S

Blackberry summer

Wisdom Housekeys

I said I would write from where I am this week.
I supposed I would be posting and writing about my upcoming workshops.
I thought I would have all this time to incorporate what I am experiencing in to blog posts that would nourish you like the blackberries I scavenge from along the forest edge.

Mapping Motherhood altar

But instead, I am stewarding a group of women through Mapping Motherhood in the mornings, diving deep in to the heart of poetry in the midday, then facilitating Salon discussions on a variety of topics. Today Kelly Dumar spoke about playback theatre.

 

What is happening for me is I am immersed in the heart of sisterhood. This summer I keep visiting these pools of sisterhood, leaving my home community of creatives and venturing off to make paste paper journals or inquire in to social justice through the arts or, as I will do in August, make stone cairns along Lake Superior, write and make small collages capturing “slow” like we hold fireflies. Gently. Briefly. Sumptuously.


I am at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference. Here is where my writing mentors teach. I get to listen to poet Myra Shapiro gather us in to a group recitation of Robert Bly’s The Black Hen. Laundry Line Divine readers know of my affection for chickens. When I am here, I get to teach, I get to study, I get to listen, living and breathing the creative life of a writer for a full week.

So, I ask you the question I have been holding and hearing all week long-

“What meaning does your story make in your life?”

How does your life express what you care for, what brings you joy, what causes a rising in you, a lifting towards light?

Sometimes it is a handful of blackberries, warm in the sun, handed palm to palm.
Sometimes it is a finely wrought poem on fresh white paper, with pencil marks all over it, as if that black hen walked all over it.
Sometimes it is the sweet revelation that comes from a simply made collage that points you towards the portal to your own inner life, towards making sense of the yearning that keeps you itching for what is yet unnamed.

I hope this post finds you well.
And that if you are intrigued by what you read here, that you will share this with a friend. There is so much comfort in finding you are not alone in your yearning.

If you are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in August, I am presenting three events. You can read all about them here. And if you are in Boston in September, I am performing here.

Until then, find me in the blackberry thickets.
xo,

S

What happens when we map motherhood?

Vintage line-up

 

a hootenanny
a ribald clutch lets loose laughter
a serious look at who we are now
a very different perspective on humanity
an urgency long withheld, surfaces

 

It takes courage to write about motherhood in a culture that sets women with children on the sidelines, and it takes even more courage to give voice to the powerful emotions and fears that swirl deep beneath the surface of our daily lives, informing and sharing our relationships with our children and the world at large.
-Katrina Kenison and Kathleen Hirsch

This week I am in the thick of preparing to teach.
I am also sitting with my heart-broken son on the phone as he navigates a cross-country trip with his friends and sorts out being single, suddenly.
We look up at the same moon.
I am also walking to the river again and again with my daughter, figuring out what her next steps are, if not only in to the blazingly cold clear waters of the Green river, but what of her senior year in high school?

And then, there is me.
Here, a blossoming is going on. There is energy building with the work I am doing.
Here is an interview that I did for Wild Motherhood. Morgan’s questions prompted me to write this prayer:

Live your full life.
“Your body does not lie.” -Terry Tempest Williams
Your story matters.
Taking one small step for yourself today makes a difference in everything you do.
Your story matters.
Love your kids, ask for help, listen closely to the world around you, talk to each other, and be outside, every single day. Bring the littles with you.
Your story matters.
There is room for you here, even within motherhood. Take up your own space and urge your sisters to do the same.
Your story matters.
Amen

This is what I believe.

Today, I offer you a fresh post in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series by Sara Nolan. She lives what this series is all about, expressing a woman’s life within motherhood. I am so happy Sara offered this post. Please leave your comments for Sara here. I will be at the International Women’s Writing Guild this week, posting from Litchfield, CT. You can expect more Out posts and a running update from my workshop, Mapping Motherhood.

xo,

S

Experiment in the Mini-Essay #16- Infant Poetry has God on the Line

7-21-15

by Sara Nolan

I read aloud to Ronen while we nurse. Gulping is his foreground music; words are his background music. Not Hungry Caterpillar, Not Goodnight Moon– he’ll be well-fed on those classics everyone includes in an early literary diet. Instead, I’m moving through the anthology that Rick, our beloved officiant, left here for our wedding preparation: the “Winged Energy of Delight.” That’s what I want my son to know. Vallejo, Dickson, Machado, Issa, Kabir– the poet’s ardor and specificity. It ain’t Mother Goose’s regular posse.

This morning I read the verses of poet Caesar Vallejo, not so kid-tastic; his existential dreariness is leavened by the abstract, bizarre, and surreal. He’s in depressing Paris, trying to be an artist, being an artist, dying there an artist. Couldn’t be farther from my infant’s reality, but the fuzzy borders between self and world that poet and infant must traverse and explore, and sometimes be confounded by, are similar. The regular old world still reads to them both as nonsense. Vallejo’s lines also have currents of odd joy that would not be everyone’s joy, manifesting in pulses throughout his poems the way Milk lets down in pulses.

My small boy, suckling intensely, is anchored to my body while I read. Nothing could be less abstract than breast-feeding. As counterpoint to that, Vallejo writes: “I feel that God is traveling/so much in me,/ with the dusk and the sea….He is kind and sad, like those who care for the sick;…I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;/because you never smile; because your heart/ must all the time give you great pain.” Just as I read these lines to Ronen, who smacks my breast by reflex in aim-iess rhythm, my dear friend texts me a snippet from her first day in her program for a Masters in Children’s Literature and Research: “Poetry eases an infant’s transition learning division of self and world”(From her teacher Karen Coats). Yes, ease— what I want for my boy, ease.

And yet I read to him about what we all long to keep from our children, from anyone we love, or, if we have the Big View, from anyone at all– pain that cannot be mitigated. Pain that is as elementary and constitutional as blood and lymph. Motherhood brings on a special ache over this pain– when Ronen flinches and whimpers from any discomfort whose source I cannot know, as private and inaccessible as his moment of embryonic implantation, I flinch, I hurt with reciprocal depth, I grimace, I flail. I am on my knees even while standing up, on his behalf, I pray despite myself.

I feel that god is traveling so much in me, Vallejo explains. Pregnant with my boy, not knowing then he was a boy, I too felt god traveling in my body– really! Coursing through the blood, using hormones as floatation devices. Not to say that it was a comfy situation, not at all. How could it be when the infinite moves through the finite? But it was supersonic fullness, continual transit across placental hallways, mood spikes, a tsunami of creative energy working itself into compressed cellular organelles and organs and an eventual organism. Mother Mary, turns out, as special as she was, was nobody special. She was us, you and me, holding the urgent and ineffable becoming.

When John and I made love in those 9 months– when I managed to take a break from being irritated at all of humanity for which he was, in my limited, warped, delusional pregnant viewpoint, the unfortunate front-runner in my household– I’d say to our baby-to-be, this is where you come from, you come from love, and you’re coming into love. Simplistic, yes– and, if you pushed me to admit it, the world is not exactly that straightforward. But mothers fib sometimes for the sake of a good story: egg and sperm and cellular replication was involved, and the baby enters into a lot more than love– into bureaucracy (fittingly hard to spell), burrs, bumpers, a mish-mosh of phenomena. The world is inescapably complex, and not reducible to any one element, however glorious. But still, not a bad creation myth to tell your child or yourself. It is a non-sentimental kind of Love that catches the child, more absolute, more daunting.

With my boy in my arms, feeling the increasing loops of love that tether me to his funny particularities, that twine around the arbor of my body, fixed, from which he is the heavy grapes hanging, I feel something like Vallejo’s god again, that sad god who kindly cares for the sick, a person of great pain, the heavy pain that comes with separation. I feel God in the strange lumpy tissue accruing beneath my C-section incision, I feel God in the tingling that signals the milk truck has filled up the ducts, I feel God in the endlessness of diapers that seem to pinwheel off the table into the garbage, off the table into the garbage. I feel God in the way my beautiful husband razzes and strokes the baby, the way my stepsons ask to hold him and cradle his erratic head with confidence. This holiness is like water, taking the shape of its container.

 

 

Ronen sleeps on Sara

Sara Nolan finds life amazing and whole, and bios awkward and partial. She teaches young people to write about their lives through personal essays, using the imagination in support of truth. Sara can be found leading classes and workshops in NYC via her education initiative, Essay Intensive, which is what it sounds like. She is also findable via the written word on her blog of sorts, Massive Missive, where she occasionally posts essays that took a long time to hatch. Meanwhile, she learns and mothers with all her might.

Grief

Rose by SBB

Summer is so sweet and so full of life.
But grief has arrived and she cannot be ignored.

We have to speak about loss.

In my community, there has been a terribly sad loss of a teen-aged girl. She is the daughter of people I don’t know well, but know in the way you know people in a small town. She is the niece of our friends, she is the cousin of my daughter’s close friend, her name is Maia, and though I don’t know that I ever saw her as a grown-up kid, I remember when she was born, the ripples of happiness that spread through her extended family and touched those of us further out from that center.

What do you do in the face of this or every other sadness we encounter on a daily basis? The surprising losses like Maia who drowned while snorkeling with her father, or the shattering devastation at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina? Each loss reveals more about us than we’d like to admit. Here, this tender dear girl who resembles so many of her cousins, thick eyelashes and a smile that stops traffic. I sense the utter sadness of her parents and I want to claw my children to my chest. I hold my prayers like shoulders leaning in to my heart. In Charleston, layers of revelation about the sinister presence of past and present oppression continue to disrupt communities. Street names, place names, flags and habit patterns bear not-so-subtle reminders of terrible sorrow.

What do we do? How broken open do we have to be before we start to take steps, remove flags, rename streets, extend a hand to another who cannot even speak for the sadness that has stopped us in our tracks?

Holliston Lilies

This past week, I gathered with my sisterhood of bookmakers. We painted papers and built journals and sat in sacred circle where we wrote and shared. In that quiet held space, grief sat among us and carved a bigger space in our hearts for each other. Sitting there with bare-boned knowing, grief rubbed elbows with celebration and the agonies of our lives return from exile.

 

How do you sit with grief, yours or someone else’s?
What do you do?
In my town, we start cooking. People trodden down with sorrow need to eat and drink, so we utilize the online tool of Meal Train and the family eats.

In the lushness of summer, grief joins us. She edges in like a dog soaked with skunk, fragrant and impossible to ignore.

It is Sunday morning.
From the church of my heart, I send you love.
xo S

 

 

My apologies for the earlier draft of this post that misnamed Charleston. Yes, I am right with you #Charlestonstrong.

 

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