“You become the company you keep, keep good company.”
A Sanskrit saying
Four little kids in a low riding canoe towing the bigger sister
Four Bald Eagles
Millions of Superior stones.
Chicory, Indian Paintbrush, Mullein, Tansy, Thistle, Queen Anne’s Lace, Black-eyed Susans, many kinds of grasses, white and yellow water lilies, Aspens, Alders, Birches, Pines, sunflowers, holly hocks, lilies and carnations, and a host of raspberries, blueberries and thimbleberries.
We have been keeping company on Big Bay this week.
The landing pad for the Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour, which had stops in Ishpeming, Escanaba and Marquette, Michigan last weekend, is a small cottage on a rocky shore. We have we all slowed down here with Kathy, Monica and Geri joining us. Here is Monica’s post about our time.
The dirt road is red, iron red. Our car is dusted with a pinky film of dirt.
Together, in the wilds of lake living, near a flock of rowdy chickens down the road with a persistent rooster, a small gaggle of intrepid kids who swim no matter what the weather, which until I opened this computer to write, has been gray, gray and other shades of gray, we have all found our slow time on Superior.
We have stacked rocks and aimed to leave no trace, but to be fully and completely impressed by the wild rugged beauty of northern Michigan. So far so good. I may have to ditch this writing to go swim while the sun is out. (I am a writer in the practice of writing. I am a writer in the practice of writing. It is a tiny bit too freezing- Gehairenfrost as we say in German-head freezing- to swim, so now, to satisfy my carpe-diem-northern-evening-in-the-woods-yearning to be outside as much as I can and still be a writer in the practice of writing, I am on the porch, with my feet on the railing, sitting so that the sunlight is blocked by a pine tree right in front of me. Mission accomplished. Outside AND writing.)
Tuesday, nine women joined me for the virgin voyage of my Slow Time Salon on Superior. I hatched this idea last year at Dorothy Randall Gray’s Women Writers Artists Matrix gathering in Saratoga Springs, NY. At a Salon roundtable discussion, the words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them, “I want to gather women on the shores of Superior, my heart’s home, to make art, write and share. I want to introduce women to the many access points I have discovered as Portals to Slow.”
I had this idea and right about nine months after speaking those words, I sat with women in a sacred circle writing Permission Slips for ourselves. We spent the morning learning a mudra flow of honoring, using aromatheraputic oils to support our grounding and joy, and dove in to mixed media collage techniques to create a tri-fold book form. After a locally sourced lunch made here at the cottage, which included fresh sweet corn grown on Hungry Hollow Road and picked by Geri on Monday, we walked to the Big Bay Lighthouse, just down the road. I asked the women to walk quietly, repeating Thich Naht Hanh’s poem for walking meditation.
I am home.
I have arrived
in the here
and the now.
I am happy.
I am joyous.
In the infinite
We arrived at the Lighthouse, a rugged, majestic structure that has held this shoreline for over 100 years with its three seconds on, seventeen seconds off light beam that reaches 19 miles off-shore to passing ships. The landscape beckoned us, the raspberries delighted us. We walked back singing.
Now I walk in beauty.
Beauty walks before me.
Beauty walks behind me.
Above and below me.
We aimed to bless all we did with a certain kind of awareness that quiet and slow brings. We worked all afternoon on our collages. Some women made cairns on the shore. Others painted compass rocks. We wrote and put our own words in to our small books.
At the closing circle, we shared some of what had touched us over the hours we spent. Women were surprised at how much the quiet nourished them. As Kathy Drue wrote in her post on Lake Superior Spirit, we tended our souls as we have mended our children’s clothing, patching holes with color and tidy stitches. Everyone left full, in a good way.
I can hardly begin to explain to you the significance of me being in the UP just now.
Our son is off at college. Our daughter safely ensconced with work and preparations for her junior year in high school. J and I have taken this time away, for me to pursue my work, to share An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice with new audiences and extend my reach in the discussion of the creative lives of women.
Today would be my mother’s 83rd birthday. She passed almost four years ago now, in my hometown, Escanaba, Michigan. When she died, I realized I would have to be purposeful about maintaining a connection to this land I call home. I would have to choose to spend time here, cultivate my relationships, long cherished loves of place and people. So I have. This work and the residencies I hope to develop here, collaborating with other UP artists I hope, in small towns across the central UP, I hope to lead Powder Keg Sessions writing workshops, lead my Mapping Motherhood workshops and develop a Giving Motherhood a Voice event showcasing the stories of Upper Peninsula mothers, women who make things, whether they think of themselves as artists or not. I hope to contribute to the vitality of these communities by enlivening people to engage with their own stories. There will be many layers of this work, and many years for it to develop. But it feels necessary and beginning, almost without my knowing, like the certain confidence I find in my feet when I clamber up a rocky cap along the lake. My feet know where to go before I even see the next stepping spot.
This work seems to land in the laps of the right people. I pray it finds a home, and even a project manager who lives in the UP so I am not birthing this project alone. In my current home of the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, I produce events with the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Though I create my own events, I collaborate when it feels right and I create in community.
And this Slow Time Salon week, this Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour, has begun to gather a community around it. Good company.
When you read me here on Laundry Line Divine, even without a comment or email to me, you still add to the growing awareness of this community. Women’s words about their inner territories are laced with a raw tenderness and blossoming warmth that brings me to tears and laughter almost immediately. Our audiences on the book tour spoke of being surprised at how much they enjoyed the readings and the ideas we introduced.
This is how good things begin.
They get carried along in the hearts of our company.
And this is how community is made.
Thank you for reading me here.
Thank you for sharing Laundry Line Divine with your colleagues, friends, sisters, mothers, mentors, writing groups, art buddies and husbands. I appreciate every way you carry this way of being in to your daily life.
There. Now I can go swimming.