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Which Opportunity?

CBB SBB by BBB
Catherine and SBB at No. Six Depot taken by my son Benjamin

I am sitting in my kitchen, my laptop in my, well, on my lap and my toes wriggled in to the slots in the radiator. A chilly rain falls on my newly raked out garden, like a shower on a balding head, reaching the soil ever so swiftly. No resistant leaves to slow the soaking wet.

I await the chiming of my kitchen timer, ringing every five minutes as a request to shift around another batch of ginger molasses cookies that I am about to drive over the high school theatre where my daughter, the birthday girl, is in tech rehearsals for the Shakespeare & Company Fall Festival. In this version of Henry VI, she plays a man. It is a set of bloody scenes with lots of stage fighting, not something for the fairy loving set. She plays Buckingham and does not fight, nor does she die. But she is turning 18 and so today, I bake.

In the version of today, November 10, that I am living, toes on the radiator, ginger molasses dough under my fingernails and the kitchen smelling like a place you want to hang around in all afternoon, I am celebrating her birthday and in a certain sort of shock, mourning, stunned-towards-agreement. I am in awe on this auspicious day. When I woke this morning, I lolled around for another visit to the dream I was having, then heard her padding along in the hallway and
I broke in to a rousing “Happy Birthday” at dawn’s early light. My first thoughts are of her and her brother, however old they are, my prayers banter with my worry, my meditation placates my projected agenda and I listen, listen, listen for signs of need, concern, and outright joy.

St. Lucia is in a fairy nightgown!
St. Lucia is in a fairy nightgown!
Girl with the cherry earrings
Girl with the cherry earrings

On my cushion the thought came to me that this day is one of particular opportunity for me. But, what confounded me then is the question that has confounded me since I began this motherhood career, that of which opportunity? Isn’t that always the thing? Every time we fly we are coached with what I know to be good advice, “put your own mask on first before assisting others,” but the others quickly expand beyond your progeny, your mate, your pets, your parents, your siblings, the tomatoes, your job, your other boss, your tiny bosses, the school your kids go to, the schools they might want to attend, your faith practice, your friends, the poems that tantalize you when you are seemingly idle, and all the other ways fancy, inspiration and dreams dare you to draw them on to your lap.

There are many factors that decide our time for us. Delivery times for kids, articles, donations to fund-raisers, thank you notes, completed jobs, inquires, appeals, submissions, contributions, invitations-all the ways we do things that adhere to a timely arrival of the expected materials cause us to rouse and make haste. But then there are the other calls, the ones that show up in our dreamy times, in our journals, doodled in the sidebars of the tests you are grading-somewhere over there, out of the reach of your direct discerning attention, in the shady area where yearning and action do a little gig.
Lately, I have been researching how my work hours go when I don’t check email after every little thing I do and parceling out the minutes I spend on social media. I learned this from my friend Katey Schultz who posted an excellent piece here about how we use time online. For nearly a week I have mostly sequestered my email and online time to three segments of an hour a day. I respond to the immediate needs with care. I flag items that I need to mull over. And I delete a ton of email. I spend a bit of time on the social media sites I am active on, then I get to work. This new boundary I have made relieves me of a burden I had completely adjusted to, feeling anxious if I had not checked my email every hour. And really, there is nothing that cannot wait for at least a few hours. People who need to reach me about emergencies will text or call, and so, the online beast becomes something like a domesticated animal that I feed on a schedule. Moo. Arf. Peep. The animal is content.

Sigh.
Every single day we make choices about how we use our time. Do you put limits on your hours with email or on the Internet? I surely appreciate that some of your time is spent here on Laundry Line Divine. Thank you!

Here are some friends I have lingered with this week.

Janet at Modern Loss.
Joanne at Your Digital Blueprint for my #RampantSisterhood
Natalia at IndieGogo-help another artist mom fund her work
My friend Bryan plays Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank at NJ Shakespeare. It is an excellent, moving, affecting production.

Lastly, I will be selling my bespoke journals and Powder Keg Sessions painted prompt cards, along with copies of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Creative Spirit Showcase on November 22, 2-15 in Pittsfield, MA. I’d love to meet you there!

Catherine’s day has been sweet. I feel her turning towards womanhood and meeting similar challenges that I met-jarring moments of surprise where gender affects decisions made by adults that you thought would not yield to stereotypes. She has weathered a few bumps this week so differently than I would have at her age and I am proud of her. But where, oh where is the girl who hung cherries on her ears and made puppet shows for hours? I took the opportunity to watch a bit of the play rehearsal after dropping off the cookies this afternoon. She affects a male swagger in knee high boots, a low-slung belt and sword, and I gasp. She is so believable as perhaps, the 8th wonder of the World, this young becoming woman. I miss that little girl; I observe this blossoming beast and I will feed it cookies and tea until I am no longer.

CBB in Shakespeare and Co 2014 by Haley Barbieri
CBB in Shakespeare and Co 2014 by Haley Barbieri

So. Good evening my dear pals.
And much love,

S

The sound of the genuine

First you have to find it

There is something in you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself … The sound of the genuine is flowing through you. Don’t be deceived and thrown off by all the noises that are a part even of your dreams [and] your ambitions, that you don’t hear the sound of the genuine in you. Because that is the only true guide you will ever have and if you don’t have that you don’t have a thing. … Cultivate the discipline of listening to the sound of the genuine in yourself.

 

– Howard Thurman, “The Sound of the Genuine,”

Baccalaureate Speech at Spelman College, May 4, 1980
source One Spirit Learning Alliance Daily reading

 

 

Sending you big ears, an open heart and a nice inky pen to keep track of those dreams today.

xo,

 

S

 

Early November gratitude

What I started to write a few days ago but have not returned to because of Halloween and because of a large bodied young man loping around the house, is that Benjamin is feeling much better. (He is that loping guy.) Thank you for your prayers.

Swiss heart

 

What I wanted to say a few days ago, but have been too timid to write it, is that I get so very worried about my kids I pray the paint off the walls, and though it makes me feel better, makes me feel that I am not the only one keeping the wheels on the car, all those random elements like drivers in correct lanes, flu viruses and recreational activities, blood composition and cranial vaults, hormones and integrity, will behave as they behave. Whether my prayers influence any of these things, I hardly really care frankly. My prayers help me, and so I pray.

 

But what do we do when, again, our community suffers the loss of another kid? This one a college freshman, walking home with two buddies back to campus, struck by a drunk driver. The kids were walking. The driver was drunk. And of the three young men, one is dead and two are seriously injured.

*Pause here to do what you do, light candles, kneel, look at a tree, fold your hands over your heart…for his sweet life ended, for his family. I don’t know them at all, but believe me, loss does not need proximity to be shared.*

Every single community in this nation wrangles with loss; tragic, mundane, daily loss. The varying levels of loss, the extreme violence that is generated by all the -isms at play in our society, and the school incidents we weep over, yet cannot find a way to curtail-all of these realities get run through the washing machines of our hearts. We take them in, all the details we can fit. We wash them with tears and ministrations, and we set them out again to dry. How how how do we carry on?

Fall evening

This was the topic of our dinner conversation last night. My daughter, a high school senior, has philosophic leanings, just like her brother, and by virtue of proximity, my husband and me, too. We were considering something of the question of “what gets you out of bed in the morning, knowing, as you do because you are human, that you will die, if not today, some day, maybe sooner, maybe later. Why get up?” While this may sound morose, it digs pretty efficiently to the heart of the matter of what we makes each of us tick. And since my kids are old enough now to get them selves out of bed and in to their respective days, the answers become more and more interesting.

For me, it is a question of faith in goodness.

I grew up thinking it was God with a capital G, with a white beard and pearly gates and the Bible is a record of fact. I have come to believe a wider truth today. And because I am human and because I believe we are here for a reason and because I know the healing that comes to broken hearts because of the power of love, I get out of bed intent on loving bigger than I did yesterday. And praying to a power greater than myself helps me know how to do that.

I came upon this in Mirabai Starr’s book about Teresa of Avila:

 

“Remember:

if you want to make progress

on the path

and ascend to the places

you have longed for,

the important thing

is not to think much

but to love much,

and so to do

whatever

best awakens you to love.”

 

 

What best awakens you to love?

I trust that readers of Laundry Line Divine might answer this question in a myriad of ways. Yesterday, my she-ro Anne Lamott batted the question of faith and fear around in an excellent post, in which she concluded that in the face of all these odds, she would, “…flirt with every old lonely person I see,” along with a few other things to which I would add, “…go hang my wash out on the line in the sun and plant a few rows of garlic.”

along the river

I return to this question of faith over and over again. My Lutheran minister Grandfather seems to have a hand in this inner debate because he modeled for me a man of faith and consequence, an imperfect man doing what he believed to be God’s work, who left a lot of unfinished business in his wake, who, among other things, raised pigeons for lab research and grew lots of gladioli to sell (I guess), but who, towards the end of his ministry started to participate in Baptist services. The man was a seeker, a blustering red-faced pulpit speaker who just did not settle on one way of seeing things. I was too young to know more about him before he died. Much of what I know I learned by asking my mother and her siblings, but even they are not forthcoming with stories. I don’t think life with my Grandfather was easy.

But, this yearning to “love much” leads me to a theme I learned long ago in Al-Anon, the 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics. In those rooms filled with people of so many different faiths and religions, atheists and anarchists, the one common cup we could all drink from is gratitude. And it is through gratitude that I have found my way in to a prayer practice that connects me to spirit, that presence which comforts and preserves me outside of radiology rooms where my kid is being scanned or at my mother’s bedside where her breath slows to her very last. I can say thank you to every single human being, no matter what our language, religion or belief.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”

-Meister Eckhart

I want to get to this because “thank you” is what leads me to loving much. Like Anne Lamott smiling at all the old people she sees while out walking her dogs in Marin County, I find that offering thanks in real time, in letters and cards, in phone calls, in person at the drug store, at the Doctor’s office, in the ER, saying thank you seems to be the connection point between humans. It is where smiles spring up.

So today, on this Monday, a cool but warm-in-the-sunshine fall day, I am so very grateful for Benjamin feeling better and an acupuncturist who could see him on a Sunday. I am grateful for each and every kid who showed up on our porch for tricks and treats on Saturday evening, especially the tiny ones who my son would kneel down to meet and treat instead of them encountering our scary-as-shit table prank that my Halloween collaborators and I cooked up.  (see below) I am grateful for my husband being patient with me when I am not the most loving I could ever be. And I am grateful for him in the moments when he is doing his best, though not what I would have planned had it all been up to me.

A video posted by Suzi Banks Baum (@suzibb) on

 

I guess the point of this writing is this: The goodness and grace of daily life exists in all cases. When I tune my attention towards it, my ability to keep going is fueled, motivated-this force is generative and a certain salvation.

People get hurt. As William Stafford says in his luminous poem, The Way It Is:

 

“Things happen. People get hurt

or die, you suffer and get old,

Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.”

 

But, we get to wake up again on the next day and decide how to use our time, no matter what the prevailing conditions or our marital status or the laundry outlook,

we carry on.

 

How we carry on, in what state our hearts are, how connected we are to what is true and real and beautiful and whether or not we get to have our say about that, let alone perhaps make art in response to that, is exactly why I get out of bed in the morning.

I wake up curious.

Usually have to pee.

But once done, I am deeply attentive to the first signs of light.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here is much love to you each.

From my laundry line to yours,
S

 

Listening inside this day.

Morning Williams River

 

 

I listen inside this day.

-Rumi

 

 

Today is cold. Too cold for wash on the line so I’d rather not do it, at all. We all have plenty of underwear, wool socks and jeans to last us a week of no laundry being hung on a cold cotton rope. Besides, the potential for rain today is great. The golden, and copper, and red leaves hang on the trees, quaking in the wind, leaping out in to the afternoon with every gust of wind.

I can hear my daughter giving writing suggestions to her best friend. They are both hard at work on their college essays. Writing is not enjoyable for one of them; this writing requires mighty and diligent effort. It comes with lots of introspection to the other and since that one has taken up homework residency in the kitchen, we are banned from chewing while she is seated at the table reading. Kitchens are multi-purpose rooms in today’s world, just as much as in ye olde cabin in the woods where your whole family lived around the hand-hewn table in front of the wood stove, or sat on a settle, which flanked each side of the cooking hearth. We are not so revolutionary here; just don’t open a bag of chips and expect you can lean against the radiator, warming your bones while watching leaves fall at the same time she is studying Rousseau. No chewing.

this is a settle and it is very old photo credit: Martin Murray Country Antiques
this is a settle and it is very old photo credit: Martin Murray Country Antiques

 

Listening inside this day, I hear my heart recuperating from the drastic day of difficultly we had on Sunday. Our 21-year-old son was injured in a lacrosse game and though all is well, there were about 11 hours where we worried and waited and prayed outside radiology labs and in hallways of busy emergency rooms. That long span of attention, of care, of holding his hand, riding in an ambulance with him, waiting and watching so closely, has left me a bit rattled, like those quaking leaves in the wind. My son is at school, not at home under our care. By the end of his visit to the trauma center in Albany, the doctor pronounced my son was fit to return to school, to rest in the house he shares with four other guys. And so we had to let him go. His friends had come to see him at the hospital, so they took him home. It was an act of great faith in the kindness of young men to trust that our child/young man/son would have all he needs in a location other than at our kitchen table.

 

here is the boy and he is much bigger now
here is the boy and he is much bigger now

 

And so, the heart span widens, and my attention is slightly stretched geographically, and we are all recuperating. Every time something like this happens, I ride the rail of all the worse outcomes we could have experienced and am in a deeper thrall of gratitude. Today, I feel tender and aware of my body and wonder how his is feeling. I am not so tired today. I feel my energy back under me. I lived just a slice of the stress that so many people live full time. I know this.

And so, as my gratitude grows, so grows my compassion.

This leads me back to laundry. I read earlier today that if you are in California, you can now string up a wash line in your back yard, even in the fancy neighborhoods that ban such pedestrian articles of lawn decor. California is an “air-dry postive” state. So is Laundry Line Divine!

Orange asters

 

I hope this post finds you well and just the right sort of warm today.

Here is much love to you each, from my laundry line, to yours,
S

 

 

 

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