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.”
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.
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.
We are listening each other in to being.
-Sally Atkins “Tell Me, She Said”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Suzi and Suzi
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.