I missed attending this year’s Social Good Summit, but my friend Nancy Moon did.
In this image, Moon touches on what I am feeling this morning…astonished and angry, sad and fearful about the state of our national attitude toward gun control. I have one child in college and another in high school. My life is swimming with children and teachers, on the faculties of public school, private kindergartens, day care centers and universities. And somehow, somehow, our country has come to a time where these bastions of nurturance and continuity-the way that most of our population figures out how to survive and be of service in life, these places have become dangerous, unpredictably unsafe for even the youngest, most innocent of our citizens.
How can this be?
Will you please start talking about this with your people? Will you please explore gun control issues in your communities and discuss how best to protect and care for our educational settings? And will you enter the movement of raising awareness about mental health issues? Write, call, dance on the desk of your Congresspeople. There is much to be done, my dears, so much, all over the world, and right now, right here, there is pain and agony because a young man was in pain and agony and had the means to take out his feelings on a roomful of innocent people.
I don’t know what else to say.
It is Friday. The caboose of a busy, beautiful, generous week. Let your Saturday include some speaking up.
“Rest when you are tired. Take a drink of cold water when you are thirsty. Call a friend when you’re lonely. Ask God to help when you feel overwhelmed. Many of us have learned how to deprive and neglect ourselves. Many of us have learned to push ourselves hard, when the problem is that we’re already pushed too hard. Many of us are afraid the work won’t get done if we rest when we’re tired. The work will get done; it will be done better than work that emerges from tiredness of soul and spirit. Nurtured, nourished people, who love themselves and care for themselves, are the delight of the Universe. They are well timed, efficient, and Divinely led.”
I started this post as I walked up the hill from yoga class this morning. My teacher, a guest at Lifeworks studio, Karlee Fain, quoted Melody Beattie this morning. I carried that quote up the hill. Then, at the base of a towering horse chestnut tree, I came upon these nuts. This time of year is special to me for many reasons, chestnuts being one of them. Conkers, the nuts are called. They will conk you on the noggin if you linger under the tree when the wind is blowing. (For that matter, don’t linger under the oak in my yard, as it is a banner year for acorns or the black walnut in my neighbor’s yard. The red squirrels in my garage loosen the big yellowy green pods that hit my neighbors shed roof with a startling whack. Then, the squirrels haul them in to my garage, where they are filling up every empty space they can find. In the spring, I will haul pounds of them out, because how much can a tiny little hibernating squirrel eat?)
I bowed down to look at the chestnuts on the grass below the tree. I found all stages of nut happening. The pod, spiky and green, still attached to the stem. Ripe fruit lets go in to your palm. This one is not ripe. Then, a just cracked open pod. See the chestnut peeking out? It’s crowning! Then, one in a half-opened pod. And finally, one all the way out. The pod begins to dry, now that the ripe fruit has been released.
Don’t you feel this way sometimes? I do. Some parts of me are not ripe yet, not ready to be released. Others burst forth, shiny and ready for the world.
Today being the Full Blood Moon and a special eclipse, which you can read all about here, is an auspicious day to consider what is ripe within you and what needs more gestation. What is ready to dry up, like the spent pod, and return to the earth?
I could answer this question in all kinds of ways.
In my very personal life, I notice that self-hatred still penetrates my thoughts in very certain areas. I think myself wrong as the first explanation for any complication. Reading this post today, by my friend Laura Didyk, made me able to name the nagging feeling that comes up around very specific relationships in my life, where time and time again, I think I should be doing something different to make the relationship go better. It is time for me to let that nagging go. Really. If the relationship is not thriving in it’s current condition and my best efforts to shift it have not helped, it is time for me to let it go.
(as I write this post, a small vase of nasturtiums sends out a steady perfume of delicate delight. My senses sense ease, even before I do. I wish you could smell them!)
In my work, both literary and visual, there are places where I carry more than what really supports my best expression. I carry it because for so long in my life, I have felt it necessary to justify my place in the world. I have an internal meter that measures my “enoughness” and wicked self-hatred likes to ping that meter on the low side, too often. Moving my expression forward at a pace and rate that feels good is enough. The colleagues I work with, my collaborators and correspondents, the women I teach and study with, the people I play with, see this so much more easily than I do. But I learn. Slowly. Letting go of that feeling of lack feels good to me today.
And in my family life, I win the prize for worrying, projecting, warning. Not that there is a competition, but my kids have developed a way to telling me stuff that budgets for what I might worry about ahead of time. My prayer life mitigates so much of what I worry about. But there are many moments when the habit of worry sits square in my lap, between my kids and me. I wonder what our relationships would be like if I could just shift that worry over to the side? I know that I will likely always be a worrier- in part this habit is what makes me prepared. You want me at your picnic because I will have the napkins, the bottle opener, the trash bag and bug juice. And the after bite stuff. And a tick-grabber in my purse. There is a positive side of worry that is simple preparedness for many options. But worry that sees the car flaming on the roadway or the airplane crashing or the ski boots not releasing, that aspect of worry? I wonder what blessing might takes it’s place in my lap? ( My four year old niece is obsessed with the movie Frozen, as are millions of other girls. But hearing her sing this song makes me know I can in fact, let it go.)
Having grown up in the Lutheran church, Sundays very naturally are special to me. During the years when we actively worshiped, Sundays were special but also busy. At a key point in our marriage and our family life, JNB and I decided to take Sundays at our own pace. We almost always do something together on Sundays, and outside. Today, it happens that I am on my own until Moon Circle meets for the full moon this evening. So, I can, as Melodie suggests, nurture the parts of me that feel the sting of self-hatred, or are worn by overwhelm. I unpacked from my travels, completely. I went to yoga. I am sitting outside admiring these fruits of the chestnut as I write to you. I have own our apples in the fruit dryer. There is no laundry in the washer, though a set of sheets billow in the breeze. There is a slice of gingerbread waiting for me to enjoy with applesauce. All of these acts feel generous for myself, first. And the way that I savor them means I will have more to give to my people, when next I see them. My well will be full. I have let Sunday be a sacred refuge for myself.
I like to rub the conkers with melted beeswax. A bowl of shiny conkers catches the fall light, reds and browns, making them velvety orbs.
I hope that you find yourself in sight of tonight’s eclipse. And if you can, send up a little prayer for what is ready to come in to full fruit in your life, what is ready to be shed and what luster lives right around you. I will be looking up, sending love and light your way.
It’s morning. I left a load of wash on the line last night. We are in the embrace of September and though I know there is some belief that letting wash stay out on the line soaks it in negative night energy, I believe that a star shine adds a little sparkle to the dark load.
Thinking about laundry is how I begin and end my day, maybe not the very first thoughts or the very last thoughts-I reserve certain prayers and cherishing for those minutes-but pretty early I am thinking about who will be looking for what illusive pair of jeans or the other sock or the perfect sweatshirt. Or I remember the load I left in the washer, ready to hang early in the morning. Or the pile of wash I will put away before I leave for yoga.
Laundry has simply become a tether to my family life, a way for me to serve them, to offer my care and frankly, my expertise. If you are relatively new at your menstrual cycle and you often forget and have stains in clothing you wish you didn’t, you want me on your team. Now that Ultimate Frisbee is an Olympic Sport, I know that laundry is not far behind. I am an Olympic level laundress.
For others the tether is cooking or baking or scheduling or paying bills. We all have domestic needs that require our attention, no matter how fancy our lives. Caring for our humanity requires a certain kind of loving care, which if done slowly and fully, provides a portal in to real life and the simple beauty of it that all the convenience in the world obscures.
Laundry is where I learned to slow down.
It was a helpful spot to discover a certain kind of mindfulness because it does not take me away from the loving care of my family, but hanging it outside takes me away from them long enough to breathe deeply and gather whatever perspective I can from my grapevines, the garlic patch and the pear tree.
I wonder if there is some domestic task that you do, the pleasure of which transports you in to a deeper level of joy? Warp and weft, texture and color, random bits of tissue stuck to another black dress of my daughter’s, all these things cause me to look more closely at my life and see the finer details.
“How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
How are you spending your September days?
Here in the Berkshires, the sun’s heat has softened, the grapes ripen, the peaches live in the cloud of fruit flies on the counter and homework needs doing by the teenager across the table from me. (She who refuses to let me take a photo of her. Believe me, she is there. Sniffing with allergies. Hair wet from a shower. Cheeks all flushed from a bike ride.)
How I spent my day today included two trips to the hardware store, different hardware stores because I melted the hose that siphons boiling hot juice in to jars from my steam juice extractor. It is a bubbly efficient business when it works well, but when it doesn’t, no one much knows how to fix the problem. My friend Janet, who is a preserving maven, suggested it might be time to take a rest from canning, but I am a woman with a mission. Grape jelly is on my mind. Janet and I picked armloads of grapes and since I already have 11 jars of juice put up-deep purple and thick-(you want to visit me this winter on a chilly gray day when I serve you some hot Tulsi tea with a shot of grape juice in it) instinct tells me it is time for jelly.
I am not tired or grumpy about it. My afternoon had room for this running around, in between vacuuming, hanging two loads of wash, and not doing the 75 other things I thought I would do before the original hose melted.
Does this mean I will spend my life running around fixing stuff so I can do the thing I originally set out to do? Or does this mean, according to Annie Dillard, that I will spend my life tuning my tools that I employ to savor the harvest of any one given day? Some days those tools are hoses with an inner diameter of 5/16″ and not 1/4″, other days those tools are Sharpie writing pens or Uniball Signo pens that write on acrylic painted pages just fine or preparing a lunch that won’t wilt in my daughter’s back pack before 11:00 AM.
My tools vary. My mission is consistent.
I am memorizing my own writing for a show I am in next week. It is a funny business, writing my own material. I often read my work in public, but memorizing it means then I have to ACT it and acting means that I have to figure out my motivation in the piece. When I write, I am not always thinking about why. I am thinking about is.
And today is grape juice for jelly day.
Today is September 15. I have been my new age for a week now.
Today is the day I visited with my sister-in-law and learned a bunch of new things about her.
Today is the day I went to yoga and learned a few new things about myself.
I guess I spend my days curious.
Did you get to read much this summer?
I read Euphoria by Lily King and Home by Marilynne Robinson and Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. I highly recommend each of these books. That was my second go round with Ahab’s Wife and I loved it even more this time.
Do you have any book recommendations?
My friend Lissa Rankin, who has a piece in An Anthology of Babes, has a new book in the works. I got an advanced copy today of The Anatomy of a Calling and I suggest you put it on your gift list. Once I read it fully, I will write more about it here. Lissa has suffered the loss of several people close to her this month and has a new piece about death and the Universe here. Our community in the Berkshires has also had an unexpected death of a joyful, purposeful man, friend, husband and Lissa’s words remind me to stay open in the face of confusing loss.
There is one more seat available in my Sacred Refuge Sunday, which begins this Sunday. If you have been debating about it, now is the time to jump in.
Here is all my love to you and thanks for making Laundry Line Divine part of your day.