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Here, very here

Lake Superior morning
at the lake this morning

Big Bay, Michigan August 16, 2015

I often write inspired by other writing. I have learned to stand on the shoulders of other writers. I use phrases or words as diving platforms, or rocks to jump off of in to my own writing. The short piece below was written in response to Jane Piirto’s fine poem, Here, which I found in a collection of writing by women about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I use poems in this way in my writing workshops. Often, our pens need a little coaxing, something to grease the way for our own words to flow forth. So, today, I share with you Jane’s poem and urge you to find this collection of writing at your library or bookstore.  And I offer you my small piece of writing, a bit raw and immediate, but real, which is what I am after.


by Jane Piirto




Where is the wanderer’s home? 

-Runo 24, Kalevala


at our grandmother’s birthplace,

in her very front yard,

here, my mother, sisters, and I

walk the very path.


Here, very here, this very river

in Vimpeli, Finland,

here this yellow round church,

here, this brown swift river.


Did she swim in it?

Here we, her American children

come to see, to feel, to touch.

No, the river runs fast and deep.


Here, the very view she saw here

her whole young life.

Part of her myth is

she was a very good swimmer.


Here, this very old church steeple,

the one in the old photograph.

Here, these new green reeds.

She would swim out to the middle of the lake.


She would float for hours out there

at camp in the Upper Peninsula.

Here, we are in her dream time.

After she left at 19, she never returned.



from Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

  1. ed. Ron Riekki Michigan State University Press

this poem appears on Laundry Line Divine by permission of the author

Big Bay, Michigan on Lake Superior

and my response:

Here, very here, sand on my ankles and black flies nipping, more aggravation. Here, very here, a steady wind off the bay since early when I lifted out of our dark nest to close the windows because it felt like rain.

Here, very here, just down the road through a channel of filtered light, a honeycomb of shade that we walk slowly through to nibble small raspberries, reddening despite the drought, sandy leaves, sand again and pink dirt.

Part of my myth is over across the bay above Squaw Beach in a buxomly porched clapboard house in the woods, down a stifling hallway to a curtained doorway where my 16 year old self decides to part my thighs for a boy who tells me this will hurt but it will be worth it. Part of my myth is I don’t remember pain, nor do I recall pleasure, not even do I recall a concern about birth control.

I lived part of my life on cliffs above this rolling surf, above clear waves, leviathan basalt boulders and thimble berry paths through old woods, birch, fir, oak. Do I, can I, will I ever recall, what I did just afterward? Or why I am remembering this today? Here, very here, because where else is there, really? I parted my thighs. I walked in shade, and I return to swim in these waters, among the slumbering beasts in my memory who quake and shift at my return. The trees part for my entry, welcome me with green cascades, clear waters and a Pileated woodpecker. Here, is very here.



Tomorrow I dive in to my events at the Escanaba Public Library and the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center. Then, after that, I strike off on a week of hiking with my husband and our German family. I don’t know if I will be able to post, but here are some good posts from the Laundry Line archive to stay you until I return.

On gratitude.
On dancing.
On pleasure research.

In September, my new offering Sacred Refuge Sundays will begin. And I will perform in the cast of Expressing Motherhood in Boston on September 25. I am clearing my desk for more writing time, on my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers, and blog posts here. My daughter will enter her senior year in high school and I will be making what I can from the balance of the plum harvest, from my ripening quince and whatever else the garden yields.

I send you all my love for this fine August day.

Eat berries, hug your people, and dive deep.



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,


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