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Sunday afternoon writing time


After the Powder Keg Sunday Session, a persistent, sweet feeling of the brave permission that happened here. #Berkshires women write. XoxoS

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If I offer you a word-morsel from my heart
does it matter so much, really, if you
deny my soul language?
If I believe this word-morsel is truth
what language could deny it’s reality?
If my last straw is a beginning to know,
how hard can it be to keep myself from the flames?
~Suzi Banks Baum




Today the Powder Keg Sunday Sessions met in my dining room.

There you have it. We have crossed the great public divide and brought my work home.

What a joy to clean up the house this morning knowing I was preparing for the arrival of what would happen when women show up with their journals and a willingness to dive in. Sometimes I write along with everyone. Today was one of those days. We answered a prompt I read on poet, Rachel McKibbens’ website. The prompt asks you to list “your last straws”. We took this ball and carried it throughout the afternoon. The writing took on a very soulful quality. We used my new painted Powder Keg Prompts to wedge new words in to our writing. The gathered writers had a really rich afternoon.



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What would you put on that last straw list? If you are in the Berkshires and want to write with us, our next gathering is November 19. I can only seat 7 women, so let me know ASAP if one of those chairs has your name on it.

It is Sunday afternoon. JNB is cooking in the kitchen. My girls are doing homework. The sun is setting on another day made good with light.

All my best to you,


Start Where I Am: Saturday at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY

Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Fair 2014

Fall means wool.

I wear it.
I knit it.
I fondle it.
I try not to buy it because of the backlog of yarn I have, but some skeins are just meant to come home with me. Two. Two! That is hardly any.

My German exchange daughter was describing places in Munich where she has seen yarn coverings like this. Have you ever come across this kind of woolly fun?
My German exchange daughter was describing places in Munich where she has seen yarn coverings like this. Have you ever come across this kind of woolly fun?

The best part of a large gathering of knitters, felters, weavers and spinners, sheepdogs and herders, shearers and farmers, is what people wear. It was almost too warm in Dutchess County, New York today. Too warm that is-for long sweaters and heavily cabled any things. Today was a day for cardigans and hats, scarves and cowls.


I asked these women to stand together for this photo. Don't they look great in their creations?
I asked these women to stand together for this photo. Don’t they look great in their creations?


And, for a felted dress that two years ago was a wedding dress. Today, the young woman who wore this dress I had to admire, is a mother. This was the first time her dress came out in to the world since her wedding. A crowd gathered, for obvious reasons. Here is part of it.

The front of her dress

My friend Crispina ffrench was there with her upcycled cotton and wool clothing. Her clothing is distinctly Berkshire and uniquely wonderful. I have worn her beautifully made clothing for years. My feet warm on a woven rug of hers under my desk.

Makers stick together. We keep each other warm.

This group of women, a family, wore the same sweater that had to be captured. When I asked which of them knit the sweaters, their eyes twinkled with glee.
“Talbots” they answered in unison.


Where I am is often around other people who make things.
The joy of working with our hands means we all have something important in common, no matter how many other things make us different. The diverse crowd of wool lovers today was a reflection of the autumn tapestry.

Carpet pattern

The sun sets. Soon, where I am will be in bed.
I  wanted to stop here at Laundry Line Divine.
Tomorrow is a Powder Keg Sunday Session.
I’ll be back on Monday.

Berkshire Sunset by Suzi Banks Baum
Berkshire Sunset by Suzi Banks Baum

I hope your weekend has some color in it.
With love,


Start Where You Are: Tuesday in the trees

Storm King Alley

There is a warm undercurrent in the air today, like a swirl of caramel in my friend Janet’s applesauce.

Tart with a warm vein pulsing sweetness.








Grass at Storm King




I have been to several hallowed places over the past few days. This does include the Registry of Motor Vehicles up in North Adams where my 16 year old took her driving test last Wednesday. She handled a very common, but potentially dangerous situation with her understated confidence, which caused the terse RMV instructor to drop her guard for a few minutes and praise my daughter. Both of them were happily surprised and relieved. My girl went on to execute a fine K-turn and forgot to use her emergency brake when parking. She parallel parked behind a van driven by a very attractive electrician who reached for a heavy case flexing every muscle in his angled back for my daughter’s benefit. She pulled in, pulled up and “prepared her vehicle for leaving it overnight” while keeping an eye on the guy. But when her instructor admonished her for under use of the parking brake and praised her quick decision-making and passing skills, my girl was aflutter with joy at having passed her test.

I remained silent, as was requested of me, for the whole trip. She had left my back passenger window open, so I was able to send prayers freely and on the breeze with not one care in the world but to be quiet. We cheered on the sidewalk after the whole thing was over. The electrician had vanished, having hauled himself and his heavy tools in to a storefront.

Thursday, I visited Storm King Sculpture Park over in Goshen, New York. For all these years of passing that outdoor museum, I have never stopped. I was there with two friends. We painted and walked, ate apples and photographed. It was an adventure with lunch and paint.

Then, on Sunday, we took my exchange daughter in to New York City. We like to drift, so having a few spare agenda points in a long set of hours suits us all well. We went from the Upper West Side down to the site of the World Trade Center Memorial Park. There were many people there. People standing, taking photos, praying, crying, laughing, touching the water, running their fingertips over the names names names that surround the terraced fountain.

We the People at the WTC Memorial Park in New York City by Suzi Banks Baum
We the People at the WTC Memorial Park in New York City by Suzi Banks Baum

I drew for a while. This always makes me slow down and see details I might otherwise miss. I noticed people walking up to a tree, different from the Swamp White Oaks that line the park, and special for being fenced with a metal railing and staked carefully with rubber straps around it’s branches. A man stood with his hand on the thick trunk as if he was a doctor feeling for a pulse or a healer applying his energy. I stood listening to him tell the story of the Survivor Tree.

The Callery Pear

You can read all about it here. This Callery Pear tree grew on the plaza near buildings 4 and 5. It survived the collapse of the Towers and being buried in rubble for three months. When workers at the site found green shoots coming up through the piles of debris in November, they knew these signs of life were worth salvaging. The tree spent a few years at Van Cortlandt Park recuperating and in 2010 it was replanted in Memorial Park. People place offerings, wreathes, flowers in the tree, they put their hands on the tree, as if this one live thing can bless. It is a gorgeous tree. President Obama has spoken next to this tree and many people stand in hushed company with this tree daily.


Rainbow at the WTC Memorial Park in NYC

I don’t know what will bless me next. A tree. A driving instructor. Golden leaves falling in a shower across my laundry line, filling the gullies made by sheets hung between the lines with leaves and pine needles. Whatever shows up has the potential to bless.

When I open my computer to write these posts, I am never sure what will touch you readers. I write to describe what life is like for me, here, in this small town, with these children, with this life and appetite to make things. I write to make sense of my experience. My longing is to express, to digest thoughts and cohere, which makes me think, Co-Hear—to listen along with you, to what traces my day.

There are so many ways to see things.
We could have seen the driving instructor has strict and authoritative, punitive and demanding. Or, we could take her instruction and enjoyed flexing our driving muscles for her to see and receive her hard won praise.
That tree, just a stumpy ruined thing, could have been discarded among all that terrible chaos. But, the signs of life, the green, and the tree’s vitality called out to the people working in that place.

There are signs of life all around us. Signs that we are on to something. Signs of vitality. I just have to be quiet enough to see them.

Golden Tree at Storm King

Have a good old week.
October feels so much like a mature person to me. I love being in its fuzzy golden aura.
I am teaching my Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions on the 15th and 22nd.
This coming Sunday, the 19th is my monthly Powder Keg Sunday Session. Please email me if you are interested in either event.

Coming up on October 31, while some are trick-or-treating, I will be at Skidmore College with the Women Writers Artists Matrix as Siren of Ceremonies for the Friday evening Salon. This weekend of art, writing and wellness is a great boost of nourishment as we head in to November and the triple threat set of holidays ahead.

Wherever you are, watch for signs of life.





Start Where You Are: Thursday

The Blood Moon from Housatonic where writers and singers gathered at the library on Wednesday evening.
The Blood Moon from Housatonic where writers and singers gathered at the library on Wednesday evening.

I am edging towards the four-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
Tomorrow at 6 AM I want to be out in the rain or the moonlight in the morning.

It all pans out to this: starting where I am finds me some times in grief. At others, in joy. And most times, where I start is on the tendon that stretches between those two ecstatic places.
So, I start here.

self portrait
self portrait

I spent the middle of today with two of my collaborators at Storm King Sculpture Park across the Hudson. It was a glorious day to be out in the golden light.

I shared with them the work I have been doing with my Powder Keg Painted Prompt cards. I want to share them with you here.

Powder Keg Prompts laid out

Pick three words from this collection.
Use them as writing prompts.
What would you write?

Happy last hours of October 9th.
xo S

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