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The brightness

Light in San Fruttuosa

“Then let light be,” I said, “a process, a movement of brightness through whatever it passes through.”

-Sena Jeter Naslund
Ahab’s Wife 1999 Perennial Press






The rain on Superior

This day, Friday, in Italy right now where the bells just rang the fifteen of nine and you are likely still asleep, unless you are one of my German readers or you live in Cornwall, England, in which case this post arrives with your mid-morning tea break, or at a café filled with women in day dresses and fine shoes, tanned not because it is chic, but because they live in a town on the beach and to reach the market one has to walk, thus the tan, and I am turning towards home.

This is our final day of this month-long time away and I have not written much here on Laundry Line Divine for a bunch of reasons, mostly having to do with swimming and my sisters and dear friends and hours of boules or walking. This has been a time of looking up and out at the horizon, sunrises and sets, clouds moving like alligators swallowing the edge of the earth that just ever so slightly tips into the mouth of the beast of time, devouring our hours. And now, sunflower-like, I turn towards home. Toward that light.

I have not come to any great conclusions on this trip, but I have asked a lot of questions. I have not decided on the exact next steps for myself here on Laundry Line Divine, or my personal life, but I do know plums and my kids will feature prominently. I have not woken up to flashes of insight, but I have studied the shape of the faces of the people I love and seen light rise from within them.

Found poetry and a bee in my journal

What I do know is that brightness has passed through me, leaving marks on lives and on paper, on paths and in to fruit tarts and collages, postcards and the exchange of large beautiful paper monies for round, ripe cheeses. Light as an exchange, as brightness moving through, from one to the other and on again.

Cheeses in Camogli

I desire so much. I dream wildly. And I wake up to each new day knowing this is the adventure that has been made for me, whether it includes hours of writing or chopping onions for risotto, whether there will be hands held on hills lined with heavy pink bougainvillea or threading needles with thick thread that will pierce paper that becomes a book.

Paula sewing in Camogli
Paula sewing in Camogli

A book that becomes the place where what is inside the maker finds roost outside the maker and in this making of a place, a sacred refuge, change happens, reflection becomes new thought and again, this brightness.

The eye of bread
The eye of bread in Camogli

So, send prayers for safe travel. I treasure these pages, the bright white spaces where my inner meets yours and we are some form of brightness all together. May your early September days be filled with light, and the morning that meets your dreams be easy and slow.

All my love,


By the way: Laundry Line Divine on the road

With Maike at the refugio
With Maike at the refugio

Maintaining a blog while on vacation is hard work.

The vacation I am on right now has been partly work, so work with work means that something had to go. I could be here with photos and a travelogue. But, I needed time further way from this site, just to clear my head and reassess what I am about here. There are stories to come of this summer adventure, but this morning, after a night of lightning and thunder and tumultuous dreams brought on by either our long hike yesterday and swims in the Mediterranean or by the large helping of Tiramisu I had after a late dinner, I urgently feel the desire to show up.

The path
the path to San Fruttuosa

My friend Marisa Goudy has written in to this theme over the summer of traveling with her two small girls. She and I both live with the aim to see the sunrises and sunsets, to have the conversations and interactions and nibble up the nubbly bits that make up real life with families, and live to tell the tale. We both have book projects brewing and are skating the lands of life, love and liberty while mothering as business artists.

While I have been away, my kids have been wrangling themselves at home. One has traveled with friends, navigated some thorny issues with different people in her life and prepared herself for the SAT test and as of today, gotten her self to her first day of school-without me there with a camera to freeze her briefly in time, new jeans, hair all tied back, off to school in her big girl clothes. She is a senior this year.

To the sea
where I always want to go….to the sea

The other has spent a few weeks getting ready to move in to his new digs at college. We talked this over thoroughly before we parted. What I do know is he is moved in and classes began. Whether the floor got mopped before he set up his bed, I do not know. I do know I did not mop it.

So, if what I share with you here on Laundry Line Divine is what I know, this month I know the space that happens when I take a step back from the spinning gyroscopes of my kids’ lives and let them live those lives, thorns and all, without me hovering nearby, with a mop and a solution. What I do know are some dandy struggles of my own, handled on the road, with my husband and my traveling art kit. What I do know are the tethers of my connection with both of our children are elastic and well founded because no matter how far any of us wander, we are right here, on a phone call, leaving a text, sending post cards, navigating the full spectrum of our lives, in this new way of being together.

I can’t say if I am doing any of this particularly well, but I can say that I have gotten to know my kids better this month, from a distance. I certainly have had long hours of uninterrupted thinking or not thinking, of teaching, of walking and walking, and of being with my husband and getting to those nubbly bits of our relationship and savoring them, together.

My art table in Camogli, Italy
my art table in Camogli, Italy

Life with kids and creative practice is never neat and orderly. Living it fully, on the road or at home, means some days I swim, some days I take cover from the thunder and lightning, for refuge, for reflection or just simply for fun.

Here is a beautiful piece about Oliver Sacks.
Here is a wonderful peek in to the creative process of a mother artist, Valerie Carrigan.
Here is a prayer, that, with the rain last night, falls in to my lap and assures me that in the unexpected is the wonder of real.

For this, all these surprises, I am grateful.

God give us rain when we expect sun.

Give us music when we expect trouble.

Give us tears when we expect breakfast.

Give us dreams when we expect a storm.

Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations.

God play with us, turn us sideways and around.


– Michael Leunig

Fruits of the season



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.



What does your day look like today?

The view from here. Big Bay, Michigan

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.”

quote by Ruth Maki
quote by Ruth Maki

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.
With love,


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