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Early November gratitude

What I started to write a few days ago but have not returned to because of Halloween and because of a large bodied young man loping around the house, is that Benjamin is feeling much better. (He is that loping guy.) Thank you for your prayers.

Swiss heart

 

What I wanted to say a few days ago, but have been too timid to write it, is that I get so very worried about my kids I pray the paint off the walls, and though it makes me feel better, makes me feel that I am not the only one keeping the wheels on the car, all those random elements like drivers in correct lanes, flu viruses and recreational activities, blood composition and cranial vaults, hormones and integrity, will behave as they behave. Whether my prayers influence any of these things, I hardly really care frankly. My prayers help me, and so I pray.

 

But what do we do when, again, our community suffers the loss of another kid? This one a college freshman, walking home with two buddies back to campus, struck by a drunk driver. The kids were walking. The driver was drunk. And of the three young men, one is dead and two are seriously injured.

*Pause here to do what you do, light candles, kneel, look at a tree, fold your hands over your heart…for his sweet life ended, for his family. I don’t know them at all, but believe me, loss does not need proximity to be shared.*

Every single community in this nation wrangles with loss; tragic, mundane, daily loss. The varying levels of loss, the extreme violence that is generated by all the -isms at play in our society, and the school incidents we weep over, yet cannot find a way to curtail-all of these realities get run through the washing machines of our hearts. We take them in, all the details we can fit. We wash them with tears and ministrations, and we set them out again to dry. How how how do we carry on?

Fall evening

This was the topic of our dinner conversation last night. My daughter, a high school senior, has philosophic leanings, just like her brother, and by virtue of proximity, my husband and me, too. We were considering something of the question of “what gets you out of bed in the morning, knowing, as you do because you are human, that you will die, if not today, some day, maybe sooner, maybe later. Why get up?” While this may sound morose, it digs pretty efficiently to the heart of the matter of what we makes each of us tick. And since my kids are old enough now to get them selves out of bed and in to their respective days, the answers become more and more interesting.

For me, it is a question of faith in goodness.

I grew up thinking it was God with a capital G, with a white beard and pearly gates and the Bible is a record of fact. I have come to believe a wider truth today. And because I am human and because I believe we are here for a reason and because I know the healing that comes to broken hearts because of the power of love, I get out of bed intent on loving bigger than I did yesterday. And praying to a power greater than myself helps me know how to do that.

I came upon this in Mirabai Starr’s book about Teresa of Avila:

 

“Remember:

if you want to make progress

on the path

and ascend to the places

you have longed for,

the important thing

is not to think much

but to love much,

and so to do

whatever

best awakens you to love.”

 

 

What best awakens you to love?

I trust that readers of Laundry Line Divine might answer this question in a myriad of ways. Yesterday, my she-ro Anne Lamott batted the question of faith and fear around in an excellent post, in which she concluded that in the face of all these odds, she would, “…flirt with every old lonely person I see,” along with a few other things to which I would add, “…go hang my wash out on the line in the sun and plant a few rows of garlic.”

along the river

I return to this question of faith over and over again. My Lutheran minister Grandfather seems to have a hand in this inner debate because he modeled for me a man of faith and consequence, an imperfect man doing what he believed to be God’s work, who left a lot of unfinished business in his wake, who, among other things, raised pigeons for lab research and grew lots of gladioli to sell (I guess), but who, towards the end of his ministry started to participate in Baptist services. The man was a seeker, a blustering red-faced pulpit speaker who just did not settle on one way of seeing things. I was too young to know more about him before he died. Much of what I know I learned by asking my mother and her siblings, but even they are not forthcoming with stories. I don’t think life with my Grandfather was easy.

But, this yearning to “love much” leads me to a theme I learned long ago in Al-Anon, the 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics. In those rooms filled with people of so many different faiths and religions, atheists and anarchists, the one common cup we could all drink from is gratitude. And it is through gratitude that I have found my way in to a prayer practice that connects me to spirit, that presence which comforts and preserves me outside of radiology rooms where my kid is being scanned or at my mother’s bedside where her breath slows to her very last. I can say thank you to every single human being, no matter what our language, religion or belief.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”

-Meister Eckhart

I want to get to this because “thank you” is what leads me to loving much. Like Anne Lamott smiling at all the old people she sees while out walking her dogs in Marin County, I find that offering thanks in real time, in letters and cards, in phone calls, in person at the drug store, at the Doctor’s office, in the ER, saying thank you seems to be the connection point between humans. It is where smiles spring up.

So today, on this Monday, a cool but warm-in-the-sunshine fall day, I am so very grateful for Benjamin feeling better and an acupuncturist who could see him on a Sunday. I am grateful for each and every kid who showed up on our porch for tricks and treats on Saturday evening, especially the tiny ones who my son would kneel down to meet and treat instead of them encountering our scary-as-shit table prank that my Halloween collaborators and I cooked up.  (see below) I am grateful for my husband being patient with me when I am not the most loving I could ever be. And I am grateful for him in the moments when he is doing his best, though not what I would have planned had it all been up to me.

A video posted by Suzi Banks Baum (@suzibb) on

 

I guess the point of this writing is this: The goodness and grace of daily life exists in all cases. When I tune my attention towards it, my ability to keep going is fueled, motivated-this force is generative and a certain salvation.

People get hurt. As William Stafford says in his luminous poem, The Way It Is:

 

“Things happen. People get hurt

or die, you suffer and get old,

Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.”

 

But, we get to wake up again on the next day and decide how to use our time, no matter what the prevailing conditions or our marital status or the laundry outlook,

we carry on.

 

How we carry on, in what state our hearts are, how connected we are to what is true and real and beautiful and whether or not we get to have our say about that, let alone perhaps make art in response to that, is exactly why I get out of bed in the morning.

I wake up curious.

Usually have to pee.

But once done, I am deeply attentive to the first signs of light.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here is much love to you each.

From my laundry line to yours,
S

 

Listening inside this day.

Morning Williams River

 

 

I listen inside this day.

-Rumi

 

 

Today is cold. Too cold for wash on the line so I’d rather not do it, at all. We all have plenty of underwear, wool socks and jeans to last us a week of no laundry being hung on a cold cotton rope. Besides, the potential for rain today is great. The golden, and copper, and red leaves hang on the trees, quaking in the wind, leaping out in to the afternoon with every gust of wind.

I can hear my daughter giving writing suggestions to her best friend. They are both hard at work on their college essays. Writing is not enjoyable for one of them; this writing requires mighty and diligent effort. It comes with lots of introspection to the other and since that one has taken up homework residency in the kitchen, we are banned from chewing while she is seated at the table reading. Kitchens are multi-purpose rooms in today’s world, just as much as in ye olde cabin in the woods where your whole family lived around the hand-hewn table in front of the wood stove, or sat on a settle, which flanked each side of the cooking hearth. We are not so revolutionary here; just don’t open a bag of chips and expect you can lean against the radiator, warming your bones while watching leaves fall at the same time she is studying Rousseau. No chewing.

this is a settle and it is very old photo credit: Martin Murray Country Antiques
this is a settle and it is very old photo credit: Martin Murray Country Antiques

 

Listening inside this day, I hear my heart recuperating from the drastic day of difficultly we had on Sunday. Our 21-year-old son was injured in a lacrosse game and though all is well, there were about 11 hours where we worried and waited and prayed outside radiology labs and in hallways of busy emergency rooms. That long span of attention, of care, of holding his hand, riding in an ambulance with him, waiting and watching so closely, has left me a bit rattled, like those quaking leaves in the wind. My son is at school, not at home under our care. By the end of his visit to the trauma center in Albany, the doctor pronounced my son was fit to return to school, to rest in the house he shares with four other guys. And so we had to let him go. His friends had come to see him at the hospital, so they took him home. It was an act of great faith in the kindness of young men to trust that our child/young man/son would have all he needs in a location other than at our kitchen table.

 

here is the boy and he is much bigger now
here is the boy and he is much bigger now

 

And so, the heart span widens, and my attention is slightly stretched geographically, and we are all recuperating. Every time something like this happens, I ride the rail of all the worse outcomes we could have experienced and am in a deeper thrall of gratitude. Today, I feel tender and aware of my body and wonder how his is feeling. I am not so tired today. I feel my energy back under me. I lived just a slice of the stress that so many people live full time. I know this.

And so, as my gratitude grows, so grows my compassion.

This leads me back to laundry. I read earlier today that if you are in California, you can now string up a wash line in your back yard, even in the fancy neighborhoods that ban such pedestrian articles of lawn decor. California is an “air-dry postive” state. So is Laundry Line Divine!

Orange asters

 

I hope this post finds you well and just the right sort of warm today.

Here is much love to you each, from my laundry line, to yours,
S

 

 

 

Making Time

Leaf heart

I have been away all week in a most beautiful location in the Catskill Mountains, Mohonk Mountain House, which is a very popular place at this time of year. The fall colors are peaking and on the ridge of the Schawangunk Mountains, the vistas are remarkable.

Early morning at Mohonk.
Early morning at Mohonk.

Every morning my wise mentor, Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder, meets all who care to, at 7:00 AM out in dawn’s early light for a walking meditation out to a cliff. We sit to watch the sun reach over this ridge and in to the valley west of us. Every morning this week has been different. We have watched the golden leaves turn more golden. The reds have come out in the sugar maples. This dense diverse forest is rich in hardwoods so the path is full of differently shaped leaves. We hear Crows, Chickadees and Chipping Sparrows. The squirrels and chipmunks startle as we pass, even when we are a silent string of women walking in step single file, gently closed fists clasped over our bellies, eyes cast on the path before us. After a certain point, Jeffrey claps the signal that we can lift our gaze and walk at our own pace. Yesterday, steps after lifting our eyes, there was a double rainbow right in front of us.

Morning rainbow

It has been a week soaked in wonder.

I am here working on my book, Laundry Line Divine. I made important headway on this work that has carried me along since I started writing it 7 years ago. I think I can see the book as a whole now.

What came through most clearly to me this week as we worked on story structure and looked at aspects of our work in the world as business artists is this. The fullness of what you have come to recognize as Laundry Line Divine stands for the value of every woman’s life, no matter where she is on the spectrum of motherhood, no matter what age, no matter where she lives. As I read segments of my book to the gathered company last evening, I sensed resonance in a way that ears sense sound. I felt heard by the variety of women in the room, heard and listened to. For a writer, this is a sweet sweet thing.

The conditions of every woman’s life require some consistent elements and one that I believe is key to our well being is time. Sufficient time in solitude, out of the range of our myriad responsibilities, enough time to fill our inner wells. The work I do in the world, as an artist and writer, as a teacher and workshop facilitator, as a mother and wife, is all tied to tending time and how we spend it, as a family and as singular beings. My commitment to my daily creative practice shapes the way I spend time. It also impacts what I teach, what I make and how I make it, whether it is plum jam, dinner or a hand bound journal.

Mohonk clock face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another woman on this writing retreat, Donna Druchunas, of Sheep to Shawl, doodled while she listened. We peeked in to each other’s journals. These illustrations are hers.

I hope this weekend finds you with time outside, in golden fall, if it is happening where you live. Or just simply with time to do what feeds you, even a short time will do. And if, like me, you have a mountain of wash to hang, take it outside in the fresh air. I assure you, the time will bring you joy.

Barb Bruckner Suarez and me on the cliffs
I got to meet Barb Saurez in person this week. Her blog Birth Happens is wonderful. We clearly shared the same dreams last night because her blog and this one are in the same field today.

xoxS

Laundry meditation: an alternate sock universe?

photo by Anna Kern
photo by Anna Kern

 

Everything in nature is given some form of resilience by which it can rehearse finding its way, so that, when it does, it is practiced and ready to seize the moment. This includes us.
-Mark Nepo

If resilience is part of human nature, that we are each truly practicing what we long to attain and that every failure is just steps in the direction of our evolution, then what does that say about sock loss? Where the hell do they go? And does this loss indicate our species will some day only have one single leg with one single foot to wear the legions, and I mean galaxies, of singleton socks that confound laundry-doers the world over? Is the Ganges full of single socks? Does the Indian Ocean have a sock drawer? Does Maytag build in a top-secret back door or engineer a black hole in the drum of each washing machine, the same way Volkswagen has been sabotaging emissions testing all these years, so that one of each pair of socks can make an escape to an alternate universe?

 

 

I am wondering about this.

xo,

S

 

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