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Worry.

photo by Christina Lane
photograph by Christina Lane

How worried can I be on a bright sunny cold November day?

My daughter clambered on to a coach bus this morning with her Anatomy class to see an exhibit in New York City. I fixed her a thermos of tea, some snacks and checked to make sure she had her phone and charger, cash and a scarf. She did not wear socks, but some things must be left unsaid.

On any other day, this field trip might only be seen as a day when I can work uninterrupted for many hours, not concerned about who is home and when, what they want to eat or with what they might need help. No, today, my city savvy daughter is with her classmates in the city she’d like to call home, where her brother was born, where I met her father, 25 Thanksgivings ago.

I have to come clean here. I am a championship worrier. If it were an Olympic event, I’d rank. If I could be a Rhodes scholar for worrying, I’d be a top contender. Worry is why I pray. I learned in Al-Anon, “If you worry, why pray. If you pray, why worry?” Never one to single task on anything, I figure I can worry and pray and cover my bases. And yours. And the bus driver’s. And all the cars driving near that coach bus. And everyone on the West Side Highway. And absolutely every single soul in the region of Times Square, right now, with the towers gleaming in the sun, wind blowing through those fresh young faces, just where I stood when I was 24 with Stevie Wonder singing in my head.

“New York. Just like I pictured it. Skyscrapers and everything.”

(This song of Stevie’s is so very prophetic. I quote it lightly for my own purpose here, but had I been able to listen then with the ears of a mother of a son, I would have wept as I do now.)

Then by the kindness of the readings that appear in my inbox in the morning, or that I pour over in the soft early light of morning, I came upon this writing by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

“…there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”
-Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I nearly nag, but not quite, my son with questions about alcohol consumption at college. I read the statistics, I listen to what other parents talk about, I have ears to our current culture about alcohol and drug use on college campuses. I have sat in the rooms of 12-Step programs for many years. I witnessed my father’s demise with alcoholism. It is the hardest thing for me these days to let that question rest. And yet, I ambush what could be rich conversations with my son, modeling worry instead of compassionate listening. Am I the only one who does this?

“When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”

I have to rest in the faith that my son and daughter are both great ships, not built to moor at my side for long, but built for the open seas. Our friend Marley Reed is on a sail boat right now. Here is what he saw as they left Chesapeake Bay for the open sea. See that sail?

Marley Reed Sunset at sea
photograph by Marley Reed

Brené Brown discusses in Daring Greatly, if I meet my children with a face and heart of worry every time they leave my house, or my hand, or my car, if all I offer them is worry, then I am not seeing them as capable, well formed, great ships built to ply the waters of life. I am giving them the impression that I don’t see them as built for the adventure they each long for and live.

Last week I suggested we “make of our life an offering.”

Today, my offering is sandwiched layers of prayer, seeing my children as capable, our cities as safe, our roads navigable, and our country welcoming to all. I slather on the words that Vice President Biden said about not letting terrorism win.  I lay in grace and all my children have learned about the subway system, about kindness and about personal responsibility. Then, like a schooner catching the first winds out beyond the mouth of the harbor, they billow forth.

What happens to me, back here in the harbor, is up to me. And that is what my work is all about, what rises forth when I create from my own life experience. The same is true for you, gentle reader.

 

 

Ben in 2006
Ben in 2006

Please stay tuned here on Laundry Line Divine. Some big changes are up ahead for this website, most importantly, in name. I will be shifting to calling this site by my name and reserving Laundry Line Divine for the book I am completing this year. Your images of laundry lines are still welcomed, especially because I am making a collaborative mosaic collage for the Laundry Line Divine page that will soon be up on this site.

But til then, stay warm. Pray often.
All my love, S

The sound of the genuine

First you have to find it

There is something in you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself … The sound of the genuine is flowing through you. Don’t be deceived and thrown off by all the noises that are a part even of your dreams [and] your ambitions, that you don’t hear the sound of the genuine in you. Because that is the only true guide you will ever have and if you don’t have that you don’t have a thing. … Cultivate the discipline of listening to the sound of the genuine in yourself.

 

– Howard Thurman, “The Sound of the Genuine,”

Baccalaureate Speech at Spelman College, May 4, 1980
source One Spirit Learning Alliance Daily reading

 

 

Sending you big ears, an open heart and a nice inky pen to keep track of those dreams today.

xo,

 

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

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