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Which Opportunity?

CBB SBB by BBB
Catherine and SBB at No. Six Depot taken by my son Benjamin

I am sitting in my kitchen, my laptop in my, well, on my lap and my toes wriggled in to the slots in the radiator. A chilly rain falls on my newly raked out garden, like a shower on a balding head, reaching the soil ever so swiftly. No resistant leaves to slow the soaking wet.

I await the chiming of my kitchen timer, ringing every five minutes as a request to shift around another batch of ginger molasses cookies that I am about to drive over the high school theatre where my daughter, the birthday girl, is in tech rehearsals for the Shakespeare & Company Fall Festival. In this version of Henry VI, she plays a man. It is a set of bloody scenes with lots of stage fighting, not something for the fairy loving set. She plays Buckingham and does not fight, nor does she die. But she is turning 18 and so today, I bake.

In the version of today, November 10, that I am living, toes on the radiator, ginger molasses dough under my fingernails and the kitchen smelling like a place you want to hang around in all afternoon, I am celebrating her birthday and in a certain sort of shock, mourning, stunned-towards-agreement. I am in awe on this auspicious day. When I woke this morning, I lolled around for another visit to the dream I was having, then heard her padding along in the hallway and
I broke in to a rousing “Happy Birthday” at dawn’s early light. My first thoughts are of her and her brother, however old they are, my prayers banter with my worry, my meditation placates my projected agenda and I listen, listen, listen for signs of need, concern, and outright joy.

St. Lucia is in a fairy nightgown!
St. Lucia is in a fairy nightgown!
Girl with the cherry earrings
Girl with the cherry earrings

On my cushion the thought came to me that this day is one of particular opportunity for me. But, what confounded me then is the question that has confounded me since I began this motherhood career, that of which opportunity? Isn’t that always the thing? Every time we fly we are coached with what I know to be good advice, “put your own mask on first before assisting others,” but the others quickly expand beyond your progeny, your mate, your pets, your parents, your siblings, the tomatoes, your job, your other boss, your tiny bosses, the school your kids go to, the schools they might want to attend, your faith practice, your friends, the poems that tantalize you when you are seemingly idle, and all the other ways fancy, inspiration and dreams dare you to draw them on to your lap.

There are many factors that decide our time for us. Delivery times for kids, articles, donations to fund-raisers, thank you notes, completed jobs, inquires, appeals, submissions, contributions, invitations-all the ways we do things that adhere to a timely arrival of the expected materials cause us to rouse and make haste. But then there are the other calls, the ones that show up in our dreamy times, in our journals, doodled in the sidebars of the tests you are grading-somewhere over there, out of the reach of your direct discerning attention, in the shady area where yearning and action do a little gig.
Lately, I have been researching how my work hours go when I don’t check email after every little thing I do and parceling out the minutes I spend on social media. I learned this from my friend Katey Schultz who posted an excellent piece here about how we use time online. For nearly a week I have mostly sequestered my email and online time to three segments of an hour a day. I respond to the immediate needs with care. I flag items that I need to mull over. And I delete a ton of email. I spend a bit of time on the social media sites I am active on, then I get to work. This new boundary I have made relieves me of a burden I had completely adjusted to, feeling anxious if I had not checked my email every hour. And really, there is nothing that cannot wait for at least a few hours. People who need to reach me about emergencies will text or call, and so, the online beast becomes something like a domesticated animal that I feed on a schedule. Moo. Arf. Peep. The animal is content.

Sigh.
Every single day we make choices about how we use our time. Do you put limits on your hours with email or on the Internet? I surely appreciate that some of your time is spent here on Laundry Line Divine. Thank you!

Here are some friends I have lingered with this week.

Janet at Modern Loss.
Joanne at Your Digital Blueprint for my #RampantSisterhood
Natalia at IndieGogo-help another artist mom fund her work
My friend Bryan plays Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank at NJ Shakespeare. It is an excellent, moving, affecting production.

Lastly, I will be selling my bespoke journals and Powder Keg Sessions painted prompt cards, along with copies of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers Creative Spirit Showcase on November 22, 2-15 in Pittsfield, MA. I’d love to meet you there!

Catherine’s day has been sweet. I feel her turning towards womanhood and meeting similar challenges that I met-jarring moments of surprise where gender affects decisions made by adults that you thought would not yield to stereotypes. She has weathered a few bumps this week so differently than I would have at her age and I am proud of her. But where, oh where is the girl who hung cherries on her ears and made puppet shows for hours? I took the opportunity to watch a bit of the play rehearsal after dropping off the cookies this afternoon. She affects a male swagger in knee high boots, a low-slung belt and sword, and I gasp. She is so believable as perhaps, the 8th wonder of the World, this young becoming woman. I miss that little girl; I observe this blossoming beast and I will feed it cookies and tea until I am no longer.

CBB in Shakespeare and Co 2014 by Haley Barbieri
CBB in Shakespeare and Co 2014 by Haley Barbieri

So. Good evening my dear pals.
And much love,

S

Expressing Motherhood in Boston tonight

Wander

I have been on the road quite a bit this season.

I love that I feel pretty much at home, as long as I can communicate with my kids-if not be in physical contact with them-and I have my journal. And my husband is near. My family and my daily creative practice sustain me.

Lake Superior cairn

So it happens that today I am in Cambridge, MA.

Tonight, I perform a monologue of mine in Expressing Motherhood in Dedham, MA along with nine other women. As it happens with women listening to these stories, we have already cried, laughed, snorted snd gasped…so pretty much we love each other already. Here is a link to tickets. If you are in the area, come. It’s going to be a blast. And there will be popcorn.

Expressing Motherhood collage

 

I’ll be back in the Berkshires tomorrow. Next week is the 51st Powder Keg Ramsdell Session, my free writing workshops for women at the library in Housatonic.

Happy Fall from Laundry Line Divine!

xo,

S

 

 

PS. Can you tell I am poking this out on my iPad? Sorry for the cryptic post. Long languid posts later.

Spending my days with grapes

 

Pear and juice

 

“How we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

-Annie Dillard

 

 

How are you spending your September days?

 

 

Here in the Berkshires, the sun’s heat has softened, the grapes ripen, the peaches live in the cloud of fruit flies on the counter and homework needs doing by the teenager across the table from me. (She who refuses to let me take a photo of her. Believe me, she is there. Sniffing with allergies. Hair wet from a shower. Cheeks all flushed from a bike ride.)

How I spent my day today included two trips to the hardware store, different hardware stores because I melted the hose that siphons boiling hot juice in to jars from my steam juice extractor. It is a bubbly efficient business when it works well, but when it doesn’t, no one much knows how to fix the problem. My friend Janet, who is a preserving maven, suggested it might be time to take a rest from canning, but I am a woman with a mission. Grape jelly is on my mind. Janet and I picked armloads of grapes and since I already have 11 jars of juice put up-deep purple and thick-(you want to visit me this winter on a chilly gray day when I serve you some hot Tulsi tea with a shot of grape juice in it) instinct tells me it is time for jelly.

Grapes, Basil, Apples

I am not tired or grumpy about it. My afternoon had room for this running around, in between vacuuming, hanging two loads of wash, and not doing the 75 other things I thought I would do before the original hose melted.

Does this mean I will spend my life running around fixing stuff so I can do the thing I originally set out to do? Or does this mean, according to Annie Dillard, that I will spend my life tuning my tools that I employ to savor the harvest of any one given day? Some days those tools are hoses with an inner diameter of 5/16″ and not 1/4″, other days those tools are Sharpie writing pens or Uniball Signo pens that write on acrylic painted pages just fine or preparing a lunch that won’t wilt in my daughter’s back pack before 11:00 AM.

My tools vary. My mission is consistent.

Dahlia

I am memorizing my own writing for a show I am in next week. It is a funny business, writing my own material. I often read my work in public, but memorizing it means then I have to ACT it and acting means that I have to figure out my motivation in the piece. When I write, I am not always thinking about why. I am thinking about is.

 

And today is grape juice for jelly day.

Today is September 15. I have been my new age for a week now.

Today is the day I visited with my sister-in-law and learned a bunch of new things about her.

Today is the day I went to yoga and learned a few new things about myself.

 

I guess I spend my days curious.

 

Did you get to read much this summer?

I read Euphoria by Lily King and Home by Marilynne Robinson and Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. I highly recommend each of these books. That was my second go round with Ahab’s Wife and I loved it even more this time.

Do you have any book recommendations?

Rudbeckia

 

My friend Lissa Rankin, who has a piece in An Anthology of Babes, has a new book in the works. I got an advanced copy today of The Anatomy of a Calling and I suggest you put it on your gift list. Once I read it fully, I will write more about it here. Lissa has suffered the loss of several people close to her this month and has a new piece about death and the Universe here. Our community in the Berkshires has also had an unexpected death of a joyful, purposeful man, friend, husband and Lissa’s words remind me to stay open in the face of confusing loss.

There is one more seat available in my Sacred Refuge Sunday, which begins this Sunday. If you have been debating about it, now is the time to jump in.

 

Here is all my love to you and thanks for making Laundry Line Divine part of your day.

Best,

 

S

 

 

New Moon Clarity

These cups of light

Saturday Morning in the Berkshires.
Damp, cooler and quiet in my yard.
The grapes await picking. I have more pears than I can freeze or use.
And my apple trees are nearly ready to pick.

I came home from my month away last Saturday night. This week has been filled with unpacking stuff, sorting out all the beach glass I collected, canning peaches and figuring out how this break in daily presence as a parent of two big kids has impacted how we relate to one another. Seems that I am still a resource, an important one, and that I hold secrets to running a household that are not interesting nor available to a 17 year old. Fine. Let me be the one who restocks the toilet paper and waters the garden.

I am preparing for my new offering, Sacred Refuge Sundays, to begin on September 20. If you are curious go here. There are three spots open for this intimate writing and art workshop.

I am memorizing a monologue for Expressing Motherhood in Boston on September 25. This show has gone up all over the country for a few years and I am thrilled to be in the cast. If you know of people in the Boston area who might be intrigued, please share this invitation with them.

The Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions resume on Wednesday, September 23 in Housatonic, MA at 6:30 PM. These free writing workshops take place in a gorgeous historic library in a village that is equally charming. In the fall, we often stand outside after writing together and watch the stars come out, sparkling over Flag Rock and the watertower. The Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions have grown in to a vital and captivating sisterhood of women dedicated to expanding their writing practice. More on that here.

A wing

This is the year of me writing my book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. I took a break from it three years ago to seriously work on my author platform and to develop the work I do around motherhood and creativity. This is where all my teaching rises from, my stand for the stories of women, particularly mothers. In order to write, I have to string together longer hours of solitude and focus, so I am paring down the work I am doing outside my studio.

This means a few big changes are on their way:

1. I am giving Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others a rest. We will return to the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers in 2017. The blog series will toddle along with new content and visits with some of the writers to see what they are up to now.

2. I cannot preserve every single quince that is about to leap off my tree. Do you want some of them? Let me know.

3. I can be tender and kind to myself when I see my friends doing big and exciting things this year, while I plink away at the keys of this computer, dedicating variations of our beloved 26 letters of the alphabet to tell the story of how I raise myself as I raise my kids. The story is not over, but it is time to complete the book.

4. I will be making choices to intricately weave together my visual and literary work. When I was with Lisa Sonora this summer at her Creative Entrepreneur workshop, I learned that it is okay for me to inhabit my writer and artist selves simultaneously. I always thought my whole self was too much for the world to take. Lisa has dared me to be bigger and I am not sure what that looks like yet, but here on Laundry Line Divine, you will be among the first to know.

5. I am going away on two writing retreats this year to support the deep dive I know I need to take to complete my book. I will continue to travel to teach, so if you know of a conference or arts center that might be the perfect spot for a Mapping Motherhood workshop or for a Powder Keg Session or Sacred Refuge workshop please let me know. I am accepting a few Rampant Sisterhood social media mentoring clients. I loved teaching in Charlotte last spring and my class in Escanaba, Michigan wants me to return. Meeting women who are on the verge of a daily creative practice and sharing the tools that work for me is a great joy in my life. Helping others discover their voices is an honor. My offerings are listed here.

That we are here by SBB

September always calls me to recalibrate, sharpen my pencils and clear off the piles of stuff that have accumulated around my house. Canning and preserving the harvest assures me that some of the glow of summer will be available to us in February in the form of peach jam and grape juice.

 

 

Peach jam

 

In the same way writing and collage capture the essence of experience. For me, writing lets me pull certain flavors forward. And, always, I am surprised by what surfaces.

I hope this post finds you well.
I always want you to know how much I appreciate you reading me here on Laundry Line Divine.
And I look forward to meeting you in person, if I haven’t already. One of the biggest gifts of this summer was getting to talk to women who have read my posts here for a few years. I will always be a real time person. My online life is important, but let my glasses steam up over a hot cup of tea, let us press our hands and hearts together and go from there.

CBB and SBB 9.2015
my girl and I

I am off to pick grapes.
Have a lovely weekend,
S

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