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The Drifters: what is Urban Drift?

21 Sept 24 07 sbb   001

I love maps.
I love to read them.
I love to plan my journey.
I love to save us time.
I love to be able to answer the question: “What is there to do here?” or “How long til we get there?” with authority.
I love to spend my time wisely, what with how short it always seems.

I love all that.

And, I love to drift.

Last spring at the School of the Womanly Arts, a panel of men was collected to answer questions from the women students. A handsome young man in his 20s was asked exactly how he got to his seat there on that panel. He erupted with appreciation that he had only been “Urban Drifting” when a lovely woman stopped him on the street and invited him to participate in this part of the curriculum.

Urban Drifting? What, Regena asked, is that? He spoke about being somewhat aimless in your walking and to pay attention to the energy of the place you are in and follow that energy.

Uncharted wanderings may reveal unexpected wonders.

Now, to some, you may ask, what the hell is energy and how do I follow it?

I often drift with people now. I explain the energy thing as just listening in to what your heart asks for or just follow where you feel right going, or if something catches your eye, walk in that direction. Even if you land in a café where you had not expected to sit, something in your subconscious asks it of you.

Driftees in Arezzo, Italy

In August, we were in Siena with our new friends. Being unfamiliar with each other’s touring styles and wanting to get to know them better, I suggested “Urban Drifting” as a way to not over-plan our hours together and allow us the chance to walk and talk and just let the day reveal itself to us.


In that ancient beautiful city, there were things to see anywhere we turned. By not standing in long lines to see this or that site, we opened up our hours to wandering.


What we did see was marvelous.

Siena Laundry Line

What we did not see was likely also marvelous, but we learned many things about each other, drifting through conversations and stopping in shops or churches or plazas to tell a story to the group or just stand quietly until something pulled us onward.

Gold in Siena

Then, with these same friends we drifted Munich, Germany where we found, tasted, and saw many wonders.

Beyond Cool Motorcycle Art Munich
Pasing Market

My family has caught the drifting bug.

Big E Midway

This past weekend JB and I took our 12 year old to the Big E. It is a large exposition sort of fair. Now, I grew up in Escanaba, Michigan, which is the home of the UP State Fair. I have drifted there with my Mom through buildings housing chickens, pigs, farm implements, timber displays, 4-H crafts and more. I love a good fair. (Stay tuned here for the story of my Blue Ribbon from the Orleans County Fair in August.)

But, I drift.

At the Big E, when we consulted the guide and considered where to start, Catherine shrugged, saying, “Let’s drift”. We wafted through the “Better Living” hall and emerged with new hair thingies that we love, called Hair Magic. Then, before you knew it we were pressed up against the ring around the Draft Horse show in the huge convention hall. We stood transfixed by the horseflesh and excitement of wagons being pulled by gorgeous 6 horse teams, running right past our noses.


Unfortunately, 2 of the 3 of us are allergic, but that did not stop Catherine and I staying to see our favorite team from Flat Rock win the $30,000 purse! JB sat out in the shade while we cheered the team on.

We drifted to the Ferris Wheel.

Ferris Wheel with umbrellas

Then I sat and drew for a while, overhearing people talk about the parade at 5 pm. So after sampling the “footie wootsies” (no photos of this contraption, sorry), we stood and took in the splendor.

Dog Corps

One more ride pulled us, so there I was swinging out over the heads of the fairgoers, flying. I used to upchuck on rides, but apparently being over 50 cures you of that ill.

Then we ate a really yummy lunch. Catherine made us promise to never let her buy another corn dog. JB and I had pita sandwiches.

Oh, we could not miss a drift past the Vita-Mixer display or some beeswax lotion samples. But, all in all, the day was complete; we saw a ton of cool things, ate not one nibble of cotton candy and left the fair satisfied.

Our last fair site, all made of butter

How about you?
Have you ever drifted and not realized you were actually doing something?
I joined a group of 2, now 3 counting me, on Facebook, titled Urban Drifting.

Come on. Drift with me Baby.
Love, S

PS There is a whole slideshow of these Driftings on my Flickr account. Just click over one of the photos here.

Everyday Praying

“The decision alone to depict something, and thus withdraw it from oblivion, means to put that moment in the centre of attention and shape it.”

Greening Apple

That quote was in the wall text at a fabulous art exhibit called
“The Adventure of Reality: Courbet, Cooper, Gursky…” at the Kunsthalle in Munchen earlier this month. The show is moving to Amsterdam, which you can read about through the link.

This is what I am about. What Laundry Line Divine is about. What my art expresses, whether you know it or not. I am transfixed and inspired over and over again by the sublime beauty of daily living. This is why I am bowled over repeatedly by Mary Oliver’s poetry.

Then I read this in my friend Kathy Drue’s notes in FB.


These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~
(The Words Under the Words)

Today I picked an apple from a tree I planted here in our yard. It grew from a seedling we had bid on at a silent auction. My friend Christopher and I staked it up, I have fertilized it and tended it for 5 or 6 years. And now, if you just lay your hand on the lovely, plump, ‘Greening’ apples, they will yield to your grip to give you the most delicious, tart Indian Summer bliss you could ever find.

Greening Apple #2

Every apple is a doorway. A tea label. The grin of the old woman in that wheelchair. It is so beautiful.

Do I exaggerate?
I don’t know. Go pick an apple and see for yourself.

CollageADay 9:23:10 SBB103

All my love, Suzi


The River Cottage Preserves Handbook and Sunflower Petal

The house is scented with ginger, oats and butter right now. Shortbread is cooling in the kitchen in preparation for the Waldorf High School bakesale tomorrow.

Daniel called while I was getting the kitchen set up. He always calls when I am in the kitchen. This timing of his has reigned for many of the 29 years of our friendship. He is a really really good cook. You are lucky to eat at his house. Or at a party he is associated with. He and JNB can get going on a cooking project that takes us to inner Queens for just the right supplies found only at a Chinese grocery there.

He asked how I am.

I am totally excited for this new cookbook that arrived today.
You know I am a canner. I preserve the harvest. There are not many of us in the world, but in the Berkshires, I have some solidarity. And we are all smitten with Pam Corbin’s book, first published in Great Britain, where preserving is a high and valued art, River Cottage Preserves Handbook. For her American readers, Pam published a version that fits in to your hand like a really fine apple. Perfect fit and you can’t wait to take a bite.

So that book is up there in that photo with the sunflower petal. On the cover is a photo of black currants. Janet’s Mom think they taste like dirt. They do sort of, but I adore them. They are a key ingredient in my ‘Double Black Diamond’ jam. The birds ate most of my crop this season, but Loveapple Farm in Hudson has a huge stand for picking.

Black currants, tomatoes (I know, I am obsessed with tomatoes, they are all I talk about lately) and figs- there are so many recipes in this book I cannot wait to try.

But, first, savoring September light.
What glorious days we have had this week and the weather promises to be fine in to next week. Quince harvest is near.

The petunias are partying with the cooler temperatures.

Window Box Home

Ben is in Munich, our 16 year old son. Are you going to Octoberfest? Look for him.

This week has been particularly sweet for many reasons. Life is tender and rich, bitter and difficult all at the same time. A complex flavor is living. Much like black currants.

All I can think about is writing, art, kids, cooking and time. And lots of other things, but looking at how I move around the hours and what becomes my priority. How over the past 16 years JNB and I have organized our pleasure and professions around parenting. I am struck, with one child ensconced in a warm household in Munich, with how easily he occupies my being while so far away. Or our girl climbing mountains with her class this week. She is in me like air.

I live my parenting while doing many other things, including making my way as an artist. That is what my book Laundry Line Divine is all about. But, as I take steps towards letting the work on my book take up more space in my days, I wonder what will shift.

All will be revealed.
Until then, off to cut the shortbread.

Love, S

PS This is where I write in the warm months.

Where I write

PPS Yes that is a hula hoop. xo

Cheri Amour and more Travel Journal Pages

Collage-A-Day August 30, 2010 SBB

In Italy, the labels are really good. I have small friends who eat candy just for the sake of giving me the label. I also have adult friends who, catching the drift of my journalling, eye bottles with a shark’s gaze- how colorful! How easily removed! I have a friend, Alan, an art restorer, who can remove even the most difficult labels.

One wine label later.

This is in my collage-a-day journal, so a bit messy around the edges. My friend Kelly O’Brien and our friend Elizabeth have an art postcard dialogue going too. Elizabeth used the same flowers I used in one of her cards. I think it was from a catalogue for housewares. I prefer “Acacia” for images like that. The wine label…I forget the wine but love the label. Okay, it was a Beaujolais.

Handmade, just like I like it!

Then there is Red Sky Trading Company on Route 16 in Glover, Vermont. The haven of my friends Cheri and Doug Safford, this mecca for vintage lovers is a riot of old and older, cobbled together with the creative genius of these two remarkable people. Cheri saves labels too.

Here is what Karen does with labels.

Karen is the Queen of Food Label use. From Super Bubble to tea packets, she is in a constant state of harvest as she goes through her day. Our “Fe-Mail” collaboration is full of inner commentary communicated by the labels we use in each composition. You can see a gallery of our label-ography at

Bare Naked Labeling

Then there is masking tape. The perfect thing at times.

I could go on. But, for now, I leave you to wrestling that label off your next bottle of ketchup. Moisture is your ally.

Love, S

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