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I am worth the time it takes: Beth Bornstein Dunnington and Laurie Colwin on the Laundry Line

“I believe I am worth the time it takes to create whatever I feel called to create.”
Jan Phillips The Artist’s Creed

Do you feel stingy with yourself sometimes? That taking time for yourself is just too luxurious an act when there is so much more to be done in your day. Dinner to cook, clutter to clear, papers to grade, people to listen to…all these things that make up the pastiche of your home life, those things can soak up your hours like a fresh sponge takes up spilled wine. Completely.

And there you are at the end of the day, with your manuscript untouched for the fifth year, your paint drying in their tubes, the hat you started to felt a lump in the bottom of a forgotten basket. How could you possibly write a letter, it has been so long, the recipients have lost the threads of your connection and it is just too much to bear?


I have felt this way. I have wept as I frosted cakes or washed the 75th cup of the day, shed tears over unwritten words. But there, in those acts, those quotidian acts of mothering, I began to feel the beauty of my life unfold when I began to take pleasure in and love the work I was doing. I began to see even doing laundry as an entry point to my creativity, as an expression of myself. Here is what my friend Beth Bornstein Dunnington wrote on her Face book page yesterday. Beth and I studied acting together in New York City with Deborah Hedwall at Ensemble Studio Theatre. Over the years of our friendship, we had no inkling that today, nearly thirty years later, having children and marriages and travels and our careers, we could share the inspiration wrought at a laundry line.

“Today hung clothes on a clothesline in my back yard (hidden to everyone by us, so no one has to look out their window in Hawaii and see our sheets when they’re trying to see the ocean) and I have to say how AMAZING everything smells and feels!!! More work to hang things up, but it doesn’t compare to a dryer. Memories of watching the old Jewish bubbie, my grandmother, and my aunt hanging clothes between buildings in back of their 3-decker house in Revere, MA. Clothespins in Bubbie’s mouth as she used the pulley thing to reel the clothes in and out. Everyone on top of everyone in those homes, but this amazing village of women! Not even sure where the men were back then, but they aren’t in these memories at all… Great to watch all of it when I was a kid. I thought about them today when I put a clothespin in my mouth. Especially my girl, Nana Anna. ♥” by Beth Bornstein Dunnington

Do you see how Beth allowed the act of hanging up her sheets to inspire a long string of memories that gave way to a story. The comment thread on her FB post bears witness to the communal experiences connected by a clothesline!

Then, last night, before the bat started sweeping low in our bedroom interrupting precious sleep, I read these words by another she-ro, Laurie Colwin.

“This made Nellie think of the thousands of things they did not know and would never know: that family glaze of common references, jokes, events, calamities- that sense of a family being like a kitchen midden: layer upon layer of the things daily life is made of.”

We, women, mothers, artists, are fabricating a new archeology by creating art from the immediacy of our daily lives. In celebrating these acts, by harnessing the massive power of women’s voices- muffled for centuries and strengthening daily, by telling just how it is for you and me telling just how it is for me, we construct something not meant to compost with the banana peels, but to reside in our collective memory and to be carried on. Beth’s memory of her Bubbie, mouth full of wooden clothespins, smiling in the sun, squinting to see across the glare of white sheets in to the next laundry maze where aproned woman and overalls and socks create a panorama of daily life- yes- this has value today because this life is vanishing quickly. More and more people are living in cities where the chance to hang laundry, to stand under a 250 year old maple and look at the sky, where the pace of life prevents us from taking these moments to pause and reflect and be inspired. I love city life, but if I still lived in NYC, I’d need to be vigilant about keeping connected to the natural and daily rhythms of life.

Laundry Line Divine came to be when I stood out at that line and knew it is mine as a full time mom to hang that wash and it is also mine to express myself, as a creative person, using the language and metaphor of my daily life. I could not deny who I was and pretend to be someone who did not have to be free by three o’clock to meet the bus or cancel an appointment because I have a sick child or need to help on the class play.
I am a woman, a rampantly alive woman, who is a wife and mother. I am also a woman who is vigorously determined to stand for my value and the value of others willing to tell their stories. Particularly women’s stories.

stories require listeners
stories require listeners

And, so, the blog series goes on. Beth has given me a piece to open this next chapter of ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’. Leigh Strimbeck will be here. Jennifer Boire. Lori Landau. Karen Arp-Sandel. Miranda Hersey. Susan Hajec. I will keep you posted.

If you have no idea where to start or what your own authentic voice sounds like, read my friend Regena’s post today about intuition. I will continue to share with you resources for tuning your ears to your own voice.

Until we meet again, look up Laurie Colwin’s cookbooks A Writer in the Kitchen and A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. They were just inducted in to the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame. Janet and I are thrilled. We are planning a Laurie Colwin event with our friend Alana. More on all this later.

Further on to the Laundry Line

Time to work on that yearbook.
All my best love to you and thanks for returning to the Laundry Line,


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