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Putting Motherhood on the Front Page with Jenny Welkin

Sunday Walk by Jurek

Leading a Creative Life

 
I am constantly drawn to the bi-line of Laundrylinedivine – ‘seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life’. It was these few words that attracted me to visit this blog, and sparked my interest in writing something here.
I‘m at a point in my life where I am trying to define what leading a creative life means, and how I can make it happen on a daily basis.
Is it a practical thing? If I get up every morning, write and take photographs, cut flowers from my garden and arrange them artfully in a vase – does that mean I’m leading a creative life?
Or is it more a frame of mind? If I shift my head into creative mode, will I not see art everywhere I look – from the shirts on the washing line blowing like upside-down ghosts to the beautiful curl of a snail’s shell in my vegetable garden?
Who can help inspire me to lead a creative life? When I look around for role models, I see many wonderful men, yet I know that for them a creative life is essentially different from mine. Not better or worse, just different. I tend to turn from them, and instead seek out creative women, knowing that their stories will be more relevant for me.
As a woman, I have given birth to three gorgeous sons – a physical form of creation that has had a profound effect on me and the way I see the world. The subsequent decades after the births, packed as they were with a million little actions and thoughts and words – everything it takes to create three well-rounded personalities – also coloured my creativity, making it even more gender-derived.
I have grappled with the role of being a step-mother too – to a lovely girl (a new one for me) and a boy with special needs who will need care for the rest of his life. A different kind of mothering, a different form of creativity.
But as I get older – in my earlier fifties now – I find that my creative focus has shifted away from the influence of motherhood that moulded it for so long. Now, as four of our five kids are living away from home, I have my nose to the breeze once more.
My creativity is becoming self-centred – it’s all about me and the environment I live in. When I write or take a photograph, it feels like a deliciously selfish act. Is it prudent to admit that? Does it reflect well on me? I don’t know, but I know that it’s a fact. This is my life now – my focus is no longer on my children (although of course, I would drop everything at a moment’s notice if they needed me – the mothering instinct still rules the day and no doubt always will).
What have I done to carve out my newly formed creative life? I have given up paid (and largely uncreative) work in a ‘now or never spirit’ of commitment to my creativity. Brave or foolish? I would argue necessary. These days, I don’t have the time and energy to work a paid job and be creative.
I feel I owe it to myself – this creative life. I know this is partly because my mother died in her early sixties, and I always feel I may not have much time left (no matter how irrational the foundation for that thought). I feel entitled and deeply thrilled at having thrown all the descriptors of my working life up in the air, and I am fascinated and excited to note the changes to my days, and the way I see and think.
I have a few half-formed fears about being too old to make any creative impact or worthwhile contribution to our creative melting pot, but my indignance rears up and I spit on my fears. There’s nothing I can do about my age. I know there will be times when it will work against me – but I’m savvy and I’ll deal with it. My age inspires me to work harder to show my reader the value of it, the spirit that lies within the wrinkles, the fact that age is a state of mind, and all that.
All of these things lead me to the belief that a creative life has to be highly tailored to the individual concerned, a kind of ‘creative life couture’. My new creative life is designed around me, and defined by all the things I am – writer, photographer, poet, mother, member a certain generation and culture, and the product of all the millions of things that life has flung at my feet so far.
Perhaps leading a creative life begins by simply choosing to be true to ourselves – with all the muddle and uncertainty, the graft and the flashes of inspiration, the drive and the passion that involves. And at all times, ‘seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life’ is a very good practise to keep in mind.

Jenny Welkin

Jenny Welkin was born in England in 1960, gained a BA Hons in English and American Literature, and an MA in Modern Literature. As a student, she volunteered and wrote book reviews for ‘Spare Rib’ magazine in London. She went on to work as a researcher and writer for Henley Management College, before moving to run a successful family business. In 2010, she changed career to become an author. Her first novel caught the attention of several London literary agents but is as yet unpublished. She is currently writing a blog at www.mystripybook.com, and working on a second novel.

 

 

 

Celebrating mothers this month on Laundry Line Divine means we are Putting Motherhood on the Front Page. All month I will be sharing guest blog posts from the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series here on the front page. In this collection of writing, women who are artists, authors, dancers, filmmakers and quilters will be sharing their creative journeys. I am convinced that the stories these women share illuminate the territory of motherhood with a detail and expansiveness that is rarely found elsewhere.

I know very well that some of the readers of Laundry Line Divine don’t have children. For a myriad of complicated and intensely personal reasons, you don’t have kids.

But, you do mother in so many other ways.

Coleen Davidson’s post says it so well. Women, by nature, are ‘madres’ to others. It is in our female DNA to care for others. While I will never stand here and say that one choice or situation is better than another, since I am a mother, this is my perspective. I never, ever want what happens here on Laundry Line Divine to feel like a club, exclusive membership only. I know women who have become stepmothers at 45. I know women who have adopted at 43. I know women who are perfectly happy without children and get immense joy out of showering nieces and nephews with a standard of care and attention no mother could muster. I also know there are some great guys who read these posts. Thank you each! When I welcome the stories of mothers, I am welcoming the stories of all women who own their creative powers, whether you birth babies, books or business. Please let me know if you’d like to contribute to this series by writing me at suzi@laundrylinedivine.com.

You can take some of this goodness home with you.

An Anthology of Babes

Consider buying a copy of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, which compiles some of the blog posts and writing from the live events I host for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others. Mandy Steward of Messy Canvas wrote this review.

Here is where you can buy the book.

Here is the book trailer. I haven’t shared it much yet, but I’d love you to take a peek.

Today’s web wonderment is this article on PsychCentral. Miranda Hersey Helin and I were interviewed for this piece about mothering and the importance of being creative.

I hope spring is springing where you are.
Much love,
S

This last night of National Poetry Month. We say adieu with Sou MacMillan, poet and artist and mother

 

 

Gentlemanly argument by Sou MacMillan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the Storm

 

The truth is let from the bag like a cat

sleeping so long it could have been dead

You reach for the bowl on the table, red & gold pears

& move it gently to the counter

 

Nothing rattles yet

Nothing breaks yet

You are still standing & pretty in the kitchen

 

The earth grows soft

The ark of habit stalls on the way up

 

The air, still & unsuspicious

touches its palms to your throat

 

There will be a mess to clean up

There will be words -

every verb present, active as the weather

every noun accusative

 

But now, in the hush of stunned surprise

You stand with your mouth not even yet open

& say nothing, knowing

 

There will be glass in the fruit before this is over.

 

 

Before the Storm originally published in Salt Hill Journal, No. 24, Syracuse University 2010

 

 

 

Gabrielle by Sou MacMillan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coda

 

On the way to Buffalo the highway

shines in the heat

like a magazine cover –

 

flips my heart sidewise &

 

2 lanes peel off to the right

northbound.

 

So we guitar-crossed lovers

stop the van to see the other side of customs,

roll around in the dirt,

let our sneakers go native.

 

I declare nothing.

You have no secrets either.

The van sings out like you left it,

engine downplaying its business, just hisses.

5 geese fly overhead.

 

The foreign currency of dollars sweating in our socks,

you swear in American &

pronounce us Just A Little Lost.

 

The road, broad as a snore & grey

doesn’t even beckon,

 

& belly up on the berm, I wonder at how

it looks just like New York

 

 

© 2011 Sou MacMillan

 

 

 

Here we are. A moonlit spring night. Poetry. Together.

What a great month of words.

Here is a link to some other really splendid poetry at Pulizer ReMix.

 

You can read more of Sou MacMillan’s work on her website.

And in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series.

Or in An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice.

Til then, let your slumbers be sweet.

Good Night April.

Bunny bunny,

S

Days of Gratitude Jenny Laird and What Comes Through Me

Jenny Laird Out of the Mouths of Babes

Just over two weeks ago, we were held captive by the words and wonder of Jenny Laird. Readers of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice will know the chilling beauty and red hot passion of Jenny’s writing. She brings poetry to the most forlorn of places, to a spare room in the Ronald McDonald House or a neonatal intensive care unit.

What she writes exists as the crescent moon in this phrase of Rumi’s:

The universe and the light of the stars come through me.
I am the crescent moon put up
over the gate to the festival.

What comes through us, as we make art, make cakes, make love, make peace, make stories is the light of the stars, the stuff of our universe. It is no small act of courage to step out of your skin and let your truth settle in to a pinch pot or a plate of cookies. This morning, my fifteen year old headed off to high school with a full platter of delicately wrought Romeo and Juliet cookies to fulfill her ‘creative’ option in an assignment about Shakespeare’s play. I love that she just took to baking these cookies. By the empty tray she brought home, the cookies were well enjoyed.

I just returned from a week away at Penland School of Craft in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. There with my beloved teacher Paulus Berensohn, I explored mindfulness practices with Caverly Morgan of One House of Peace and explored some of my favorite creative expressions including mail art. Rather than making a living with his art, Paulus makes his life art. He sends hundreds of pieces of mail art a year.

When I read The Writer’s Book of Inspiration this morning, I stepped closer to knowing that whatever it is I am doing, creatively, I have the potential to heal myself and offer light to others in that expression. I am assured that like Jenny, like that crescent moon over the gate to the festival, my light is welcome and important in this world.

Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I am not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, than what on earth is it for? ~Alice Walker

What creative act expresses your voice? When do you catch yourself grinning ear to ear with glee?

Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others had me grinning from ear to ear. Listening to other women tell their stories just makes my heart sing.

OUT group on stage

Here is what my friend Alison Larkin said about the event:

Bravo! What an evening! Suzi, I had such a wonderful time and loved the whole thing. Your piece at the end was honest and funny and true and reassuring too and I will definitely be buying the book. I am so so sorry I had to dash off after the readings last night – I had been working since 4.30 am and needed to lie down. I LOVED your writing and your reading of your writing and the wonderful mix of women you gathered for a really unforgettable evening. You are an extraordinary person indeed with a powerful positive energy that we are fortunate to have in this community. Every story gave me something rich to think about – and the cookies were superb! Bravo, bravo, bravo! Alison x0x

Alison is a rock star and so is Michelle!
Alison is a rock star and so is Michelle!

I hope this finds you well and warm.
With love,
S

Stars at Penland School of Craft

Penland, NC

Ohhh where have you been Suzi Baum, Suzi Baum?

I have been posting remotely this week.
Very remotely.
Remote, like from a small dirt road up a very long hill off a small highway through the Blue Ridge Mountains sixteen hours from my desk in the Berkshires, if you count the slight misreading of the map that took us to Cape May for sunset. Cape May was not really on our way.
At all.

But we, Karen and I, got here, which is Penland School of Craft for a week long discussion and workshop about art and activism. We are practicing Zen Buddhist meditation and making pinch pots with our teacher, Paulus Berenshon.

Paulus at Penland March 2013

And today, we spent making more pots and talking about people and organizations that embody social justice with high magic, who take their work seriously enough to be willing to make a difference in the lives of other people. John Hartman and Lisa Blackburn founded The Empty Bowl project. John is a potter and Lisa a book artist and together they answered the question “How can I make a difference in the world with my work?” by founding The Empty Bowl project that provides a template for communities across the globe to respond to hunger. John said today that the power of this project (and of any project) is in bringing the community together.

One of my Empty Bowls

We made bowls for the next firing of Empty Bowls.
I have never made a bowl before today.
Now, I have made seven.
Here they are with a few of Betty’s, who spoke about Rethink to our group. If you want to read more about how Betty is making a difference in the lives of school children in New Orleans with Rethink, look here.

Some of our bowls

I am having the time of my life, despite having this pesky cold.
I am making books and thinking about my anthology and the work of
Out of the Mouths of Babes and dreaming about the next steps for this project that celebrates the stories of mothering and creativity. Many seeds are being planted in this week of the New Moon.

How about you? What organizations or action do you support or sustain with your passion? If you aren’t sure where to turn, please look at The Empty Bowl project, or Rethink or the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

This week I am thinking hard about Lisa Anne Auerbach’s belief that

If nothing changes, it changes nothing.

I hope An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice can make a change, in the lives of women in Berkshire County and beyond. All sales of this book benefit
VIM Berkshires and the Community Health Programs both that supply free and low-cost health care to women.

There are two really important events this weekend at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers aimed at making a difference in the lives of women. Friday night,
WAM Theatre and Sisters of Peace present Half the Sky at the Mahaiwe Theater and then Saturday, our featured OUT blogger Serene Mastriani and Radio2Women present Interviews with Powerful Women on the campus of Simon’s Rock.

Stars over Penland Morning handmade journal by Suzi Banks Baum March 12, 2013

Until then, I will be pinching pots and sewing books under the starry North Carolina night.

Xo S

PS Read Serene’s blog here. More on all of that tomorrow. G’night.

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