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The Village: Who else is here while you mother?

Out of the Mouths of Babes prayer card by SBB

Motherhood is my teacher.

It makes me perennially curious and preternaturally suspicious.

For all the wisdom that gets handed down to mothers, we begin our own research from our very beginnings. Since the moment we are tiny girls and boys , we watch how our mothers hand us bowls of soup, we feel how they zip us in to snowsuits or close our doors at night, we are constantly collecting details about the qualities of this job. Who a mother is, is one of the first stories we ruminate on. Those eyes gazing at us in a cloud of love, confusion, tears, fury, wonder, gentleness, regret, desperation and plenty. Who a mother is, in the village of our becoming, is one of the fundamental, and, let me say it, necessary parts of us being who we are. By necessary, I mean alive.

My inquiry leads me to the work I do today as a writer and artist. I study and watch.

This morning in yoga, a mother with a baby who is about 3 months old, laid him in the center of the room on a blanket while we all went upside down on the wall preparing for handstand. His tiny chorus of gurgles cheered for our abs. We all breathed deeper because this little beast in a snuggly all-in-one was fascinated with the dust motes or the snow falling outside the window, the play of light on the forearms and backs of 30 people. He was content there in the middle of the room.
Later, while we were on our backs in shavasana, the only sound was his suckling. Next to the heartbeat of our own mothers, I do not know another more basic sound of connection and care. The quiet in the room settled, as if we were all being nurtured like this little one, in the arms of peaceful rest for a few minutes before we entered our busy days up on our two legs in motion.

Lissa Rankin says this in her excellent book, The Fear Cure:

“The willingness to be humble and curious, to simply wonder whether something is true, opens a doorway to possibility. It frees us from the limits of certainty and allows life to become our own mystery school.”

Becoming a mother humbles me. I dine on curiosity. Daily I wonder whether something is true. I live at the doorway of possibility. Faith builds in me as I marry this possibility to prayer. For my children and people in the Village around my family, the others who are community to our family unit, we hold possibility for each other.

Ben tiny foot
Ben day four by Keith Weber

 

Motherhood, even before you become pregnant, just considering pregnancy, draws you in to a wild world. We are instantly freed from the limits of certainty and thrust in to a mystery school of our own making. Our power to create comfort or terror is nearly unlimited. The hoarse-throated cries of women torn from footloose single lives to being forever in relationship to worry, time and love is a sound that will cease only when humans exit the planet. As long as we birth and nurture, we will be in the midst of this unknowable, but daily discovered territory of motherhood. For this reason, this slippery, transparent, muddily concrete existence is worth learning more about. These stories run the gamut, because each of us holds a unique prism on human experience.

Who joins us here in our Village, who impacts us, who shows up can be as random or as surprising as anything you have never planned. Do you intend to know the drivers of the ambulances in your town? Did you ever think you’d be familiar with the people you know now, who you never dreamed of being on a first name basis with? It is a hugely common, mundane act to connect with others, but this unity creates a web that, like the little boy nursing in a room full of yogis this morning, provides unspoken nurturance and continuity of our human story.

We carry on.
We carry each other. We are carried as we care.

Listening to the little boy nurse this morning, hearing him sigh with needs answered and care felt, the mysterious bond of parenting becomes audible.

OUT 2015 Poster

I hope you will join me for Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others this Saturday evening, March 7, at Dewey Historic Hall in Sheffield, MA. If you are far away, stay tuned to this event and the ongoing blog series here on Laundry Line Divine. If this topic of the Village intrigues you, here are the submission guidelines for the blog series.
Out Blog Series Submission Guidelines 2015

And, wherever you are in your life, with or without children, I urge you to consider Lissa’s reflection. Becoming willing and curious opens our lives to new ways of being. Look at your Village and wonder, who is here and how do they care for me? Who do you care for and what impact does this have on your life?

More on all of this during the month of March.
xoS

PS Lissa is one of a growing group of creative women expressing from inside motherhood. Here is Lissa’s post in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series. This piece also appears in An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, available here and here.

Held in Holy Paws

 

Catherine Mountain 2006

I am held in holy pause.
I smile.
Thinking of two beasts. Two warm-breathed beings
chuffing in the dark. One rolled in extra long sheets.
The other in a sleeping bag, on a mat, in the desert.
How did it come to this already?
I have lived for such very long time with multiple timelines
running through me.
And suddenly, time opens up like the mouth of a fish.

My idea engine rumbles efficiently.
I am the source of all good ideas.
But with them far away, I cannot
trundle down the back steps to flare my
suggestions, a fan deck of inspiration,
I have to take my own good ideas and
file the others in to letters written or
a well-placed text. No mother flooding now.

But boy, is it hard to idle this engine.
I’d like to offer them one, each, today.
Just so they could feel my hand at their side.
A warm place on a shoulder.
My fingers flared, waiting to be woven in to
her long fingers or wrapped in his broad palm.

The gathering of motherhood:
gathering cells,
gathering love in to arms,
gathering food, warmth, water,
gathering shelter and adventure,
gathering space and depth,
gathering gear and goodbyes.

Gathering good ideas seems the least I can do.

I shall not cease with any of this gathering.

You will always have this of me-
cells, love, warmth, food, water,
shelter, space, adventure, depth,
gear and greetings.

Always.

~Suzi Banks Baum
February 5, 2015

 

 

Last night the women of Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others met here to share our work for March 7, and sample the rice pudding. Too much almond milk, by my estimation, but otherwise good.

Writing from inside motherhood, from the soul of woman, is a daunting task.
In a conversation with Krista Tippett, host of On Being, Brene Brown spoke about the
expectation women feel in our culture to have everything look easy, FINE and good. “Motherhood is a blessing and look good while you’re at it.” This shame inducing expectation leaves no room for the humanity of the experience.

And it is just that humanity that Out of the Mouths of Babes captures.

 

Nicole Dupont Out of the Mouths of Babes 2014
Nicole Dupont Out of the Mouths of Babes 2014

I hope you can join us on March 7, 2015 at Dewey Historic Hall in Sheffield, MA. If not, follow the blog series here on Laundry Line Divine. If you have subscribed recently but not gotten a regular email, please check your spam folder. AWeber notifications seem to be winding up in spam, especially in Google Mail.

All my best to you on this Friday.
xo,

S

This Invisible Gale: Writing at Edith Wharton’s Mount

Edith Wharton's White Silence

 

It is important to write.

Your experience of your inner world, acted upon, impressed and marked by your outer world is worth capturing and expressing.

 

Edith Wharton Invisible Gale

It is late spring and the cardinals, wrens, chipmunks and bees are busy in my yard. We sleep with the window open at our heads and the night sounds permeate my dreams. I keep falling in love with the world with each day, as Mary Pipher quotes in Writing to Change the World, this by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

“Love all of God’s creation, the whole of it, and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly, more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love.”

Tenderly today and before I head out to tend the nasturtiums, I wanted to let you know all my writing workshop went so well. Writing Motherhood last night was beyond my wild dream of what we could accomplish together in Edith Wharton’s Berkshire sanctuary.

Eight women joined me, the 8th arriving just after I laid her papers aside thinking she was not able to make it.

Thank you Goddess for fulfilling my desire for eight brave women.

We began in the way that I know, to center ourselves, connect with what is real for us in the moment and begin our writing journey there. I don’t expect any of these 8 women to achieve publishing success within the week. I do trust they will kindle their own voices, they will discover reservoirs of their own experience which will fuel life altering creativity to pour forth. I am not sure what that work will look like, but I surely am curious. (You can attend a public reading of some of the work being made this week, this coming Friday at The Mount. Here are details.)

Edith Wharton wrote with such articulate attention to the human condition as she saw it. In her fiction, The Mother’s Recompense, published in 1925 she wrote:

“Mothers and daughters are part of each other’s consciousness, in different degrees and in a different way, but still with a mutual sense of something which has always been there.”

This is part of the territory we are mapping in Writing Motherhood. Who and what we hold as always having been there, and what that looks like for each of us. We reflect on the past, but pull the lens forward to the present and cast light on our next steps. Personal writing stirs your consciousness and stories float in to focus. Once we begin writing them, the conduit opens and more stories, memories, understandings and yearning melt in to view.

Just like the red fox I saw last night. On my way home from The Mount, I stopped at the lake near my house to look at the twilit water. I rinsed my hands, preparing to step back in to the world of family life. As I shook my hands dry, I turned to the left and there was a red fox, brilliant in a flash then nearly invisible as it dissolved in to the woods.

We get those same flashes of magic, real life appearing in high relief. Writing is one way of gathering details, filling in the pictures in our hearts and sharing them with the world.

Off to the nasturtiums.
xo S

Writing Motherhood: Driving with teens

 

 

Catherine driving

Driving Mother

by Suzi Banks Baum

One tangle of mothering teens is this:

You emerge from sleep. You hear your teen making a smoothie. She is grinding what sounds to be at least two cement blocks lugged from the garage at a pre-dawn hour and placed without liquid in the Vitamix. You decide that getting up is better than pretending to sleep. Recalling an endless parade of bowls of oatmeal, granola and toast, you are happy to know the teen is feeding itself.
You pray. You meditate. You turn on the bathroom light.
You encounter the teen reading over the porcelain sink while brushing its teeth.
You greet the teen.
The teen grunts.
You pass by carefully so as not to dislodge toothbrush or book from grip of teen.

You pad downstairs to look after your hot drink. You avoid mess around sink hoping the teen will clean. You mention this to teen when next you cross paths between laundry room and mirror. Teen grunts again, clearly offended that you’d ever think to doubt its dish washing abilities.

You blow on your hot drink, steam rising. You consider the drive to school, weather, road and teen conditions. You check time with teen. Teen snarls at reminder. You sip hot drink. Teen says ten minutes. You go upstairs to dress. You move slowly, for in ten minutes much can be done. Quiet moments pass in your bedroom. You make the bed with one sock on and the other tucked in to your elbow as you shake out the comforter. Four minutes later you have the other sock on but no shirt and teen is ready. Impatient. You ask teen to go warm up the car.

You put your coat on in the chilly mudroom. Teen is now not ready. You don your boots. Now teen is in car and buckled in for safety. Somehow teen is ready and not ready within same two minutes.

Teen shall drive you and her to school. You buckle up.

There is a transformation that must happen in the dynamic between you and teen. Surly morning behavior must give way to supplicant asking for your gifted guidance, eyes and patience as teen backs car down icy driveway. You brace your hot drink with one hand, your body with the other against the dashboard as if you could slow this whole operation down a few years. But there is no slowing down now. You and your hot drink are here for the ride.

Teen drives. You breathe.
Teen stops at the light. Drink sloshes.
Teen breathes. You breathe.
Teen drives on.

Between the stoplights and the accelerations that require you to brace your self, your drink and her childhood, there are moments when teen is driving smoothly in correct lane at correct speed at correct distance from other vehicles while calculating arrival at potential stoplight ahead, incorrectly. Another sloshy stop.

Up a mountain you go and it is not even 7:45 a.m.
No need to speed.
Slight adjustments necessary for wandering over center-line or in to the breakdown lane, both descriptive of your current state- hardly centered and on the verge of breaking down.

Teen slows to final stop sign with newfound grace.
No slosh.
Teen flicks blinker on for right-hand turn in to school driveway.
Proceed up the hill.
Keep sunglasses on to mask wide-eyed gaze as you behold the coming confidence in this driver who just yesterday was using her slippered feet to scoot herself along in an orange plastic car with a yellow roof, small rubbery steering wheel glazed with saliva dribbled from a sore teething mouth.

Teen has driven herself to school. You, slightly damp, get out of car to congratulate her and yourself for a ride free of arguments and discussion of any heated topics like summer jobs and travel plans, perhaps one that includes back packing through India while teen is still a teen.

You watch teen haul heavy backpack and self-made lunch in to the cosmos of boys with wet hair and flushed cheeks, to on-call discussions about despair, a bio test and Student Senate, in to the world of sophomore year where mothers are not allowed on campus or anywhere near the topic of what exactly goes on in school today. Echoes of that cheerful question die on the lips of mothers of teens everywhere. Teen becomes more of a teen in tenth grade. Mothers become more mothers, wrestling steamy cups and conversations in cars driven by the hands of those who used to play Patty Cake.

You pour yourself in to the car where you no longer get to look in the rear view mirror to see teen nodding off in heavy blue plastic car seat lined in sheepskin, Good Night Moon in her hands.

She is a big girl now, this teen.

Buckle up.

 


 

 

 

 

Momma Love by Ali Smith on the altar with Grandma Jo waving.
Momma Love by Ali Smith on the altar with Grandma Jo waving.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading Laundry Line Divine.

If you are intrigued to know what would happen if you began Writing Motherhood, please join me June 9-10 at 6:00 PM at Edith Wharton’s summer home in the Berkshires. Yes, Edith has a room for us, with a door, behind which we will write and share.

More information is here.

For more writing from inside motherhood by Suzi and 35 other women, find yourself a copy of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In a recent review posted on Amazon and Good Reads, a reader said:

“This book is filled with little gems, golden nuggets of words and illustrations, emotions and dreams, vulnerabilities and expressions of deep pride, humor, poetry, and prose that’s visceral.”

You can give a gift to a friend that has the power to grace women’s lives. Proceeds from the sale of An Anthology of Babes benefit two organizations in Berkshire County that provide free and low cost health care for women and families locally. Make a difference in one woman’s life that ripples out in to the world.

Order your copy here.

Many thanks and much love,

S

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