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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

Drop and Give Me Ten. Gratitudes.

2013-11-22 10.17.44

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Miracle of Mindfulness

It is a cold damp day here in the Berkshires.
I know many of you are struggling with the low temperatures across the nation today. I send you all my warm thoughts and prayers for comfort.

I am in bed. Working, but in bed.
It is just one of those days when I can.
And so. For now, jammies are the outfit and tea is the food.
I came across this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, which exemplifies Laundry Line Divine where I write

about seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life.

It is not so easy, always, to find the gratitude from inside whatever is binding you, whether it is harsh weather, climate change, self-judgment, failed dreams, peevish children, difficulties in relationships.

 

Housatonic River by Suzi Banks Baum

But there is something to finding your way to gratitude from within those boundaries. So often, I think I have to wait until I am free of them, the problems solved, the weather bonny, the bank account restored, the meal made, the skirmish quelled, the leader mourned…once I am free of them, then I can find gratitude.

But what makes the dance holy, is finding gratitude from within the strapped places in your life.

Like Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, we are engaged in one big fat miracle by being alive and that, my dears, can be your first gratitude.

I am grateful I am alive.

Here are ten gratitudes of mine today.
Leave me your ten in the comments.

I am grateful to be alive and well and living in the Berkshires.
I am grateful for places of beauty, like this one, created by my friend Barbara.

 

 

Campo Bust

I am grateful for Advent, the time of going within and making art and writing during the season when I usually torture myself about gifts and baking and preparations.
I am grateful for my friend Melanie and her daily art posting during Advent.
I am grateful for my friend Mandy Steward and her invitation to venture in to the dark regions of my soul.
I am grateful for living here, with my husband, making it up as we go, parenting, working, living in a community.
I am grateful to be free of the molds of expected behavior when it comes to how I am supposed to live. Somehow, I stepped out of that a long time ago.
I am grateful for poetry, today, Christopher Wiman and his poem, I Said To My Soul, Be Loud.
I am grateful for these girls singing my favorite song, with such incredible style and grace.

I am grateful for finding the website On Being today. Fueled. Thank you.
I am grateful for art making and my friendship with Karen Arp-Sandel and all the fun we create, daily for each other with FeMail.

2013-11-18 13.31.49

I am grateful for my journals and pens and the trees and ink and the water and energy that made them.
I am grateful for my healthy kids.
I am grateful for heating oil and the deep thunging sound of the tank full.
I am grateful for getting to do yoga with amazing people and a studio where kids can be there, with teachers who are welcoming and grace-filled.
I am grateful for all the ways I get to be in the community, with my writing workshops, with Rampant Sisterhood, with the upcoming workshop I am leading, with the book tour I am planning for August 2014, with my March 1 event coming up, I am so grateful that I have work to do and some of it, I can do from bed.
I am grateful for my Mom. I miss her so much these days.
I am grateful for getting to write for other websites, like Berkshire Family Focus.
I am grateful for all the friendships I have that were bonded through the internet, Joy Rose of the Museum of Motherhood, Tania Pryputniewicz of Mother, Writer, Mentor and Pippa and Penny Best of
The Story of Mum.

Pippa Penny Joy

I am grateful for my friends who carry gratitude at the heart of their work, Jill Rogers of The Seven Sacred Steps, Regena Thomashauer of The School of the Womanly Arts, and Tara Dixon of The Gratitude House. It is true what has been said by Meister Eckhart and my Mom,

“If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you, it will be enough.”

I am grateful to believe, every day, like Thich Naht Hahn says, that there are miracles every single day, in our ordinary lives, all around us, and noticing them recalls the days to gifts because being alive and awake is a gift. As Ziggy used to say in the cartoon I had taped in to mirror

“Today is a gift, that’s why they call it The Present”.

http://i0.wp.com/3.bp.blogspot.com/-AaGWDqUK5Ek/TnfsdX3yTRI/AAAAAAAABO8/wR09V7sS9NM/s400/ziggy%2B%2525281%252529.gif

 

 

Okay. That is 20.

So when you are hankering for someone, like your grumpy teen-ager to say thank you, prime the pump with your own gratitude. Write thank you notes on paper that you put in the mail. Yes. Email is okay, but paper rocks the soup. Model everything you want for your self. Give it to others.

Thank you for reading me here.
For enduring my jammies and this bad hair day.
I look forward to hearing your ten.

 

Love,

S

 

PS Yes, I am getting out of bed now.

What is left in Pandora’s Jar?

 

Mixed Media Collage by Suzi Banks Baum 2013
Mixed Media Collage by Suzi Banks Baum 2013

 

 

Shine, be radiant.

Today is November 1.

The evening of pranks and souls has passed.
And we are turning towards the Solstice in December.

Until then, until that darkest night, there is work to do.
Fun to be had.
Words to write.
And wash to hang.

WWAM Wordle

I am spending the weekend with a group of women
called Women Writers Artists Matrix. I am leading my
Rampant Sisterhood workshop, sharing what I have learned
about Social Media and author platform building.
We are plying the myth of Pandora as we lift the lid
off her iconic Jar of evils to find the one last thing
left there.

Pandora

That is Hope.

It is in the stories of women that I find immense hope.
For myself.
For my children.
And for our future.

All of our futures.

That is why I do what I do.
Why I write my stories.
Why I hold the space for others to write theirs.
Hope is why I run our Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series.
And it is why I produce Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of
Mothers Reading to Others for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers.
Mark your calendars, for we will open the Festival on March 1, 2014.

And it is why I published An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, you can order it on Amazon. A friend just ordered 5 copies for her 50th birthday party. She is giving it as gifts to her friends.
Now that is Rampant Sisterhood.

Here is a video of the magnificent Layne Redmond, a gifted woman, artist, drummer, teacher and leader. She passed away this week. Listen to her drumming and her joy. She too was passionate about women’s stories, told through drumming. Blessings on Layne and her legacy of women drummers.

Have a wonderful weekend.
I will be back on the blog next week.

All my best,

Suzi