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The Village: Why is this so hard to write about?

The Crew on Long Pond

We do not exist in a vacuum.
But you knew that right?
You emerged from a place.
You arrived in a place.
And you are, where you are, right now, here with me.
Maybe you read this in a café, alone with many.
Maybe you read this in your home, with many, never truly alone.
Maybe you read this while nursing. Never ever alone.
Maybe you read this alone in your house, lights out, tea steaming, middle of the night wondering what could possibly be made of your life when the sun rises.

When I floated the theme for Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others, I had no idea how hard the topic would be. I asked women to write for my live event and for this blog series here on Laundry Line Divine on the topic of

the Village: Who else is here while you mother?

I addressed the question my self and began writing what seems rather tip-of-the-icebergish. I wrote on. I pondered. I have a running list of questions and topics that will easily keep me busy for a long while.
But it was hard to begin. And sad. And humbling. I remembered things I’d wished had stayed forgotten. I remembered people that I wish I hadn’t forgotten. And I begin to look at the world with new eyes.

Icy ice

Whenever a topic like this floats in to my life, a huge lens peers in to my world. I find myself in uninitiated conversations with surprising people, hearing them say things that answer questions I have not asked yet. The world around me starts serving me medicine, soul food-for-thought that urges my heart open a little wider, zooms my mind wider, and allows me to see how The Village is a concept and a desire, but also a standard that we let slip past us on our way to the bank. We step over ways of being for the sake of time and efficiency and avoid discomfort or eye contact and what do you know? Five years go by and you haven’t stopped over to see that friend who you know could use an in-person visit, but you are too darn busy with your life to manage that.

But you take chances, small chances and tiny steps which cause time to open up. My friend Julie Jordan-Scott describes this flowering of time in her post about synchronicity. She stepped up to granny-sit her toddler grandchild, endured the disassembling of her schedule and learned a new wonderful thing about the elasticity of time.

Being in a Village takes time. Being a solo-act is much quicker and more efficient. You don’t bake as many cookies because there are no drop-offs or love-notes or donations to the family with the flu down the street. I write all this not to admonish you. I write to admit it to you. I am as lousy a Villager as the worst among us. I do a lot. I do. But there are visits I haven’t gotten too. I find it enormously convenient that our home phone line is disabled so certain phone calls that might interrupt my evening don’t make it through. My Village is vivid and active, but after many years of being a vital part of my kid’s school community, I have stepped away from that neighborhood of my Village. I am relieved about that. Fewer pesky potlucks, picnics and food chains for families in need.

But, is that a good thing?

The scientific evidence in the past 10 years has mounted in favor of social interaction as an integral part of our health, happiness, and problem-solving capacity. Playing cards once a week with friends correlates with better health and longevity. Regular karaoke practice, too.
-Jeffrey Davis

I turn to my colleagues to listen.
I invite a friend in for tea.
I receive a fresh blog post from Tania Pryputniewicz that speaks to the cohesion she and I experience as both of our hearts get torn in to so much confetti while we raise young women in to this brave new world.

I think the Village has less and less memory the more our villagers plug into global stuff versus local stuff. The more mobile people are, the less plugged into their own village they are.

-Lydia Littlefield

What about you? Do you feel locally connected to a Village? Does Instagram know more about you than your brother? Is it easier to be friendly on Facebook, but you avoid eye contact with that person at the Big-Y?

Never ending shoveling
Heave-ho, snow snow snow.

 

Perhaps your Village has changed as your kids grow up? Maybe the elders have died. Maybe there is a vulnerable step ahead for you as you make new friends, set up a card game with new neighbors or invite someone to tea whom you haven’t spent time with before. I am so impressed with my online friend, Laurie Buchanan, who has relocated to a community states away from her home and how she is building her Village up again.

When I read the thread of comments on an OnBeing blog post covering the wickedly sad murders of three Muslim students in North Carolina this past week, I was struck by the vindictive things people said about where attention goes when hate crimes like this happen. A hate-crime like this draws our sympathy while there are thousands of crimes that occur daily, which rouse little sentiment in the wider Village of our world. I have been holding that story in my heart- three students dedicated to social change, to making a positive difference in the world, only to be brutally murdered by their neighbor. And yes, I am aware of the many murders that happen daily, if not in such detail, but I know that tragedy is a regular feature in this world.

In a comment on the another OnBeing post, Parker Palmer wrote this, which could be considered a prayer for a Village.

I’ve tried to develop the kind of X-ray vision that can see the invisible challenges so many people face — and then respond accordingly, from the heart.

-Parker Palmer

We are in this Village together here.
Global and local.
The Village that includes my neighbor down the street whom I haven’t seen in-person for over four months.
And it includes the families of the Muslim students.
It also includes the gunman, the flamethrowers, the bombers and the high-jackers.
It includes the mothers of the Chibok girls, the families in Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan and Somalia.

What is your heart ready for?

On our tiny spin round this green globe, we get to have and hold a whole lot of love. We get to decide where our attention goes and who gets the best of us. We get to make a difference, no matter how tiny. We get to see that batch of ginger molasses cookies as setting in motion a tiny ripple that may one day reach Chibok or reach the sister you haven’t spoken to in fifteen years.

Who is in your Village?
What defines your Village?
What is missing in your Village that you have in great supply?
How might you offer yourself to the greater good, to be a vital part of your Village?

I am going to be pondering these things, like Mary, in the Bible verse I love so much, about “taking these things in to her heart and pondering them.” I am going to be baking. And making. And writing.

I am hosting an event this coming Sunday that expands my Village. This Sunday at No. Six Depot in West Stockbridge, from 2 PM- 4 PM, 13 women from my two writing workshops will be sharing new writing that they have worked on in the Powder Keg Sessions. If you find it hard to believe that 13 women writing from their own life experience could have an impact on anything grand, please read my friend Jan Phillips’ Huffington Post piece here.

Though I have no singular solution, I would travel days to sit at the common table with citizens invested in a different future. We could admit together what is not working: a patriarchy where women’s voices and authority are devalued. There’s a start.

–Jan Phillips

I value women’s voices.
I welcome the difficulty of talking about the Village.
I willingly admit I could do better.

Beginning with this New Moon, which I learned ushers in the Year of the Sheep- an animal that can only move forward, I invite you– heck- consider this your permission slip to ponder your Village.

I hereby christen the Year of the Sheep on Laundry Line Divine as
the Year of Permission to Move Forward.

 

#fromwhereistand Sheep shearing with Janet and Bart. XoS

Tania’s post goes live here tomorrow.
More will arrive in the upcoming days from writers across the country.
If you want to join us for the March 7 live event, go here for details.
If you want to offer a blog post on this topic, here are the submission guidelines.

Out Blog Series Submission Guidelines 2015

Leave me a comment.
Do you have a regular in-person Village life?

Thankful that you are here, at the Laundry Line,

S

 

This poem offers a question or two.

 

 

The Upside of My Dark Side: Difficult Riches

 

Campo Bust

Day Six in the Quest2015 posts and it’s getting dark in here.

Is it just me or is it the holidays?

I crave the dark at this time of year, so this prompt fits right in.

Get a cup of tea. This is a long one.

 

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.

Muriel Rukeyser

 

 

 

Which emotions do you feel most guilty about having?

 

 

 

 

We invite you to take a closer look. We think that you can gain more from accessing the full range of your emotions. You don’t have to avoid discomfort to live a meaningful and engaging life.

Dr. Todd B. Kashdan & Robert Biswas-Diener from The Upside of Your Dark Side

 

 

I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father.

Story goes that on my parent’s wedding day, my Mimi told her new daughter-in-law, “Thank goodness someone else can take care of him now.”

 

This poisonous truth seeped in to what became my home long before I was conceived, but writing that sentence makes my belly ache.

 

This does not have to be a post about alcoholism does it?

Can I just give you the website for Al-Anon and be done with it?

 

The onus of caring for my father became one of my mother’s many responsibilities. I learned early to care for myself and to help with my three younger sisters. I learned that we did not speak about what was confusing or painful, that we just, “paddled our own canoe.” As a kid, I had no choice. We lived around and within my father’s illness, for that is what I now consider chronic alcoholism. The fragrance of beer was as familiar to me as the smell of the liquor store on Clark Street, a dank bouquet refrigeration, cardboard and vodka, mixed in with floor cleaner and matches.

 

Vintage postcard

 

The culture of my family was one of isolation. We belonged to each other and the ship was always in danger of sinking. (Boat metaphors are a constant in my life. I grew up on the Great Lakes. We nearly lost our lives on a boat. Story to follow.) In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes culture as “the way we do things around here.” I learned that the way we did things at home was to bear up no matter what. And what could take some pretty drastic proportions.

 

There are many difficult riches in the shadow side.

John O’Donohue

 

I learned valuable lessons as a result of growing up with alcoholism.

  • First, I learned that Al-Anon is an absolute lifesaver and if the holidays are activating your emotions about your behavior or of your family members, then please get to a 12-Step meeting.
  • The second thing I learned is that I always have a choice to do things differently.

 

If I am to answer this prompt honestly, I feel guilty about loathing having to stop my life to take care of other people, particularly people who are sick. The stories I have to tell about my growing up are many. But the overriding emotion of resentment I have had about caring for others is something I have dealt with in Al-Anon and therapy and many other healing modalities. During my children’s young years, I had little conflict with them and illness. They were so lushly dependent on my husband and me, even when they did silly things like jumping off radiators and landing on their heads, I did not get triggered. But as they have grown and my devotion to my creative work has increased, this resentment has paid me a visit.

 

 

Afraid that others might find out?

 

You’d think I’d be over all of this, right? This is what I fear you might know about me. I still wrestle with the weight of having to care for others, even my own kids. This isn’t an all the time thing. But, the weight catches me, poisons a moment when I might reach out in care, but instead resent the responsibility. And then, I have a chance for change.

 

Yesterday, real life served me a cocktail stuck with two swizzle sticks of inspiration that made me know that I still have room to grow.

Yesterday, my 17 year old was laid up with a lapful of homework and menstrual cramps, normal run-of-the-mill physical symptoms that most overwhelmed young women have today. My foray in to resentment did not last long after I read this post from Matt Licata:

 

 

When you sit with a friend in pain,
when their world no longer makes sense;
when confusion rages and
no rest is to be found.

Just for a moment,
will you resist the temptation
to make things better,
to reassure them,
to provide answers,
even to heal them?

Will you offer your stillness, your listening,
your presence, and the warmth
of your immediacy?

Will you hold them in your heart,
with the same tenderness
of a mother holding her little one?

Will you embrace them where they are,
without needing them to change or transform
according to your own needs and schedule?

Will you stay close,
holding your own impatience
and discomfort near?
Will you look into their eyes
and see yourself?

Will you stay in the inferno of healing
with them, trusting in disintegration,
knowing that you are only witnessing
the falling away of an old dream?

Sometimes in doing nothing
everything is undone,
and love is revealed to be
the only true medicine.

– Matt Licata and Jeff Foster

I took Matt and Jeff’s words as tickets to the possibility.

 

“Will you embrace them where they are,
without needing them to change or transform
according to your own needs and schedule?
I let her be. I inquired. What I gave to her in time and juices and tea and ideas were offered with a loving heart. And she asked me for nothing more. We talked a little about cramps. My husband went out for Midol and gave her a heating pad before he left for yoga class. He made sure we had soup set up for lunch.

As I sat on my mediation pillow listening to him pad around the house a memory appeared like a livery insides of a lake trout. My father on such a December day before the holidays, I am 13. I have my first menstrual cycle and am supposed to go swimming at a pool with my Lutheran youth group tomorrow. I am sewing a red poplin dress for Christmas on my treadle sewing machine in my bedroom, which is plastered with Monkees posters. I walk to the corner store to get tampons having never purchased such exotic items before. They are far out of my reach. I stand with my nose stuck to the display of paperback romances, edging my eyes over the tops of the thick lascivious looking novels wondering if I have the courage to ask the kid behind the counter for help.

I don’t.

So later, my Dad went out for them. He brought the box of tampons in to my room, where he touched my shoulder. I stayed bent over the sewing machine, not yielding to acknowledge his blessing on the day. I went swimming after church on Sunday.

This is perhaps my only memory of my father giving direct attention to my actions when not perfumed with beer and wine. Brené Brown says, “We cannot give people what we don’t have.” During my childhood, my parents did not have a sense of faith or belonging to give me. The safety I felt was won from desperation. The belonging I felt was just this side of isolation, of hiding in plain sight.

Neither of my parents spoke to me about my menstrual cycle. Yesterday at my house stands in stark contrast to my upbringing. In my parent’s home, we did not talk about things like near-miss tragedies or grave mistakes; we did not talk about adventures that turned out to be dangerous and stupid endeavors. One might say my parents were brave, leaving the society of their combined 14 siblings in the Chicago area in 1968 and finding a home for us in a new, very small town where there were no people of color and only 3 Jewish families. They took big risks. On our first Memorial Day weekend in the U.P. my father piloted his fishing boat with his newly won operator’s license around the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His only crew was my not nautical mother and three girls under 10 years old. It was a trip that nearly cost us all of our lives.

And it was something we never, ever spoke of, even after surviving a gale off Whitefish Point in the same waters where the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. When we arrived at the fishery where we sought safe harbor, the people there were surprised to meet us alive.

I grew up with silence around every important event. I learned to skulk around the house to eavesdrop on my mother’s phone conversations with her sisters. Long distance, so they were short calls, but potent. 190 proof. I learned things by standing quietly behind closed doors. I read the emotional weather of our family and dressed accordingly.

I held that memory as I heard my husband leave the house. Then I asked myself, what is different in my life today that provides this reality for my daughter? What has changed in my life?

The culture of our family is, “We belong to one another. We show up. We are in this together. And we will make time for each other, even if that looks different from what other people do. We may do things differently than other people, but we’ve thought about it and this is how we roll here.” And most often, that is together.

Later yesterday, after the Midol and heating pad had done the trick, we had dinner together. Without any baiting on my part, the conversation turned to the question of how technology has impacted real life. The discussion bears telling, but not here, not right now. What does bear repeating is that as we asked how texting has changed our lives directly, we got to share how different it is for my husband and me to talk with our children, to have a sense of who they are and when we are needed. The conversation led to our daughter understanding in a historical context how we have crafted a life with conscious choice about the culture of our family.

“Our stories define us. They affect our well being, our relationships, our present and our future. They are vehicles of energy, vessels of possibility. They contain infinite potential and we can harness light and power from the experiences of our lives. Every ordeal we have suffered holds some treasure for us. Every catastrophe has stripped us of something and given us something. The nakedness, we know. The gifts are yet to be unearthed. According to Hannah Arnedt, the story reveals the meaning of what would otherwise be an intolerable event.”

from Jan Phillips on Huffington Post

 

Housatonic Cross Collage by Suzi Banks Baum

 

How could you spend this year trying to be open to the emotional window that allows you to be courageous?

 

I will be open to the emotional window that owns my childhood, grieves the toxic silence that still resides in me, but finds tonic in the way I live today, tonic in my open heart.

It is the window that allows for the hassle of parenting, of living in close proximity to others who get sick, who have cramps, who need lunches made or doctors appointments, who need college tuition paid and tires rotated and prayers and petitions for safe passage lit onto one thousand sacred candles and traffic lights.

I live this close to my kids because I know the emotional wasteland that exists for some. I live this wary of alcoholism because I know the rampage it lays waste to in the very best lives. I live this openly because I know you have stories too.

Mary Oliver’s poem arrived in my lap today. This line speaks to me of memory and of what we learn from asking hard questions like these and making room for the answers, no matter how uncomfortable those might be.

 

believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,

 

~Mary Oliver

 

I believe in the value of real life.

I believe it is fragile and irrefutable.

I believe that we get to make different choices than our parents made and often, those choices are a result of our own hard work and willingness to heal.

I am thankful for taking this long look at my darker side. Thank you Todd Kashdan. (Click to tweet this if you like.)

Thankful for you letting yourself in for this long read.

My Quest mates have been brewing some brave posts.

 

Tania’s is here. Saundra’s is here. Ginny’s is here.

And Stan provides the soundtrack.

 

 

What about your dark side? I always appreciate your comments and sharing.

xoS

 

 

You can learn more about Quest 2015 here. Here is more about Todd Kashdan, who stopped me in my tracks with this prompt. And so glad he did!

A central figure in positive psychology, Todd Kashdan is author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why being your whole self – not just your good self – drives success and fulfillment (Hudson Street Press) with Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener as well as Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life (Harper Collins). He heads up the Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena at George Mason University and travels the globe to speak to business executives, organizations, schools, and health professionals. He also adores his two little girls.

 

 

 

 

 

This Real World

Real Life Lemons

“There is a real world that is really dying,” Marilynne Robinson writes in Mother Country, “and we had better think about that. My greatest hope, which is a very slender one, is that we will at last find the courage to make ourselves rational and morally autonomous adults, secure enough in the faith that life is good and to be preserved, to recognize the grosser forms of evil and name them and confront them. Who will do it for us?”

This morning in the woods, a huge old red oak tree (Quercus Rubra) lay across the path I usually walk on. I began to follow the tracks around it when the green-mossed bark called out to me. In a flash, I was astride the trunk. What a rare gift to connect with a tree so viscerally.

I am intrigued by connection.
You could call me a connector.
And connecting fuels my writing process.

I am terribly plagued by this quote I read in Terry Tempest William’s An Unspoken Hunger by Marilynne Robinson– both writers I hold in high esteem. For so many years, I have looked at someone who I knew through their work and check out their hair and faces for distinctions born of age. I would compare where they are and where I am and think, “Oh I still have time to catch up with them. They got there first, but I am on my way.”

Now, when I read Terry’s bio and see she is only three years my elder I know there is no waiting anymore. If I don’t do the work that I feel called to do now, in an orderly fashion so as not to kill myself, then what is keeping me from it? Chaos is no longer an excuse. Nor is making lunches. I debate and debate about feeling reluctant to admit I have been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. Yes, I grabbed this job from a nanny and I have been doing it ever since and WITH NO PAY, just a free ride from my husband who works out of our attic.

It is true. Comparison and guilt run through me sometimes. I want you to believe that they are not present ALL the time, but hell, they are, just louder some days than others. (This is not going to be a soft-spoken easy blog post. This may have a lot of CAPS.)

Yes, I look and weigh where I am in relation to where someone I respect/admire/idolize is and I say, okay…. just a few more months of this and then I have time. Just a few more hours on this project that really feels like chains around my ankles and I will be free to do the work that calls me in raw hours spent at the sink or right before I open my eyes in the morning.

 

The Owl

But, there is no project that I cannot say no to except raising this family with my partner.
Our children need me but have grown respectful of my writing and art hours.
I teach on a schedule that supports my own writing and time for reflection.
And if I want to fuel my wild soul, I just have to step out in to the woods, about 10 minutes walk from my desk (even shorter if I bike), stand at the trail head where a Barred Owl winks at me overhead. Soon, I am lying on a towering oak felled by time, looking at layers of clouds whisk past, watching leaves fall slowly, where I hear chiming goldfinches off in the shrubs and feel the aged wisdom of this tree seeping in through my layers of wool.

 

My oak at home

There is no time like now.

“There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why.”
― Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

I spent yesterday in the kitchen. I wiped the kitchen counters after every mess I made, vacuumed up the crunchy droppings from baking and prepared a big birthday snack for my daughter’s play rehearsal cast meal. I generally spend lots of time in my kitchen. Since having kids and taking on this role of full-time mother, I have wiped my kitchen counter about 72,800 times in twenty years- give or take the surge on holidays, birthdays and compulsive cleaning during flu season and the ebb during summer when we are eating out of our hands or over the sink on our way outside.

I was happy in the kitchen. I made granola bars for 45.

But, Marilynne’s quote about the real world vanishing stays in my mind.
It is here with me wiping up bits of millet and candied ginger.
It is with me shaking mud out of the treads of my garden boots.
It is with me watching a Great Blue Heron lift out of the shallows at the lake.
It is with me reaching for my daughter’s hand and her only giving me a finger’s contact, but contact all the same.

Yes. This real world?  Is this the real world you mean Marilynne?  And if so, then this is my real world, and my real world bears some telling, right? That if vanishing, then this real world bears being described and connected to, in the way that I do?
My real world is wiping counters.
My real world is multiple-y dried tissues stuck in the bottom of my jeans pocket that I discover when I wedge an acorn cap next to it on my walk.
My real world is going to bed hating my husband for being who he is because I am so tired I have forgotten what we stand for in our marriage and failed to accept the permission he urges me to give myself to go to bed.
My real world is waking up refreshed from a complicated dream about making arrangements to sense that hatred dissolved and notice the blossoming of an ordinary day, the morning moon fading under white-capped lavender clouds on the ridge.
My real world is eating the leftover granola bars today and sweeping up the crumbs.

 

BBG Quilt

 

“Evolutionary creators traverse constantly between the private and the public, deepening themselves in silence and study, then reaching out with what they’ve gained on the inner journey. Their energy, then, is whole and integral; their intelligence is embodied; and in their words and every action is a power that others identify as a force for good. It is this integration of inner and outer, self and other, insight and action that fuels the work of prophets and mystics.”
– Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time

When Jan describes evolutionary creatives as she does in this quote, I find myself in her words. My work is a “great dynamic call and response” that is cluttered with sunflower seeds plump with honey stuck to my socks and a passage from Emerson that my “love afar is spite at home”. It is Terry and Marilynne and Jan asking me, why not write from where you are, take your inner journey out, as you so boldly urge others to do?
I get dumped back on my heels every once in a while with writing from inside motherhood. It does not always feel so dynamic or great, but it is real. And it is my life. This struggle marks me, but I run with it because I sense that other women know how this feels. And I am devoted to something larger than the vacuum cleaner and my counters, though they are all part of what makes this world mine.

 

I am devoted to unmasking the fertility of women through story, particularly the stories of mothers.

 

 

My daily journal page

I do this by writing my own stories.
I do this by running Laundry Line Divine, highlighting the work of people I admire, sharing poetry, music and an occasional film, but mostly telling it like it is from here.
I do this by teaching writing and art workshops; most prominent today are the Powder Keg Sessions, which you can read about here.
I do this by making my own artwork, mixed media collage, and mail art, book binding and painting and showing this work.
I do this by talking about permission and the sacred and value in women’s lives.
I do this by producing an event called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and a blog series so I can include women’s words from far-off places. Our next live event is March 7, 2015.
I do this in the way that I live in community, with organizations and at the kitchen table.
So, if you, at your kitchen counter or your desk on the 30th floor of an office building wonder, “what is the use of me telling my ordinary story?” or if you plague yourself, as I do, with thoughts like, “who wants to hear about you and your regular assed life?” I say, listen to Ralph. Listen to Jan. Listen to Terry. Listen to Marilynne.

 

Love you more

 

Then listen to my friend Sam for awhile.

 

 

You are amazing.
And by that same token, so am I.

xo,

 

S

 

 

 

PS If you are in the Berkshires, or near and in the mood for a road trip, I will be selling copies of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield, MA tomorrow from 10 to noon. This event lets local authors meet and greet readers and sell our wares. Which tomorrow means I will sell my Powder Keg Sessions writing prompts. You can purchase your own set of hand-painted cards that are perfect for daily writing, collage or photography prompts or as a mindfulness moment on your altar or even, over that kitchen sink. I package 20 of these small jewels in a vellum sleeve that can stand on your desk. They are $15.00 each. You can also order them here on Laundry Line Divine. The sales page will be live in the next few days. Make sure you are subscribed to this site to stay in the loop!

 

Display of many

Going Willingly: Phillips, Ostriker and Erdrich offer permission

Permission Slips 2

This is the place where I write alone for an hour.
This is the place where the creaking floor quiets and I let go of needing to do or make or plan or arrange.
This is the place where I recall this:

“Please help me remember
that what I make
can be of use
and that the time I spend creating my work
is as precious as the time I spend
giving to others.”

~Jan Phillips

Whatever the case of this day, whatever transpires, this time of writing will be more useful to me than any preparations I can lay out now. This time will be every bit more laced with pleasure if I take in the music of the goldfinches and the parading clouds over the ridge and recollect that Janet is sending her first girl off to college.

“…she is going willingly. I send her willingly.” says Alicia Ostriker here.

I am in the stew of days with family and friends, in the stew of the many manys that stay in my mind as I float on in a green river and dive in to clouds, balance potato shaped rocks in the falls and let the water erase all my barnacled concerns about this child or that day or that school supply list or this proposal and just let the river carry me. I let my thighs release again and again and my shoulders spread in the water. A brown dragonfly, large, it looks like it would tip over one of my cairns if it graced one with its weight, this large dragonfly hovers over me as I slowly turn in the water. The ridge of my thumbs bones, the top of my collarbones and the tips of my toes are all that stay above water as I float. The orb of my face rises and falls with my breath as do my breasts, which my husband believes, are why I float so well. Buoys.

My breasts have been buoys for a boy and a girl and every kid I have nestled.

But they don’t make me able to float like this, so easy, listening to my breath, watching that dragonfly circle above me. I floated like this long before my breasts filled my double D cups. This past summer in a pond, a set of copulating dragonflies landed on my middle finger, an oasis of pink skin in the clear water. Then they skated over to my right eyebrow and carried on their romance. I was as still as I could hold myself in the currentless pond, suspended under a hot July sky. They needed a respite and all that was not submerged provided.

What kind of oasis am I to my growing children who no longer consider my breasts a place to return to? What kind of woman floats in a river, letting insects land on her high parts, considering her future in the grand scheme of things, the only sound her breath and flight of goldfinches?

I am not sure.
But I am going willingly in to this future, rinsed free by the river and letting myself be shelter to whoever arrives.

This is the place in time where I pause before tomorrow, 9-08-14. This is the place where I more than pause, but I come to a halt and look around. The clouds are ponying across the sky, creating caps for the Copper Beech up on the ridge, that I keep company with every morning early. The pears left by the red squirrels are ripening from bitter rock hardness in to something delicious. I can hear my husband fooling around with bicycles in the driveway. I can hear my guests rousing to find almond croissant and tea for themselves. I hear cars beginning to pass on the street. I can hear someone’s wind chimes needing to be quieted. The crickets are singing. A runner in lavender shorts lopes by with her ponytail airborne.

 

Spruce Lake Dragonfly  by Suzi Banks Baum

This is the place where I say, tomorrow is my birthday and dragonflies just happen to be carrying this news that halting, however briefly, will give me a moment, no matter what the situation, to breath, deeper to deeply. Ceasing the steady pull, like those relentless wind chimes, to make noise, make a difference, have an impact, steer the ship, these are the that impulses clutter my day. As it has all summer, Louise Erdrich’s poem, Advice to Myself, calls me to action.

Leave the dishes…..let them be done by someone else, or at least do them later, when the time comes to wash your hands. Double the fun.

Don’t patch the cup….let all those broken parts go, don’t try to hold on to every single moment because the sheer volume will make savoring them impossible. And all of those broken cups become material for Karen’s shard mosaics.

Don’t read anything except what destroys the insulation between yourself and your experience….I read poems and prayers in the morning, I read parts of many books that scour me clean and set me on my path. I don’t read a lot of other stuff like magazines and noisy emails, at least early in the day when my own first thoughts take shape like those cloud ponies. May this post serve to destroy that insulation that silences your fullest self….may it destroy those many manys that keep you from saying yes to whatever it is that calls you. For me, that means endless emails and free newspapers selling used mattresses and magazines that advertise lifestyles that I will never accomplish.

 

 

Permissions Slips 5

Today, on this day before my birthday, I will leave the dishes and write here. I will toss the broken pieces in to a paper sack to deliver to Karen. And I will surrender this habit of too much input.

There is nothing between me and the dragonfly on my eyebrow. There is nothing between the soft gaze of my daughter in early morning making her day known to me. There is nothing between these words and my heart except the time it takes to type. There is nothing between me and my blessings sent to you.

Leave the dishes.

Love what lands.

Happy day before my birthday.

oxoxS

 

 

There is updated information about the Powder Keg Sessions which resume this week at the Ramsdell Library here. Please check it out. Thank you for reading. xo S

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