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Go easy. Pray often. Make of your life a beautiful offering.

Sacred Refuge Offering Photo by Lynnette Lucy Najimy of Beansprout Productions
Sacred Refuge Offering
Photo by Lynnette Lucy Najimy of Beansprout Productions

Staying real this season

As you know, because I have said it before, but let it be said again, the trifecta of holidays that is just round the bend has a certain concoction of pleasure, guilt and shame that really can put us through the wringer emotionally (who here has agreed with everything you hear coming out of your mouth while standing in the kitchen, still in your jammies, when the guests call to ask if they can come over early? Or who has paid for something with your credit card that you know you will regret later but it is easier to put that off by chirping, “Charge it!”), physically (staying up til all hours pouring over Pinterest to find the right craft idea for the gift that you haven’t made yet, but you are sure you can find something and whip it up-best work done is always after midnight, isn’t it,*bleary* counts?), spiritually (Oh please just know that I haven’t figured out how to navigate the holiday season without a ton of conflicting thoughts about what I believe. Boiling it all down to “gratitude” is helpful, but it does not stop the flow of tears when certain Christmas carols catch me off guard at the gas pump.)

To say that we need to apply gargantuan doses of self-care this season will only make some of us feel more overwhelmed. Who, really, can swim through these days without feeling compelled to overdo, overbuy, overcommit, over-invite, over-plan, overeat, overoverover? Women are so often the ones who make the holiday hoopla happen, while we partner with our mates, if we have one, to help pay for it all. Parents especially, feel taxed to do it all, and do it so our kids-know what?-what it looks like to over extend to provide an experience that will be so charged with grief that any goodness is wiped off the slate?

Oh.
I just have a head full of steam this year to dial it back.
Go easy.
Pray often.
Make of your life a beautiful offering and live like you mean it. Like you are the gift. Not the overwrought gifts we make in the wee hours when really, we could be asleep, dreaming of sugarplums.

People who make stuff, creative people, people who are all reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s fantastic new book, are especially succumbing to the “I’ve got ten pair of hand warmers to knit in five weeks while finishing the first shitty draft of my book and with my left foot I will be stirring the quince jam” syndrome.

It is the syndrome of making everything for everyone and not making any time for myself.

We are the we

 

Making stuff for other people is great.
We are all not my friend Benita who makes it in July.
She is the exception to this rule. I wager she has stuff wrapped already.
But for the rest of us, I wonder how we can dial back our doing and let ourselves find a few simple ways to stay present and well and real this holiday season?

How do I know when I am able to stay “present, well and real?”

When I get enough sleep, especially when I am in bed by 10 PM.
When my stomach is relaxed, excited is great, but not jammed up against my diaphragm making it difficult for me to take long slow deep breathes.
When I eat lunch at the table with a napkin. Not over the sink. Or in the car. Or at my desk browsing Amazon. Or not at all.
When I am looking in to other people’s eyes. This alone will be the source of so much more fun and connection than any picture you post on Instagram.

what I did with a napkin from Catherine Anderson's table
what I did with a napkin from Catherine Anderson’s table

 

Make of your life a beautiful thing.
Then, if you want, share it.
But share it with the people who are right in front of you. Sometimes I wonder if we said to actual people what we say on Facebook or Twitter, what sort of shift would come about? Would your kids know more of you? Would your partner see what you appreciate better, and thus, know more of you? Would your sister see a side of you she hasn’t met in person? Would your pet see more than your iPhone camera pointing at them?

More eye and I. Less i.

I see you.
Thank you.
Yes.

This is my tiny prayer for this coming week of Thanksgiving and holiday artisan fairs and farmer’s markets and me boohooing over being a Thanksgiving orphan. We are making a meal here at my house for whomever shows up and the fun we have will rise up from that concoction.

If what happens is we take our plates out to the picnic table out back and watch the twilight fall by candlelight, eating with our gloves on, that would be deluxe. But whatever it is, it will be real.

I see you.
Thank you.
Yes.

I am breathing easier already.
I hope you can find a way to do so also.

Thank you for showing up here on Laundry Line Divine.
Happy Friday.
xoS

 

a few more thoughts:

If you are curious about what to cook, go here.
For a really clear post about the difference between being “kind” and “nice,” go here.
If you are interested in fine-tuning your business life and upgrading your approach to making business art, please check out the Quest2016 here.
If you want start meditating this season, this is a good place to start.

 

 

Lastly, please share this post with your sister or your friend or someone you know who is starting to hyperventilate about the holidays. And then, go out for a walk. I will meet you there. xoS

The fabric of my daily life

October offering
October offering

 

 

 

 

 

Art is a nourishment that is made from the fabric of our daily life but lifts us beyond it to make us see a world bigger than ourselves.
—Edith Schloss, La Serra, 1976

 

 

Imagine me as a vat of apple butter.
Cinnamon. Blackberries. Honey.
Slow roasting for about a week.

I have been steeping in early October here in the Berkshires.

Steeping in deep thought as the season shifts, cooking and baking and organizing in the house, raking up my compost bins, all in preparation for winter cold. I have hung yards of laundry, all the dishtowels, and bedding and things that I won’t hang out in the winter. I had to move my summer studio table indoors, which is no small feat. I get all spread out, like feet do when they are out of shoes for months on end. My rubber stamps burst beyond boxes, my tiny bits of painted papers tumble around, everything I tuck in to books to find later becomes imperative to locate and I just have to go through it all. Which means, like with the apples, I cull. Seeds, stems, that which no longer serves my very deepest purpose get composted, recycled or just plain old thrown out.

where I write in to the night
where I write in to the night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which all takes time.

getting the dishtowels and napkins out in the sunshine
getting the dishtowels and napkins out in the sunshine

I learned how to make a very delicious pear tea from Janet, which might be helpful if you have the cold that is visiting everyone here in the Berkshires. (She will likely post a more complete telling of this recipe here, but this is my simple version.)  Macerate chopped up lemons, fresh ginger and an Asian pear in a jar, just covered with raw honey. Let it sit in your fridge for a day or two. Roll the jar around a few times; making sure the lid is securely screwed on. Lift off tablespoons of the resulting liquid in to the bottom of a teacup and fill it with boiling water. Extra bonus tidbits of lemon and ginger and pear can be dipped in to the cup for the drinker to nibble. When I served this to my really allergy-racked Catherine, she gave a certain, “Oh Momma, yum…thank you…” that was gurgled through the steam rising over her Peter Rabbit teacup.

Pear tea
like this only with more honeyAnd I have some terrific news.

I guess I will just give you the news because there is so much else to write about, but I don’t want to keep you from going off to chop ginger and find the honey.

Our movie, from the women of Out of the Mouths of Babes, The Permission Slip
has won an award! The Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival has awarded us the Curator’s Choice award. Karen and I are trundling off to Worcester on Saturday to see our film in the matinee reel. Might you join us there? Here is information.

And, an interview I wrote in response to Megan Gray’s questions about being a creative mother can be found here. When I get writing about motherhood and creative practice I just keep going, which is helpful because that is pretty much what my book, Laundry Line Divine: a Wild Soul Book for Mothers is all about. This week, Catherine is mildly miserable having just made it through a run at the SAT, a standardized five-hour test on Saturday. Additionally, college visits are the topic of any and all conversations relating to homework, clothing, essays, facial hair, shoes, coats, health, rest, rehearsals, applications, complexion, cost, aims, distance, schedule and sleep.

Leaf

And, the light, the light, the light of these early fall days is sumptuous. We bundle up and sit outside to eat our meals as often as we can. I found a spoon that had dipped in to a jam jar out on the picnic table, still stained with dark purple. The bowl of the spoon held a bit of blue sky and the tracks of lips that lingered over the sweet.

Savoring, both the sweet and the tart.

I hope you are well.
Thank you for reading me here.
Big lovely renovations are in store for Laundry Line Divine. Much in the same way I have organized my studio, I am culling, relabeling and upgrading your experience here. But, it will be me, here, still, offering you what I can of my days in an effort to lighten yours, wherever you are.

Real life, sacred refuge, inspired community.
xoS

 

Here is one of the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival Curator’s Choice award winner!

Congratulations to each and every contributor, to Ingrid Wendt-our brave poet who speaks her own words here and to my beloved Terri L. Bocklund for her beautiful guitar playing.

The Permission Slip from Suzi Banks Baum on Vimeo.

Please share it with your friends. Like it, pass it on, post it around. We will be celebrating this weekend at Rabbit Heart, so in honor of that, give yourself extra spoonfuls of permission for me, okay?

My Burning Question: My Deepest Place Quest 2015

Chronicle illustration by Suzi Banks Baum

What if you didn’t have to wait until your kids leave the house to answer the feverish yearning you feel every single day, or at least when your mind is free enough for a thought not about survival, school lunches or the insurance bill?

Your creative fire is not a luxury.
Your creative fire is necessary for your health and well-being.
Your creative fire needs no apology.

You may look at people who work in what we generally call creative work with envy. Why do they get to do this while I am standing behind a cash register at Wal-Mart?

Truly, we are all at different points in the engagement of our creative muscles.
But we are never more than a breath away from assuring ourselves that our fire burns and though it may look like we’ve forgotten this blaze while sunk in the mire of active parenting, maintaining careers and family life, we have not.

Suzi Laundry Basket
Me and the basket from a kid’s eye view.

I do not doubt this at all.
I spent the first 14 years of my mothering career madly knitting while soup simmered and wash hung on the line to dry. I wrote avidly, briefly and early on days when I could haul myself out of bed quietly enough so as not to wake one of the hungry small beasts in my lair. I doodled. I gardened. I did things that kept my tiny fire burning that were manageable while mothering.

Coming in the door
Once a week, I went out to write, do yoga and knit for a block of time, covered by a sitter. That sitter let one of the kids take a photo. This is what they saw.

Did I think, “Oh this is going to stoke my fire?” or “Oh just this last little row and my self-esteem will be boosted for the next run of stomach flu and attendant laundry requirements for such a mess?”

Hell no.
I just moved my hands because I knew that doing those small things felt really good to me. I knew that making things made me a more centered, resilient person. I knew I did not get so entirely frayed by the frustrations of being a mother if I kept a pair of socks on the needles and wrote for fifteen minutes without interruptions.

Test driving a sock pattern
Test driving a sock pattern

Now my kids are big. This morning, I overslept, which is rare for me. I was in such a great dream I missed the early cues to rise, light a candle, meditate, read and write before making my daughter’s lunch.

She left the house with only fresh juice in her bag and an apology from me.

I wrestle with this part of my mothering journey. I am still needed and necessary, but it is a darn good thing I have other stuff to do because the bulky caring muscle mass I have built up has to be used for something.

The life of a woman has been wired for care.
With or without children, we nurture.
Women today are waking up to caring for our selves first and noticing the change that occurs in this reordering. Just as those fifteen minutes of solitude sewed up my sanity before I entered the fray, those small moves to answer what you yearn for build resilience and activate your capacity for joy.

And isn’t that what carries us through the difficult, the lonely, the exhausted?

Almost every morning, I go to what I call my deepest place.

When my kids were little, I had no idea this place could be readily accessed. I thought I had to escape home life to locate it. Domestic life, domesticated life does not readily burble with invitations to dwell in deep quiet, so I had to find my ways in. Early morning writing was first. And all that knitting, every single knitted loop led me along a path; as if those slim knots were hand holds to a different state of mind. That state of mind was where I felt less reactive, not alone, and part of a solution to a nameless problem whose only medicine was joy.
Even knitting at the side of a sickbed.
Or in a nursing home.
Or in a meeting.
Or on a dark night waiting for someone to pull in the driveway.
All that making paved a path to what I know now is the deepest place within me where the sacred holy dwells, where what is kindled by that certain kind of quiet instills a tincture of calm to my frazzled nerves, where what is many named and nameless offers comfort and possibility. Saint Teresa of Avila called this place your inner castle where the Beloved awaits. You can call it what you want, but finding your way in to your deepest place will succor your ache. It will fuel your faith.

In winter where I live, and much like where I grew up, the weather drives me inside. When I am daring and warm it drives me to ice skate or snowshoe. Early in the morning, I light my candle and begin my day.

I hold this time as a buffer before I completely enter my family life with full on presence. I hold myself in jammies, sage and candlelit, as a way to keep myself from overoverwhelm.

Overoverwhelm, I type and I mean it.
This is my Hygge time.

Hygge is a Norwegian word for “well-being.”
Helen Dyrbye says,

“It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment rolled into one.”

Hygge time is what the Norse do to help get them through deep winter.

I consider my morning time alone as my Hygge time.
It is a time for inner collection, as if I could do within me what I do around this house and family: picking up, sorting, rearranging, hauling out trash and outgrown clothes, tucking fresh juice in to backpacks and setting things in to motion.

What I do on the outside, I am doing on the inside.

I create intimacy.
I listen.
I reflect.
When I allow myself to pull back, light a sage bundle, drink strong herbal tea, and glue what is at once random, a secret message is revealed. What I do in this hour is create an inner dictionary for future reference. I am filling my well.

My deepest place is the shelter I provide for myself.
It is where I allow my listening to be as slow as necessary.
It is where I stop cramming and open my palms to receive.
It is where random meets intentional and becomes message.

Hygge time, being intimate with myself in the company of my family.
All is well. All is deeply well.

This is how I keep my fire burning. In winter. And within family life.
It has become more necessary than ever.

I wonder how you find Hygge time for yourself?
I would love to hear.
Your comments are manna.
xo
S

PS Here are some posts that might give you a bit of fuel.

Ingrid Wendt
Mandy Thompson
Janet Elsbach

This coming season has excitement for Laundry Line Divine.

February 22, 2015 is the Powder Keg Sessions public reading at No. Six Depot in West Stockbridge, MA.
That day also opens an exhibit in the No. Six Depot café gallery of my hand bound journals, which runs through March 2015.
Then on Saturday March 7, 2015, the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and Laundry Line Divine present Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others. We have a new theme going for the event and the blog series. Find the submission details here. And a wave a new readers will join some of the familiar faces on stage at Dewey Memorial Hall in Sheffield, MA. Stay tuned for news!

Powder Keg Reading and Art exhibit card back

 

 

Poetry and Food

Food and poetry can be very personal.
And very political.

Rupert's Bonfire April 7, 2013

an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

I have been thinking about how we get fed.
Poetry feeds your soul, but we need food to live.
And we need potlucks to gather us round to offer what a meal eaten alone cannot give.

I live in a community that gathers for potlucks often. Our schools use potlucks as fundraisers or the core of celebrations for graduations or end-of-year picnics. Last night, several hundred people brought platters of entrees, appetizers, and loads of cakes to a potluck honoring the life of our friend Rupert, a 21-year-old young man, wild and beautiful, who died last week in a canoe accident on the Housatonic River. We respond to grief with food, plates of warm food are delivered at your doorstep by neighbors who just seem to know the right moment to deliver. My friends are using MealTrain as an organizing platform for meals to be lovingly delivered to Rupert’s family for the next month. As the last of the hot dogs were served, the cakes enjoyed, the fire fighters, who were there to keep the bonfire under control and did so with grace, were served heaping plates of that food. The meal we all shared contained love, forgiveness, comfort and hope.

we gather together
we gather together

In the blogosphere, today is an auspicious day. Food bloggers all over the US are posting about hunger with 4.8.13 Food Bloggers Against Hunger. You all know I am not a food blogger though I do post recipes once in awhile. I have some friends who are food bloggers; excellent ones and I want you to know what they are up to day.

Here is Laura Silverman. Janet Elsbach. Tammy McLeod (who even has a poem today).

Do you realize that millions of Americans who take part in the nation’s food stamp program are limited to an average of $3 or $4 per person each day to supplement their food budget? Additionally, the government subsidizes products like soybeans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, so the most affordable food does not have the most nutritional value. Creating a meal on such a limited budget narrows your options. This makes me think of soup. I know the value of a pot of soup from a nutrition level and a soul level.

Lisa Blackburn's poster

While I was in Penland, North Carolina last month, I met John Hartam and Lisa Blackburn who founded The Empty Bowl Project. They are artists responding to the hunger crisis and the need for a better distribution of resources in our county and in the world. We have plenty of food; it is really a matter of availability and delivery. Here is how John describes the project:

“The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.”

John worked with us on the bowls we made for the Empty Bowl Project. He says the power of this project is that it brings the community together.

one of my bowls for the Empty Bowl Project
one of my bowls for the Empty Bowl Project

Great Barrington’s People’s Pantry is one place in Berkshire County where community and food come together. I worked there for several years. Our local CSA (community supported agriculture) Indian Line Farm donates boxes of freshly harvested food to the pantry. The pantry patrons receive the fresh herbs and vegetables to create meals that are hard to make with canned or dry goods. Everyone feels the vitality of the fresh food in the pantry, the produce smells good and looks beautiful. Here is a link to Share the Bounty, the program that connects farms to families in need in Berkshire County.

Charity is not enough. The only way for hunger to be eliminated in America is if policies change, so it’s important we make our voices heard. How about you? Have you ever been hungry and without resource? Would you like to learn more?

Here is where you can learn more about The Empty Bowl Project.

Here is where you can send a letter to Congress to ask them to support anti-hunger legislation. This will take you 30 seconds. The more letters we submit, the better.

Watch this video. Arrange to see the movie in a theater near you or on demand, at home.

And cherish the next moment you have to share a meal with someone who is hungry. Like Mary Oliver’s begging bowl, let your plenty nourish someone else’s need, whether with soup, poetry or your sweet company.

Thanks to everyone across the web bringing attention to this very important issue.
Be well.
With love,
S

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