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Missing, again. Quest 2016 with Seth Godin, again.

 

up at the Dreamaway

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:

 

Would they miss you if you were gone?

What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer? 

 

When I first read this prompt at 6:30 AM when I intended to begin my writing day, I saw that it was very nearly the same question Seth Godin, verbose, erudite and prolific Seth Godin asked us last year. Dang, I thought to myself, (because who else, really, do I think to?) I was hoping for a new, more daring question from Seth, because he is a firebrand, a brainiac with humor and audacity. “Would they miss me if I were gone?” To me, the potent part of this question is the “they.” Who THEY are is key to me.

So instead of responding to the prompt, I tottered on to read other things that feed the teaching I will do tomorrow at the final Sunday of Sacred Refuge Sundays. The next set of those classes will open up here on the Solstice, when my brand new site launches. There are four seats open for Sacred Refuge Sundays. You can read all about that here.

 

First, I read this:

 

“Beginning well involves clearing away of the crass, the irrelevant and the complicated to find the beautiful, often hidden lineaments of the essential and the necessary.”

-David Whyte

Consolations

 

which gave me immense courage because tomorrow, while I am ending one class, I am also test driving my soon to be unveiled Powder Keg Online Writing Workshop tomorrow night and

 

      clearing away the crass

 

                                                                                            is exactly how I had plan to open that class. Without having read David’s instructive words, I asked my test students to bring dust clothes to their desks for the workshop because I believe we need to actually DO the thing that we think will help us clear the decks and prepare to engage with what is, as David writes, essential and necessary.

 

Then I read this:

 

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into the realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”

 

-Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic

 

 

                                                                                                          and this was even more comforting because I am massively immersed in the realm of the uncertain right now and fearing some steps that I feel compelled and driven and drawn to take. Like stepping out closer to the edge of cliff to get a fuller view, I am stepping more completely in to sharing my work online. My brand new and really fancier website is about to launch. It will allow you to see more of my work, learn more about my teaching and hopefully, provide you with a deeper look at what happens when women live out loud with fully engaged voices. My blog will still be here, BTW.

 

Advent candle

Having read David and Elizabeth, and then a little Rumi and Mark Nepo, and it still being nearly dark and very early, I poured a hot cup of lemony ginger tea and returned to my meditation pillow to do my daily practice. Okay, I fooled around with laundry in there too, but not for long. Because, I know, that daily practice is just that, daily. If I continue to show up, things will change. Not like old Seth’s prompt. That didn’t change. No sir.

 

So, here I sat.

 

Altar 1
it looked like this.

 

 

And while I sat, the question floated through me, about would they miss me when I was gone and who THEY are. Often when I meditate, things like this happen in my head, “okay, you set the timer for 15 minutes, do ya think you could steal a peek to see how much time has passed yet?….then I repeat a mantra that I love from Thich Nhat Hanh which washes away my thoughts about time…for a few seconds…then….my nose itches…..mantra mantra…then a sentence that sounds true that I might could use, say in a post like this….mantra mantra…then I recall what Susan Piver, whose meditation book I study daily, remember the daily thing? Susan says she has pesky thoughts like this that she entertains for only 12 seconds, then she returns to her breath, OH HER BREATH….I can do that. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Mantra. Mantra. Mantra…” and then, as if the flickering candle writes on the inside of my heart, I hear this:

 

“You want to know who would miss you if you were gone? I would. Me. Your awareness, what you kindle with this daily practice, that which you so fruitfully return to every single day and good on you for that. If you did not appear on this pillow in the soft dark or out on the road for a Zen walking practice, I, this greater bigger knowing I that you take in to your creative practice, I would not be here. I would miss this. And then all the ways you manifest this inner life in to form and draw others to tend to their inner lives would not happen. This act you call creative practice, this time, this way, would miss you. Very much.”

 

Huh.

That was longer than the 12 seconds in which I am supposed to be entertaining thoughts.

But, I listen.

 

My awareness has its say.

It would miss me if I did not show up.

What had to change in order for a better answer to arrive was my own attitude.

Huh.

And if I did not show up on this pillow, or on this page or in my journal or in my workshops and classes, or even, in my soon to be launched website, my creative expression, my unique brand of wonderment, would be lost on the world.

On you.

 

And maybe this unique brand that is me does not solve global warming or house refugees, but it does provide something meaningful in the world. I trust this. Entirely and with my whole being.

Journal page
this would miss me.

As usually happens in meditation, the thorny peevish stuff that was bugging me reforms in to a new question or opportunity for more meaningful and direct action. I am soothed. I embody joy without effort. Joy just rests here, within me.

I know you, my beloved readers of Laundry Line Divine would miss me if I did not show up here once in awhile. Believe me when I say, I am ardently tending to this blog in the upgrade you are about to experience so as not to put you off in any way. I am making a bigger basket for us here. If you’d like to read last year’s response to Seth’s prompt last year, it was one of the most commented upon posts this website has ever experienced. And those comments very much informed the work I have done in 2015.

So, on the day after the new moon, when the dark is darkest and the stars here in the Berkshires blaze brightly, I ask you to consider how you are showing up and who would miss you if you didn’t. It is a poignant question. Last night around a fire with some of my Circle, joined by my girl Catherine, we sang for the many we know who have recently died or are very very ill. Showing up is on my mind big time. And approaching the holidays, the absence of loved ones is impossible to avoid.

In closing, I dare you to show up for yourself this season. Take better than usual care of yourself. Sidestep the open maws of guilt and shame that yawn in our direction. Keep on your path towards simple beauty and connection. Be truthful where you haven’t yet found the courage to be so. Open your journals and then write. Let yourself enjoy solitude if that is what is calling you. Sit under the stars with your people and feel the magnitude and the gift of this dark time. And then, send some love to someone else on the planet.

We are using our gift budget to help people here and here. We decided this year to limit our gifts to the stocking sized and to direct our energy towards the many who are in need this season.

Here is all my love to you.

Another long-assed post, I know.

But, that is how I show up.

Thank you for staying with me.

Your loyalty means the world to me.

my English teacher would miss me if I didn't show up. He and I did not miss each other this year. He showed up for my artist talk in Escanaba and lookee here!
my English teacher would miss me if I didn’t show up. He and I did not miss each other this year. He showed up for my artist talk in Escanaba and lookee here

 

xoS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this New Moon, empty your cup. Allow your mind to become open. Release all judgments. Let go of what you know. When the mind is empty, it fills with the expanse of every possibility. Opportunities for growth and increased autonomy easily flow your way. Listen to your intuition, and take inspired action. Plant seeds today for your next quest. It is time to be free!

-Virginia Rosenberg from Qoya blog

I found that quote in a very good post about the New Moon here by Rochelle on Qoya with a New Moon ritual that will have you up on your feet.

Tracking Wonder’s Quest 2016 is still open, if you want to join that pack of business artists

And, if you are in Berkshire County, this is a great place to be this weekend. And this, next weekend.

 

Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin (2011), Tribes (2008), The Dip (2007), Purple Cow (2009), and  The Icarus Deception (2012), published by Portfolio. His latest, What To Do When It’s Your Turn (Do You Zoom, Inc. 2014), is an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work, and embracing tension when doing your art.

Twitter: @ThisIsSethsBlog

 

 

 

Worry.

photo by Christina Lane
photograph by Christina Lane

How worried can I be on a bright sunny cold November day?

My daughter clambered on to a coach bus this morning with her Anatomy class to see an exhibit in New York City. I fixed her a thermos of tea, some snacks and checked to make sure she had her phone and charger, cash and a scarf. She did not wear socks, but some things must be left unsaid.

On any other day, this field trip might only be seen as a day when I can work uninterrupted for many hours, not concerned about who is home and when, what they want to eat or with what they might need help. No, today, my city savvy daughter is with her classmates in the city she’d like to call home, where her brother was born, where I met her father, 25 Thanksgivings ago.

I have to come clean here. I am a championship worrier. If it were an Olympic event, I’d rank. If I could be a Rhodes scholar for worrying, I’d be a top contender. Worry is why I pray. I learned in Al-Anon, “If you worry, why pray. If you pray, why worry?” Never one to single task on anything, I figure I can worry and pray and cover my bases. And yours. And the bus driver’s. And all the cars driving near that coach bus. And everyone on the West Side Highway. And absolutely every single soul in the region of Times Square, right now, with the towers gleaming in the sun, wind blowing through those fresh young faces, just where I stood when I was 24 with Stevie Wonder singing in my head.

“New York. Just like I pictured it. Skyscrapers and everything.”

(This song of Stevie’s is so very prophetic. I quote it lightly for my own purpose here, but had I been able to listen then with the ears of a mother of a son, I would have wept as I do now.)

Then by the kindness of the readings that appear in my inbox in the morning, or that I pour over in the soft early light of morning, I came upon this writing by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

“…there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”
-Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I nearly nag, but not quite, my son with questions about alcohol consumption at college. I read the statistics, I listen to what other parents talk about, I have ears to our current culture about alcohol and drug use on college campuses. I have sat in the rooms of 12-Step programs for many years. I witnessed my father’s demise with alcoholism. It is the hardest thing for me these days to let that question rest. And yet, I ambush what could be rich conversations with my son, modeling worry instead of compassionate listening. Am I the only one who does this?

“When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.”

I have to rest in the faith that my son and daughter are both great ships, not built to moor at my side for long, but built for the open seas. Our friend Marley Reed is on a sail boat right now. Here is what he saw as they left Chesapeake Bay for the open sea. See that sail?

Marley Reed Sunset at sea
photograph by Marley Reed

Brené Brown discusses in Daring Greatly, if I meet my children with a face and heart of worry every time they leave my house, or my hand, or my car, if all I offer them is worry, then I am not seeing them as capable, well formed, great ships built to ply the waters of life. I am giving them the impression that I don’t see them as built for the adventure they each long for and live.

Last week I suggested we “make of our life an offering.”

Today, my offering is sandwiched layers of prayer, seeing my children as capable, our cities as safe, our roads navigable, and our country welcoming to all. I slather on the words that Vice President Biden said about not letting terrorism win.  I lay in grace and all my children have learned about the subway system, about kindness and about personal responsibility. Then, like a schooner catching the first winds out beyond the mouth of the harbor, they billow forth.

What happens to me, back here in the harbor, is up to me. And that is what my work is all about, what rises forth when I create from my own life experience. The same is true for you, gentle reader.

 

 

Ben in 2006
Ben in 2006

Please stay tuned here on Laundry Line Divine. Some big changes are up ahead for this website, most importantly, in name. I will be shifting to calling this site by my name and reserving Laundry Line Divine for the book I am completing this year. Your images of laundry lines are still welcomed, especially because I am making a collaborative mosaic collage for the Laundry Line Divine page that will soon be up on this site.

But til then, stay warm. Pray often.
All my love, S

Making Time

Leaf heart

I have been away all week in a most beautiful location in the Catskill Mountains, Mohonk Mountain House, which is a very popular place at this time of year. The fall colors are peaking and on the ridge of the Schawangunk Mountains, the vistas are remarkable.

Early morning at Mohonk.
Early morning at Mohonk.

Every morning my wise mentor, Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder, meets all who care to, at 7:00 AM out in dawn’s early light for a walking meditation out to a cliff. We sit to watch the sun reach over this ridge and in to the valley west of us. Every morning this week has been different. We have watched the golden leaves turn more golden. The reds have come out in the sugar maples. This dense diverse forest is rich in hardwoods so the path is full of differently shaped leaves. We hear Crows, Chickadees and Chipping Sparrows. The squirrels and chipmunks startle as we pass, even when we are a silent string of women walking in step single file, gently closed fists clasped over our bellies, eyes cast on the path before us. After a certain point, Jeffrey claps the signal that we can lift our gaze and walk at our own pace. Yesterday, steps after lifting our eyes, there was a double rainbow right in front of us.

Morning rainbow

It has been a week soaked in wonder.

I am here working on my book, Laundry Line Divine. I made important headway on this work that has carried me along since I started writing it 7 years ago. I think I can see the book as a whole now.

What came through most clearly to me this week as we worked on story structure and looked at aspects of our work in the world as business artists is this. The fullness of what you have come to recognize as Laundry Line Divine stands for the value of every woman’s life, no matter where she is on the spectrum of motherhood, no matter what age, no matter where she lives. As I read segments of my book to the gathered company last evening, I sensed resonance in a way that ears sense sound. I felt heard by the variety of women in the room, heard and listened to. For a writer, this is a sweet sweet thing.

The conditions of every woman’s life require some consistent elements and one that I believe is key to our well being is time. Sufficient time in solitude, out of the range of our myriad responsibilities, enough time to fill our inner wells. The work I do in the world, as an artist and writer, as a teacher and workshop facilitator, as a mother and wife, is all tied to tending time and how we spend it, as a family and as singular beings. My commitment to my daily creative practice shapes the way I spend time. It also impacts what I teach, what I make and how I make it, whether it is plum jam, dinner or a hand bound journal.

Mohonk clock face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another woman on this writing retreat, Donna Druchunas, of Sheep to Shawl, doodled while she listened. We peeked in to each other’s journals. These illustrations are hers.

I hope this weekend finds you with time outside, in golden fall, if it is happening where you live. Or just simply with time to do what feeds you, even a short time will do. And if, like me, you have a mountain of wash to hang, take it outside in the fresh air. I assure you, the time will bring you joy.

Barb Bruckner Suarez and me on the cliffs
I got to meet Barb Saurez in person this week. Her blog Birth Happens is wonderful. We clearly shared the same dreams last night because her blog and this one are in the same field today.

xoxS

Heart leaps: Quest 2015 and a question

Winter laundry dries slowly

 

Today’s post continues with the Quest2015 project. It is a set of 12 days with 12 visionaries to imagine my best next 12 months as a business artist.  You can learn more about #Quest2015 here and join the free offering by Jeffrey Davis.

Or you can follow along my quest here on Laundry Line Divine. I will post the prompts and my responses here all month. I really enjoy your comments, emails and notes on social media.

Yes, it might be messy. Yes, it might be personal and vulnerable, and yes, I am brave enough to show you my work here on Laundry Line Divine.

 

Today’s prompt comes from Pam Houston, who is the beloved author of four books including novel Contents May Have Shifted (have you read this yet? please do!)  and the interconnected short stories Cowboys Are My Weakness. She is Professor of English at UC Davis, directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers, and teaches in The Pacific University low residency MFA program.

 

Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

My Moon Girl

• When she calls my name
• When there is laughter
• When the popcorn I thought was for me alone, became three batches, one for the two teenaged girls and another my husband’s dinner
• Laundry gusting on the line
• Simple neat stitchings in wool, on silk, in old linen, on the dress I made for myself 21 years ago that I put on today
• The ice
• The owl
• The eagle
• The titmice
• The way he studies them now
• The way she wiped her nose on stage, as a man, in a Shakespearean coat
• The way he calls me just to hear my voice
• That would be me, connected to and in connection with people I love
• Being lost and found in this love, retrieval and permission
• Knowing that I should read page 140 today in three different books and finding a synchronicity, call it serendipity, of learning and insight.
• The promise of ice skating
• Remembering how much I love to ski, even though I am a terrible skier
• Falling asleep holding hands with my beloved
• Knitting, knitting, knitting and then seeing something more than the string, sticks and a plan take place
• Feeling a through line in my work, noticing, perhaps what others see but I am only just discovering and beginning, leapingly beginning to trust that this is my work, not something that will soon arrive when I am ready…. I am ready.
• Seeing my best friend for just a few minutes, but he has grown in to a man from the 18-year-old I met 33 years ago. Such a nice boy.
• Doing yoga…. rotated triangle, crow, plank, watching my palm open up above my head, watching my feet, yielding my heart, bowing to my beloved in class because he, after all these years, has started doing yoga


• Seeing my friend’s pottery, knowing him since he was 5, now, an artist.
• Candles
• Pine boughs
• Taking her to my red oak and sitting there with her
• Texts from my German kids, love notes, postcards, photos from Meine lieben Kinder.
• Old pages of handwriting
• Photographs of my mother
• Fervent comments from my readers on Laundry Line Divine
• My anthology in the hands of other readers
• All my journals lined up in a bag, ready for an exhibit
• Painting and packaging my Powder Keg Sessions painted prompt cards and preparing them to post and then going to the post office. Happy dances in the lobby of the post office.
• Terry Tempest Williams, John O’Donohue, Jeffrey Davis, Danielle LaPorte, Hafiz, Rumi, Debi Millman, Marilynne Robinson, Mary Gaitskill, Jane Hirschfield, Mandy Steward, Hilary Rain, Brené Brown, Tami Lynn Kent, Alice Orr, Tania Pryputniewicz, Alice Munro, Ruth Krauss, Sarah Ruhl, Adrienne Rich, P.K. Page, Natalie Goldberg, Flora Bowley…reading makes my heart leap because things happen between me and the page and the reality of my life. I gain understanding. This makes me leap all over the room, a gazelle of enthusiasm.
• Listening to my Powder Keg Sessions women read their work aloud.
• New women coming to the group.
• The embrace of a woman I taught last summer and the joy we shared
• Sitting in sacred circle with my Moon Circle exploring the deeper essence of gratitude
• Running downhill
• Acorn caps
• My oak and her skirt
• The copper beech up on the ridge
• Morning

How could I orchestrate my life to have more heart leaps?

Getting out of bed after just the right amount of sleep and socializing.
Speaking my truth even if it makes me quake.
Dreaming bigger and with more language about my work in the world.
Developing excellence with a complete willingness to fail, to be wrong, to wander, and to get lost.
Go outside.
Every single day.
Even when it is freezing and raining and gray…like it was this morning when I rescued the linen curtains that I left on the line from yesterday’s sun…. there is a crow. There are the titmice. There is the phlox leaning in to the messy garden, but I recall their perfume, their pinkness, and their tall strike of elegance on a September afternoon.
Going outside pretty much keeps most of those heart leaps leaping.
Being present with my family and friends.
Working in a way that supports my well-being and joy.
Staying connected…. to my long-time friends who see the difference and to my new friends, with whom I make a difference.

I woke this morning with three words in my heart.
Persistence.
Betty.
Dedication.

Persistence?  Showing up to write daily.
Nudging projects along, however slowly they roll, rolling them.
Dedication? Being there to say good-bye and hello, good morning and yes, I cannot wait for you to come home from college, stirring soup, closing my door, lighting the candles…
finding solitude within the fray of family life and creating art from this captured territory this is where and who and what I am dedicated to.

Betty J. Burkes on the right, Jan Phillips in the center and me. These two women inspire me to be my fullest self, daily.
Betty J. Burkes on the right, Jan Phillips in the center and me. These two women inspire me to be my fullest self, daily.

Betty?
My soul sister Betty sat next to me years ago as I nursed my daughter. Betty had just returned from work in Niger, as part of a United Nations project. She, peace activist and teacher, me, messy, chaos stuck to me like burrs to my ankles. I whined a bit and said, “Your work is so important.” She grabbed me with her words without disturbing the suckling, “The work you are doing right now is the most important work you can do right now.”

I am not sure she said ‘Right now” twice, but in recalling it, I feel the right now-ness of her words. Even today. After that, I quieted down. I settled in to motherhood, learned to live with the burrs, and grew more dedicated.

That baby is now 17 and drives herself to school.
The burrs teach me a lot.
And the heart leaps just keep on leaping.


This tiny video is better full screen. Hit the start arrow then click on full screen. It is only 19 seconds. Worth the clicks.

As part of the Quest2015 project, I have been reading some new blogs. These three have really made my heart leap. Ginny Taylor of Women of Wonder, whose work is to help women heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.

Stan Stewart’s improv poem this morning made my heart leap and urged me to create this list…imperfect as it may be in literary terms, it is more improv than anything. Thank you Stan.

And Julie Jordan Scott is a writer, poet, and teacher. This blog post caught me in another heart leap.

What about you?
What makes your heart leap?
How can you make choices that offer more heart leaps?

xoS

 

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