When summer turns toward September there are still beach towels on the laundry line, but there are also sweaters on the backs of chairs and socks where there were only flip flops last week. I sit out on my back porch with jeans on wishing for another day of full summer sun, but know that, as Linda Gregg says in her glorious poem, there are lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.
I have always been one to prolong a good thing. I am married for 21 years this past July and I am shooting for another 50 if I live that long. When I graduated from high school in 1976, I was messy mixture of DAR Good Citizen of the Year and wild child. In my Senior Will, listed in the B’s at the back of my Eskymos yearbook, I said my life wish was to “have the ultimate too much fun.” I was quoting a song that I loved that the band I hung out with (didn’t we all hang out with a band?) played at parties. That song was all I had in my mind at the moment. Forget world peace or food for the hungry, I wanted to have fun.
Oddly enough, while I live in service of women’s voices, as a mother and family member devoted to supporting and loving my people and everyone I can get my hands on, having the “ultimate too much fun” has not been a bad credo. Without realizing it, I have pressed in to the ultimate part. I am a fiercely loyal person and relentless when I have a good idea or taste going. I have been part of theatre companies working on new plays and groups devoted to various causes like rent control or lake preservation, I have banded with others, and I have worked alone. What this “ultimate too much fun” has led me to is getting off my duff and doing, especially when the doing is fun. And that means I am a hard worker. I like this about myself.
When I looked back at my Class of ’76 Senior Will, I was initially embarrassed to be so off color and rowdy. Couldn’t I have wished to find the cure for AIDS or to discover a new species of dragonfly? Wouldn’t it be oh so very virtuous to wish to build bridges and solve autism? I didn’t write that. I wanted to have fun.
I just turned 56 this week. I celebrated with my family and hosted a sweet evening around a campfire for my Moon Circle. We ate delicious chocolate cake with raspberries on top. Yes, I ate the last piece from the glass pan, licking the crumby layer of chocolate and red berries off my fingers. What recalls that Senior Will wish to me today is that there is no limit of cherishing something that could inspire me, like a birthday, like a raspberry, like this heavy air that promises rain on 9.11.
My birthday wish is the same as my Senior Will wish was, to have the ultimate too much fun. To work doing what I love with people I love. To meet new people and share an invitation to awaken their voices through making art and writing. To create space for women to feel permission to be their fullest selves, even on their bad days. To give voice to the inner landscape of my life as a woman who is a mother and to hold the light for others to do the same, whether that mother is here in the Berkshires or in Nigeria or cyberspace.
That sounds like a ton of fun to me. An ultimate too much fun.
What about you? What fish are in your net today?
Thank you for your birthday wishes.
I had a great day.
And I am ready to work.
All my love,
While searching for a way to request permission to publish Linda Gregg’s poem here on LLD, I see that her birthday is on September 9, one day after mine. Thanks to my Moon Sister Sarah for sharing this poem with me. Please read it here. If I can make contact with Linda, I will share it on Laundry Line Divine.
Lost Wings, Hesitations, and Outgrowing the Metronome
At our old house in the redwoods, I kept a tiny clay figure on the kitchen window ledge. A Xmas ornament I bought for my daughter at Rose and Thorn. Of course she fell from the tree: a kneeling fairy never meant for surviving a Husky, two cats, three children, and one exhausted mother alone drinking tea in the fruit-fly aura of lights on the midnight tree. Ever after, she lived on the ledge perched on a square glass bottle resting on its side full of sea glass. I kept her broken wing beside her with faith my father, the Thursday night gluer of every damaged thing, would repair her after we’d helped ourselves to his loaves of cornbread and split pea soup.
We’ve relocated so I don’t have to parent alone after three years of weekend marriage. The fairy is here, but not her wing. She’s still on the square glass bottle on my kitchen window counter. Behind her, instead of redwoods, birds of paradise and the peach belly fluff of Luna, transplanted cat, mercilessly tracking the hummingbirds hovering above the hibiscus shrub. I don’t know where in our transition we lost the wing.
For the first month of our new life in Southern California, each morning I found the sunniest spot in the house and rested face down on the carpet for 45 minutes, sometimes an hour, guiltily, feeling I should be hard at it, blogging, writing, editing, you name it, because we suddenly had Wi-Fi streaming through the house. Because the kids were in school.
But I needed those hours in the sun after the years of feeding the wood-burning stove and dwelling in the glow of pale green lichens of trunk moss and the incandescent golds of massive maple leaves against a rain-soaked hillside. You find alternate ways of seeing the light when you live in the woods. But the acts of seeing light and feeling light sate two different cravings. I had no idea I was so sun-starved until we moved.
Last month when Suzi invited me to post, I wondered what I could possibly add to the bounty already gathered on Laundry Line Divine by answering the question: How do I toggle between mother, writer, blogger, community member and in which space do I get to be fully present?
One answer is that I don’t toggle very well, especially on both sides of our relocation, juggling multiple websites and platforms, mothering 7, 10 and 12 year old children, attempting to write poetry while seeking authentic paths for divining online. Where do I get to be fully present? The honest answer is in starts and stops and by listening to my body (most overlooked but most potent nexus) at each virtual and literal location. One website, one interaction at a time. Whether feeling whole, partially present, apprehensive, overjoyed.
Back in December of 2007 when I started blogging at Feral Mom, Feral Writer, the first entry ran a couple of paragraphs long and served up a scan of the room: an infant nurser sleeping beside my desk, yours truly writing to the ache of milk mottled breasts, and a miniscule frame on the desk with one butterfly wing in it to remind me someday I’d have enough lift to fly. Since I go in and out of feeling overwhelmed by multiple blogs, I was contemplating writing a goodbye anniversary post this coming December for Feral Mom, Feral Writer.
But I hesitated–and re-read backwards through six years of writing to that first post with one wing and realized the magical lifeline the blog has provided, bringing me one heart to heart connection at a time to the verge of something I’ve waited all my life for: publication of a first book of poetry, November Butterfly (forthcoming in 2014 from Saddle Road Press).
But more importantly, the blog gave private (ironically) room to grow in a public arena in the sheltered quiet before commenters appeared. It gave me a loose deadline to aim for while mothering. A place to write without gatekeeper. Where I could wrestle with questions of hide and reveal: how do you write about a marriage crisis neither blaming nor wounding the other (since the act of blogging through crises provides a healing lens not only for blogger, but other mother/wives walking through similar joy/pain fields)? How do you protect the privacy of your children while offering up the light of your best and hardest interactions, keeping the focus on you, feral mother, finding a way through the beautiful disorder no-one could forewarn us we’d navigate?
Always at night, day’s work done, half of the self swirling freely back over the myriad unfinished conversations, my body talks back. I make decisions, I change them. One moment I think I should stop one project in favor of another. The next, I hold them all tight. They all matter. Weighing, circling, asking which site, blog, project, or poem is next, as if they are all rooms off a central hub I can step into at will. Gauging: where is the most heat, thus desire, to engage? And then trusting that information.
Lately the fierceness of the struggle to stop the public reveal (blogging at the crossroads of exposure and inspiration) has to do with new poems that arrived over the summer. Poems I’d been unable to hear until now, though their subjects saturated every attempt at writing something else. Buried obsessions: trespasses my body refuses to forget. I want my children to surge past the age of hurt and into adulthood unmarred. The song of the foolish mother.
Would I keep my children’s lessons from them? Would I withhold my own if I could from the other side? I can’t see far enough. A wing—or veil–over my understanding. But as I grow older, after enough hours of writing in the loving company of a bevy of other writing mothers and creatives (my wingmen), forgiveness arrives. Forgiving my childhood self for not knowing better. For entering a stranger’s house. For not knowing how to unpack the secret. For passing the secret to my brother to keep back when we were kids, a burden doubled. The new poems are naked and direct.
Which explains why I lie awake in bed sensing an unfamiliar space opening behind my heart, a circular seam unraveling along the perimeter of my shoulder blades whether pressed up against bed, husband or my youngest fresh from a bad dream. I am neither troubled nor frightened, the trials of adolescence’s fairytale endured. I’m left with curiosity. Where is the lost wing? What does it look like now?
It is less image, more feeling. My back fills warmly with a grid of light. I can almost make out the pattern.
The next morning, attempting to finish this post, I return to scan Laundry Line Divine. A sliver of crossover information confirms the necessity of showing up online. In Suzi’s post on angels and yoga, These Angels Watching Over Me, she describes learning from her teacher that while we “act” with the front of our body, we “receive” with the back of our body (you must read the rest here for the full beauty).
So I vow to pay attention. To receiving. Maybe even revel in the receiving…which is what I see happening here on Laundry Line Divine. I come here to receive. Thank you Suzi and thank you to every writer contributing here. Such light, such warmth.
For now, I’m trusting the hesitations. Thinking of all of us writing mothers as works in progress, not metronomes in wooden towers meting out rhythm for students learning how to keep time. We get to play all parts: metronome, piano, practicing student, the music itself, the listener in the crowd. And eventually the musician outgrows the metronome. Sustaining a writing life while mothering must move at a breathable, pleasurable pace.
If, like, me, you are losing or finding a wing, tell me–where is it now? What does it look like? What does your body know that you haven’t yet stopped to hear?
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Tania Pryputniewicz is the Managing Poetry Editor of The Fertile Source. Co-founding blogger for Mother, Writer, Mentor, Pryputniewicz teaches Poetry of Motherhood and Fatherhood for MWM and Transformative Blogging workshops for women at MWM, A Room of Her Own Foundation and Story Circle Network. Her debut poetry collection, November Butterfly, is forthcoming from Saddle Road Press in 2014. She is newly relocated to Coronado Island, California, with her husband, three children, one blue-eyed Siberian Husky and two tubby housecats. Visit her website for class schedules and posts written in support of the concept of Transformative Blogging.
In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there are places where you could roll a marble down your Main Street and it could cross town with one flick.
And there is a place called the Grand Canyon of the UP.
I am in my northern reverie, swatting flies, dodging bats and gazing upward in gratitude for calling this place home. My teens are not so charmed by the flies, bats or flat horizons, but it will grow on them.
Until that time, my obsession with all things UP, wild, blue and wonderful will suffice.
How about you? What is the place you grew up like?
Tell me so here in your comments.
I will be posting from the road in to August while my #summeradventure2013 continues.
With many thanks to all you Laundry Line readers.