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Yearning: Tell Me Yours & I Will Tell You Mine

Cups up at Bascom Lodge, Mount Greylock, MA

 

Velvet magenta maple against a golden oak.

Rain soaked leaves around the compost bin.

Nuthatch upside down on the feeder.

The clink of my husband’s spoon on his mid-morning oatmeal.

My fingers are chilly. I keep it cold in my morning writing space.

 

I am in the center of something I started in 2009.

from one of my first Laundry Line Divine posts...setting forth on an adventure to parts unknown
from one of my first Laundry Line Divine posts…setting forth on an adventure to parts unknown

 

In the nearly six years I have been blogging here on Laundry Line Divine, I have developed something I had no idea I was heading in to. When I started this website, I was writing in the few free hours I had between my responsibilities as a mother at home, as a gardening teacher and all the other ways I spent my hours.

My mother was in the middle of her descent in to Alzheimer’s disease.

I had just had a complete hysterectomy and thankfully, did not have any complications from all the unknowable horribles that lurked around my life that year.

 

I was simply a mother writing my experience.

I was attempting to build my author platform.

I was putting wheels under my work in the world.

I began experimenting with speaking up and out.

 

Since that time, my life has changed dramatically.

I am still a Mom.

I still work from home.

I am still researching how to speak my own truth.

 

But so much looks different.

I have developed a body of work around mothering and creativity.

I produce events for a local writing festival and teach at conferences.

I teach two different writing workshops locally and have led over 60 art and writing workshops in the last three years.

I have published an anthology of 36 women’s voices about the creative lives of mothers.

I have one son in college.

I have on daughter in high school.

I have one German exchange daughter in my home right now, and two others in Munich who call me their US Mom.

My own mother has been dead for four years this past October 10.

I am 56 years old.

 

And I am still filled with the same yearning that made me start to write in the first place. I didn’t set out to become a writer. I didn’t set out to teach. I just began taking my own writing seriously enough to budget time in my week for a little solitude. As I warmed to this practice, I noticed a longing within me that had been masked by the chaos of mothering. I sensed a yearning that is taking me years to describe. I began to feed it by offering myself small windows of time within my days at home to make something for the simple pleasure of making. I began, slowly, to let what I longed for- which was some sort of affirmation that this mothering path was the right one, that this work is enough, this relentless, challenging and joyful work is where I am supposed to be-to let that direct me, like a rudder. Rather than finding distraction from my mothering life, I began to see what I was doing as important enough to consider it sacred. This most ancient of responsibilities, being a mother, could, despite what our culture has told us for generations, be important and valuable.

In those early days of writing, I told stories of how I lived my days here in the Berkshires. I live in a small town surrounded by woods and farmland, in a county peppered with other small towns and people who work to run this community and sustain the systems that make this sort of life possible. I had lived in Manhattan for many years. I knew what that life was like. And I knew, in my heart, that raising our children outside a metropolitan area would allow me to spread out a little, not spend every waking hour in busyness and give us all space to be outside and to live slowly.

 

Benjamin and Suzi 1997

 

Slow became my mantra. Slow is not always my reality. But by being as slow as toddlers studying ants on the sidewalk, as slow as candle flame at 2 AM when I am awake with worry and hot milk, I found a new way of being.

I began to hear what I longed for. I was happy with the decision I’d made to stay at home to mother. I thought we’d have four children. I lived through several very sad miscarriages and a few years of trying to get pregnant again and again, before I arrived at this size of our family being enough. I could make my way with this crew and meet a few community needs without too much frantic living. I gardened with kids for many years. I learned new skills, studied yoga and taught. I carved a life of doing around my children’s needs. I knit. I made jam. And I hung my wash outside on a cotton rope.

Whites

But I could not shake the calamity of my heart. There was a voice within me that said, “really? This is it?” My own mother had been bored with being home-bound with children. Out of necessity and self-preservation, she taught for nearly all the years of our growing up. I was not bored so much as deflated by the reality that motherhood merited no real value in our culture but for keeping the kids out of traffic and getting food on the table. I could see how advertising and merchandising were designed to supply our every need, every style shift and every worry. But I found little that spoke to the soul of a woman who mothers.

This afternoon I walked near a house where a young family lives. The sky was gray, a cold fall wind made me draw my sweater collar up around my ears. The wool could not muffle the piercing cries of an infant I heard as I walked quietly by this small house. Instantly propelled to a similar afternoon of my own, I was standing by the sink with a red-faced inconsolable baby in my arms. I knew the gut dropping feeling of the mother of this squalling child. I knew the inch-march of the clock through a relentlessly tedious afternoon, where a nap is fruitless, dinner a puzzle, and no end is in sight. I knew how much, in those moments, I wanted to be mothered or at least accompanied or witnessed. The isolation of those moments, the shame-tide that rises around your ankles for not being a better mother, a wiser mother or at least a mother with better snacks on hand soaks in through your grimy sweatpants. It took only a few moments of that baby’s cries to bring me back to a time when any sense of living a productive life had halted and I was lonely, but never truly alone. I thought that since I enjoyed the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom that I had nothing to complain about. It should not be so hard, right? I am not putting on hose and heels and getting out to an office, right? History has not helped to ease entry in to mothering, with damning portraits of women chopping up their children or driving them in to lakes only to be countered with the lambs and rosebuds we stencil over the cozy cribs in upstairs bedrooms.

The conversation about parenting is changing. There is more writing and art in the world made by women who are comfortable stating that they are mothers. There are many more ways today, that mothering is seen as a choice, as a lifestyle and as something to be planned for and perhaps even supported by our corporate structures.

Reality is life-blown-open-and-apart, no matter what your situation- whether you have a natural childbirth or a C-section, whether you grind your baby’s food, nurse on the subway or let the nanny make those decisions- your life is unalterably altered when you become a mother. I wanted to know if it was possible to express this, to talk about what gives me comfort, what inspires me and what leads me. I found myself rather alone in this quest. I didn’t feel endorsed to talk about myself. There was lots of discussion and whining on the web, there still is, about the drudgery of teething or the 10 best things your child has taught you. This is good, it is a start, but it does not satisfy my soul.

One of my mentors told me to write what I most wanted to read. What I needed to read. Mary Oliver wrote in Wild Geese, “tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” Your sorrow and your joys, what sustains you and what clears your mind, I want to know those things. And I think that writing about mine may give you some comfort. Having a small bead on creating this small person, this house for a soul, I wondered if there was something more than practical about the ordinary acts of mothering. I wanted to know I was not alone in yearning for something more, for a deeper connection with Spirit/God/the Universe and with other women. Feeling isolated and ashamed while living in a community kept me alert to what was missing in my life. How could I be lonely? I was always in the company of at least 3 other people and many times, more.

Catherine and Suzi 1999

I have always lived with my creativity active. It is my natural state. My life force is as a maker and I fit my making to the times. Whether I am baking intricate birthday cakes or running the Parent’s Association, knitting for babies in need or building books, I find a way to make and engage through that making. This life force has buoyed me through the worst of times. It has also given me a strength and ability to do things I never dreamed of doing. And I am convinced that supporting women in engaging their creative voices will allow them to discover tools to improve their own lives and the lives of their families.

So my original yearning to find the sacred in mothering and the dovetailing desire to express from inside mothering has provided me with work that keeps me very busy. But it also has pressed me to be accurate in how I behave, to hold my integrity foremost and to be honest about where my priorities are. My children are now 16 and 20. The demands on my time are different now and I have an opportunity to complete sentences, thoughts and projects. I am more able to find ways for my work to be in the world.

This, for me, is a revolution, a huge change from the way things have been for me. Prior to becoming a mother, I pursued a career in theatre, never quite making it, always the one not cast, called back again and again, but not cast. My creativity was fully served by my career as a seamstress, which developed in to couture work, thus my making muscles were engaged, although my heart wasn’t.

And it was my heart that demanded attention.

Engaging my creativity in the service on my own voice was something that I had never done. In the midst of mothering, I discovered I had something to say.

Now, I teach others to do the same thing. I see the ways joy enters lives that were cluttered with sorrow and shame. I see the ways creativity enlivens and expands the horizons of women who thought they’d have to wait decades before they had a chance to speak or work on their own.

Since 2009, “seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life” has been my mission.

Finding the divine in my ordinary existence- the church of now, discovering a sense of belonging within myself and with other women who express from inside mothering, of discovering my effort is important and worthwhile for the world and not just three people, these are the riches I have gained by pressing in to my creative expression.

Taped to the cover of the spiral bound notebook that was my journal in the months of March to May 2003, is a copy of Judyth Hill’s Wage Peace. Written in response to 9/11, her poem set something in motion with in me. Judyth presented the possibility that a way of being could promote peace. I was home with two young children when the World Trade Center bombings occurred. I did not feel capable of joining teams of volunteers cleaning up rubble or comforting the grieving. I had my hands full. The loss was so great and I felt so small. I carried her poem around with me as a talisman of hope.

 

Wage peace with your listening:

hearing sirens, pray loud.

Remember your tools:

flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

 

Clothespins?

Flower seeds?

Clean rivers?

Surely, she had written this poem for me.

I was sure she was telling me that being a mother is enough.

I know she was right. I just had to wake up to that myself.

 

Next week, I will be away at a writing retreat. I see myself posting from there. As I prepare to leave, I will be dwelling in the heart of my yearning. I would love to hear about yours.

 

Please comment here or send me an email.

I love hearing from you.

Even if you differ from my point of view, hearing yours is a joy to me.

I appreciate your time reading me here.

 

 

With love, S

 

 

This Untrimmable Light

 

John O’Donohue says, “Light is the great priestess of landscape.”

 

Today is the second talk of our Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour.
We are in my homeland of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
My sister, classmates, neighbors; college pals, teachers and new friends are in the audiences.
The authors from An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, Kathy Drue of L’Anse, Michigan and Monica Devine of Eagle River, Alaska are joined by Terri L.Bocklund of Sykesville, MD here in Marquette today at 2 and tomorrow in Ishpeming at 6:30.

 

To describe the joy of doing these talks in this place would take more words and time than I have here today. Last night, in Escanaba, Terri described the genius loci of Lake Superior, the great vast “sweet sea” as the first French explorers called this place. Genius loci is the protective spirit of a place. While Lake Superior and this wild remote land can be harsh, offering winter winds that battle with all that is man made, there is also a densely beautiful grace to this location. Just this morning, cedar and birch, a Bald Eagle, 3 crows sitting close on a branch and a gaggle of turkeys greeted us.

Mary Oliver’s poem, Mindful, will say for me, what I cannot yet say.

Thank you for all your good wishes for us here.
I am off to put on my party clothes and get ready to talk.

Mindful

by Mary Oliver

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

“Mindful” by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early. © Beacon Press, 2005.

Listen to Mary Oliver’s read here.

Find John O’Donohue’s book here.

 

Find me at the Peter White Library.

Best,

 

S

 

Happy New Year. I have my nose in a few books…


Composing My 2014

 

At this time of year, I am deep in reflection and recalibration.

I pour over my journals and blog posts to read my tracks and notice,

what made me so happy this year?
who had an impact on my daily life?
what moves really made a difference in my life?

I spend time reading the books that make up my daily routine.
Rumi, Mary Oliver, Mirabai Starr, Jen Louden, Christian McEwen…

How about you?
What have you noticed about this past year?
What really lit you up?
Who inspired you?
While you are here on Laundry Line Divine, what posts do you recall that stayed with you?

As I tune my inner life for playing full out in 2014, I hear two words:

Burn

Instigate

 

 

Morning UP

 

 

Lissa Rankin urges us to pick a word of the year, but, I cannot just pick one.

Burn, to me, is as Rumi suggests,

A Just-Finishing Candle

A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment
it has no shadow.

It is nothing but a tongue of light
describing a refuge.

Look at this
just-finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice,

the pride and the shame
we claim from those.

~Rumi

I am looking to become entirely flame.
I desire to release, burn off all that no longer serves me.
I desire to be full of the light of the Divine.
I want to flame from within and light the way.

Instigate?

This is harder to discern.
I am a team player. I love and live in Sisterhood and
dearly love my men, my Tribe, many of whom I have played with this past week
on various and wonderful adventures.

 

Eclairs

 

 

Instigate?

Could this be about Rampant Sisterhood?
I am teaching a workshop in finding and engaging your authentic voice online on January 13-14.
If you are in the Berkshires or near, here is a link to the event.

Til I complete the big honking post of my 2013 Appreciations,
I leave you with this question:

What ignites you?
How can you kindle your own inner flames?
Have any posts on Laundry Line Divine helped you particularly?

Standing in your light, ablaze with your beauty,

Suzi

Seems Mary Oliver and Jen Louden and You and I are on the same page.

#Artday painting thinking about S&H Green Stamps. www.laundrylinedivine.com

 

Here is what I painted last night.

You can read last night’s post to get the story.
 

 

This is what I read this morning.

 

If I Were by Mary Oliver

There are lots of ways to dance and
to spin, sometimes it just starts my
feet first then my entire body, I am
spinning no one can see it but it is
happening. I am so glad to be alive,
I am so glad to be loving and loved.
Even if I were close to the finish,
even if I were at my final breath, I
would be here to take a stand, bereft
of such astonishments, but for them.

If I were a Sufi for sure I would be
one of the spinning kind.

From A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver’s new collection. All rights reserved.

 

Here is what I am dancing to today.

 

Thank you readers of Laundry Line Divine- Lorrin, Tania, Paula and Geri for keeping company with me last night.

Thank you Jen Louden for leading the way with that prompt.

Thank you Jana Stanfield for singing me in to joy today.

And thank you Mary Oliver for dancing with us.

 

Love,

S

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