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New Moon Clarity

These cups of light

Saturday Morning in the Berkshires.
Damp, cooler and quiet in my yard.
The grapes await picking. I have more pears than I can freeze or use.
And my apple trees are nearly ready to pick.

I came home from my month away last Saturday night. This week has been filled with unpacking stuff, sorting out all the beach glass I collected, canning peaches and figuring out how this break in daily presence as a parent of two big kids has impacted how we relate to one another. Seems that I am still a resource, an important one, and that I hold secrets to running a household that are not interesting nor available to a 17 year old. Fine. Let me be the one who restocks the toilet paper and waters the garden.

I am preparing for my new offering, Sacred Refuge Sundays, to begin on September 20. If you are curious go here. There are three spots open for this intimate writing and art workshop.

I am memorizing a monologue for Expressing Motherhood in Boston on September 25. This show has gone up all over the country for a few years and I am thrilled to be in the cast. If you know of people in the Boston area who might be intrigued, please share this invitation with them.

The Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions resume on Wednesday, September 23 in Housatonic, MA at 6:30 PM. These free writing workshops take place in a gorgeous historic library in a village that is equally charming. In the fall, we often stand outside after writing together and watch the stars come out, sparkling over Flag Rock and the watertower. The Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions have grown in to a vital and captivating sisterhood of women dedicated to expanding their writing practice. More on that here.

A wing

This is the year of me writing my book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. I took a break from it three years ago to seriously work on my author platform and to develop the work I do around motherhood and creativity. This is where all my teaching rises from, my stand for the stories of women, particularly mothers. In order to write, I have to string together longer hours of solitude and focus, so I am paring down the work I am doing outside my studio.

This means a few big changes are on their way:

1. I am giving Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others a rest. We will return to the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers in 2017. The blog series will toddle along with new content and visits with some of the writers to see what they are up to now.

2. I cannot preserve every single quince that is about to leap off my tree. Do you want some of them? Let me know.

3. I can be tender and kind to myself when I see my friends doing big and exciting things this year, while I plink away at the keys of this computer, dedicating variations of our beloved 26 letters of the alphabet to tell the story of how I raise myself as I raise my kids. The story is not over, but it is time to complete the book.

4. I will be making choices to intricately weave together my visual and literary work. When I was with Lisa Sonora this summer at her Creative Entrepreneur workshop, I learned that it is okay for me to inhabit my writer and artist selves simultaneously. I always thought my whole self was too much for the world to take. Lisa has dared me to be bigger and I am not sure what that looks like yet, but here on Laundry Line Divine, you will be among the first to know.

5. I am going away on two writing retreats this year to support the deep dive I know I need to take to complete my book. I will continue to travel to teach, so if you know of a conference or arts center that might be the perfect spot for a Mapping Motherhood workshop or for a Powder Keg Session or Sacred Refuge workshop please let me know. I am accepting a few Rampant Sisterhood social media mentoring clients. I loved teaching in Charlotte last spring and my class in Escanaba, Michigan wants me to return. Meeting women who are on the verge of a daily creative practice and sharing the tools that work for me is a great joy in my life. Helping others discover their voices is an honor. My offerings are listed here.

That we are here by SBB

September always calls me to recalibrate, sharpen my pencils and clear off the piles of stuff that have accumulated around my house. Canning and preserving the harvest assures me that some of the glow of summer will be available to us in February in the form of peach jam and grape juice.

 

 

Peach jam

 

In the same way writing and collage capture the essence of experience. For me, writing lets me pull certain flavors forward. And, always, I am surprised by what surfaces.

I hope this post finds you well.
I always want you to know how much I appreciate you reading me here on Laundry Line Divine.
And I look forward to meeting you in person, if I haven’t already. One of the biggest gifts of this summer was getting to talk to women who have read my posts here for a few years. I will always be a real time person. My online life is important, but let my glasses steam up over a hot cup of tea, let us press our hands and hearts together and go from there.

CBB and SBB 9.2015
my girl and I

I am off to pick grapes.
Have a lovely weekend,
S

What happens when we map motherhood?

Vintage line-up

 

a hootenanny
a ribald clutch lets loose laughter
a serious look at who we are now
a very different perspective on humanity
an urgency long withheld, surfaces

 

It takes courage to write about motherhood in a culture that sets women with children on the sidelines, and it takes even more courage to give voice to the powerful emotions and fears that swirl deep beneath the surface of our daily lives, informing and sharing our relationships with our children and the world at large.
-Katrina Kenison and Kathleen Hirsch

This week I am in the thick of preparing to teach.
I am also sitting with my heart-broken son on the phone as he navigates a cross-country trip with his friends and sorts out being single, suddenly.
We look up at the same moon.
I am also walking to the river again and again with my daughter, figuring out what her next steps are, if not only in to the blazingly cold clear waters of the Green river, but what of her senior year in high school?

And then, there is me.
Here, a blossoming is going on. There is energy building with the work I am doing.
Here is an interview that I did for Wild Motherhood. Morgan’s questions prompted me to write this prayer:

Live your full life.
“Your body does not lie.” -Terry Tempest Williams
Your story matters.
Taking one small step for yourself today makes a difference in everything you do.
Your story matters.
Love your kids, ask for help, listen closely to the world around you, talk to each other, and be outside, every single day. Bring the littles with you.
Your story matters.
There is room for you here, even within motherhood. Take up your own space and urge your sisters to do the same.
Your story matters.
Amen

This is what I believe.

Today, I offer you a fresh post in the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series by Sara Nolan. She lives what this series is all about, expressing a woman’s life within motherhood. I am so happy Sara offered this post. Please leave your comments for Sara here. I will be at the International Women’s Writing Guild this week, posting from Litchfield, CT. You can expect more Out posts and a running update from my workshop, Mapping Motherhood.

xo,

S

Experiment in the Mini-Essay #16- Infant Poetry has God on the Line

7-21-15

by Sara Nolan

I read aloud to Ronen while we nurse. Gulping is his foreground music; words are his background music. Not Hungry Caterpillar, Not Goodnight Moon– he’ll be well-fed on those classics everyone includes in an early literary diet. Instead, I’m moving through the anthology that Rick, our beloved officiant, left here for our wedding preparation: the “Winged Energy of Delight.” That’s what I want my son to know. Vallejo, Dickson, Machado, Issa, Kabir– the poet’s ardor and specificity. It ain’t Mother Goose’s regular posse.

This morning I read the verses of poet Caesar Vallejo, not so kid-tastic; his existential dreariness is leavened by the abstract, bizarre, and surreal. He’s in depressing Paris, trying to be an artist, being an artist, dying there an artist. Couldn’t be farther from my infant’s reality, but the fuzzy borders between self and world that poet and infant must traverse and explore, and sometimes be confounded by, are similar. The regular old world still reads to them both as nonsense. Vallejo’s lines also have currents of odd joy that would not be everyone’s joy, manifesting in pulses throughout his poems the way Milk lets down in pulses.

My small boy, suckling intensely, is anchored to my body while I read. Nothing could be less abstract than breast-feeding. As counterpoint to that, Vallejo writes: “I feel that God is traveling/so much in me,/ with the dusk and the sea….He is kind and sad, like those who care for the sick;…I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;/because you never smile; because your heart/ must all the time give you great pain.” Just as I read these lines to Ronen, who smacks my breast by reflex in aim-iess rhythm, my dear friend texts me a snippet from her first day in her program for a Masters in Children’s Literature and Research: “Poetry eases an infant’s transition learning division of self and world”(From her teacher Karen Coats). Yes, ease— what I want for my boy, ease.

And yet I read to him about what we all long to keep from our children, from anyone we love, or, if we have the Big View, from anyone at all– pain that cannot be mitigated. Pain that is as elementary and constitutional as blood and lymph. Motherhood brings on a special ache over this pain– when Ronen flinches and whimpers from any discomfort whose source I cannot know, as private and inaccessible as his moment of embryonic implantation, I flinch, I hurt with reciprocal depth, I grimace, I flail. I am on my knees even while standing up, on his behalf, I pray despite myself.

I feel that god is traveling so much in me, Vallejo explains. Pregnant with my boy, not knowing then he was a boy, I too felt god traveling in my body– really! Coursing through the blood, using hormones as floatation devices. Not to say that it was a comfy situation, not at all. How could it be when the infinite moves through the finite? But it was supersonic fullness, continual transit across placental hallways, mood spikes, a tsunami of creative energy working itself into compressed cellular organelles and organs and an eventual organism. Mother Mary, turns out, as special as she was, was nobody special. She was us, you and me, holding the urgent and ineffable becoming.

When John and I made love in those 9 months– when I managed to take a break from being irritated at all of humanity for which he was, in my limited, warped, delusional pregnant viewpoint, the unfortunate front-runner in my household– I’d say to our baby-to-be, this is where you come from, you come from love, and you’re coming into love. Simplistic, yes– and, if you pushed me to admit it, the world is not exactly that straightforward. But mothers fib sometimes for the sake of a good story: egg and sperm and cellular replication was involved, and the baby enters into a lot more than love– into bureaucracy (fittingly hard to spell), burrs, bumpers, a mish-mosh of phenomena. The world is inescapably complex, and not reducible to any one element, however glorious. But still, not a bad creation myth to tell your child or yourself. It is a non-sentimental kind of Love that catches the child, more absolute, more daunting.

With my boy in my arms, feeling the increasing loops of love that tether me to his funny particularities, that twine around the arbor of my body, fixed, from which he is the heavy grapes hanging, I feel something like Vallejo’s god again, that sad god who kindly cares for the sick, a person of great pain, the heavy pain that comes with separation. I feel God in the strange lumpy tissue accruing beneath my C-section incision, I feel God in the tingling that signals the milk truck has filled up the ducts, I feel God in the endlessness of diapers that seem to pinwheel off the table into the garbage, off the table into the garbage. I feel God in the way my beautiful husband razzes and strokes the baby, the way my stepsons ask to hold him and cradle his erratic head with confidence. This holiness is like water, taking the shape of its container.

 

 

Ronen sleeps on Sara

Sara Nolan finds life amazing and whole, and bios awkward and partial. She teaches young people to write about their lives through personal essays, using the imagination in support of truth. Sara can be found leading classes and workshops in NYC via her education initiative, Essay Intensive, which is what it sounds like. She is also findable via the written word on her blog of sorts, Massive Missive, where she occasionally posts essays that took a long time to hatch. Meanwhile, she learns and mothers with all her might.

The Village: Morgan Nichols

Morgan and Jude at Midsummer Camp

The Village: Who else is here while you mother?

Freedom, Community & Mothering as Creative Soul-Seeker

by Morgan Nichols

“What is inherently free is who you are. Who you are does not become free. It is free. In recognizing this, there is the natural ability to respond. Before that, responsibility is a concept of duty or of something to be shouldered. It may be tempered with love and care, but it is also something to be born. Therefore, your child becomes an objectification, a separation between you and that which you really are. This is a deadly joke! You are this very child. Recognize this and you are not searching around for personal freedom. Then nothing can be an intrusion.” – Gangaji*:

As a creative, soulful, multi-passionate single mother only just emerging out of the early years of motherhood, I struggle with this notion of freedom on a daily basis. I sometimes feel tethered by responsibility, longing to escape and spend days dancing under a wild blue sky. I’ve seen my child as the barrier between me and my true freedom. And yet I know this is an illusion that causes us both pain. Yes, I have real, driving needs for space, quiet, creativity. I am a highly sensitive and introverted person who becomes easily overstimulated and needs regular time alone like a fish needs water. But when I do get a break, much as it refreshes me, after a time I realise that I need my son as much as he needs me. Mothering is an anchor in my life. I have been forced by parenting responsibility to root out a lot of my self-absorption and emotional-roller-coaster tendencies, to become more grounded, present and consistent.

Morgan and Jude

When I allow myself to truly see my son, instead of past him to where I want to be; to look deeply into his eyes that change daily from green to blue to grey, and crinkle up at the corners when he laughs, using his whole face; I can see him as a companion on my journey, an ally even, that I’m blessed beyond measure to have. I see that the freedom I long for is right here now. I realise I’m only given as much as I have the strength for. Being a mother has led me to places that I needed to be: for my soul, for my creativity, for my work to be birthed into the world.

Every step of the way I’ve been given the village I’ve needed. It just hasn’t looked the way I imagined it. I thought I’d have a nuclear family, a safe, cozy oasis in the tempestuous world. When my rocky relationship finally ended when my son was 20 months old, this dream dissolved in ash. We were homeless for several months after the split, reliant on friends’ charity. I was provided for in ways I’d never have expected: finding a house-sit with a country walk at the end of the road, where I could nurture myself with my favourite soul-connector: Nature. I learned the generosity and kindness of my fellow humans in a way I’d never have experienced had I stayed in the nuclear family bubble.

I was terrified to live alone with my son. I had always lived with people; I thought I wouldn’t be enough for him, that I’d be isolated and alone. Then I happened to see a flier for a week long summer solstice community camp. I knew at once that I had to go there. We traveled for a long sweaty 5 hours by public transport with all our camping gear, and arrived on a field to find more than I could ever have dreamed. It was, simply, home.

Camping Circle
Camping Circle

For a week we lived in groups of 20-30 within a larger camp of 90 people, and in those groups grew surprisingly close. In fact, to me it felt like family. We shared chores and everyone did what they were best at – which meant I did far less cooking than usual and much more drifting, daydreaming, and dancing. People shared their skills for the benefit of everyone: chopping wood, making temporary kitchens, massage, teaching yoga. My son, then 2.5, had the opportunity to interact with people he wouldn’t usually: seven year old girls, childless older adults. And of course, we were living right on the land and outdoors most of the time. I unwound myself into the space of blue sky and the simplicity of cooking over a fire, surrounded by caring, open-minded and creative people. I was woken up to a way of living that I recognised in my bones: being in community in openness and mutual respect. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful that one night at the evening meal sharing circle I collapsed into sobs: “I want to live like this.”

Morgan alone at camp

My son was free to roam in a much larger space than was possible back home, benefiting from the input of a safe small group of supportive adults and other children. I felt both free and supported, and came home overflowing with love and a new openness to the world. We discovered other community camps and re-found our home each summer for the next 4 years. This ‘village’ inspired me to learn the ukulele and sing in a scratch band for the first time, finally having the confidence to share my life-long love of music with others; I taught yoga under a big oak tree; tried out new ideas for Wild Writing workshops, and was able to let more of my vivid, colourful, wild self out to play because of the support of such a nonjudgmental environment.

I read somewhere that as human beings, we expect, on an evolutionary level, to live in this way: sharing parenting among the members of a tribe of 20-30 people, living in connection with the cycles and seasons of the land. This is the way we lived and thrived for thousands of years. This affirmed for me that there wasn’t something ‘wrong’ with me because I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, fulfil all my son’s needs 24/7. That I wasn’t a bad parent because my needs as a human being weren’t completely fulfilled as a single full-time urban parent. We could be surrounded by other parents and children at the park and I’d still feel totally isolated; and to meet my needs for mental stimulation and adult companionship often required a lot of exhausting organisation and time away from my child. This set my needs against his. At the camps, this conflict was lessened because our needs could be met by different people – we were not woven into an interdependence so tight it hurts.

I wondered if there was any point in surrendering into an experience that, beautiful as it was, wasn’t going to last and couldn’t be translated into my life as an urban single parent. But the village has been evolving in its own way here. I moved to a smaller, country town and made more connections with other mothers, exchanging childcare and text conversations and coffee chats about being a mother creative and soul-seeker. My local Red Tent community nourishes my femininity. I collaborate with other women on creative projects and workshops. I’ve continued to take little steps towards my dreams, and seeing how these little seeds take root and flower, I find my life barely recognisable from 7 years ago, when I first became a mother and felt so isolated, even with a partner. I am hoping that the roots of community and music will slowly spread right underneath the foundations of my life. Who knows where they will come up to light and flower next?

 

 

 

 

 

*from Gangaji’s question and answer session printed in ‘You Are That’:

 

 

Morgan dancing 5 rhythms

Bio:

I’ve been a lover of words since before I could actually write, walking up and down the garden telling stories to myself. I was initiated into the Wild Mother path in 2007 when my son Jude was born. He is my live-in spiritual teacher and often my creative inspiration – the reason that my book, Wild Motherhood: Keeping the Creative and Soul Fires Burning, and the support network Wild Motherhood, came to be. I’ve been running supportive writing groups and workshops for mothers since 2008, and am a freelance writer, published poet and short story writer, and copywriter with two novels on the back burner. See here for some of my published work. In-between mothering and working I love to stare out of train windows, read about astrology, and dance the 5 Rhythms, enjoying the freedom of expression and mindfulness discipline rolled-into-one that this embodiment practice provides.

Mother, may I?

Magnolia 3

There is such sweet permission in springtime.

Spring has me standing under towering Horse Chestnut trees to watch the sunlight filter through brand new leaves that weren’t leaves just yesterday. I crane my
neck under the Copper Beech so I can see the new reddish leaves, nearly copper, as they strain the morning sunlight to a golden shade, where just yesterday, there was only sunlight unabated.

Spring has me stopped in my tracks.

 

 

This is what I am listening to.

 

And this is what I see, standing open mouthed under a magnolia petaled by firm, weighted pink blooms. I wonder if I bite in to them, the perfume would soak my tongue. I don’t because they are so very perfect. The heavy petals hit my head falling towards newly green grass.

A reverie.

And my son is home. For a full day. He helped me sort out converting the recording to the proper file for Sound Cloud. He is very helpful. And he asked if I would make recordings of his favorite books on Sound Cloud. I have to sort out permissions on that idea, but some of his favorite books are very old books.

Oh there goes a shiny object taking my attention away from this very blog post. Chart my lost minutes as I follow a rabbit down a hole…ARGHHHHH!!!!

Spring.
How about you?
What are you looking at, mouth agape?

There is news to share here.

Terri Bocklund’s guest blog post on Out of the Mouths of Babes is up today. If you are in the area of Columbia, Maryland, you can hear Terri perform Songs for Mothers and Lovers of Mothers (and others)  at Mad City Cofffee Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 7pm. Terri joined the Giving Motherhood a Voice book tour in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last summer.

Terri has responded to the prompt, The Village: Who else is here while you mother? I am still enjoying the submissions I have received to this call. I will feature them on Laundry Line Divine until I run out. Then, I will be brewing on the theme for 2016.

What aspect of a woman’s life inside motherhood perplexes you? What would you like to investigate in your life? What investigation is calling you? The diverse responses to this theme tug at my heart, challenge my mind and open my eyes to a wide array of influences that women encounter as they mother. I wish you could have been at the live Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others in March. The stories read aloud were fierce and so very full of a vivacity…like those magnolia petals, so dense, so rich, so completely beautiful.

(And now I understand my son’s longing to hear a story voiced)

As you know, I am caught and stung by motherhood, perfumed and poisoned in a certain way, never the same, every day, never the same, changed by it, by the conversations around it, by what I see of myself and others as I mother, what comes true one day that seemed so impossible the day or even hour before.

There are many ways to care for our own lives, as women, as daughters, sisters and mothers.

One of those ways is to give our selves permission to live our fullest lives. I felt for so many years that there was some external permission necessary to be my full self. I kept waiting for my turn to speak. Every single day I engage in a practice of giving myself permission. If you are intrigued by this, consider joining me for an intimate evening at Lifeworks Studio on May 17 at 6:30 PM. More about that here.

And til then, consider what has you perfumed and poisoned?
Where might a dose of permission give you some space to breathe and then take in where you are?

Could permission give you some space to consider where you are headed?

I am curious.
And very intrigued by shiny objects.

S

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