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Something that I make

shouts of joy

I write and make a lot of stuff.

Some of it sees the light of day.

Some of stays put deep inside my journals.

Some of it brews for later exposure.

My hands in mother clay at Penland
photo credit by Lee Irwin

Some stuff I make gets drunk by other people, or eaten, or tipped in to the compost, which will be eaten, eventually by my friend Josh’s new pigs.

Some stuff I make walks around on two legs, with jeans on, with attitudes, habits and gazes that I think about endlessly. I ache for those things.

Some stuff I make happens between me and you, reading on Laundry Line Divine. What gets made might be space and time to consider where your next soulful wandering will take you, what you might be doing with say, a single hour of your day today that is labeled “just for me time.”

All of it issues from my hands, my heart and my soul.

Some of it you can buy, like my Powder Keg Painted Prompt Cards.

I have been painting sheets of these. In my usual Virgo, calculating widget-y way, I figure I have painted about 1500 spaces, which hold words or phrases. Some of you use them as writing prompts. My friend Suzanne uses them as dinner table conversation starters.

In a few weeks this website will emerge from a chrysalis transformed. There will be a new tagline and lots of my visual work will be more evident. My friends Tina and Lynnette have taken a bunch of photographs so you can get a better sense of the work I do. There will be a new offering, something some of you have asked me about for awhile. I will be announcing a new Powder Keg Sessions writing workshop ONLINE. Yup. If someone wants to purchase a special writing something for you for the holidays, send him or her my way on the Solstice. The online workshop will be a month-long class that meets one evening a week. More on all of this on the Solstice, December 21.

But til then, in this luscious dark season where we get pulled and pulled and pulled, let yourself get dark. Take time outside, in the waning light of late afternoon to walk slowly and let yourself ponder. Sift inside for the seeds that you are harvesting from all you have done this past year. Savor all you have accomplished. Yes, even all those doctor visits with your daughter, the second and fifth opinions. Yes, those hours you sat in the hallway, outside the MRI room where your kid was being tested. Yes, even then, holding your mother’s hands, just so quietly. Just so quietly.

from my journal this morning...having my way with black gesso.
from my journal this morning…having my way with black gesso.

 

All of it, the care giving and the making, all that we touch in the ways that we touch it, strong, feminine, blessed hands doing as a way of giving care, making as a way of extending our touch.

 

It is all you. It has value. You, my dearest, have value.

 

Have a sweet weekend.

I may be back here in the morning with a Quest2016 post.

Until then, painting with black and touching persimmons.

xoxS

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

This heart is made of many

June Mandala

It is the time of year for visits. Last night I watched my girl play Oh Hell, Bridge with my best friend Daniel. She is not quite the age I was when met him, but close enough to allow me to see myself in her, learning, daring, challenging and laughing out loud with him. Daniel and I have been soul mates since we met, and to see my daughter forging her own friendship with him is quite a gift. The same is happening with my son, who is making his way across the U.S. by camping and visiting friends with his two travel mates. This past week, my best friend from high school, Mary Erin, housed the guys near San Francisco. Knowing Ben was under her roof and within range of her brilliance gave me so much comfort and delight.

I stand before you with a full heart today. I am freshly returned from a week with the International Women’s Writing Guild. I led my Mapping Motherhood class with a brave group of women willing to turn their attention inward and write from their own rich resource. They made maps using a wild variety of mixed media techniques, messy and intuitive work that draws out fresh language about women’s lives as mothers. Here is a little slide show of my week, including views of my beloved mentor, teacher, friends, Myra Shapiro, Marj Hahne, and Dorothy Randall Gray. The leaping photos are from our Playback Theatre Salon with Kelly DuMar. Catherine came to visit on the first night of our open readings. (Another big joy moment.)

I am packing, again. Oh I am home enough to pick berries and can one batch of jam, to tend my tomatoes, take chilly dips in the river, ponder my elderberries and upgrade my art kit. Then, later this week I head to Michigan for a visit with my family and to lead three events in the Upper Peninsula. You can read more about those here. If you know of friends in the UP who would be intrigued, please share this post with them.

Another thing I do when I am home is make Canang Sari offerings. You can see them at the beginning and ending of that slideshow.

I make these small gratitude offerings in my back yard. I make them whenever I feel drawn to a few minutes of meditative presence in my garden. I make them when I am about to embark on a project or adventure. I use them to illuminate my gratitude for the great joy I have in my life, with my family and friends, with the teaching and writing and art I get to do these days. There is something very healing about making tangible the prayers that sing through me all day long. My friend Ursula first laid this particular collection of stones last September. I have added stones to it from rivers I have swum in, my owl stone from IWWG, and what my friends share with me. Brenna Layne shared a box full of her shell collection. I look forward to creating with these small gifts from the sea that washed up to her hands, that she has savored for years and now, allows me to enjoy.

This practice of gratitude offerings is something I will be sharing in my upcoming new offering, Sacred Refuge Sundays. These once a month workshops will replace my Powder Keg Sunday Sessions. I will continue teaching the Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions at the Ramsdell Public Library from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, three Wednesdays a month. I have longed to integrate more tangible visual work with writing with my students and Sacred Refuge will do just that. This past June I spent a long weekend with Lisa Sonora of The Creative Entrepreneur. Over the course of our time together, I began to envision this Sacred Refuge as the next work I want to share with the world. I will open registration for this class within the week. My regular writing students will have first dibs on the seven seats available. I will offer another round of Sacred Refuge again in February 2015.

I wrote this in a post earlier this year but I feel like it is time to say it again:

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.


Wherever you are in your life today, mired in difficulty, swimming in bliss, it all counts as real.

Your confusion is not pathology, it is a path. If you will provide sanctuary for what is rising in you, you will unlock radiant jewels hidden in the darkness.
-Matt Licata

Your jewels.

Those are the gifts, like Brenna’s shells from the sea, that wash up when we pay attention. Writing and art are how I do that. Some of you make cakes with this same awareness, while others of you lead businesses, families or foundations that blaze with your full presence. The world benefits from the restoration of feminine lives being lived full out. I hope you know the blessing that you are in the world.

So. My heart is made of many. My students at IWWG and my writing peers and mentors. My dear friends who offer shelter to my adventuring children. My sisters about to bake cakes and celebrate another year of full lives while we pause together on the shores of a great lake. And you, my dear readers of Laundry Line Divine.

I look forward to what this coming year will bring.
With love,

S

Look at me.

summer morning writing
summer morning writing

Honesty is the net by which we fish the deep.
-Mark Nepo

I am thinking a lot, a very lot, about attention these days.
Undivided attention.

The kind of attention where you notice hazel flecks in otherwise brown eyes.
The kinds of attention where you sit watching a stunned small woodpecker regain
it self after smacking in to your porch window, under which you too sit, a bit stunned, trying to regain the same.
The kind of attention that is what I call “hands free living.”

Maybe this will be a perennial topic for me?
Maybe living with kids, who are quickly becoming emerging adults, as my friend Alison Leah Sher names her generation, means that I will be asking for full attention at the dinner table or in conversation.
Are you one, like me, who likes to notice the flecks?

attention

Undivided attention is a gift.

Poet Mark Nepo says,

“We can find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give.”

I wish he’d been at the dinner table last night.
Oh.
My.
It was not pretty.
I was not pretty.

But motherhood is like that, right?

I am salvaging myself by writing, reading and sorting out books and linens against the ensuing humidity and navigating the alleys of clothing and gear that are strewn in the hallway upstairs. I know I am not the only mother of a teen and an about to be 21-year-old who have to pick steps from the bathroom to my bedroom. Right? Please tell me I am not the only one.

I spent this weekend studying with the luminous Lisa Sonora, author of the Creative Entrepreneur at my beloved friend Catherine Anderson’s studio in Charlotte, NC. I am hot on the trail of upgrading my work here on Laundry Line Divine, clearing the decks so I can complete my own book this year and offer you, my readers a clearer view of what I do here and in the world.

You know I am devoted to the stories of women, in particular the stories of mothers.
My own stories included.

That means, I show up at the page, this one and in my journals, first, before doing other stuff like email and errands and other work stuff pertaining to mothering or teaching. I have to show up here. I have to give myself undivided attention; otherwise I spend the rest of the day botching every single interaction because I am not clear. I have not done the sacred work of connecting with my spirit through writing or painting or whatever else I do that connects me. We each do different practices, but do them we must.

I see this in the Powder Keg Sessions, my writing workshops for women. After thirty minutes or so of centered, quiet writing, no matter what emotional pot was over-boiling the rims of their days, the writers at my table carry forward some truth on to the page that brings tears or laughter or hushed awe when it is read aloud.

Owning our stories is standing in our truth. It’s transformative in our personal and professional lives AND it’s also critical in our community lives. But we don’t think about history as our collective story.

-Brené Brown

If you are hungry to step towards your inner life with a pen, to journal, please consider Lisa Sonora’s 30 Day Journal project. I am one of the contributors to this free offering. The theme is “In the flow.” Summer is a time when our days are different. Even if our jobs remain steady, our hours are different because the daylight is different. If your house if busy with kids, take a journal for a walk and find a park bench to sit and write for a bit each evening. If you can get out when dark falls, find an open field to watch the fireflies. Carve out some time to wander.

My Autumn Joy clematis blooms in June
My Autumn Joy clematis blooms in June

Like Mary Oliver says,

“You too came in to the world to do this. To go easy. To be filled with light and to shine.”

On Literary Mama this week, my Questmate Saundra Goldman wrote this:

“As a student of writing practice, I should have known better than to look outside myself for the direction of my book. I should have trusted the story was within me.”

I trust that the stories I have to tell are already within me. It takes undivided attention to get to them. That is why I am teaching my Mapping Motherhood class for six days at the International Women’s Writing Guild in Litchfield, CT in late July. Come explore the uncharted territory of your life experience with me with literary and mixed media tools. The summer conference is ripe with wonderful teachers and opportunities for new and experienced writers.

If you are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, big news. I am offering my Slow Time Salon on Superior in Big Bay on Sunday, August 16. This daylong immersion in writing, art and mindfulness is an intimate visit with your own undivided attention. Then on August 20, I will be giving an artist talk at the Escanaba Public Library about a daily writing practice with a pop-up exhibit of my hand-bound journals and later that day, a writing workshop for women AND men! Stay tuned here for more details on these events.

Here is all my love to you and gratitude for your undivided attention here on Laundry Line Divine. Please share this post with a friend.

xo
S

PS Tonight is our final Powder Keg Ramsdell Session. We reconvene on September 23. Sunday, June 28, is our final Powder Keg Sunday Session. We meet at noon this Sunday. Keep your ear out for news on these offerings as I will be upgrading them this coming fall.
PPS go find some fireflies, please.
PPPS if you are in the Berkshires, July 7 I am part of this reading event at the Mount.
PPPPS Here is a poem by Taylor Mali titled Undivided Attention.
PPPPPS If you are in the Berkshires, consider attending an evening with Dave Isay of StoryCorps at the Mahaiwe on August 5. More on this in another blog post, but read here for more information.

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