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Kate Lamontange is Queen of her Own Heart (and what I did at summer camp)

I went to summer camp in June. I designed it my self. First I spent days with my writing sisters at the International Women’s Writing Guild summer conference where I wrote and wrote and followed the siren song of wonderful teachers like June Gould, Eunice Scarfe and Jan Phillips. Then I drove northeast to Medway, MA for a four day workshop called “Rehearsing Wisdom: Nourishing and Planting Seeds of Hope Amid Chaos- The Making and Keeping of a Paste Paper Journal” with Joy Seidler. I discovered many new things at my summer camp. One of them is Kate Lamontange. Along with Kate, I deepened my love for my friend Joy and sparked with the other women in our session.

I met Joy two years ago at an intimate long weekend of art making with my friends out on the Cape. Eight of us, including Paulus Berensohn shared art techniques with each other, poetry and deep story in a community circle. For a few days of heaven, we walked the woods and opened our art journals to find that this rare group of people all made similar hand-bound journals as our landing place, a gathering place of ideas, inspirations and meanderings. Paulus refers to what we do in these journals as ‘effluviations’.

Here is Wilderness, Joy and Paulus September 2012 Wellfleet, MA
Here is Wilderness, Joy and Paulus September 2012 Wellfleet, MA

Joy has since been on my soul train, sharing poetry and solstice greetings and invitations to each others events. This summer, the timing worked out that I could be in Medway and paint many many sheets of paste paper, sing in our sacred circle and hand bind 4 journals. I knew no one in the group of 16 women who gathered. Many where teachers associated with Joy over her 30 plus years of teaching in that school system. One was a young art teacher who had been a student of Joy’s. Some had taken this workshop with Joy for the fifteen years she has offered it. Me? I was there as the newbie.

Then I met Kate.

At a table near mine was a minor miracle of a woman named Kate Lamontange. She made music as she walked, her jewelry tinkling with her gait. Her joy was palpable and when I saw how she began to paint her papers I was smitten.

Turns out we have many similar threads running through our lives like extensive involvement with fiber arts, we each have a daughter, we journal, and have a passion for doodling. Kate is a painter and activist for women engaging in art they love. She runs a gorgeous gift shop. Kamala Boutique, in Holliston, MA, which she designed with her husband, converting a small house in a sweet town in to a two-storied building with a studio on the second floor where Kate holds women’s circles and does her own art work. There is room up there for fabric, yarn, easels and a bird in a cage. Sewing machines, photographs, projects in various stages, and a near circle of couches and pillows all beckon an eye hungry for beauty.

Then, in the shop downstairs, you cannot help but get lost. Colors, jewels, paintings, angels and fabrics, papers, pens all in a well curated display make the shop an adventure for the senses. Circling the top rail of the wall, a paper chain of colorful loops winds around the room. This prayer chain links names and places and people with the love that encircles this whole place. At the register, if you mention that the gift you are purchasing is for a friend who needs cheering up or a new baby or a graduate, Kate sticks a pen in your hand and gestures to the basket of these slips of colored paper upon which you are warmly invited to write the person’s name or concern. Kate has added and added to this paper chain for the years and has stories about how these prayers have joyfully supported people she has never met.

Did I mention her joy?

During our days together creating paste papers, covering book boards, assembling signatures for the books then sewing the covers and signatures together with a Coptic stitch, we each revealed personal stories and songs to each other. The work of making these books was imbued with a love and tenderness, and a certain vulnerability that is revealed when women sit together in a sacred circle. Much like the prayer chain in Kate’s shop, our books were imprinted stories, one woman’s story of a very special beech tree in her life or another’s saga with a greedy rabbit in her vegetable patch. We hummed and sang and discovered the beauty of the word ‘enchant’- to en-chant is to infuse with song.

Our books are enchanting and enchanted.

And, it is Paulus who implores us to let our books ‘seduce’ us.

I shared a meal with Joy on one of the evenings I was in Medway. I cut in to fresh bok choy from her CSA share and was intrigued by the pattern in the base of the stalk. I printed on some of my book pages with the base of the bok choy and it revealed a moon shape that I love.

Kate created a large stack of books that week. She even covered one book with a cut-up sweater that never got completed. Her paste papers were full of her enthusiasm for color. On our last morning together, we sat sewing our books, talking about travels and doodling and lapsed in to song whenever one of us offered up a note.

Kate is a certified Zentangle® trainer, (CZT). I will give you the official Zentangle paragraph here.

The Zentangle® art form and method was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and is copyrighted. Zentangle® is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Zentangle® is a trademarked way of approaching doodling and it is an intriguing resource for someone who would like to jump start deeper doodling. Readers of LLD know Paulus and I share a passion for doodling. Here is a cover illustration Paulus did for his friend Mary Oliver’s book of poetry, Red Bird.

Paulus calls this kind of drawing ‘taking a line for a walk’. At the Sol LeWitt exhibit at MASS MOCA, you can see miles of lines being taken for very intentional walks. I doodle every day as a way to invite the stillness that allows me a freer voice in my writing and artwork. It centers me, draws me in, dot by line by berry shape and I am enchanted.

Here is a photo of some of the Zentangle® work Kate did with a group of women in a workshop at her shop in July. What do you love more? The drawings or the hands?

Kamala Boutique Zentangle® workshop photo by Erica Berg July 2012
Kamala Boutique Zentangle® workshop photo by Erica Berg July 2012

This morning I read a post from
Cloth Papers Scissors about Roz Leibowitz who uses this ancient form of mark making to create backgrounds for her collages.

“Being caught in the act of making” loosens your grip on outcome and everything about you relaxes and your smile widens with happiness.

What I found striking about Kate is her joy in sharing what she does with the world. This soul-full generosity reveals a sense of bounty; there are plenty of ideas and space for each person’s authentic voice to be expressed. Once you engage in any act of creativity, you tap in to your soul’s presence, no matter what art form you play with. This creates joy, plain and simple. (Look for a post about Taylor Mali and his soul-full poetry in the next days.)

It is not the art so much as the making that creates this space of joy in us. And, Kate’s full vibrant being is an example of a woman engaged in her art making and in sharing her light. Kate allows that joy to impact every decision she makes- how she designed her place of business, who she does business with and how, what she offers her customers and students, her friends and new friends like me. There are bigger ideas to be explored here, but for today, let Kate’s joy touch your life.

Here is what you will find on her business card:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared. -Buddha

This shows Joy with Marika who is an artist creating some magical things that I will tell you about later this summer. Marika’s books are gorgeous, as you can see.

This huge post is packed with nourishment for a few days.
Doodling….summer camp…new women…Shiloh’s idea of a woman being the ‘Queen of her Own Heart’…Zentangle®…paste paper…palpable joy….Joy Seidler….Paulus Berensohn…texture…Lighted candles…
Pray, tell me, what lights you up today?
Would you share it here on the Laundry Line? Your comments make me so happy!
If this post is a candle for you, please send it on to someone who could use some light today.

With blueberry love,
S

Queen of my Own Heart: Sisterhood and thanks to Shiloh Sophia for this painting and poetry on the Laundry Line.

http://i0.wp.com/shilohsophiagallery.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/the_queen_of_her_own_heart.jpg

My Keystone Practices

Every morning I do a few things consistently.
I wake up.
I pray for a while.
Pee. Come on. I cannot do anything more before I pee.
Then I light a candle on my way past my dresser and send love to whoever appears in my heart at that moment.
I hop back in bed to do my meditation. This can take fifteen minutes or less.
It grounds me. I learned the one I do right now from Jennifer Matthews.
I do another ritual here, a very special one that is sacred to my well being that I learned from Regena Thomashauer.
I do a breathing ritual and stretches I learned from Saida Desilets.
I hop out of bed and do some hip spirals that I learned from Dr. Christiane Northrup.

And then, I hold my pink feather and speak my Stand, which I learned to do from Jill Rogers.
Depending on the day, I slip outside to do a sun salutation I learned from Kali Ray.
35 minutes, maybe 45 if I am really doing full slow breathes all along the way.

All these small gestures of grace have connected me to Source, I have offered gratitude and opened my heart.

At this point, the morning is upon me. My girl gets up, often before me, but she too enjoys a quiet morning. Ben, he gets up when he has to. School days, we are all together. This summer, there are quiet spaces among us.
In the kitchen, I spin green drinks, which I learned from my friends Patrice Colle and Janet Elsbach, and honed with my daughter Catherine.
Again, depending on the day and the season, I write in my journal, which I did long before I read Julia Cameron, but she affirmed the 45 minutes or three pages in my journal, right away. The optimal situation is if I have woken early enough before everyone and done my morning practice so I can write before I talk to anyone. Lately, this is a challenge, so I write after they are off in to their days.
I write at 10 or at 11. On days when I have to be out of the house, I write in the evening when the house quiets down and I can focus.

I am made up of things I have learned from other women.
I make these practices my own; sew in my upbringing as a Lutheran girl, my yogic studies, my years in Al-Anon, all these things that let me shed the trappings of religion to carve down to what is immediate, to my absolute connection to the Divine.

I read Rumi every day.
I read Mary Oliver.
I read the funnies because ‘Zits’ makes me know I am not alone with the teen-agers who don’t pick up dirty socks ever.

These are things I do before I pick up the phone. Before I engage in social media. And, if I am lucky, I do these things before engaging in any nagging or carping or hound dogging my kids. Such an animal I can be sometimes.

There is another big chunk which I do daily, a check-in I do with my husband. This gets mixed in to the time with the kids. I’ll write about this check-in another time, because it is integral to my relationship and fosters and feeds our connection throughout our busy days.
But first you must know about these early morning practices. Today, I dub them my Keystone Practices.
I read this article about ‘keystone species’ last night in the Economist, about mistletoe. I have studied the way grapes grow and the ‘mother vine’. When blackberries grow, that first ripe richly black berry out at the end of the cluster is called the ‘king berry’.

More Kings

And, in an act of sisterly synchronicity, Shiloh Sophia sent out that magnificent painting and this poem in her newsletter today, about every single woman being the ‘Queen of her own Heart’.

Every Woman is the Queen of her Own Heart

 By Shiloh Sophia

Every woman is the Queen of her own heart

She must decide how to govern her own domain.

She seeks friends and allies that honor

who she is now

and who she is becoming.

She has the power to create miracles.

 

All this congeals in me a sense of what makes me who I am today. I am steeping in the memories of this day, 18 years ago, which was the day before the day I gave birth to our first child, Benjamin. On this day, 18 years ago, I gardened and swam and lay in our hammock, not knowing how profoundly my life would change within 12 hours or more. I just did what I was to do that day, the Queen of my Life.

 

And so, as I have lived and laughed and wept and worried and tended this family and hung years of socks and sheets on our laundry line, I have distilled all I learned in to what it is I am doing today.
The practices I have learned from women so dear to me, these practices allow me to enter the holiest place in my life, the still quiet where I can hear God/Goddess without interruption. I listen to the silence and sweetly await the calm knowing that carries me in to the chaos of motherhood. These practices have strengthened me to mother with my authenticity present almost all the time. And they have buoyed me as I have claimed my voice as an artist, writer and actress, no matter what response I get, I am able to stand in my value as Suzi, as the individual that I am today.
And I can only hope, in doing so, I model for my children what it is to live my life out loud, as Emile Zola said so eloquently.

I am an artist… I am here to live out loud.

I am grateful for that quiet day in Hillsdale, New York, eighteen years ago, the day lilies and phlox, the monarchs, and a swim in the ore pit in the mountains kept time with me as I listened. They prepared me, as I prepare myself every single day, to be present to this mystifying and magnificent life.

Today, Michelle Aldredge posted a brilliant piece on her blog, Gwarlingo, about Jonah Lehrer’s book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. She writes:

 

“To do our best creative work, we must be focused, but also relaxed and at ease in our own skin.”

In the midst of mothering my children, I have raised myself up by committing to finding comfort in my own skin. My Keystone Practices allow that to happen for me every single day. I am a diligent student and willing to make mistakes and grow.

Creativity lives at the edge of chaos.

For me, mothering and creativity are wedded, one.
Creativity has caught my life on fire and set me blazing.
Mothering combusts all that is dross. My desire to live fully and joyfully continually fuels me to shed and release all that no longer serves me.

Being a mother means I am always wading in chaos, it simply comes with the territory.
This is the place from which I write these blog posts, my books, letters and poems.
This place, which I arrived at nearly 18 years ago now.

July 17, 1994, 5:13 a.m. at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.

Here is JNB and Ben a few days after Ben’s birth.

I am so grateful to have woken up to this day with you all. Thank you for reading me here.
If you like what you’ve read and would like more, you can subscribe in the box to the upper right of this post.
You will get a small email when I hang something new on the Line.
And, if you are are inclined, please share this post with someone you know who might enjoy it.

In the next weeks, I will be celebrating some amazing women I have met this past month. Stay tuned here on the Line and at the ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ blog series II for new posts by Alana Chernila, Jenny Browdy and more.
With all my love,
S

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