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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.

The Village: Marisa Goudy

Time For All Things Dog Marisa Goudy

A Time For All Things in the Life of a Dog

“Saoirse! Saoirse!” I call over the flat chill of an autumn lake. “Freedom! Freedom!” I am yelling like some warrior from Braveheart. But I am not a wielder of sword or shield. No, I am one of the women, babe at the breast, who stays at home and keens at wakes and tends to the needs of a distracted old dog.
When we sat in a Galway pub and decided to saddle this then-puppy with a name that was the Irish word for “freedom” we didn’t concern ourselves with the briefness of dog years. We didn’t consider the inherent tragedy of the big breeds, the way they slow down after barely a decade of devoted, slobbery love. Back then, we certainly did not imagine that the little Labrador my parents had adopted just before their trip would outlive anyone at that table.
My folks were visiting me in Ireland after I finished a so-so year at graduate school. My grandmother, fading from cancer, was back home in the States caring for the new four-footed family member. Our country was still making things up as it went along in the wake of 9/11 and the anthrax scares. All was not necessarily right with the world, but that night we had Guinness and laughter. We shared the unspoken belief that everything under heaven (which, at the time, we would still have considered benevolent enough) had its season.
Saoirse was always a sweet-faced chore. Out of pity for the folks at the vet’s office, Mom came to spell her name phonetically. My Gaelic-loving soul hated the look of “Seersha,” but this was the first of countless accommodations my mama would make for her one hundred pound lap dog. One might say that my mother’s love for her dog was reasonable enough. Saoirse’s name was never signed to the Christmas cards, but she was always permitted to disrupt dinner by yanking on Mom’s sleeve until all the attention (but none of the table scraps) was lavished upon her.
Their relationship had its rough spots, as all committed ones do. When Mom’s “sweetie girl” would follow her around, panting relentlessly through the hot summer days Mom would growl, “Saoirse, get out of my life!” The exasperation never did outweigh the devotion, however, and when Saoirse moved in with us two weeks after Mom’s funeral, my husband and I worked hard to keep our own frustration from overwhelming our love for a dog who’d lost her soul mate. Plus, it was comforting to know that we were not the first to tell the poor thing she was the most annoying creature alive and then cover her in apologetic kisses a moment later.

My Place at the End of the Leash

To adopt a person’s animal totem is to take on some of their magic, the medicine women say. As I learned to mother a baby and a dog without the help of the charms that my own mother never had a chance teach me, I could only hope that taking Mom’s place at the end of a lunging dog’s leash would set me right with the spirit world. Against my will, I learned that there’s a time for birthing and for dying, for planting and for tearing into that which we call hallowed ground.
It was my father who stood at the head of the church and incanted in his best businessman’s voice “There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.” This passage from Ecclesiastes that has soothed countless mourners does continue beyond those well-known lines: “For the fate of human and the fate of animal is the same: as the one dies, so the other dies; both have the selfsame breath. Human is in no way better off than animal — since all is futile.”

I can understand that they don’t tell pews full of the bereft that all is futile – not when the intention is to comfort us with talk of a divine calendar that dictates our passages and embraces, our laughter and our weeping.  And yet, it’s hard to accept this chapter’s consolation when you can easily spot the flaw in its logic: the fate of a human and her animal is not the same.
You may argue that the most vital part of Saoirse was buried with her mistress deep in the ground, but when she dashed around the edge of a mountain lake, anyone could tell she was still very much alive.
We shared a distrust for still bodies of fresh water. There is too much left to chance when there are no ocean waves to sweep all of the monsters away. During our time together I pretended that I could modulate my voice so it caressed her name just like it did when Mom called her. Saoirse pretended that she is still that puppy we named in that half-remembered pub and that my love was enough for her.
Our dog has long since gone to join our mother. This new reality feels almost normal. Still, I’ll never be free of that bit of chilly comfort that closes the Old Testament verse we all think we know so well: “No one can tell us what will happen after we are gone.”

 

 

 

 

Marisa Goudy headshot

Marisa Goudy is an author and writing coach who supports creative entrepreneurs as they tell their stories and write their way to sovereignty. A Cape Cod mermaid at heart, she now live in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two girls, ages 1 and 5.

Follow her #365SovereignReality project on your favorite social media platform.  Every week, Marisa offers up The Sovereign Standard, publication that furthers your quest for a sustainable livelihood, a compelling message, and your share of everyday creative magic. To subscribe, please visit: http://marisagoudy.com/the-sovereign-standard/

The Village: A Permission Slip

What spring promises. Just not yet.
What spring promises. Just not yet.

The edge of spring is showing beneath the hemline of winter. All along the south side of my house where the snow has melted, green shoots persist despite the blowing cold temperatures today.

As do I persist with the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series and digesting our event on March 7. And just as those shoots promise the gifts of crocus and daffodil, I promise you a small gift.

Today is a great day for a gift, right? It is my yoga teacher’s birthday today.

I am updating my mission here on Laundry Line Divine with the soulful guidance of Jeffrey Davis and his Tracking Wonder team. They are urging me to be clear and clearer about my mission here with this website and with my work in the world. My work has resembled my knitting basket with many half-completed multicolored projects, a complicated sock on five needles and scraps of yarn from old projects that I just cannot toss.

I am tossing.
I am setting aside projects that can wait.
I am writing my book Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.
And I am cleaning up this website so that you, my beloved readers, can enjoy my work, the work of the Out of the Mouths of Babes tribe, and explore my offerings.

Here is my latest, slated for April 18 in Charlotte, NC.
If you are in the Berkshires, pencil in May 17, for a soon-to-be-revealed event.

The following is the piece I read at Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at Dewey Memorial Hall as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. This is Ilana’s gift, since she was sick on this evening. Read on. Your gift comes at the end.

Suzi Banks Baum by Christina Lane

A Village: which originates between your legs

Human life begins in a fish state, this queer divine dissatisfaction that stays with you for nine months until you give birth. Little did I expect, when I was expecting, that I was bringing to life a conversation piece. As I spread my thighs and felt pain like no other pain, I opened a channel for a commerce of connection that developed a village around it without any effort.

My midwife. There she was on the other side of the stirrups in her green hospital robe. I cannot recall her face at this moment but I do hear her voice, feel her hands on my legs and the authority she brought to the room. And my husband, who without being the one to birth, stood and stands closer to me than any other on this ride of motherhood.

We were, in that delivery room, hammering stakes into the ground, marking the spot that would ever be known as our Village. From one to two to three to four and before you know it we had all the things a village needs, water, food, and people to eat it. At that moment in time, the area code of our village was 212. We began, there, at St. Vincent’s, which is no longer on 7th Avenue and Greenwich, our own Village.

When my mother-in-law, originally a 212 and no matter how many palm trees swayed over her 561, she was 212 through and through, gave me a copy of Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village, I had two small children in my arms. I looked at the signed front page. I hefted the book, as if in holding it I could glean it’s wisdom, and put it on a shelf to be read another day. Or year. But by the time I got to it, I was no longer interested in what Hillary had to say about a village raising a child. I was living in that Village and didn’t need to know more.

We stayed in Manhattan for a year and a half with a small baby in a very small apartment. For a while we were buoyed in the bliss new baby brought in to a group of friends who were all on the verge of their own first children. Our friends held Ben, cooed and caressed him, gave us breaks and dinner and promised to be with us for the long run. They stood and sang at his naming ceremony, which we held in the back yard of the tiny house we bought over in Hillsdale, New York. We were making a break from Manhattan a weekend at a time. We sang and dabbed water from Bish Bash Falls on Ben’s broad forehead and ate bagels and lox from H&H on Broadway and 74th Street. We were still 212s.

But in the following year we fully planted ourselves, some lilacs and all of our belongings in to that tiny little house on a very quiet road and moved our Village to the country. My husband set up his office in the living room, closed the double doors and commenced to make our living while Ben and I strolled up and down that quiet road watching blue birds, hawks, herons and tractors. Lots of tractors.

But not many Villagers. We found Jack in the Pulpit in the spring along the road. We watched the pond clear of ice and hundreds of geese arrive. We fed the chickadees and watched a tall old pear tree burst in to blossom that first spring. Ben and I were adventurers discovering a different way of life from the gritty playgrounds and noisy restaurants where a set of four one-year olds smeared hummus over everything and my group of mothers who were all taking a break from our chosen professions to be full-time moms, calmed our worries and looked for common ground beyond diapers and teething.

May I mention here how lonely that country road was? Ronnie, the farmer down the road was fine with us watching him work. Jonathan and Ben became very familiar with the variety of tractors, trucks and tools Ronnie kept in his many barns. But the rest of the neighbors were second homeowners only up on weekends, or retired teachers who had no interest, not one ounce of interest in this woman trolling the dirt road for hours at a time.

We started to attend the Mommy and Me playgroup at the Methodist Church. My heart leapt at the possibility of meeting new women. FRIENDS! I showed up early, helped set up, found Ben a truck to play with and then sat down at the coffee table.
Week after week, I would arrive with the same enthusiasm and no one would talk to me. Ever. I sat there studying the backs of the Shopper’s Guides and newspapers they read and talked over to each other. I sipped my tea slowly and started bringing a book to read, just to keep myself from crying.

It was not so easy moving to the country after all.

One neighbor, a beautiful petite woman who lived where our road teed with 22, stopped to visit one afternoon. She had a daughter with a child near in age to Ben. She invited us to tea in hopes of cultivating a potential friend for the day her grandson would visit. We struck up a friendship, this woman and I. She is a well-known actress and chef. Jonathan and I cooked food from a cookbook of hers and served it to her before we realized exactly who she was. We were naive to her celebrity and selfish with her attention. I visited often enough to confess to her just what the Mommy and Me sessions were like. I cried in to the tea she served me in cups so fine I feared the bulk of me would crush them just by holding them gingerly on my knee. I was so full of grief and loneliness, admitting it to someone, anyone who would look me fully in the face, gave me an ocean of comfort. But what she said has stayed with me even more.

“Susanna, (for she has the most elegant lilt to her mango flavored speech) you will always be a “212”. ”
I was too dumb with the admission I had made to understand her.
A “212”?
“Yes, my dear, you will always be a “212” here in Hillsdale. These women see you as a New Yorker. Keep trying my dear, and you will find a friend.”

So area codes did really matter after all.

I took this fine woman’s advice and turned my steering wheel north. I started going to Pittsfield once a week to a playgroup up there. I shopped slowly at the Big Y or the Coop in Great Barrington, lingering in the produce aisle, asking women with kids in their carts where they took their kids to play. Someone, thank you for this angel for I have forgotten her face, but not her advice, sent me to Lake Mansfield. There, on the shores of that sweet great pond as it truly is classified here in the “413”, I met a woman and her son by virtue of the pretzels logs we shared with them one afternoon. She and he became the first in what has now become a verdant Village sprung up around the Lake and this town and my family.

Turn to your neighbor. Most of us are 413s here, right? Raise your hand if you are or were a 212. How about a 517? How about 718? How about 973? Any 906s? That is the area code of my homeland and when I find another 906, things start to happen to my accent.

Once I had more than my immediate, albeit tiny, family gathered round, like kindling adds to a nubile fire, things started happening. We lived another year in our house in Hillsdale; weathered the loss of a pregnancy and a Halloween where the only knock on our door came from a car full of kids who were dropped off at the end of our driveway. I scoured the pages of my own darn copy of the Shopper’s Guide and one day, there was an ad for a house for sale by owner.

By this time, Ben had graduated up to drinking cow’s milk. The axle of my days spun around how much milk was in the fridge, where to get milk, what time I’d have it by and when in relation to his long afternoon nap would the milk arrive. (This intellectual exercise kept me only partly occupied. The rest of my mind was sure there was more to motherhood than milk.)

When I pulled up to visit the house I’d found pictured in the Shopper’s Guide, there were two bottles of High Lawn Farm milk delivered on the front porch. It did not matter to me what the house looked like, what the heating costs were or who lived next door, I was sold on the house by the milk delivery. We bought the house within a week. The owners removed the ad from the Shopper’s Guide and our life in Great Barrington began.


 

 

 

_MG_9711

This piece is sweetened by the surprise of meeting my midwife, one of my original Villagers, Cynthia Casoff Henry here in town the other day. She lives here now.
Who knew?

Thank you for reading me here.
Please step over to the updated Out of the Mouths of Babes page.
Your gift awaits you there.

Springing,

S

The Village: Lori Landau

The Spirit of Creativity and Mothering

I have decided

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully in
the cold and the silence. It’s said that
in such a place certain revelations may
be discovered. That what the spirit
reaches for may be eventually felt, if not
exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m
not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

-Mary Oliver

Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 24, 2013)

 

How do you feed your creative spirit when there are diapers to change, dishes to be done, and a thousand little details pulling at you? This is the dilemma of a yearning mom. As human beings tend to do, we moms divide our lives into sections, like oranges. This wedge is parenting, this one is cooking & cleaning, that one represents our creative selves. We divvy things up, prioritizing the “have-to’s” feeling squeezed for quality time. And in immersing ourselves in the tasks, we find ourselves desperate for space to experience more soul in our busy lives. We fall asleep and our dreams are full of longing. And then the alarm rings, or the sick child beckons, or there’s a snow day and broken glass to be cleaned, and our longing is swallowed by the sheer demands of mothering. This is what happened to me, until I realized that I was the only one who could change it, and that whatever change I made would become the juice that ran in the blood of our lives.

My perch in front of the fireplace by Lori Landau
My perch in front of the fireplace by Lori Landau

***I am sitting on the leather chair in our family room drawing, entranced by the muse, immersed in forming lines to shape eyes and the bridge of a nose when the aroma of burning food comes to me. Distracted, inattentive to anything but the portrait in front of me, full awareness rides the molecules slowly.

 

by Lori Landau
Portrait in the journal I keep by the fireplace photo by Lori Landau

The wind is howling outside-the temperature is sliding downward, snow is wheeling through the sky, dropping in the shape of stars.
There was a time when a snow day would mean less time for creativity. But I have restructured the way I approach both parenting and time. Granted, it’s easier to do now that two of my three kids are in college. However I have learned some tricks to make it easier. That’s because the T.S. Eliot line: “we measure out our lives with coffee spoons,” runs through my mind like a warning. Eliot-like, we divide our lives by days, and months instead of focusing on this one moment in front of us. We forget that time is a mystery, that the future is tied up in the choices of the present moment, that time is an illusion, that before we know it we are packing our kids off to college, wondering what happened to their entire childhoods. It’s something we’ve all experienced on a macro-level, for instance, during a Facebook binge, when we sign on to check the latest posts and look up from our computer an hour later, blinking, wondering where the last sixty minutes went.

I have learned tools (meditation) to re-focus on the present moment, and in doing so, stretch it, to find the spaces in-between the moments, to make it more meaningful, to make it last longer.
I have structured my life around my practice, built it in to my home life, rather than relying on somewhere else to nourish me.

Of course, like everything else, I do it imperfectly. Right now, as the snowflakes fall, and my pen moves across the page, I am content to draw as I wait for the chicken that I lovingly drizzled with a marinade of olive oil, lemon, white wine and mustard and sprinkled with herbs to be ready. Yet as I sit, I am unaware that the oven, known to run hot on a good day, is somehow cranked up to 500 degrees, instead of a slow and easy 300.
I can often be found here, in the red shaker rocker in front of the fireplace, or if the fire is throwing off too much heat, in the leather chair set a few feet back from the hearth.
This is the room where I winter. I spend most of the day here in front of the golden fireplace, while the kids come in and out (when they’re all here), where their friends hang out playing chess and pool, where my oldest plays piano and my daughter practices her ballet. Where my middle son reads philosophy and plans meals with me. It’s an inviting space for my husband; we often sit in front of a fire on cold mornings talking over coffee. Or to be honest, he talks and I try to cultivate a little more quiet before the details of the day drag me out of silence.

It’s the first place I go upon waking to do my meditation and drawing practice, and then write a bit before anybody even gets up. It’s where I eat my lunch, and where I sit down to write and read. Everything I need is at my fingertips here except my computer, which I don’t generally keep right in the same area because I don’t want the distraction. It’s the place where I ignore the dirt on the floor from the logs, and the dirty dishes which that I put on the floor next to me as I create.
To be truthful, it is just one of the places in my house that I turn a blind eye to, because if I looked closely enough I would see all of the flaws-I would stir the embers of self-judgment, I would feel compelled to clean instead of make art.
I have been thinking about random things as I draw—the shape of eyes, how red looks when it’s right next to yellowish green, and wondering why so many artists squint when they are drawing. My wandering mind has made me deaf to the subtle alarm going off on a more primal level, but suddenly the smell of charred food reaches critical mass, breaking my reverie and I bolt up and run to the oven. When I get there, a cloud of steam puffs out of the oven door when I crank it open, and when I lift the lid to the brand new dutch oven that I waited three years to buy, I am dismayed to find that the chicken has burnt to black and so has the pot. It’s the kind of thing that can derail my day. A ruined dinner, an unexpectedly sick child, a schedule change. There are times when I let it pull me under when I lose whole chunks of time lamenting things that already happened, things I can’t control, choices that didn’t turn out the way I planned.

 

by Lori Landau
where ritual meets habit Meditating at home photo by Lori Landau

In fact now, a thought flares in my mind that I didn’t sign on for this. For the trillionth time as a mom I miss the life I don’t lead: some nomadic existence that involves mountains and travel, oceans and fields, and a lot of silence and meditation. A lot of revelation, the kind that Mary Oliver talks about in her poem. But when it comes right down to it, as much as I dream about meditating on a whim in a peaceful spot where my spirit can touch what it reaches for, I know that I mean to stay exactly where I am. I have learned that this is what monkey mind does. It throws up resistance, tries to convince me that enlightenment is somewhere else, when I have learned that the possibility of it is right here in present moment, in how I respond to what life throws at me, in the choices I make about what’s actually happening now.
It took a long time to realize that, and it’s a practice that I can’t always access. But I spent a lot of years vacillating between gratitude and restlessness, slicing up my insides into quarters, this part of me is mom, this other one is artist, and so on. Over the years I have come to fully understand that as it teaches in the philosophical tradition that I study that “that which gets in my path is my path.” Instead of constantly mediating between the spiritual pull of creative mystery and the mundane demands of mothering, at my best, I remember that they are one. The imperfection of overcooked chicken becomes the perfection of healing chicken soup; broken plans become the pieces of whole day to make art. Everything from my meditation practice to my mothering, to my art and everything else is part of a cohesive, imperfect, glorious whole. I don’t have to wait for “me” time to be me. It is inseparable from family life.
It’s something I came to when my kids were little. I decided to blur the boundaries between the tasks between “mom” and “person.” Sometimes I feel guilty about the dishes in the sink, or the laundry piled on the dryer instead of folded neatly in drawers. If you saw the inside of my linen closet I would be embarrassed. But for the most part I don’t care. If life is short, then I plan to make the most of it. I have a bucket list running in my head, and having a perfect house isn’t on it. Sometimes I have to remind myself to put myself first. That isn’t as selfish as it seems. Putting myself first means prioritizing creativity. It means including my kids in my process.

 

My (now 21-year old) son who was allowed—even encouraged—to use himself as a canvas
My (now 21-year old) son who was allowed—even encouraged—to use himself as a canvas

 

by Lori Landau
Drawing on skin portrait (drawn on my daughter’s foot) and photo by Lori Landau

It means letting things get messy. It means letting my kid smear (washable) paint all over his face, and it means painting his face at four turns into me painting portraits on skin years later, or me reading poems to my toddlers becomes me writing a poem at dinner, turns into my son writing a book of poems in college. It means drawing the sugar bowl and teacup while someone is doing homework because that’s what’s right there, making found poems from the newspaper while a cake is baking, and using the old dried flowers to decorate the cake. It means reminding myself of what I want for not only myself, but for my kids- remembering that I don’t want their lives to be about having spotless homes either. I always figured that if they saw me feeding my soul, they would learn to do the same. And in fact, they have. Because I meditated and did yoga with them, they all meditate now. If I had chased inner serenity in an ashram (not that there’s anything wrong with that,) my kids might not have learned to develop their own practice. If I hadn’t rolled my yoga mat out on the carpet in the bedroom and let them do downward dog right under me, they might not know what it is.
Because I let them paint their faces and draw pictures in my own journal as kids they now keep journals, and draw. Because we listened to music constantly, and because impatient, tapping hands were taught about drumming, they now make music. Because art was offered as balm, as salve, as connective tissue, we all seek it out together and separately.
While I purposely avoided some household arts, like learning to fold a fitted sheet, or folding every pair of socks, I’m not a slob. My house is not chaotic-if it was, I couldn’t create or be organized enough to get my kids where they needed to go. But I have found ways to marginalize housework, yet still get the most important stuff done. Ever since they were able, I included the kids in the housework, so they’d grow up knowing what it’s like to take part in the work of community. I do dishes early in the morning while the oatmeal is burbling on the stove, and start dinner prep just before driving to school. I give myself permission to have “me” time as soon as I get home from drop-off. I give myself permission to leave piles of books of counter-tops, dirty glasses on dressers and beds unmade for days at a time. In other words, I put my own oxygen mask on first so that when things get challenging, I can breathe.
There are times when it doesn’t work and the tasks pile up and I feel overwhelmed by the lack of organization and the sheer demands of it all. But I have learned to use that tension as creative fuel. I carry a notebook with me and make the most of in-between times. I jot down ideas while on line for school pick-up, draw portraits on napkins in restaurants, write down three small observations about what’s happening around me that later get folded into poems or blog posts. I make lists and set intentions early in the morning, and then hold myself to it. Now that my kids are 21, 18 and 15, I look back and think that if I had it to do all over again (and oh, how I would love to)! I would let more dishes sit, let more clothes go unfolded, keep the “shoulds” at a minimum. I would spend even more time outdoors, lying on the grass with my kids and talking about the stars, more time melting crayons to make candles, more time counting the raindrops and looking closely at flowers.

There’s a saying in yoga that you need to root to rise. Being a vibrant, spiritual, creative mom is what roots me, it’s my mountain. But I’ve come to learn that it’s also what makes me rise, what makes me see that everything I need is right here, where I am. Are you following me?

by Lori Laudau
Cake? by Lori Landau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please find Mary Oliver’s poem here.

 

Lori Landau is an artist, photographer and writer who uses a variety of mediums to explore the nameless force that seeks connection between self and other. She is intensely engaged in the hidden emotional structure of things, and her work investigates the poetry of the ordinary, the tension and soul that’s concealed beneath the obvious surface. Landau views her pen and her camera as a third eye, to intuit what she cannot put into words, and as an ear to listen deeply to what often remains unsaid.

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