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If it is a question of money: Quest Day 2 with Jonathan Fields

Morning rainbow
Uncle, is there a pot of gold, even here?

Your Quest2016 Prompt today:
You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

What is your question?

Oh this truly is my dream come true. For most of my professional life I have waited for wealthy uncles to die, but having none, the wait was futile. Which is to say I do have uncles. I have several, some still alive, none with wealth that might extend past their own children; so really, this dream-come-true prompt finally announces the arrival of the ship that I have waited to come in for years and years. Hurray!

Welcome Wealthy Uncle! Come in; let me stir you up a cup of tea while you wipe your chilly nose on this clean napkin laid before you. I am so happy you have arrived. I will turn up the heat so you can shake the December chill while the pot boils.

This condition, of glorious splendor coming if I commit to the pursuit of a single question, comes to me with some questions for you. Does this have to be a new question, or may it be a question I have been working on already? And how transparent must I be with the question? How will you check up on me-oh, I know the answer to that-you will know, just know, right, because when I veer off course, then truly, we will both know, eh?

Okay. Then even before I pour your tea, I can answer you this.

What if I don’t wait until my kids are out of the house to fully unmask my creative fertility? Why wait?

This question: Why wait?

For so many years I have waited for the kids to be grown, for life to find a rhythm like a boat at sea in a steady wind, cutting waves with accuracy and efficiency. But life, she is not like that. And I dare say, though I am not sailor enough to confirm it, that neither is the sea like this, steady all the time.

Life is messy. Life is chaotic. Ships rock. What happens if I write anyway?

Could I have a completed manuscript by the end of 2016? Maybe even a book designer and publisher? Could I work towards completing my manuscript while doing for others what I pledge to do with myself, to unmask creative fertility?

What happens if I write anyway, in the midst of even these questions? What if I show up at the page, every single day, even on vacation (but especially on vacation) and illuminate my literary and visual answer to this question:

Why wait?

So Uncle. Here is your tea. Rose tea, with pear, ginger and lemon infused honey, something to ease you as you warm yourself. I am deeply appreciative of you offering me this gift. If I complete it, may I use it for my own purposes? Could I supply a refugee family with this money? Could I fund my own retreat and supply scholarships for women in need to attend, all expenses paid? Could I re-insulate my whole house and upgrade our systems so that we are more energy efficient? May I use these funds to support the cleanup of the Housatonic River? Could I escape with Jonathan and our kids to a cabana in Costa Rica where we can work, surf, hike and eat more of that salted fish at Selvin’s in Punta Uva? Might I finally get to see the textile museums in the Norse Countries and spend weeks in a cottage up in the mountains working, resting, reading, hiking and getting to know about elk? Oh the places I could go with this money. My children would have the degrees they seek; we’d all have plenty to share, but Uncle.

Uncle.
If I don’t want the money, but want the question, would you hold it for me until I do, when I may use it as I wish? For Uncle, I have found, while waiting for you to arrive, all of these years, waiting to be discovered by the golden aura of success and financial independence, my own tincture of success that heals and eases and excites me beyond anything money could buy. Forgive my Dickensian, Raold Dahlesque, SARK-y digression here, for I am supposed to be writing my response to your generous offer, but I cannot stop my fingers to say, money is nice, but not everything. And in my life, as a woman who mothers, I have found so much. I would not want to lose any of the grace I have discovered when pots are boiling over, a leg gets broken, and we are late for church or soccer or bed. I have found in the cramp of yearning that has colored my years as a mother with creative dreams which knock me off my steady pace over and over again, that in this yearning, in this ache, is a certain medicine that women need. I want to deliver this medicine.

our Sacred Refuge table
our Sacred Refuge table. photo credit: Lynnette Lucy Najimy

So in asking, you have given me a chance to tell you this. Yes, money would make it easier for my family to live while I work fully and completely, immersed in my book and the next, teaching and making this work available to women in need, it would send me to the Congo to help Eve or to Armenia with John to sit in circle with women whose stories bear agonies I have never known. Money would do all of that. But, if your offer is to ease the life I have, then I would rather that you hold it until I need it for these projects, for I would not want to be released from my hunger to create from inside motherhood, writing from inside a woman’s life.

Oh Uncle, I misunderstood you. I thought this gift came with reconciliation of social norms and our government so that all people in our land value the offerings that caregivers contribute by raising families. I thought this dream-come-true assured me that our health-care and education systems would be overhauled in order that mothers and fathers could have paid leave and thrive fully in their lives. I thought this came with gun control and solutions to climate change, the polar bears and white rhinocerii. Oh. I see, yes, now I see that I have over estimated your gift, I over estimated the power of money. I see this is not your offer. Forgive me.

In truth, it seems your offer is simply to let me live in my question so fully, so that I could just keep living in to it, like wind in sails, they don’t ask, they just fill. If that is the case, Uncle, I must tell you I don’t need the money. You can hold on to it until it is my time to go to the Congo or run that retreat with scholarships. Yes for that work, I will take it, but only when I need it.

Dear Uncle, thank you. Let us meet again in December 2016. I will have the pot on the stove, tea will be ready.

 

Cups up at Bascom Lodge, Mount Greylock, MA

xo,

S

JONATHAN FIELDS is a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer, and entrepreneur. His last book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance (Portfolio 2011) was named the top personal development book in 2011 by 800-CEO-READ.

Tracking Wonder’s Quest is here. It is free. And as you can see, it is though provoking.

Brenna Layne’s response is here.

Kate Arms-Roberts’ is here.

Millie Jackson’s is here.

 

 

 

 

 

Listening inside this day.

Morning Williams River

 

 

I listen inside this day.

-Rumi

 

 

Today is cold. Too cold for wash on the line so I’d rather not do it, at all. We all have plenty of underwear, wool socks and jeans to last us a week of no laundry being hung on a cold cotton rope. Besides, the potential for rain today is great. The golden, and copper, and red leaves hang on the trees, quaking in the wind, leaping out in to the afternoon with every gust of wind.

I can hear my daughter giving writing suggestions to her best friend. They are both hard at work on their college essays. Writing is not enjoyable for one of them; this writing requires mighty and diligent effort. It comes with lots of introspection to the other and since that one has taken up homework residency in the kitchen, we are banned from chewing while she is seated at the table reading. Kitchens are multi-purpose rooms in today’s world, just as much as in ye olde cabin in the woods where your whole family lived around the hand-hewn table in front of the wood stove, or sat on a settle, which flanked each side of the cooking hearth. We are not so revolutionary here; just don’t open a bag of chips and expect you can lean against the radiator, warming your bones while watching leaves fall at the same time she is studying Rousseau. No chewing.

this is a settle and it is very old photo credit: Martin Murray Country Antiques
this is a settle and it is very old photo credit: Martin Murray Country Antiques

 

Listening inside this day, I hear my heart recuperating from the drastic day of difficultly we had on Sunday. Our 21-year-old son was injured in a lacrosse game and though all is well, there were about 11 hours where we worried and waited and prayed outside radiology labs and in hallways of busy emergency rooms. That long span of attention, of care, of holding his hand, riding in an ambulance with him, waiting and watching so closely, has left me a bit rattled, like those quaking leaves in the wind. My son is at school, not at home under our care. By the end of his visit to the trauma center in Albany, the doctor pronounced my son was fit to return to school, to rest in the house he shares with four other guys. And so we had to let him go. His friends had come to see him at the hospital, so they took him home. It was an act of great faith in the kindness of young men to trust that our child/young man/son would have all he needs in a location other than at our kitchen table.

 

here is the boy and he is much bigger now
here is the boy and he is much bigger now

 

And so, the heart span widens, and my attention is slightly stretched geographically, and we are all recuperating. Every time something like this happens, I ride the rail of all the worse outcomes we could have experienced and am in a deeper thrall of gratitude. Today, I feel tender and aware of my body and wonder how his is feeling. I am not so tired today. I feel my energy back under me. I lived just a slice of the stress that so many people live full time. I know this.

And so, as my gratitude grows, so grows my compassion.

This leads me back to laundry. I read earlier today that if you are in California, you can now string up a wash line in your back yard, even in the fancy neighborhoods that ban such pedestrian articles of lawn decor. California is an “air-dry postive” state. So is Laundry Line Divine!

Orange asters

 

I hope this post finds you well and just the right sort of warm today.

Here is much love to you each, from my laundry line, to yours,
S

 

 

 

Making Time

Leaf heart

I have been away all week in a most beautiful location in the Catskill Mountains, Mohonk Mountain House, which is a very popular place at this time of year. The fall colors are peaking and on the ridge of the Schawangunk Mountains, the vistas are remarkable.

Early morning at Mohonk.
Early morning at Mohonk.

Every morning my wise mentor, Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder, meets all who care to, at 7:00 AM out in dawn’s early light for a walking meditation out to a cliff. We sit to watch the sun reach over this ridge and in to the valley west of us. Every morning this week has been different. We have watched the golden leaves turn more golden. The reds have come out in the sugar maples. This dense diverse forest is rich in hardwoods so the path is full of differently shaped leaves. We hear Crows, Chickadees and Chipping Sparrows. The squirrels and chipmunks startle as we pass, even when we are a silent string of women walking in step single file, gently closed fists clasped over our bellies, eyes cast on the path before us. After a certain point, Jeffrey claps the signal that we can lift our gaze and walk at our own pace. Yesterday, steps after lifting our eyes, there was a double rainbow right in front of us.

Morning rainbow

It has been a week soaked in wonder.

I am here working on my book, Laundry Line Divine. I made important headway on this work that has carried me along since I started writing it 7 years ago. I think I can see the book as a whole now.

What came through most clearly to me this week as we worked on story structure and looked at aspects of our work in the world as business artists is this. The fullness of what you have come to recognize as Laundry Line Divine stands for the value of every woman’s life, no matter where she is on the spectrum of motherhood, no matter what age, no matter where she lives. As I read segments of my book to the gathered company last evening, I sensed resonance in a way that ears sense sound. I felt heard by the variety of women in the room, heard and listened to. For a writer, this is a sweet sweet thing.

The conditions of every woman’s life require some consistent elements and one that I believe is key to our well being is time. Sufficient time in solitude, out of the range of our myriad responsibilities, enough time to fill our inner wells. The work I do in the world, as an artist and writer, as a teacher and workshop facilitator, as a mother and wife, is all tied to tending time and how we spend it, as a family and as singular beings. My commitment to my daily creative practice shapes the way I spend time. It also impacts what I teach, what I make and how I make it, whether it is plum jam, dinner or a hand bound journal.

Mohonk clock face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another woman on this writing retreat, Donna Druchunas, of Sheep to Shawl, doodled while she listened. We peeked in to each other’s journals. These illustrations are hers.

I hope this weekend finds you with time outside, in golden fall, if it is happening where you live. Or just simply with time to do what feeds you, even a short time will do. And if, like me, you have a mountain of wash to hang, take it outside in the fresh air. I assure you, the time will bring you joy.

Barb Bruckner Suarez and me on the cliffs
I got to meet Barb Saurez in person this week. Her blog Birth Happens is wonderful. We clearly shared the same dreams last night because her blog and this one are in the same field today.

xoxS

What does your day look like today?

The view from here. Big Bay, Michigan

Mine looks like this.
A little gray. A little rain. A soft summer day in the Upper Peninsula.
This is a rest day for me. I can head hummingbirds arguing outside. I hear kids down the beach getting in boats. We are getting ready for a hike around the Lighthouse. In the UP, unless it is a torrential downpour, we head outside anyway. The landscape is just so beautiful.

As I write this, my son’s grade school chant comes to mind, led by his fearless-leader teacher who took his class outside in any weather, “Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.”

quote by Ruth Maki
quote by Ruth Maki

One of the women who attended Slow Time Salon on Superior the other day, Ruth Maki of Aura, Michigan, said something so true. Her wise words made it on to this page and I thought you’d appreciate it.

However messy the weather, may you weather it well.
With love,

S

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