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Hello, I am returned – Ta-DA!
Last week was amazing. I spent five days in the Berkshires, taking a collage and yoga workshop with amazing women and an amazing teacher, learning and playing, cutting and piecing, and having a bit of a reunion.
It wasn’t just a reunion with other people, tho’ that part was pretty great, too – some of us have been taking the Vibrant Visionary Collage Workshop for years now, and it is a delight to reconnect and catch up. My mom & I attend together every year, and with her living in FL and me in MA, it’s a really good come-together for the two of us as well.
But the big reunion, really, was with myself.
There’s just so freaking much on my plate at home, it’s not even funny. There’s the film festival , there’s the household stuff,* there’s the art rep,** there’s the businesses,, there’s getting ready for the workshop I’m teaching at the end of the month, not to mention all the messy crap that goes along with the health insurance change that we just made.*** And did I mention that Our Man Cub broke his poor nose last week at the Memphis May Fire show?†
To say the gas was low in my tank is an understatement. And retreat couldn’t have come at a better time.
So, sister, there’s been some talk about my talk. I *can* call you sister, can’t I?
Have a look at this:
—Where are we going then?
—I ain’t your brother, a woman shouts.
—All right bloody hell sisters then, and everyone is laughing.
-from Iron Council by China Mieville
Iron Council is one of those books that I can just read and re-read, and it never suffers for it. It has trains, and remade people, and union politics, and golems, and sex workers, and civil rights, and magic, and it’s a fucking artful piece of writing. But all that aside, it’s the interaction in that quote that stays with me beyond the entire adventure, more than anything else at all.
Shall we talk about sisterhood a moment without getting granola? I mean, I’m sure that at least half the people reading this are expecting granola. I can get granola with you, if you want – personally, I’m down with the notion of sisterhood and the hippie magic associated with it. I have no shame around that stuff, ‘cos there’s nothing to get shameful about. But the hippie magic isn’t where I’m going when I call you sister.
What Was I Thinking?
by Suzi Banks Baum
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy
and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.
To put our art, our writing, our photographs, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation-that’s also vulnerability.”
—Brené Brown Daring Greatly
Vulnerable is exactly how I felt when I invited 35 women to jump into the freezing cold waters of public opinion and share themselves and their perspectives on living lives pumped full with creativity in Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. At that point I knew wanted to put my words and images out in to the world, but publishing a book? Being that public terrified me. So, I figured I’d rather have some co-conspirators.
Years before, I had started writing my own stories about how I spent my days as a mother, what caught my attention internally, and how I righted the boat of my serenity over and over again with small creative acts. I wrote never thinking anyone but a few close friends would read these stories. I was just writing. But in April 2009, I dared to title the writing Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. At a writing conference, I spoke to a literary agent about the work, wondering if there was interest in the world beyond my sphere for a book about how I raised myself as I raised my children. (Please note elevator pitch in the last sentence. “Can I describe my book in 10 words or less?”)
Standing before a literary agent is much like any other moment in life when you are Dorothy at the feet of the Wizard. “Is there anything in your bag for me?” “Could there be another human aside from my best friends who might be interested in my writing?” Standing there, knees clattering (and go ahead, tell me I was supposed to own my brilliance, stand for all mothers, flirt with the agent, shine shine shine), palms slick with sweat, lips dry, eyes blurring, I learned I was to go home and build my author platform. “Come back when you’ve built that,” said the agent.
Squeeee! It’s here! It’s here! What an honor an privilege it’s been to hear about this book that the divine Ms. Suzi Banks Baum has been compiling over the last year! And what an honor to be included in the anthology!* It’s a bitchin’ compilation of women’s voices, put together to benefit two important organizations that provide vital services to women in Berkshire County, Massachusetts: The Community Health Programs (CHP) and Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires (VIM Berkshires), which provide free and low-cost medical care and services to women in need. Right? Right!
And how stoked am I to be going to the release party tomorrow night?! On Friday the Berkshire Featival of Women Writers kicks off with Laundry Line Divine presents: Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others. Hosted by Suzi Banks Baum and featuring readings by Suzi, Alana Chernila, Nichole Dupont, Janet Reich Elsbach, Michelle Gillett, and Jenny Laird, and celebrating the book launch of An Anthology of Babes: 35 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. It’s at Dewey Hall, in Sheffield, MA from 7–9: 30 p.m.$5 suggested donation. Returning this year after a standing-room-only premiere at last year’s Festival, Out of the Mouths of Babes offers readings from six Berkshire women authors, ranging from a young single mother to a mother of adult children. Come to the event to be entertained, challenged, echoed, and encouraged. Favorite bedtime snacks will be served at intermission, and following the readings, the audience is invited to participate in a discussion of motherhood and creativity led by Suzi Banks Baum.
Please come out and play – it was packed to the gills last year when the event was at Simon’s Rock, and this year promises to be a Big Deal too. If you can’t make it out, and would like a copy of the book to hold in your hands, you can always order a copy at http://www.anthologyofbabes.com. Hope to see you there!
So my sister-in-law can knit some stuff. Like, for reals, she can knit up a storm, and not just scarves* – stuffed animals, children’s clothing, wrist warmies, socks, even. So when she got a job at Worcester’s newest yarn store, Knitscape, that was no big surprise, right?
Well! I went to the very first open house (they just opened, like this week), and the store was some kind of lovely surprise, let me tell you! As someone who’s been doing all her primary yarn shopping for the last decade at the craft shops,** this was a super yummy treat.
It’s a small store, but it’s packed with shelves of all kinds of yarn that I’m already thinking up delicious projects for – everything from everyday synthetics, to cotton suitable for socks, to alpaca, to the fluff that you felt up into
little animals fun shapes. I totally have my eye on some jewel-tone gradated rainbow business that I could not stop touching (so soft!) that’s just inside of my save-up bracket (I will SO be spoiling myself with a scarf around my birthday, I do believe). In addition to the yummy yummy yarn, there were also the bits and bobs that one might want for a textile project: hand-made buttons and closures, fine needles, and fancy stitch holders.***
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Real post soon. In the meanwhile, Sinfest makes me super happy, in general, once a day.
I used to read Sinfest all the time, and then somewhere along the way I forgot about it. Glad to have remembered and be back to reading daily again.
I sat down to write about this dreadful commercial I saw the other night, only to find, upon researching it more, that it has been pulled. Hooray! But the more I think about it this morning, the more I think that just because it’s been pulled and so swept under the rug, the more it needs to be talked about, actually.
Let me check my privilege before I begin here: My mother was a second wave feminist, and she instilled in me some Values. I was in the right place at the right time to be part of the Riot Grrrl movement.* A good eighty percent of the men I deal with are really great people who just, well… get it. The other twenty percent of these guys, the ones who want to take my agency, the guy who pulled the exceptionalism stunt on me in my pigtails at Trader Joe’s last year, I feel empowered enough to deal with them on my own. And I’m privileged enough not to run into the really scary ones that often.** Big. Privilege. Ok, recognized, stated, spoken, there it is: context.
So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gender, ever since spending the week at Kripalu, engaged in Sisterhood, because this was a different kind of gooey center – I tend to ruminate upon gender in terms of the personal-as-political more than anything else. Men are a very important part of my life, and it helps that I live with two really great men (ok, one of them, at thirteen, is really still a cub – he still has the goofy paws and the learning curve thing happening) who value me as I am – we have a huge amount of mutual respect, a metric fuckload of love, and a really great division of labour (for the record, Will Dearest has changed a few diapers in his time). Which is to say, I am blessed with a home that is a safe place and sanctuary.
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So. I brought the little bitty computer with me to Kripalu with the express intention of writing every night while I was on retreat. But it turned out that even checking my email on the little machine was akin to trading on the NASDAQ from a cigar box, so, um, yeh, that really didn’t happen. But honestly, this was the first time in four years that I went on retreat and brought any electronic business with me – usually I go up there and unplug pretty completely; I don’t even call home, right? So perhaps this was a sign from the Universe that really, unplugged is the way to go while I’m on retreat. Or that the little lappie just gets bamboozled when taken out of its natural environment.* But, um, I’m back \o/
Anyway! What a fantastic week this was! This was the second year that Mom and I went to Kripalu for the Vibrant Visionary Collage Workshop, and it did not disappoint. We were both a little apprehensive that the course material would repeat from the year before, but no such thing – the presenter, Karen Arp-Sandel, had a different angle of approach this year from the year before, and it was just as delightful as it was the year before.**
So the workshop is just what you might think it is from the title – it’s a week of collaging, cutting and pasting, and playing with paper and pieces, and learning techniques for treating paper and other images. Which, in my book, is pretty dandy all in itself. But wait – there’s more: tho’ we were working in the studio all week,*** really, the focus was on Sisterhood. Now, before you tune out because that sounds all new-agey, try and embrace the crunchy granola spot inside you, because it was really truly osm to be in the presence of such business all week. (Also, please go read this, which I had the luxury of reading directly upon return – funny these rhythms, huh? Also, this.****)
I truly felt a strong vibe of Sisterhood in that room full of interesting, strong women. For someone who struggles (frequently) over the notions of safe spaces v. ghettoization of women, it was kind of a big deal for me. Maybe it’s easier to begin explaining it in terms of what it was not: it was not divisive, it was not anti-, it was not aggressive, it was not political beyond what the personal is in all of us. I don’t remember any talk about men in terms other than in terms of the husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers that we love.***** Actually, I don’t remember a whole lot of talk about men overall – primarily the talk was about women in our lives. There was a lot of talk of sisters and mothers. There were three mother/daughter pairs of participants in the group (I was honored to be part of one of those pairs, myself). And the energy in the room was about bringing together, about shared experience and consciousness as women, and about play expressed in in that scope.
It was also about claiming one’s art.