Writing with #100DAYSwriting and Stephanie Gunning
Written by
suzi banks baum
March 2014
Written by
suzi banks baum
March 2014


Word clouds give me new phrases to use in my writing. They jar me. Word clouds give me new phrases to use in my writing. They jar me.


If you were to ask me, “what does it take to settle down to write?”,

I would say it depends on the urgency of dream images
cluttering my vision, before my eyelids part to let the day in.

I would answer that differently depending on the color of the sky when I first open my eyes.

It would depend on whether or not I have to pee right away, since once I do that and my eagerness catches a whiff of hot lemon and ginger in a thick walled cup sitting in my lap or smells the shampoo cloud around my daughter's wall of hair separating us in the kitchen, I am diverted. My girl as private as I am after her short life-time of "good chaos"-the morning greetings, hugs, diaper changes, problem solving. Morning comfort has now become something I must seek and attain for myself- not to be relished with fingers intertwined, necks burrowed in to and waists encircled by simple acts of mothering.


Early Morning Bed view

Depending on if I open my Rumi-a-day to "center time" or if John O'Donohue murmurs "wisdom stillness" into my heart as if an escalator is descending to my interior with sea salty Connemara Ireland billowing the wings of my desires.

Depending on Mary Oliver and Percy or no Percy anymore, stopping under the pines to look up at the sun to say hello.

Depending if the superintendent of schools calls me personally, "Hello this is Peter Dillon" and before I can get a word in edgewise he is filling me in on the snow day or weather delay ahead and hangs up on me before I can even say thank you and hear his personable voice respond. Before and depending on that.

Or upon hearing a bear with his head stuck in the aluminum garbage can, which holds the birdseed in supposed bear-proof safety deep in the garage.

Or perhaps there are bluebirds on my "heart radar" out the window and before I open my eyes I hear them, providing relief, thank you, to the worries I have to recall and line up in neat order of importance and the ones which reside in my belly, made room for by peeing. These, ascend the escalator that John O'Donohue's words had descended and take a perch on my forehead, right between my eyebrows in a familial furrow deepened by late nights with teens tromping the staircases or not calling when they said they would or acid indigestion unsolved by Pepto or worry over something or other. I order those, before I write, mostly.


What does it take for me to settle in to write?


It takes my ass in this chair.
It takes being in the focus view in Word.
It takes a black pen on blank pages in hand-sewn journals.
It takes a nudge.
It takes routine.
It takes “making need open” to get this word in before, what, before, as Rumi reminds me, I die before my story is told.

What it takes for me to write or do anything filled with "wisdom stillness" is knowing that having done this writing, I can go on to other things like e-mail and breakfast, yoga and groceries, work and more work or maybe today just one job, just the mother job- so it is the kitchen and that mound resembling several inert figures covered in damp towels and shoveling, the pick-up, one lesson and dinner. Or it is just my other work, which I fill in around mothering, the art making, the workshop leading, the client consulting, the marketing of the book, the writing on the second book, the sending of invoices, the writing of thank you notes and submitting essays for publication.

I never am only doing one thing, being a mother.
I never am only doing one thing because being a mother is the only thing in my life
that cannot be undone. That and my tattoo, but this is another story.

So, what it takes for me to write is gumption and practice.

I like it. Words speak to me. Images call me. Ordering thoughts instead of worries is much more fun. And I like how I feel when I write.

Julia Cameron says,

"We are rendered conscious"

by writing.

Awake, I am here, a woman in this world, responding to blue birds and Fukushima and the Great Barrington Fairgrounds project.
I am a woman involved in grace, to simply show up, in the kitchen with a hedgehog of a teen-ager.
I know there is warmth in the center of her, but for now, I will give her wide berth.

And write.



Thank you for reading me here.

Please poke around my website. The blog series on What Do Mothers Make? is here.

Information about my Rampant Sisterhood consulting on author artist online platforms is here.

And Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice is for sale here.

I will be performing in WAM Theatre's benefit production of Motherhood Out Loud on Friday March 28th at 7pm here in Great Barrington. Order tickets here.

This coming Saturday, March 22, I will be leading a writing experience as part of the Rites of Passage at the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield. It is free. Please come!


My place at the table in the kitchen of Rites of Passage. My place at the table in the kitchen of Rites of Passage.



And until we meet again,


Let's be friends

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