Friday, January 18, 2008

The Fruits of Labour

On Bookins recently I stumbled across a book I hadn't heard of before called The Fruits of Labour. I was attracted to it first because of its cool cover image and second because of the intriguing subtitle Creativity, Self-Expression, & Motherhood. I guess I read this at a vulnerable time for me or something, but for some reason I found it a very emotional read. There were several times in which my face sort of involuntarily contorted with pain (like a grimace almost), because of the power of the writing (or my own vulnerability. Not sure which). The book is collection of essays by female writers--most with children--primarily reflecting on their children and their art and the integration of the two (some of the writers were primarily dancers or artists, so the art was not always writing). It included excerpts from several books I've already read such as Of Woman Born and The Blue Jay's Dance. Another was an excerpt from the published diaries of sculptor Kathe Kollwitz who was a German sculptor writing during World War I. One of her sons was killed in the war and she is haunted by it and it was so difficult to read her story (she died in 1967, I believe. I'm fascinated by the timelessness of people's stories and how they can reach out from the past and touch you still. It is startling too how real their lives and experiences were and now they are gone and nearly forgotten. It is a poignant--or crushing--reminder of mortality and impermanence).

One sentence that pierced my heart and made my face crumple with pain was, "Other Mothers' Sons [a painting] was created out of fear and empathy for the mothers who had nurtured and protected young men through infancy and childhood, only to risk losing them in a battle that was not of their making." I'm not sure why this particular sentence touched me so--maybe just as a mother of young sons--or maybe I was feeling particularly emotional. Reading it now, it doesn't hit me quite the way it first did. There was something about this book that just really touched me in an emotional place.

Another quote: "Many mothers find times for themselves through sleeplessness or, when sleeping, have revealing dreams. That clever dreamlife works away helping the artist." Personally, while occasionally I "borrow" time from myself by staying up late to work, sleep usually takes priority for me. Mostly because I believe I will pay for it later if I borrow it now--like I'm only robbing myself of future health. So, I sleep usually for at least 8 hours a night. I identify with the comment about the dreamlife. After L was born, I stopped having any bad dreams and began to dream mostly about mundane things or stories, sort of, no nightmares any more (I think by no small coincidence because after his birth I found I had no stomach for the psychological thriller mysteries that used to be my favorite type of books to read. I stopped reading them completely and lo and behold, I haven't had a real nightmare for like the past four years!). I also dreamed frequently and vividly. When I was pregnant with Z I dreamed very vividly as well and after he was born started to have lucid dreaming experiences. Those kept developing up to a point and it was really cool. Now, I haven't had many recently and those I have had are much less cool--I had gotten to a point with the lucid dreams where in one I realized I was dreaming and said, "I'm lucid dreaming! I need to start talking to God while I have the chance!" On several occasions I also had the experience of being aware of being in the place between dreaming and waking--i.e. pure sleep without dreams, but knowing I was there.

And, back to the book, a closing quote: "What is true about giving birth is...that it is miraculous. It might even be the one genuine miracle in life...(Men have every right to be envious of the womb. i'm envious of it myself, and I have one.)"

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