In Print

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff with her daughters Bella (left) and Rose, who cuddles Otis. "My kids are my teachers and my muses," says Ms. Goff-Maidoff. Photo by Sara Piazza

A mother's stories

By C.K. Wolfson - May 11, 2006

She squints into the sun from the steps of her home in the woods of Chilmark, looks at her three cats luxuriating on the grass, and explains that this morning her daughter washed her hair in oil- saturated bath water which made the usually wavy long blond hair oil-slick greasy. So she asked her to consider taking another shampoo. The youngster, who might have been thinking that flat and sticky looked kind of cool, decided it wasn't a problem, and off to school she went.

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff smiles one of her high-beam smiles and admits, "When I was in high school I thought I'd be a movie star and I wouldn't have time for kids. I thought If I had them I was going to give them all to my friend Wendy."

But as soon as she was first pregnant, she felt motherhood changing her world view. "I felt more a part of the larger picture. It wasn't just about me anymore."

She says, "And when people find out you're pregnant they approach you and say, 'Your life as you know it is over.' So I knew things were going to change, but I also realized I could embrace motherhood as a spiritual path, as a learning process."

And so she has. "Honey Sutras, Soul Wisdom from the birds and the bees," is the most recent of her handmade, ornate and meticulously decorated soft-bound books published in her downstairs studio by her own Sarah's Circle Publishing. It draws material from the Sanskrit, Upanishads, Ecclesiasticus, and the poet Rilke. Between the double-thick covers of metallic Japanese paper Ms. Goff-Maidoff gently offers their and her own meditations and philosophy in poetic metaphors and short directives.

As are others of her books, it is dedicated to her daughters, Rose, soon to be 14, and Bella, nine. "For me, my kids are my teachers and my muses. They teach me as much as I teach them, I'm sure."

She adds, "And I think the maternal instinct goes further than your own children, it goes to all children."

"Honey Sutras" is essentially about respecting oneself and finding the larger universal connections - a celebration of each moment, of Life, and of the Divine spirit in everyone.

Ms. Goff-Maidoff's daughters are her muses, and the messages have always been her messages: "refrain from judgment; learn to embrace a larger whole; see the love that's in you and all around you." She uses the words she thinks she would have responded best to as a child.

In the introduction of "Honey Sutras," she writes of her daughters: "But what I most want to tell them of is their internal radiance, the presence of the Divine, and why they are worthy of the utmost kindness, respect, and love."

Ms. Goff-Maidoff, who majored in drama at Kenyon College, comes by her beliefs and her ability to express them authentically, naturally. "I'm getting my assignment from the universe," she says. Both sides of her and husband Jonah Maidoff's families are lined with accomplished writers, artists and musicians.

But even more significant is the impact of her own childhood. The daughter of illustrator Clark Goff and Pam Spears Goff, sister of artist and web designer Heather Goff, and Clark Jr., she recalls growing up in the historic center of rural Sudbury. "Oh I had a wonderful childhood, a Norman Rockwell kind of childhood," she says, remembering a embracing sense of safety. Attitudes, Ms. Goff-Maidoff says, aren't formed by lecturing, but rather by creating a safe atmosphere.

Her books reflect those qualities of the best of all possible worlds: The Golden Rule, Kindness, Eternal Song, books of poetry, and graces tied with ribbon and metallic twine, decorated with glass beads and shells and displayed in her booth at the Artisans Festivals in the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on Sundays and in peak season, Thursdays. Many, such as "Good Mother, Welcome," in its third printing, are illustrated with her sister Heather Goff woodcuts, computer engineered collages of her grandfather, Albert Spears' paintings, tinted photographs of Rose and Bella.

Another new book, "Postcards from the Landscape of Joy" ("the most extravagant thing I've ever made"), with its large intricately designed pages includes ornate pockets, envelopes, unfolding inserts contain inspirational messages: "Some people spend their whole lives hoping to find the Landscape of Joy. They think that an arduous journey is required since it is so far away. But it is as close as an eye's wink or a single breath."

Not that she believes in the pressure of perfectionism, nor in the idea of being good all the time. "We do have ideals set up, and we want to be good mothers, but we're not all the time. Nobody is."

So it follows, she doesn't expect daughters to live up to any myths or expectancies. Her children, she announces happily, are very individual and very normal - all regular people, "slobs" even. She herself is as able to play a joke at someone's expense as the next person, but she does aspire to making an offering that has the possibility of providing something substantial. "Part of it is a reaction to what the media is giving out. I want to throw something else out there to try to add some balance to the messages kids are getting.

"I'm not trying to create more evolved children," she insists. "But I know they're out there. And this is for them. It's the voice that they hear in themselves, but that doesn't always ring forth."

To see more of Ingrid Goff-Maidoff's work, visit www.sarahscircle.com.