Hireath

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‘Hiraeth’ – (Welsh)

Connotes a yearning for place that is lost or may not exist, a feeling of longing to be ‘at home’ in the sense of achieving a sense of belonging, of finding your paradise.

~from Rising Ground, A Search For The Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden

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It is summer and we are firmly ensconced in our paradise. Early last week we drove and drove and drove,  many hundreds of miles, to escape the city where we live and work.  To escape the stifling heat and humidity that quantifies summer in southwestern Ohio.  This is vacation time in Vacationland for our family. A yearly trek to this place we once called home and to reconnect with friends we consider family.

As our friend Tom over at Bat Cave Studios so aptly put it, every visit back to this place makes it that much harder to leave it again.

I’ll share just a few of the adventures of the trip thus far, in between which we have enjoyed much visiting and laughing, cooking, eating and drinking with great joy, game playing and swimming, hiking and paddling. We are thoroughly enjoying the company of our loved ones here. But beyond that, there is the sheer lure of this place so far from home and yet so much like home.

I for one spend a great deal of time pondering the deep sense of place I feel here.

Boathouse ponderings
Boathouse ponderings (thanks to my hub, Tony for this one.)

Having lived and worked here so very long ago, we know life isn’t perfect in Maine, or anywhere for that matter. But we love this place and are deeply grateful for what time we do get to spend here.

There are the great gifts of the sea to be had of course and our time in Maine began with these.

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Oysters!! From just up the road in Damariscotta, Maine

“I love oysters. Its like kissing the sea on the lips.” ~Leon-Paul Fargue

“It was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”  ~Jonathan Swift

Not only do we love a quiet lobster dinner on the back deck at our home away from home, but we also like to get out into town sometimes, at least when ‘town’ is by the sea. This year we sampled the beautiful food and drink at Eventide restaurant in Portland. It was divine!

But of course dinner in town is not why we came to Maine.   This year we were fortunate to score some tickets to a special farm-to-table dinner event out on an island…..

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We headed toward a distant bank of fog.
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Thicker and thicker the fog grew.
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There were ghost ships on the horizon.

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Eventually we made it through the mists into another world where all was clear and bright.
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And we were taken up the road to beautiful Turner Farm.
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All of our food this evening was to come from this special place …
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The cheeses were spectacular!!! Thank you girls!

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The stunning table was set with mismatched dishes and linens. Perfect for a barn supper
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We wandered and wondered at how amazing it all was
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Eventually the farm manager and chef gave us the low down on the meal
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Many cheerful and hard-working islanders made it all possible.
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We were happy and well fed. Nourished by amazing food and fascinating company.

The food at this dinner was beyond spectacular. Every course made with the complexity of island simplicity if that makes any sense. I am no foodie so I will leave that to another blogger, but I do know that these culinary gifts shared with great love and intention were well received and we couldn’t have had a lovelier time.

We were ferried home on the good ship Equinox amidst a breathtaking sunset and cleansing ocean air.

But all has not been food and drink and more of  same however. Our timing for this year’s visit afforded us the opportunity to see in person some original artwork by one of my all time favorite illustrators, Barbara Cooney.  The show was at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and featured works for three of Cooney’s most prized books.

Miss Rumphius, one of the first books to call to me as an artist and say "perhaps you might like to make a book of your own one day...."
Miss Rumphius, one of the first books to call to me as an artist and say “perhaps you might like to make a book of your own one day….”
To see some of Cooney's original sketches make her books seem more real to me
To see some of Cooney’s original sketches make her books seem more real to me
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Sketches for Eleanor

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"You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures, said the wild waves." ~ from Hattie and The Wild Waves
“You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures, said the wild waves.” ~ from Hattie and The Wild Waves

“When I grow up,”I tell her, “I too will go to faraway places and come
home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing
you must do.”
“What is that?” I ask.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right, ” I say.  ~Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius

And now we find ourselves lake side. In recent days we’ve  had visitors from home and from our life back in our Maine time and from since then as well. It’s been a lovely mix and match of loved ones from near and far.   But for today it is just the few of us. The loons are calling and the boats buzz past on occasion.  I’m able to catch up here and perhaps a bit in my sketchbook as well. Up to now it’s really only been color studies.

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Photo by Tom Spatig
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Photo by Tom Spatig

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We swim these waters and treasure the sunsets.

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We walk the paths and explore the vistas.

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Meeting new friends along the way…

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All of this experience deepening the sense of place we have here in our treasured summer oasis.

Who knows where the future will take us. But regardless of the path ahead, a good chunk of my soul resides here in this beautiful place called Maine.

Musical Activism

“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.

Pavilion Wedding at the Swanannoa Gathering

I am returned, once again, from the magical world of the Swannanoa Gathering, which this year celebrates it’s 25th anniversary.  And once again, it was quite the week of music and mayhem, tunes and tricks, laughter and love, friendship and food, beverages and beauty.

There are many ideas floating around in my head for drawings and illustrations seeded by this past week which I shall soon share here of course.  Art begets art and by spending the week with so many talented and creative folks, I am fairly swimming in artful thought-glitter!!

As you can see, there is much joy to be had in a week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  This is so very sorely needed in this heavy world at what feels like a very dark time.  I was keenly aware of the bits of the outside world which seemed to follow us beyond the mists into this special place.

mists of reality closing in

But in spite of dark times and a world awash with so much hatred and violence, we came together, once again.  A dear friend of mine from Swannanoa overheard someone say one night at a ceili where everyone dancing seemed to have a smile on their shining faces, “Why can’t we be like this all the time?  All of us?”  I don’t think he meant just us at the gathering, but maybe more the world at large.

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Yes, for a brief second, Cillian Vallely was a dancer.

So hard not to smile in the midst of this music.  Heartfelt, Joy-filled….

And in the midst of all of the fun, we were there to learn.  Everyday, we went to the classes available to us to soak up all the tunes and tips we could from our multi-talented instructors.  For me, this was Nuala Kennedy in the morning, and Kevin Crawford in the afternoons.

The rapport and sense of play these two bring to teaching and playing and performing is simply infectious and I find them both incredibly inspirational in my own teaching work as well as of course, the music itself.

class begins

Nuala teaches

in which kevin hunts down a roving F #
“who’s playin’ that F sharp lads?? it was over here somewhere…”

Neither one of them lets us get away with anything but our very best work and so on the edge of our seats, we huffed away on our flutes and learned so very much.  My mind is still quite thick with all of the information we gained over the week!

The week was not all classes though….

There were concerts, lectures, opportunities to play more slowly on a new instrument.  There were sessions till all hours of the night.  And of course lots of laughter and community with friends.  Here is a small sampling…..

slow real slow
Slow, real slow. Slow session needs a reminder to slow down sometimes, so a sign was placed to much laughter!

 

peaceable kindom
John Skelton cracks up at a flute ‘truce’ between Nuala and Kevin, who often are seen as camp rivals. All in good fun!!
A highlight of the week was this blast of flutes playing all together. This sound is one of main reasons I got into playing flute in the first place.
A highlight of the week was this blast of flutes playing all together. This sound is one of main reasons I got into playing flute in the first place.

 

clash with the fiddles
The fiddles didn’t take too kindly to the notion of ‘Rejecting the tyranny of the fiddle’!

 

Ellen and I attempted to stay dry whilst at dinner one night. We look rather sweet and somewhat Parisian or something I believe!
Ellen and I attempted to stay dry whilst at dinner one night. We look rather sweet and somewhat Parisian or something I believe!

(side note: during the storm, a huge lighting strike occurred on campus.  it hit a tree and out went the power.  it was captured in this amazing sound byte by my friend Mary….. listen for at least 40 seconds…..)

 

Love walks
These two celebrated their second anniversary this year at the gathering where they were married. (click!  It’s a link to the post about the Swannanoa Pavilion Wedding.)

 

misty selfie
So steamy at times there in the North Carolina mountains!

 

last night's songs
A song between old friends.

 

In which we concertina beginners hang on by any G we can grab onto!
In which we concertina beginners hang on by any G we can grab onto!
Nights in the breezeway provided lovely acoustics and a break away from the crowds round the regular session tents.
Nights in the breezeway provided lovely acoustics and a break away from the crowds round the regular session tents.

 

The walk from our living quarters to meals and other things over on campus.
The walk from our living quarters to meals and other things over on campus.
Woodland wildlife
Many folk saw bears around campus, but all I got were some tree-giraffes….

 

The food served up by Osborne and Pei En is so scrumptious! They treat us so well. Thanks for this snapshot Bob!!
The food served up by Osborne and Pei En is so scrumptious! Over the years they’ve become good friends who welcome us back kindly. Thanks for this snapshot Bob!!

There is so much more in the world of sweet snapshots I could share with you here.  Special thanks to my flute friends Kate, Bob and Colin who generously shared their pictures for this post.  And I could leave the update here and that might be the end of it.  But while we were at camp, the world was continuing on its crazed path of recent self destruction.  News was leaking in.  The music we were making took on a whole new gravity.

As is often the case, the ‘Flutilla’ was planning some mischief for the end of week student showcase.  In years past we had made fun with the ‘rivalry’ between Nuala and Kevin, as our allegiance to them both made them often wonder, ‘hmmmm, who do the flute kids like best?’  But of course we love them both equally and we get something different from each.   So this year, we took on the fiddles.  Which seemed a fun direction to go, based on the hijinks at the concert the other night.  And so I drew up a little drawing, and we made a plan for take over in the form of wearable art…..

 

 

Reject the tyranny of the fiddle!!!! (coined originally by Kieran O'Hare)
Reject the tyranny of the fiddle!!!! (coined originally by Kieran O’Hare)

Update!!!:  Due to the high level of interest in this design, I have created a tidied up version of it to put on products such as totes, shirts and the like which you can order from the link below.  Proceeds will go toward a scholarship to Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  Viva la Flutilla!!!!

Resistance is Flutile

Visit my Society6 page HERE (click on ‘here’)  🙂 

But then we awoke the next morning to read the dreadful news of Nice and beyond and we approached the day more somberly.  I had the feeling that my blog post from before leaving for camp was even MORE important and we all talked about how important and actually ‘serious’ the ‘fun’ we were having at camp truly is.

My dear friend Joe Bly wrote a gorgeous poem, in true mythical epic poem format that had begun with the ‘let’s take down the fiddles’ sort of approach and idea.  But as he wrote it, it changed.  Into something bigger and better than all of that.  With his poem, the ‘tyranny’ we speak of became all that is evil in the world at large.  All the violence and negativity.  The work and fun we embarked upon at the Swannanoa Gathering is the rejection of all of that.  The folks I know from the gathering go back to their real lives as doctors, teachers, paramedics, therapists, healers, parents, lawyers and beyond.  They are bright and active in their communities and keenly aware of the news.  And into that work in the outside world, they bring the laughter and creativity that a week of music camp can ignite.  I simply marvel.

Cloaked in the mists of Tír na nÓg, the Otherworld of Swannanoa, Where three hundred days pass as three, Rival Clans of the Blackwood vied in feats of strength and skill, Lost in the Loop of myths and legends.

Come! Ye Fianna of the Flute! Daughters of Méabh, Sons of Cúchulainn! Come forth from the mists and meet in the ford of the river that divides us, For now is the time to cast arms beneath the waves And in Friendship and Honor Unite.

We are reborn as warriors anew as we march forth into the shining day.

For are we not free? For do we not face the shadow of a common foe, Hearts and eyes open wide?

For we shall not grovel in fear of the Darkness But serve the light of the clear morning.

Behold! The fog lifts! We shall Behave the Bravest, as we find Common Ground, Carrying the Tune before us as the new standard of peace and fellowship.

We are the new Druids, raising our staffs of

Blackwood, Horsehair, Silver Wire and Skin.

We cradle the sacred rite passed down through the mists of legends, And it is our sworn honor to push together against the night, With our strength and our weapons of music and laughter.

Now, more than ever.

I do believe that Joe may have channeled something divine in this poem.  He read it  aloud at the showcase before the flutes came together as one and played a jig together in unification.

The shirts and our grand plan were secret so we handed them out 'trunk sale' style in back of the pavilion. Great fun!
The shirts and our grand plan were secret so we handed them out ‘trunk sale’ style in back of the pavilion. Great fun!
There are so many of us when we band together!!!
There are so many of us when we band together!!!
star teachers
Everyone flutey wore the shirt. It was grand!!!

The evening wore on and there were so many gorgeous tunes and songs put on by everyone….  We soaked up and steeped in the final evening together.

Jack played in the showcase with his fiddle class taught by Martin Hayes, the Buddha of the Fiddling world
Jack played in the showcase with his fiddle class taught by Martin Hayes, the Buddha of the Fiddling world

As the week came to an end, we all talked much of not only the music we had experienced, but also of the wisdom we were given by those who light this musical path.

martin speaks of presence
Martin Hayes is a font of musical life wisdom and I love him for it!

A highlight of the week for me was a ‘potluck’ lecture-talk put on by Martin Hayes who is a great fiddler, not only in the traditional sense but also as one who is constantly pushing the boundaries of the music itself.  He spoke of being truly present in our music and that to do that we must be present with ourselves.  This notion of presence really struck me.

When I play music, or make art, I am most truly present.  And the doing of these things over the years has enriched my life and caused me to be more present in all aspects of my life.  Presence.  It’s crucial.  Presence in ourselves.  Presence with each other.  This alone could help heal a lot in this world, I do believe.

some notes jotted down from martin…

“…raw beauty of a melody.”

“simple music, heartfelt.”

“connective tissue between musician, instrument, and player”

“anything that further releases inner expression is valid”

“allowing.”

“trying is an obstacle”   (yoda??  is that you???)

“presence”

“leave the safety zone behind”

“trust the unknown.”

“create a spell.”

Last week at Swannanoa was more than just music.  It felt a lot like activism.  Pursuing creativity and kindness, music and beauty in a world so hell bent on the opposite seems like an insurmountable challenge at times.  But I accept this challenge.  As best as I know how to.  I share my approach to art work in the form of teaching and I’ve been told it has changed lives for the better.  Much in the way my instructors at Swannanoa and beyond have changed mine.

I am deeply grateful to be on this beautiful planet at the same time as these people.  These musicians and friends of mine.  The world needs their beauty.  My beauty.  and Yours.

“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.

It bears repeating.

 

Response on the Eve of Brigadoon

Pavilion Wedding at the Swanannoa Gathering

This weekend, my son, myself and hundreds of others embark on the journey to a kind of Brigadoon for a week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  The Gathering happens during  much of the summer down near Asheville, North Carolina, changing themes for each group involved.  Guitar week, Fiddle week, Old Time week, and for us, Celtic week.  You get the picture.  It is much like an escape from the world we inhabit for much of the rest of the year.  We go to be understood by fellow trad-heads and to improve our craft.  We go to share and play music for hours on end.  We go to laugh and catch up on our lives over the past year.  We’ve planned for this week since we left it round this time last year.  It is a yearly pilgrimage for all of us.

In some years past, I’ll admit to ‘escape’ being a primary function of this week for me personally.  There is nothing wrong with this per se, in the spirit of escape from the day-to-day.   But in more recent years, these weeks I commit to the broadening of creativity in my life – i.e. Big Work In Taos, this up-coming week of music classes and sessions, and the like – have come to mean more.  I attend to them with a more deep seeded intention.

I read recently somewhere that when people sing together, their hearts come to beat in time with one another.  I think this is likely the case in playing tunes together too as we do at camp.  Perhaps church goers who chant or pray and sing together pull their hearts into one as well.

I am certain I am not the only one who has heard heart-wrenching news in the past couple of days and been dumbfounded as to how to respond.  Scores of people of all colors gathered to protest recent violence in peaceful ways. Social media has been flooded with articles, memes about peace and prayers and where-to-go-from-heres, as well as some real and justified anger at it all.  Like so many, I am simply in shock at the scope of hatred and violence.

Where DO we go from here?  I believe there is real value in protests and all of the public outpouring that happens at times like these.  But I also believe there is real value in the mindful acts of less ‘social’ ways of protesting the trajectory of the world just now.  There are those in the world who walk a quieter path of response.  Through monastic or prayerful practice perhaps, or through the making of music in the spirit of communion such as we will be doing this upcoming week.  Perhaps one’s protest is in the work of building beautiful children’s books, or poems which make a heart sing.  To make just one heart sing, or child smile, is that not changing the world?

Don’t get me wrong, I am an active voter, I volunteer where and when I can, getting outwardly active in the issues I care about.  I am by no means indifferent and I am intensely angry about recent events.  But  for me, this anger is fuel for furthering my tasks in this life as I see them.  Magnifying and identifying beauty in the midst of a harsh landscape of current events.  Shaping, encouraging and fostering connection within my communities.  In response to horrific news, I feel a fierce need to make more art.   Art and music and connection with our most valued communities can help to heal the world, in valid, measurable ways.  I truly believe this.  And so, I will continue down this path in quiet protest to all of the ugliness out there.

I for one head down to The Gathering this next week with the intent of music-making as prayer for the world.  We will gather our hearts together, for just this week of time, and beat them as one.  So that perhaps we can take that beauty and soul of community back out into the world at large and make it a better place some how.  In our quiet way.  This is all I know how to do.

Chip of a Star

This time last week, hard to believe, I was packing up boxes and cases, making last minute visits to loved ones in my home away from home, grasping hugs and goodbyes to new and old friends alike, with promises not to forget.

big sky at mabels

It’s easy to come back home to our day to day lives and forget the work we have done while in Taos.  The week out there being just one in a year full of so many work-a-day weeks.  Weeks when we might be tempted to forget the importance of our day to day creativity.  And how crucial that creativity and the belief in it are to a Life Well Lived.

Air BandB girls

Each year I marvel at how a little class focusing on keeping a daily visual journal can become such Big Work.  It IS Big Work.  And I mustn’t forget.

swag  For myself in my own practice of it, and for my students as well.  What once started as an art class with some sketching and gathering involved, has morphed into a week each summer where some like minded folks come together to open up to the world.

It’s really as simple as that.  And as complicated.

I’ll attempt here to share a little bit of what we accomplished this year in Taos.

First off, re: the little ditty at the very above.  I really miss my Taosñas.  Each is a beautiful Chip of a Star.  Every year whoever needs this class comes to it.  I panic a little as registrations come in (or don’t) and remind myself that this is not up to me.  My job is to put it out there and those who are supposed to be there, will be there.  This year was no different.  I had some repeat attendees whom I hope benefitted from new tricks, and some newbies whom I hope are affected forever by the power of the work.  I really, really miss them.  We somehow manage to pack a year in a day, everyday, day after day.  And every morning they’d show up at breakfast, exhausted, raw and ready for more, much like myself.

Pictures cannot do the week justice.  But I have a few snapshots to share, and a few more words as well.

mabel speaks 2

I arrived in Taos and the town was hopping, unlike usual.  The Mabel and Company show was making quite the splash down at the Harwood, and if you are in town, I recommend you see it.  This place has attracted artists and movers and shakers since before history.  The show at the Harwood gives us a snapshot of one such time in history when the attraction was especially compelling to the likes of Georgia Okeeffe, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence.

Georgias cross

On both the front and back ends of this trip personally, I opted to get out of town and visit the old Lawrence Ranch, now owned, operated and managed by the University Of New Mexico.  I was blown away by the sense of place I found there.
DHL rests

In particular, the famed Lawrence Tree captured my imagination and the interest of my pencil.  I truly enjoyed spending time with this tree.

to touch the lawrence tree

In my heart of hearts, I think each tree has a soul of sorts, but like people, some trees have a soul which shines brighter than most.  This is one such tree.  And Georgia O’Keeffe knew it herself.

the lawrence tree sketch

It was an honor to spend some time with it.  Humbling as well.  Because, let’s face it, not all of us are Georgia’s.  We must all find our own way.

NM skies from the Morada

Meanwhile, folks arrived and gathered and we began the week with some exercises “where the tight are loosened, and the frightened are freed.”

loosening up Sallys contour drawing day 1 Day one loosens

I love the energy of these early drawings.  And wish I had gotten more images of all of the work done that morning.  Basically, we laid some locally found color down and then did some contour drawing over top.  But the end product was less about what was on the page and more about what remained in the heart of the artists themselves.  Suddenly, those who came to the table buttoned up with all kinds of amazing skills, found their work loosening and changing and growing.  And the beginners, well, they had these gorgeous instant drawings they didn’t know they were capable of creating!!  It was pure magic.

Later that afternoon, as luck would have it, the Pueblo had a dance to attend.  So we moved the afternoon class to the evening, and traveled en masse to witness the dancing.

I have taken to not posting much about what we witness at these dances at/in the Pueblo itself, as they are sacred, and really only to be witnessed first hand.  But overall, for Day 1 of an art workshop, this was kind of a spiritual ticket to the delicious underworld of it all.  Someone remarked that the energy in the classroom that evening was more like that of Day 4 than Day 1, and I credit that to the workings of the day at the Pueblo.

L'Engle truth

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As the week went on, day two into day three, all began to roll together.  I had structure laid down for the work each day, but into that structure, Magic came.  And the days, once again stretched and changed and became Other.

Creativity is really just the structuring of Magic. 

~Anne Rush

NM skies

Lani sketches

In the past we have had the great pleasure of visiting the buffalo herd of my now dear friend Harold Cordova.  In spite of some serious new responsibility on his shoulders we once again paid a visit to these amazing animals who were nursing some new members of their herd and shyly introduced us….

buffs 3buffs 2buffs in situ

As usual, these regal beasts wove their way into our hearts and into our sketchbooks.

buffs sketch Christinas buffs

And in the spirit of the endlessness of the days of this particular trip, I found time that evening to play some tunes with local Taos friends who have become dear to me over the years.  In spite of teaching all day.  In spite of a spiritual visit to some otherworldly animal friends.   Eventually, we did this twice during my time there this year.  Again, I marvel.  At the sheer deliciousness of it all.

taos tunes
photo credit to Linda Dietrich

Of course, all work and no play, make Amy an insufficient instructor, and so I did manage to get my feet up now and then, as per the instructions of the history of the house….

dennis hammock

I’m no Dennis Hopper, but I do know how to put my feet up .  Special shout out to my dear friend Jamison who set this bit of relaxation up for me there.  All in keeping with the spirit of the house.

hammock time

(yes, this hammock was in the same spot as Dennis’s hammock back in the day.  Amazing how the stories of old speak to us in this day and age, via something so simple as a hammock.)

Meanwhile, we worked and worked and worked….. (and I took a few  – but not many- pictures.)

anitas lani a la F Franckdrawing the pueblosketching cloudssallys mountainssketching tara

Sadly and soon, it was time for our annual end of workshop dinner….

beauty repeatingfinal tearfull dinner

The food at Mabel’s was, per the usual, show stopping.  They are true artists.  And we are grateful for the gorgeous, plated dinner to which we were treated that evening.  (not to mention, the breakfasts and lunches day to day!!!)  No dinner in Taos that evening could have compared to ours, I am certain of it.  The food and the people of my day-to-day in Taos are what I am missing the most, really.

the view to the loo

I am now back in Ohio.  I have lots of delicious plans for further travels with loved ones and into musical mires which themselves transcend time and space much like my time in Taos.  But these are different than Taos, and I am still missing my time there.  The me there.  The Us there.  There is a small bit of me that hangs onto it throughout the rest of the year.  A bit that only those Who Have Been There can really relate to.

My goal is not to forget.  Not to forget how crucial this work is in a crazy world so hell bent on crushing delicate creativity.  Not to forget how Big this work is when sometimes my day-to-day feels so very small.  Not to forget that lives have been and are being changed by the simple act of keeping a journal, or of making a little drawing of something beautiful each day.  This is important.  This, is work worth doing.

In the end, I think Lani Potts, a workshop participant this year and also an artist and a poet, put it most beautifully in this poem which found its way into her journal….

Lanis Poem

GO FORTH, AND DOODLE.

go forth and doodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here. Now.

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Awoke this morning to the call of magpies. A bit bleary eyed after a long day of travel but oh so grateful to be here.

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And so I wandered down for a cup of coffee and a stroll….

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All is quiet so far. No students to greet just yet. Few other guests at all really. I treasure these relatively rare quiet moments at Mabel’s.

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It’s so good to be back in a small town atmosphere.  So close to Big Nature, yet I can also hear summer ball practice being held over at the park and the local church chiming the time.

Upon arrival last night, I was just in time to catch the premier of a beautiful new documentary by my friend and film maker Jody McNicholas called Longshotsville. Its all about a group of local actors seeking their best art and truest selves through stage and film acting. So many local folks were there, people I count as friends now since I return once or twice a year. It was refreshing to have a good cry and root for the creative process these young artists are seeking.

This is Taos. A place that demands that you be here. Now. Which I mostly try to be at home as well. But in places like this, the connection to self, to the present moment as it stands, seems more accesible somehow.

More real.

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Fair Winds, Following Seeds

Ginger begins her summer's  travels via raven lift and amidst a caravan besailed and ready for where the wind takes it.
Ginger begins her summer’s travels via raven lift and amidst a caravan besailed and ready for where the wind takes it.

Always a step ahead, is our inner muse, in whatever form it takes.  For me, it is often Ginger Small, so small yet so intrepid.  So willing to step in to the trust of adventure in spite of her perceived size, stature and strength.  After all, we are all only as big, powerful and strong as we believe we are.

And so we send these muses ahead of us to pave the way.  Ginger has left here (with a sliver of my own gypsy-traveling heart) to begin the trek out west to Taos where I will teach later next week.  It’s more work than a week should be and so I pack and prepare maybe more than most might for a normal work week.  I love this work.  This week is what I prepare for all the rest of the year.  This week of sharing my book-based process of sketching and keeping a visual diary with workshop participants.  I love it.   And during this week, I am always inspired to pursue my eventual studio work more fervently once back home.

Ginger Small, my little book character yet to be snatched up and published but yet ever so present in my imagination, has gone on ahead of me, as my imagination and muse-selves are wont to do.  I wish her “Fair Winds and Following Seeds” , a play on an old navy tradition of wishing one on a journey or a move ‘fair winds and following seas.”  For we are following the seeds of inspiration.  To see what feeds us.  What grows with a little planting, watering and weeding.

Whatever you are pursuing in your own artistic journey, Fair Winds and Following Seeds to you.  And let me know what comes of it.  For after all, we are on this journey alone, yes.  But also with one another

 

NOPE. My little patch of paradise

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I went for a long, hot, humid run today.  Not my favorite weather in which to hit the roads, but I have been a bit of an anxious mess lately, and running indoors would only have exacerbated that sensation.  You see, my neighborhood, and many others near ours and like ours (some of which I’ve resided in in the past) is under assault by the big bully energy company who is supposed to be providing ‘service’ to our community.

Last Wednesday I skipped the churchlike regularity of my weekly Irish music session to attend a community forum…

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At this meeting, light was shed upon the whispers of a tragic injustice potentially headed our way, courtesy of the fracking movement and spearheaded by the very company which is supposed to bring us ‘service’, Duke Energy.

I sat at this meeting, horrified, filled with dread, my ears fairly bursting with the news of this plan to bring an industrial strength, highly pressurized ‘natural’ gas pipeline straight through our back yards.  I’ll fess up that I thought I was headed to this meeting for a bit of ‘not in my back yard’ tete-a-tete, and just to see what was up.  This isn’t about my back yard.  This is about all of our back yards.

For the first time,  a pipeline of this magnitude is being considered for a path straight through the middle of a densely populated neighborhood area.  A path that navigates it’s way not only through quiet suburban backyards with mature trees and woodlands such as ours, but also through neighborhoods with houses whose closer fence lines provide much more day to day contact.  And right by schools where our neighborhood kids learn and play and live their little lives.  And just near nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals and houses of worship.

This is no ordinary pipeline, I learned at last week’s forum.  This is not about service to us from our local energy provider.  This pipeline is a highway.  A 30″ transmission pipe headed south to make money for Duke Energy.  This pipeline has nothing to do with us, if I understood the information I gleaned from the meeting.   Sure, it might be part of the overall ‘system’  ‘needed’ to be in place for us to get the natural gas we use so thoughtlessly utilize on a regular basis.  I do not know.  I am still in the process of researching it all.   But I am no Erin Brockovich .  I am just a quiet artist, trying to lead a good life.  Trying to stay one step ahead of my anxieties about the world.

And so we went to our local forum.  We sat riveted and horrified.  And we came home to think about it all for a day or so.  And now, we have written heartfelt letters to our local politicians, and to our local utility company (which feels laughable, considering their confidence in making this pipeline a reality).  And today, I knit socks in my little patch of paradise while no one else was up besides me and the dogs and our last, lone chicken.  And I pondered the kids and older folks by whom this pipeline would pass.   And I thought about how vulnerable they all are.  How vulnerable we all are.

When something goes wrong on one of these lines, there is no warning.  No evacuation.  Folks are just in the blast line.  Or they are not.  Currently, for at least one path this line is considering, we are in a fairly direct path of a potential blast.  I don’t want anyone to be in this blast line.  A line of this caliber belongs in industrial areas and along interstate routes.  For in the long run, what is traffic and re-routing, if countless lives are potentially saved?

I sat in a state of endless anxiety for a good while.  And then I went on that run.  Due to the heat and humidity, I had to stop here and there.   I chatted with a dear neighbor who has a new (to me) dog named Rocket.  I wandered my streets filled with love for this place.  This isn’t necessarily my perfect place.  That might be nearer to the ocean perhaps.  But for now, this is our place.  And I am fiercely committed to it.  I ran and ran and ran.  Just one step ahead of the elephant that loves to take up residence upon my chest so often.

and then I saw it.

A little wild rabbit.

The morning sunshine was slanted just so that the creature’s ears were lit up like little rose petals.  I stopped.  Caught my breath.  And got an idea.

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I almost can’t handle the idea of older folks, school children, and my own home being in an explosion caused by a highly pressurized natural gas pipeline in a densely populated area.  But I can escape to my imaginary sphere.  And wonder what the animals might think of it all.

After all, regardless of property values potentially falling due to this pipeline, or dangerous safety concerns for our most vulnerable citizens, the environmental issues surrounding this project are absolutely staggering.  Changes to storm run-off patterns in place for generations,  construction run-off into the millcreek watershed, mature trees and woodlands decimated.  I could go on and on.

But here was this rabbit.  And here was myself, in a state of agitated anxiety.  So for the afternoon I escaped into my imagination.  Where the woodland animals were banding together with their own social media campaign.

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And I made a little drawing.

Because besides chatting up my neighbors on both sides of the party line, and sending letters to my governmental representatives, this is all I know to do.  I mustn’t cave to endless fear and anxiety over this notion.  I must act.  And today I acted.  And I will continue to do so when I can.  There have been stories of communities able to stand in the face of these environmental atrocities and make change.  And lord knows there are others with a less happy ending.

But we are at the beginning of this struggle.  There is a core group of citizens comprised of a variety of affected communities who have banded together to make some trouble and spread the word of this project so very inappropriate for this area.  It seems the energy corporations are getting more and more desperate to make a dollar (or billions) and they are putting the very communities they are supposed to be ‘serving’ at risk.  I really expected better community stewardship and responsibility from a company I, until now, trusted.

NOPE Cincy is a group online providing the latest updates on this tragic idea in the hope that we can get things rerouted.  At the rally they put on which I attended, many local representatives were on hand ready to speak for their constituents.  (shout out to Todd Portune whom I last heard speak at my friend Tina’s mural opening last fall.  He is a politician who shows up.  I find that tremendously admirable).  In the current political climate so often filled with vitriolic mayhem, this all feels like a breath of grass-rooted fresh air, in spite of the horrific issue at hand.  And it is just this notion of neighbors working together from ‘both sides of the podium’ as they say that gives me some real hope for where we are headed.

I made this little drawing today.  This is all I know how to do besides writing letters and talking to my neighbors.  It is putting my head in the sand where I feel safe, while not truly doing so.  It is my form of activism.

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Enlightened

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It seemed like it would never stop raining.  This gorgeous, flower-filled spring time of ours has lingered on and on in its misty, fog-filled mornings and cold temperatures.  I actually really love cool temps and soft rain showers.  A part of myself could probably even live in a place like Ireland.  But here in Ohio, folks have done planted their tomatoes and are wonderin’, ‘when will we get some predictable sunshine and finally dry out???’

The past day or so we have had not only dryness, but sunshine.  Sunshine worthy of summer’s glory.  This sunshine has put me in mind for New Mexico, which for me and my intrepid sketch journalers, is just around the bend!  I am grateful to be warm (but not yet sweltering, thank heavens!), and grateful that travel season is only a matter of weeks away.  I am grateful for work that takes me to beautiful places to spend time with interesting people.  And I am grateful for friends, family and ‘faminals’ who welcome me home when that work is done.  Today, I am grateful for sunshine, a full day in the studio (with a couple hours off to paint some walls at our local art center) and the sense that the real work of summer is upon me.  Looking forward to getting back to Taos, drawing and painting all I can capture!

Be sure and follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in the coming months.  I’ll be sure to share lots of images, and will blog when I can!

At One

We are down to one hen, having lost the family favorite, mischievous, curious, moxie-laden Bernadine.  Her personality here on our little acre of land will be sorely missed.  11295616_10206664562194990_1017598909952787150_n

That leaves us with Elvyra, who was kind of the extra one from the beginning.  We went to the little farm in Kentucky to get four chicks, and came home with 5.  The farmer suggesting ‘that little easter-egger over there’ might be a good one to have if we wanted a pretty flock.

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And pretty she is.

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Of all of the flock, this one has been the quiet one.  Part of the flock enough to be safe, but not overly keen on human attention or affection.  Having read that lone hens are prone to depression and rapid decline, I have been keeping a close eye on Elvyra, but so far, she seems ok.

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She preens her feathers regularly and scritches around the garden and woods for bugs and fresh spring green things.  She’s still laying daily and roosts  predictably at night.  She is eager to de-coop in the morning and join me for a cup of coffee and some treats on the back stoop.  It’s become a bit of a thing for me lately amidst this crazy time of year.

There is just something so soothing about watching a hen peck around the yard for a bit each day.

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Even if it is just the one.

 

I’m gearing up for the Taos trip here in a few weeks and so have ramped up my yoga practice and running routine to get my head on straight, to be the best I can be for my incoming students.  Spring can be a frenetic season with graduations and birthdays to be celebrated, chores to be caught up on and of course the usual day to day work to be done.  Busy.  a word I loathe, but to which I must occasionally succumb.  I am woefully behind in my own sketchbook, but have instead been at the easel a bit each week in a painting course I decided to take from Manifest Drawing Center here in town.  I am learning  a lot in this class about color and painting in oil paints, some of which I hope to apply to my own teaching out west.  It’s important to me not to rest on laurels and to always be finding new things to share in my classes.  I am keenly aware that to do this work is a great gift.  I do not take it for granted.

While we are down in numbers in the avian world, our canine sphere is fit to burst since last year.  It’s nearly a year since we took over the stewardship of my Mama-in-law’s little dog Charlie.

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She was not as little as she really should be when she first joined us.  But with some exercise and the company of other dogs, she has trimmed out a good bit and her more boisterous personality has begun to shine (read, bark).

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Charlie seems quite happy here with us and still makes regular visits back home to Mom as well, which is good for everyone.

And so, on this very average day, I must get back to work.  Attempting the task of getting ahead of myself a bit before the summer travels begin in earnest; pondering the One-ness of all things via the simple avenues of home – ‘fanimals’ and family.

Til next time….

May the Fourth Be With You

Kevin Necessary's poster for the Star Wars tribute show
Kevin Necessary’s poster for the Star Wars tribute show

Tomorrow evening, a bunch of us Cincinnati based artists and illustrators will be gathering to celebrate what has turned out to be a fantastic group show featuring all things Star Wars.

I have two small works in this show featuring two of my favorite characters from the original trilogy of my childhood, Master Yoda, and R2D2.  These two are part of my daily life and even serve as dashboard saints on my treks ’round town….

(note that Yoda wields a crystal wand AND a paint brush. Talented, he is)
(note that Yoda wields a crystal wand AND a paint brush. Talented, he is)

Per my obsession with all things embroidery in recent months, when the opportunity came to whip up a little something for this show, I dove into the thread basket to see who might be lurking in there.

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Yoda came first.  He’s turned out quite nicely and is at the ready with a lovely complement.  Who couldn’t use a dose of Yoda by the mirror on the way out the door for the day, yes?

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At the last minute, I added some fluffy frizz of hair to this work which really makes it, but I didn’t get a proper photo so you’ll just have to come and see him in person!

Next, R2D2 decided to get in on the fun.  Though he opted for really miniature form.  He started with a drawing and a few stitches.

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He came together quite nicely.

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And eventually was placed into a wearable silver hoop, just his size.

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He’s in a frame for the art show itself, but he is ready for your silver chain, should you choose to make him your own.

Do stop by Wednesday if you are in the area.  All food and drink proceeds from the evening will benefit the Force for Change charity. This should be a fun time!

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part rabbit warren, part spin on art & life & etc. art, illustrations & workshops by amy bogard