Goldening

There comes a time in late August, every summer, where I take note of a slight shift in the light in and around things.

This is a visual thing, having nothing to do with temperatures, which at this time of year in our Ohio River Valley, tend to be a bit stifling.  But this goldening is not due to heat, rather more to the timing of things.

The school buses are making their routes now around the neighborhood and all things garden seem to be leaning less green, more gold.

Along my runs, the light has a certain slant to it that I love.

By night, even if it’s hot outside, I crack the window, just a bit, to hear the crickets and tree frogs sing.

I am not prone to being hermetically sealed indoors.

I’ll admit to having this blog post brewing for days now, but to being a bit tangled up inside my heart about ‘what to write’ and  ‘how to put it’ and ‘shouldn’t I just be painting?’, while none of these question/options seemed to fit.  The world, (this country specifically) is going mad of late and to respond off the cuff doesn’t seem enough.  To not respond is even worse.  And so, in typical slow-cooker fashion, I have been mulling it over.  And over.

I so admire the microwaves in our modern culture.  The JK Rowlings of the world who are so quick witted and can take down nay-saying haters in a heart beat with a single tweet.  Alas, I am not cut of that cloth.  I am a slower cooker, a crock-pot, one who stews.  Someone who mulls over things and then re-mulls again in the wee hours (this can be a tortuous prospect).  But eventually, I’ll occasionally put my two cents in if I feel strongly enough and many times, my commentary is late to the game.  But here it is anyway.

It’s been a week since the horrifying events in Charlottesville, Virginia and I am as heartbroken today as I was when they happened last week.  Unlike some of my fellow middle class white friends, these marches came as no surprise to me.  In fact, the election of President Trump came as no surprise to me either last fall. (I mean, c’mon, I live in Ohio). I may be a white girl, but I grew up a poor white girl, on food stamps, raised by closeted lesbians, and let’s face it, I can still smell trouble when it’s brewing.  Our country has been a proverbial tinder box for awhile now, possibly since the election of Barack Obama, and perhaps it was only a matter of time before the white rage hit the stage.

The thing about being an artist, writer, thinker, dreamer in this world is that, much of the time, we must hold two ways of being at the same time.  On the one hand, it is my job to rise above the fray and make stuff and think up stories and paint pictures and play tunes.  To bring joy.  On the other hand, it’s often the artist-writer-thinker-dreamer types who forge necessary change in the world.  How to navigate?

On the Book of Faces the other day, an old friend quipped, ‘a lot of self-righteousness here on FB, overflowing, wallowing in it.’  While I had not shared much over there regarding recent events (#slowcooker), he may have been right to a certain extent in that the quick shares just didn’t go deeply enough.  I decided to opt out of that platform for a few days and do some deeper digging into what thinkers and writers were saying elsewhere. Here is bit of what I came up with along the way:

At our local art museum, there is a work I have visited a few times and plan to see more before it goes away again called More Sweetly Played the Dance, by William Kentridge.

While this came together well before the events of recent weeks, I feel to witness this work of art is to begin to take on part of the narrative going on here in our own country (though it hails from South Africa, where racial narrative is fraught with peril as well, different though similar).  The work is brilliant, and beautiful and really difficult to sit with.  It involves many senses and asks many questions.  And if you are in the Cincinnati area, I recommend spending some time with it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted their guide to navigating these tumultuous times (see link above) and there is a lot of good information there.  We can all start somewhere.

In Boston today, I am seeing reports that a hundred white supremacists are on the march, but in opposition, are 15,000 counter-protestors.  This gives me great hope.

As someone who likes to operate in ‘woo-land’ a bit (you know, magic and metaphysics, fairies, crystals, etc.) I think there is still responsibility in the day to day lives we live in ‘normal’ time.  Layla Saad of Wild Mystic Woman over on Instagram posted a very powerful letter on her website, the first part of which can be found HERE.  (second part is forthcoming).

She asks hard questions and asks those of us in any place of privilege to really question our place in this world and how we came to it.  I think it’s brilliant and well worth reading.

I could go on.  I like to think the good outweighs the bad in this world but perhaps that is my privileged perspective.  I think we must be diligent never-the-less.  History has taught us that the bad can come barreling at us out of nowhere if we are not watchful.

In yoga class yesterday, we talked of stress.  I made a light-hearted comment that the news is stress enough.  A woman in class remarked that there are ‘many sides’ (many sides?? seriously??)  to the news these days and we can not always believe what we see and hear there.  She left rather abruptly.  I wonder if she was a Trump-supporter perhaps.  I only know that I don’t watch commentary.  I read articles from good publications.  I watch and listen (even though it sickens me) to the statements of this current administration.  I make my own thinking from there.

I also attempt to move beyond the News of Now and steep myself in broader, bigger thinking.  I’ve been reading books and articles by Martin Shaw  which I love.  There is a really good interview with him on a new-ish podcast called The Lumieres Podcast.

We must feed our minds with good sentences.

John O’Donohue is another thinker whose words resonate just now:

OUR POWER TO BLESS ONE ANOTHER

In the parched deserts of postmodernity a blessing can be like the discovery of a fresh well. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew. It is ironic that so often we continue to live like paupers though our inheritance of spirit is so vast. The quiet eternal that dwells in our souls is silent and subtle; in the activity of blessing it emerges to embrace and nurture us. Let us begin to learn how to bless one another. Whenever you give a blessing, a blessing returns to enfold you.

~John O’Donohue

And this from David Whyte:

VULNERABILITY

is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without; vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature; the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse to ask for the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusory privilege and perhaps the prime beautifully constructed conceit of being human and most especially of our being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.

~David Whyte

May we find ourselves vulnerable in these tumultuous times.

In coming days there is to be a great shadowing of our sun.  May we find secrets behind and within those shadows.

May we find ways of transforming the leaden weight of our current time into something more golden and worthwhile…….

I am preparing a fall show about which I am nervous and excited.  More on that soon.

Next summer is shaping up with a few announcements which shall come along soon.  Ginger Small is polishing her eclipse-wear and I hope to have a drawing to share with you tomorrow.

Wherever you are, keep your eyes on the stars and sky, but perhaps keep your hearts closer here to home, where we might all strive to make the world a better place.

Til next time……

 

 

 

Edge time (chaptered)

Chapter 1.  – seaside

Not two full days home from my blissful week of music in Swannanoa and I find myself flying east to my soul’s home in Maine to visit friends of auld.  These are friends who have known me longer than they haven’t, and I am blessed beyond the stars to have them in my life still.  As a family we are fragmented this year for what is usually our time of solidarity.  But this is how it is to be. One must follow his heart home for recovery after a Big Summer of Big Work;  another, I have secretly purchased a two day ticket up to join us for just a moment or two and fingers crossed it all works out as planned (it does).  And lastly, our anchor in all things fun, my hub Tony, does his best to come along for just a few days.  He is successful and we pack a lot into a couple of days time off.

We spend as much time as possible by the sea or in the sea.  Ferrying to our favorite places….

I like to sketch my fellow ferry passengers when I get bored.

….eating oceanic gifts of the odd lobster or oyster;  swimming, beach-combing the ever interesting, ever-changing wrack-line.

To me this is paradise and I collect a few little tid-bits to drag home to paint.

The coastline sets my heart all aflutter –  all I want to do is paint.  And yet I am restless and frustrated in a way I cannot name – torn between time with those I love and miss all year long, and my desire to make stuff.  I also find myself really missing the music I have only just the week prior been steeped in, more so than in other years.  Perhaps the music is sinking deeper into the pores after all?

Eventually, the paints do come out.  But it takes time.

And wandering.

I’ve been carefully breaking in these shoes since spring time and they now wear like slippers. Such a sturdy travel shoe, and one of a kind. You can get your pair at Kakaw Designs.

And keen observation.  But the art does come.  It starts slowly.

I was captivated by the limey green of this seaweed on the coast at Land’s End on the very tip of Bailey Island. Wonder if you can eat it?

In between boat-trips and cock-tailed laughter, oysters and teenaged catch-ups, we take some time to drive round the old haunts of our early days all together -when there was Peace in the land but our boys did their military duties, deploying too often for our liking, even when babies were due.  These are the things that can seal friendships for life.

In spite of hard winters and time apart, we remember our days in Maine with rich fondness.  It is one reason we come back each summer.

Chapter 2.  – to the lake side

Soon our seaside time was at an end and we were headed inland to a lovely lake house we’ve taken to commissioning for a week each summer.  It feels like home, all the while we discuss going full on ocean-time.

We are torn.  We love this place.

We love it’s moody skies and ever-changing weather patterning.

And the sunset views, which never disappoint, even on rainier evenings.

Note the loon family….. they were part of our world all week. Calling to one another, teaching the youngsters how to be loons on Long Pond. The kids gave them names. Parents Jose(Paco) and Marcia, and their kids, Judy and Lola.

Chapter 3 – romancing the stone

Before my family leaves, we take a little kayak jaunt across Long Pond to Beaver Brook where I am captivated by a stone divided into three parts by ancient ice and time and other such forces.  I vow to go back to sketch the place, as I have come with nothing but a hat and a paddle.

Soon enough, though surrounded with dear friends, I am left as the only Bogard on vacation which is a strange sensation.  Tony has been dubbed the Julie McCoy of the group, always corralling us all to gaming and cocktailing, water-sport contesting and the like and things are really, really quiet with-out him around.  This all plucks and strums strings of empty-nesting woes I don’t even think I was aware of until now.

I play it all out in the boat house on my flute.

I make it back over to the little cove where the Beaver Brook runs and the captivating stone resides.  I marvel at the language of light and shadow which I can barely translate.

I believe there is something here to translate.

And so I ask the stone to help me.

It’s a start.

I am not one for series usually, but I am called to paint and have been looking for a form I could play with, from painting to painting.  Not just the one-and-done sketch I usually go in for.  This stone is just the ticket and I am enjoying exploring it’s complexities.  There will be more, especially once I am home near the oils.  I have traveled lightly this trip.

Chapter 4 – critters large and small

One day I go for a run across the way on the Mountain Road.  A place I return to every year for it’s lake views through the trees, its lack of proximity to cars and traffic noise in general.  Along the road I find a sweet feather which is eventually identified as a low wing feather of a wild turkey after much back and forth discussion and postulation both online and with my compatriots back at the camp.  I even meet a lovely older gentleman along the road who thinks it could be eagle, though my guess is owl.  I am not disappointed with turkey, as they are wonderous to behold in the wild.

I set out to sketch this lovely gift before I must leave it behind here where I found it.  Sometimes I keep feathers, but this one shall stay.

I appreciate it getting my paint brush filled and setting me to painting, as it comes to me before the stone paintings begin.

This day’s run is truly fruitful as I also spy some horses through the edges of the woods and I stop to capture them with my phone-camera (the only camera I brought this year as I am traveling light.  Still not sure about this decision.)

The horses pay me no mind and I think about the wild ponies some artists I follow online are fortunate enough to have in their lives as they go about their daily wanderings.   I wonder what I need to do to have more woodland walking right outside my door, more ponies to spy on through the edges of the hedges.  This is a constant wondering, as always.

Most times we wander down to the water from our little house here, we are treated to the antics of a local loon family who have some still young but near adult fledglings along with them.  I borrow Amy’s proper camera with a decent telephoto lens to capture them up close for this post.

Pretty sure this is the mama, Marcia
Judy and Lola are never far from her. And she works hard to keep them fed. a mama’s work is never done.

They are absolutely captivating as they call to one another, throughout the days and nights.  This is the soundtrack to my dreaming and I am glad of it.

I am indeed glad of dreaming in general as there has been some wakefulness in the household in recent days.  A wee mouse has gotten a bit too friendly, joining my friends in bed night before last, which gave them a start indeed.  Last night, as lights are out, I hear a rustling and sure enough, wee mouse (we hope it’s the same) is in a paper bag into which I have stashed my knitting and a few varieties of tea I like to bring on my travels.  This leads me to believe he is a country mouse indeed (I mean, tea and knitting, come on.)  and he is escorted out of doors by our brave knight in PJ’d armor.  No harm no foul, but we hope the lil thing stays outside for the remainder of our time here.  I calm my late night nerves with a bit of bourbon and sleep fitfully from there.

Chapter 4 – where to from here

I write this missive in present tense, a style I see on occasion over at one of my favorite follows, These Isles.  I have no idea if it works or not for others, but for me, today, right now, it works.  This writing style allows me to step outside of a linear path of  ‘what happened when’ and to step into the concept of the Traveling Now.  The Traveling Now is not unfamiliar to quantum theorists, though this name for it is from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  I find more and more that the order of things matters not.  What matters is that we are present in it.  Now.

On what might be the calmest evening left in the week, I wander alone down to the waterside for a quick swim in the moonlight alone under the stars.  If you’ve never skinny-dipped for whatever reason is holding you back, it is something I hope you do at some point in your life time.

I arrive back up stairs, sobered and refreshed (pre-country mouse adventure) and I find this by John O’Donohue (one of my all time favorite go-to writers):

THE CALL TO LIVE EVERYTHING

One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside in their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts. We should never forget that death is waiting for us. A man in Connemara said one time to a friend of mine, ‘Beidh muid sínte siar,’ a duirt sé, ‘cúig mhilliúin blain déag faoin chré’ – We’ll be lying down in the earth for about fifteen million years, and we have a short exposure. I feel that when you recognize that death is on its way, it is a great liberation, because it means that you can in some way feel the call to live everything that is within you. One of the greatest sins is the unlived life, not to allow yourself to become chief executive of the project you call your life, to have a reverence always for the immensity that is inside of you.

John O’Donohue

I like to think that even something as simple as going to the lake side for a moonlight swim in nothing but my birthday suit is one small way to ‘live everything’.

Tomorrow we leave this place.  As we do, we know nothing of the year to come.  The third of the four kids who do this magical week with us each year (our two went first, now theirs) is off to college in just a matter of weeks.  I do not know what the end of summer into fall-winter and beyond hold.  I have some ideas of things I’d like to set into motion, which I will do.  But for now, I read things that make my head and heart spin on its very axis,  I make plans for an upcoming show that has me thrilled and terrified in equal measure.  I continue to answer the (also terrifying though I do not know why) irresistible call to paint in ways I have not yet done.  I show up.

This summer has been a gift beyond imagining and I am grateful for it.  Each year I grow and make and play in the hopes I can bring that home to my friends and family and to my students along the way.  It is a gift, and I do not take it lightly.

 

 

A week in a minor key

 

One of the small things I love most about Maine is that in the 70’s billboards were outlawed. There is nothing but green and granite to contemplate when on the roads. It’s so part of the charm of this place and I wish it were in my day to day.

I write this to you from my soul-home in Maine where I can smell the ocean on the air upon wakening.  I await those in my little family who can make it up here for even a day or two in the coming weeks and miss those not joining us this year.  But while I fully sink into life back here where it feels so very familiar, I’ll admit that part of my heart is still under the enchantment of a week of music, magic and mayhem that is the Swannanoa Gathering.  You will know that in year’s past there were much shenanigans (and one year even a wedding!!) amidst the musical goings on.  This year, it seems that while we had an immense amount of belly laughter and all around craic, the music itself took front and center.

The trip down to Swannanoa this year began, blanketed by a low hum  in my heart- consisting of worries Big and small, varying in proximity to me personally.  Some closer to home, some via merely a glance at any news, at any time.  It seems that the world-at-large continues to fly a bit close to the sun, cosmically speaking, and I don’t feel like I am the only one sensing it.  Everyone I know seems to be feeling chaotic and a bit frenetic.  These summers of mine,  so gypsy-like from the outside-looking-in, are my way of assimilating the year past, and of lighting a way forward as the arc of each year moves on into the darker months ahead, to fall and winter.  They are a necessary re-set button and I am glad of it.

My week of workshops in North Carolina last week (was it really just last week?) began Monday morning with classes with the fabulous flute-player and singer, Nuala Kennedy.  You might remember her from her beautiful Behave the Bravest, for which I made the album art.

It was so wonderful to be sitting back again in music class learning a few new tunes.  I have let my Riley School doings fall aside of late as I work to build my art and workshop-offering practice and I have missed it dearly.  Nuala always teaches interesting tunes that strum the heart’s harp-strings and this year was no different.  The first three tunes we learned – a march, a strathspey and a reel were all in the key of B minor.

Now I am no musical theory geek but I know enough to know that the minorish keys tend to be a bit more moody and pensive.  For me at least, this key fit the mood of the early part of the week and we gobbled the beauty of them up in class and in our flutilla-led rehearsal time which we kept each day between classes, open to any of our classmates who could make it.  It is here we made some new friends, which is a bonus each year.

Some days in Nuala’s class we had a special guest, for whom we played a gentle version of our March.

Surely Wee Lochlann is soaking up every note. He’ll be playing circles ’round us in no time, I’m sure of it.

…or who graciously took our class photo.

Thank you Julie Adams for sending this along!

Between classes we practiced more, occasionally napped or snuck in a shower- as camp life can make for late nights and sweaty days.  And by afternoons we found ourselves in the presence of the one and only Kevin Crawford who keeps us on our toes and usually laughing a good bit too throughout the week.

Here Kevin expresses to us that he hopes at least a bit of the tips and tricks of the trade he teaches us will be something we take home and apply to the tunes we already play. Always a challenge. Challenge accepted.

Kevin hears every note.  Good or bad.  Especially if he sits right down in front of you….

And as if the flute weren’t difficult enough, he’s taken to trading instruments with his bandmate Colin Farrell and playing a jig now and again just to get a laugh from his class.  If you are not a musician, you might not realize how hard this is.  These guys make it look simple.

The week wore on and little by little, the key of things changed a bit.  We came fully under the spell of music and the people who make it and there were moments of magic to behold along the way.

One evening a few of the staff snuck away to one of my favorite corners in which to play, the Kittredge breezeway, and had a bit of a session.  Here is just a snippet….

It’s amazing when this happens.  The staff at Swannanoa give their all to this week between teaching and hosting other goings-on, but much like us, sometimes they might simply want to run off and have a tune with old friends.  Sometimes these are situations we students might join in if invited, other times, it’s nice to just sit back and listen awhile.  And so I did.

Yes, that is Grainne Hambly, John Carty and Martin Hayes. Royalty in the Irish music world, really and all around great folks indeed.

This little session was a perfect blend of tunes and song.  All of these artists listening to one another along the way.

Eamon O’Leary and Cathy Jordan take in the tunes along the way.

There was even a bit of step dancing by dance instructor Siobhan Butler to add to the magic of the evening.

Our week at Swannie always seems to fly by but this year it seemed exceptionally quick-paced.  One day it was Monday with the whole week ahead of us, then suddenly, just like that, it was Friday.  But as I look back, there were at least a few shenanigans along the way….

There was a ceili to attend on Tuesday.

And I was sure to catch up with my new flute friend Julie so we could snap a picture of our matching flutilla swag!!

There were late night sessions with loved ones from near and far, and we enjoyed music and many many laughs.

We talked of the importance of being silly together. Why must we be so serious all the time? The world is serious enough as it is. Let us laugh together more often, yes??

By day the skies might open and deliver thunderous rains on occasion, but always the clouds parted, and the sun did shine once more, as it goes in these misty mountains.

Each day we packed in as much music as we could, learning from our teachers.  It was fun to approach tunes we may have heard on recordings and to listen to the nuanced differences in how each player approaches each tune along the way.   The goal is, after all, to take this music into our hearts and make it our own somehow.

Here we were listening to Paddy Keenan play Condon’s Frolics from the album Poirt An Phíobaire. I love how delighted Kevin is when listening to one of his old favorites. He passes this delight on to us along the way. Thank you Kevin!

Many evenings saw us attending concerts where we could watch our instructors do what they do best, which is perform.  These folks are the best at what they do and it’s a true treat to hear them live.  Especially when they gather together and make music perhaps never heard before.

The flutilla force is strong here. For the record, the bodhran player shown here, Matt Olwell, is also an amazing flute player himself. Maybe next year we will add a couple more flutes to this routine….

When our days weren’t too full, and we weren’t too tired, we attended what are called ‘pot-lucks’ where some of the staff shared a topic of their choosing for an hour or so.  I attended one by Cathy Jordan called The Happy Subject of Death.  She and some of her fellow instructors sang murder ballads and other dark songs and there were many tears and a good bit of macabre laughter as well.  This all felt in keeping with the minor key of the week for me and I loved it.  I also attended a chat by Martin Hayes, sometimes referred to as the Buddha of Irish music.  We talked about why we play music.  Some folks look to perform perhaps, others might just want to play along with a recording by themselves or sit in the kitchen over a cuppa having tunes with friends.  There is no wrong way.  But the biggest goal for him, and I must say, for me, is to play with real Joy.

I read this week somewhere that on CNN, someone was quoted as saying,

“Joy is active resistance.”

I believe this to be true and I am holding on to it with all my strength and fortitude.  What else do we have?  It is this joy in the making – of music, of art, of laughter – which gives us the strength to do the hard things along the way in this crazy world.  At least this is how I feel.

As I have stated, Friday came along on the heels of Monday far too quickly for our liking, and suddenly we were rehearsing for the student showcase.  The showcase is a fun evening where we get to play a few new tunes together as a class to our fellow ‘gatherers’ and to hear the work of the other classes as well.

It was a steamy, North Carolina style evening and though we were all feeling sticky, we gathered down at the pavilion for the showcase. The photos that follow are some captures by photographer Tom Crockett who’s brother Tim was in class with us.  He hiked and took pictures out in the mountains most of the week but attended the showcase on Friday and snapped a few photos of the Flutilla. I share them here with you by permission.

In between acts, we shared stories and laughter. Ellen and I have shared so much over these long years at Swannie, we have decided we simply must get together more often. Let the wild rumpus begin, I say!!
Here is Kevin’s flute class playing a set-dance into a Jig. The air was so humid, I am surprised we could even play!
Kevin is one of three of my musical mentors in the flute department. He, and my dear friend Ellen Redman here, have changed and enriched my little life for the better. I am beyond grateful for their teaching and their friendship over the years.
This is a rare capture of myself with my flute instructor John Skelton, whom I work with back in Cincinnati when I can at the Riley School of Irish Music. He too has changed and enriched my life for the better through music and a lot of laughter.
This week Nuala Kennedy taught us a couple of interesting reels and we added some harmonies. This is another week where I learned how to use one of the keys on my flute. Nuala is a brilliant teacher.
How did I get so fortunate to have such amazing, caring teachers to work with???

(Thank you so much Tom for the gorgeous photos!  They are truly treasured.)

And now here we are.  Back in Maine once again, soaking up a bit of the seaside and lake time which we will draw upon time and again in the year ahead.  These weeks of art and music, friendship and fellowship, always set me to thinking about things in a deep way.  They remind me to practice what makes my heart sing.  To play my flute, no matter how clumsy it might feel when not backed up by my flutilla.  To push a paint brush around even when I don’t know where it’s going.

To remember to head out into nature more often, as She is the real conductor of things.

And most importantly, to trust my inner knowing along the way.  A lesson I am trying so hard to take more and more on board.

I love the little boat called Intuition.

If you are reading this and attended the Swannanoa Gathering’s Celtic Week, do leave a comment with your favorite moment(s) of the week.  I’d love to read them!

Til next time….

Sometimes, I day dream of tunes in the pavilion, to the rhythm of tree frogs singing.
If you’re even remotely curious about Irish music, this is a fantastic read

Breathlessness and Brilliance

A few days ago we flew and flew, with great love in our hearts, only to find ourselves in Breckenridge, Colorado – breathless with altitude and not without some concern over recent local wildfires.

Alas, while we were there storms did kick up, rain did fall and temperatures too, just enough to get at least this fire under some semblance of smoldered control.

Our travels to this high country were to visit our eldest, Jack, as he is working with the National Repertory Orchestra for their popular summer symphonic festival of music.  Each day we were able to attend their rehearsals which are free and open to the public, many of whom attend with friends in tow.

In a whirlwind of just a few days we managed to take in not only these rehearsals but two fabulous concerts.  The first included Shostakovich’s Fifth along with music by Mendelssohn and López.  We enjoyed it immensely!

Warming up just before the show!

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  ~Plato

When not taking in music we enjoyed a bit of what Breckenridge has to offer in the way of touristy fun.

While the Hub worked one day, I opted to go horseback riding.

I’m not entirely comfortable around horses but each day we should do a little something challenging.  And so I did.

What is it about horse-loving girls.  They tend to have a spot of admirable moxie I think.

Between rehearsals and concerts and everything else, we did get to see and feed Jack.  And to catch up on selfie shenanigans, which was great fun.

I’m not one for selfies in general but sometimes one can’t resist the temptation for silliness.

We even managed to get in some sketching here and there……

My favorite is this sketch below from our drive up Boreas Pass where I was captivated by some yellow lichen on the side of the mountain.  And so I painted it.

The views from up there weren’t half-bad either.

Saturday soon arrived and by then we were feeling a bit more acclimatized to the altitude.

 

 

 

 

I did wonder how the wind players were faring with the altitude, but apparently they have über efficient embouchures and were therefore all right. The poor reed players on the other hand were carving new reeds for themselves day to day due to the intense dryness of the climate. I marvel.

Saturday was to be a special day all around because a dear and long time friend who now lives in Denver was to drive up for that evening’s concert featuring the music of Star Wars composed by John Williams.

 

We watched a bit of rehearsal, of course, getting in the mood for the evening’s Star Wars excitement.

Royalty was in attendance that night and the mood was light and energetic.

(side note, the first few notes of this bit of Star Wars music once conjured a whole slew of summer camp shenanigans as we were learning this Breton tune below from our beloved and brilliant flute instructor, Nuala Kennedy.  See if you can hear what I heard….)

The evening’s concert ended with an encore presentation of the wonderful and iconic Cantina piece, with a solo by none-other than the NRO’s brilliant conductor, Carl Topilow.

More selfie shenanigans.

Even though he must’ve been exhausted, Jack graciously posed for photos with us, as well as with our long-time friend Amy from Denver and his amazing ‘host-parents’, Tom and Darlena.

Tom and Darlena graciously sponsor a musician or two or three each summer.  Taking them on wonderful hikes on their days off, and out for iced cream after concerts.  (Not to mention the backing they provide to the NRO itself!)  Even though Jack is a fully-fledged adult, it’s nice as a parent to know he has parental influences to call upon should he need them.  We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner out all together before the concert.

I’m told the NRO is the only summer festival that provides a host-family experience for the musicians. It really helps them feel at home and part of the community for the summer.
Soon it was time for ice-cream….

 

As it goes with whirlwind weekends, our time in the mountains was quickly past.  We bid goodbye to Amy who headed back down the mountain to her life in Denver.  We told Jack we would meet him in his birthplace of Maine in just a matter of weeks.  We too made our way back to Denver, not unaware of the toll the altitude was taking.

I for one was ready to get back to some oxygenated air, although a bit muggy as things tend to be back here.

There is more to come in this summer of wonders.  I find myself marveling at it all lately.  Dear friendships, these amazing adult offspring of ours (do click the link and see what Madeleine has been writing about in recent months) and the places we get to see along the way.  Some days the world feels as if it is going to hell in a handbasket.  But it’s good to step aside from that, if we are fortunate enough to be able to do so, and to bask in the brilliance of a host of talented and driven young musicians.  In their small way they are making the world a much better place.  We are thrilled Jack has has a part in it this summer!

As for me, I am attending to household to-do’s and re-packing for next week’s adventures down to an older set of mountains for some older sets of tunes.  Til next time….

 

 

 

Still point between journeys

Found a fortune in my backpack upon return from NM. It was from a take out meal I had in my hotel room at the Super 8, wrecked from heat exhaustion after exploring the Chaco Canyon area. It reads ‘a much needed vacation will allow you to unwind.’ Perhaps this is true.

Seems I have only been home for a day or two from New Mexico, but alas, it’s been far longer.  Long enough to get dragged back into the day-to-day, with day-job-work to attend to, family to connect with,  but I find myself on the eve of my favorite part of the season.  That part of the year in which I take ‘off’ from work, and yet, from which often my deepest idea-gatherings and thought-craftings dwell.  It seems a bit upside-down, doesn’t it?

Tomorrow before dawn we fly to visit our first born who is spending a magical summer out in Colorado on a musical fellowship.  I am excited to get back to a mountainous climate and to see our kid with my own eyes to make sure he’s all good.  4 years of conservatory can take it out of a fella and I’m his mama.   Enough said, I suppose.  This is not a usual jaunt for us in summer and it feels quite decadent.  We are excited and debating what to pack….

If time and inspiration allow, I will share some of our Rocky Mountain adventure here on the blog, but closely following this quick trip is my annual trek down the rabbit hole/ off to Brigadoon that is the Swannanoa Gathering.  Every year this week of music is exactly what it needs to be.  I’m out of practice but excited to see old friends and make new ones.  All of us sharing a love of Irish Music.  So we shall see, and I place no pressure on myself.

This last trek to Taos has me all shifted inside.  Not as game on the pressures that make me ‘work’.  Allowing things just to be instead of pushing them along.

“You can’t push the river.” ~Eunice Proust (via Terry Pratchett)

Just allowing.

Today, this allowing comes in the form of a cup of tea and some knitting to sit with this afternoon under a clouded-gray sky.  Seems like a total waste of time and yet, here I am.

I came across an amazing Rilke quote over on twitter the other day and I think it sums up my life’s work beautifully…

“I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.”  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Amen.

The other day I did some painting – finally – and it felt really good.  And now I am left with a small pile of not-good paintings lying around.  I find it really fascinating that the visual arts are such that our practicing leaves visible evidence in the world.  Often evidence we might not want others to see or share.  This isn’t the case in most other art forms.  When I practice tunes on my flute, I play them, maybe get a little better at playing the tune and move on – with no slime trail left behind.  This is something we visual artists must grapple with.  Even Georgia O’Keeffe had stretcher frames in her workshop off of which she had sliced undesirable paintings to be recycled or destroyed.  I love her moxie.

And, !ya esta!.  Sharing a cup of tea, and a quote that has me thinking big thoughts in the course of this, the latest of my gypsy summers.  I love being on the road.  It causes me to question everything and then to return home with eyes wide open to the beauty of it all and my gratitude for both the journey and the coming home.

 

 

New Mexico Portals

You have traveled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come, to take you back.

 

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

 

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

 

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of color

That fostered the brightness of day.

 

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until it’s calmness can claim you.”

~John O’Donohue

 

My yearly pilgrimage to the Land of Enchantment began with a few days of solo travel, enabling my body and soul to sink back into this place.  The last year has been a challenging one in many ways, not without its bright spots as well, and I had been craving time and space to sit with the everything of all of it.  New Mexico has a way of giving us what we need.

I drove and drove, many long, mindless miles, embracing the quietude that comes with such spacious landscape.

Chaco Canyon is a vast and far-flung destination but worth the effort it takes to get there.  With a near full moon upon us, the regularly scheduled star gazing tour provided by the National Park Service, instead became an evening walk amongst the ghosts of this strange land.  Haunted and beautiful, indeed.

By the time I made my way to a charming little Super 8 in Bloomfield, NM that night, I had been up for 22 straight hours and slept, dreamless.

I found Chaco to be a mixed bag of ancient history, natural splendor and cognitive dissonance.  On the one hand, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit and experience this Unesco World Heritage site, and to the NPS for their careful and respectful stewardship.  And yet, more than one ranger remarked that native people in New Mexico and beyond have stated that these places are meant to fade back into the ground after they have served their purpose – all of their great mysteries, feats of architectural engineering and ghostly human stories lost to the sands of time.

I left Chaco a bit conflicted about it all yet enchanted all the same with wonderings about what sorts of people lived or worshipped here and what we might have in common.  It was so good to be out in the wide open spaces of New Mexico with the vistas both outward and inward it provides to a tired soul.  Grateful for my solitude and art supplies, I soaked it all up.

Then, just like that, it was time to head to O’Keeffe country….

I was fortunate enough to snag a ticket to a “Special Tour” of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio led by a personal caretaker of Georgia’s and her brother, who worked the gardens in her later years.  This tour worked magically into my schedule for traveling to Taos to teach the following week and so I invested in it.

There is such serenity to O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home.  Her aesthetic was modern yet earthy – timeless, really.  No photos were permitted of her indoor spaces but I was captivated by the light, the serene colors, and the fact that she too kept jade, aloe and other such plants that many of us keep in our own homes.  She collected stones and bones and other things she found beautiful and surrounded herself with them.  Knowing this about her and seeing these collections in her home and just outside felt very personal, artist to artist.

I was captivated by the sense of this place.

Eventually, upon arrival back home here in Ohio, I chuckled to see that my own hollyhocks had bloomed while I was away, and I was welcomed by my own ghostly skull….

I’ll admit to geeking out a bit while in the home and gardens of this iconic artist.  I stood in the very doorway Georgia herself had found compelling enough to paint again and again, exploring its shape and form and depth.

Photo of me, captured by a kind stranger and fellow tour goer.

It was like standing in a portal of history.  And I have always been a lover of doorways to other worlds.

These few days could have been ‘enough’ to fill this empty artist’s cup and set me to painting once again.  But alas, I had not come to New Mexico for the making of my own work.  I was here to teach.

Taos has become my home away from home in the years I have spent teaching there.  Much like Georgia O’Keeffe herself, the lure of New Mexico brings me back time and again, every summer, and each year I discover more captivating beauty and I continue to build community as well.  Mabel’s family has grown and changed with the newly employed and the newly born, yet Mabel herself is still in charge of the place and I was welcomed home with open arms.

photo credit – Christine Kuhr

I took to getting settled, washing the dust of the road off in my familiar claw foot tub in Tony’s bathroom upstairs, and unpacking all of my boxes of books and supplies – readying the classroom space for a week ahead of work and wonder.

By day I worked and by evening I caught up with dear friends.  It had been a year since my last visit and that is far too long.  I was caught up on the latest dog walking paths, and introduced to new dirt roads and rushing riverbeds. I held a new Little Bird and gleaned a small smile from her.  I was told with a wink and a smile that if we only found a little slice of land, that we too could build a small adobe space of our own near town, and that I’d have all the help I’d need for this handmade home.   I’ll admit I am tempted.

This is from our final night together, minus one who had to leave us early. The joy in this photo emanated from this amazing group of people from the moment they met one another.

Soon the beautiful people attending my workshop arrived, some new to me, others who’ve been before and return home to Mabel’s to renew their contract with what has become sacred work.  I no longer question this truth -that what I do in these workshops is indeed a sacred kind of work.

Journal page with a telling horoscope for the week’s work, by Rosemary Berwald

What started out, for me at least, as a way to get to know the world and to slow down and take it all in with the wonder that befits it, has become an intense practice of creative mindfulness.  On the one hand, I’m introducing and sprucing up the old lessons of composition and perspective, line quality and color theory.  And yet, on a much deeper, richer level of the soul, I am working with people to disengage their inner critic (just give her a cookie and a window to sit by, she’s been hard at work and deserves a break, don’t you think?), to tap into their birthright of creativity and the act of making something which makes a heart sing.

Journal page by Christine Kuhr. ‘Light in the darkness’ study and caricature of Mabel etc.
Sketch by Marty Regan of ‘The Pink House’ at Mabel’s place
Journal page of ‘Light in the Darkness’ study exercise and quotes from the workshop time by Jan Reyes.
A collection of ‘tinies’ by Connie Ware – in which we play with the scale of our drawings to get out of our own way. Connie was a self-described ‘beginner’ at the start of the workshop. Beautiful work!!!

Occasionally, we worked in our books from memory, such as when attending a sacred Corn Dance at the Pueblo and we must only capture images in our mind’s eye.  I will note here that all of the images below are now in the private sketchbooks of these artists, as records of the day’s experiences.  Very different than taking a photograph, which is prohibited on feast days.  We have a deep respect and regard for this notion.

A lovely page spread by Mary Lynn Munro, based on a visit to the Taos Pueblo.
Jo Diamantes created her very own book for this trip which now holds these wonderful studies of the corn dancers. Impressions in memory, evocative of the actual experience.
Barbara George (Our B.J.!) was the first to embark on corn dancer studies, even before we did a ‘how to draw people’ exercise. I think these are just lovely expressions of the colors and gestures we saw that day.

But mostly, we studied from what we had in front of us there and then.  The Mabel Dodge Luhan House has much to offer in the way of beauty and things to pull into our sketchbooks and so we did.

photo credit – Rosemary Berwald

Photo Credit – Christine Kuhr
We even took some time one morning to sketch miss Little Bird and her sweet toes.

We discussed how to capture that sense of ‘hither, thither and yon’ which beautiful landscapes provide us with.  Otherwise known as ‘atmospheric perspective’.

photo credit Christine Kuhr
We also discovered how to make a believable rendering of rusty surfaces. Perfect for the odd Taos truck or rusty, steel sculptures.

We worked and played each day, sometimes into the night.  I was a bit manic with the magic of it all to be honest.

Photo credit Sally Hickerson

But I love this work and the people who are drawn to it.  I had to milk the time there for all it gave to me!  I even found time to settle in to a tune or two with the local session players who welcome me every visit ever so graciously.  For this I am deeply grateful.

As the week went on we sketched and laughed and drew and painted and ate good food.  We were treated once more to a visit to my friend Harold’s herd of buffalo which everyone enjoyed.  There was a morning visit, and an evening time as well, as the buffalo are shy and do not accept great throngs of visitors.  Small groups met Harold at his ranch home where we caught up with him and the herd.  Grateful for the grace of these magnificent creatures and that of their farmer/steward.

We were fortunate to see a few baby buffalos on our visit!

photo credit Christine Kuhr
We are welcomed back by Harold and his family year after year with hugs and a catching up of the year passed.
What a gift this friendship has become to me and to the folks to come along to my workshop.

Too soon, as always happens, it was that time.

Photo by Mary Lynn Munro

Time to toast to a week of work well done.  With dinner created for us by chef Jeremiah Buchanan whom we collectively adored!

Photo by Ryobun McCormick (find him on instagram @dragonswisdom)

We shared our books around and traded addresses and gifts such as a wee concert by Marty Regan who is a musician by trade.

It was time to pack up the classroom and mail home my supplies.  I was grateful for the help and company of a few students who stayed around for an extra day to assimilate all we had learned together.

And it was time to visit a few more places before we had to leave this Land of Enchantment.  Like the breezy hillsides of the DH Lawrence ranch.

These guys really liked the vegetables we brought for them to eat.
I enjoy just sitting under this tree and watching the sunlight play and hearing the wind whisper through its branches.

I needed to take the time to sit by the river at the Pueblo and promise that I would come back.  To memorize the sound of its waters which have come to me in dreamtime at times.

Time to ponder moody skies which seemed to beckon “Come back and paint, quietly.”

On my final evening in town, with all of my company scattered to the Four Directions, the skies opened up with the great gift of a thunderstorm. This brief storm was filled with ethereal pink light that I longed to paint somehow.

A friend of mine asked me the other day during our very ‘middle-age-appropriate’ discussion of “What Are We Doing With Our Lives” if I didn’t think that being a good teacher might be Enough.  I had been filling her in on the Taos trip and what a deep success I felt it had been all around.  I was telling her how enriching it is to teach something successfully, but that I have been struggling to make the switch back over to being a maker-of-things.  More specifically, a painter and maker of pictured-stories for small humans.  I feel blocked creatively, as if in all of the beauty found in the creativity of others, my own quiet artist self has taken to the hills.  I am seeking to woo her back home to roost.  I love being a teacher.  And I am so excited that my spring trip to Guatemala next year is already sold out and that next year’s Taos trip already has some takers (and I haven’t even listed it yet!!).  But I long to paint.  And write.  And draw.  And I must trust this longing, even as I pursue my work in these amazing workshops.  And so, no.  I don’t think it is enough.

I think part of this perceived block is just my inner-processing of what was a stupendously amazing trip back to a place which I love dearly and work which excites and challenges me.  A painter friend of mine reminded me to be gentle with myself.  That teaching takes a lot out of an introvert.  That making the switch back to quietude takes time.  And so I have been being gentle.  I have been holding off making this post about it all because in some way, to write about Taos time is to shut a lid on it until next time.  Buttoning that space up so that I don’t lose track of it between now and next year.  I hope to get back for a visit between now and then if I can.   Perhaps even for a workshop with Solange Leboucher who is a practitioner of Polarity Therapy which I have come to lean on as a tool of the soul when I teach out there.

I don’t know.  I do know that if feels good to get back here on this old writing space and share some photos and to attempt to convey in some small way the gratitude that I have for the work that I do.  I marvel at the scope of it sometimes, even as I ask more of it.

Til, next time….. enjoy this summer’s travels no matter where you go.

ps.

I met Taos based poet and Rumi translator Daniel Ladinsky while out with the girls. This is on his business card, which I love. Because I believe it to be true.

pps.  And these words, from Millicent Rogers…..

“Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly, passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the Sun on my Surface and the rain.  I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon, under me, rivers ran.  And against me were the tides.  The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me.  And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural – that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of everyday and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone.  And all fear went out of me – with a great, good stillness and strength.”

A story of Petrushka

It all began with a request, from my first born, to create a special gift for his long time university level private-lesson teacher/ coach / mentor, Paul Patterson.   If anyone could understand our complex and multifaceted young musician, and light a path ahead for him through the throes of life in a conservatory setting, Paul has been that person.   He enabled Jack to see that there was no need to choose one musical path over any others – that to study jazz music was not to abandon the classical tradition.  This forked path is not for every musician, and it takes a great deal of extra work, but over the years, with the help of some other amazing instructors as well, Paul has quietly given our Jack many tools to follow his musical nose down whichever path that may lead.

Words simply cannot convey how grateful we are to Paul for his patience, his belief in this kid, and for truly shaping a young life in a way none of us thought possible.  Maybe in some ways, he even saved that young life and placed it on a more hopeful and focused path when he needed it most.

I had in mind perhaps a painting, of a master and his young student. Or perhaps a handmade book.  In typical fashion I thought and thought but was dragging my proverbial heels, artistically speaking, as Jack’s end-of-conservatory recital drew nearer.

Finally, Jack came up with a brilliant, though rather lofty, idea for a gift.  The kind of gift which might suit a teacher who has everything he may want or need.  What if I were to create a small puppet-styled doll, in the shape of Stravinsky’s famed Petrushka ballet?

And so I sourced some scrap wood from a carver friend, and set to experimenting.

This red cedar is incredibly beautiful, but difficult to carve in the time scope we had (and with my ever-so-rusty carving skills!).  So I fell back on some basswood I had up in our attic space which is softer to work with.

After a number of practice runs and false starts, I finally had a serviceable head with which to build Petrushka’s figure and so I set to work on the rest of the body.

I carved and carved.

Shaping things out of little blocks of wood and slowly bringing character and a bit of life to them.

I’ve worked with puppets in the past, most notably with the brilliant Frisch Marionette Company.  But my work there mostly centered on the performance aspect of puppetry, not necessarily the building of them.

And so my goal with this particular work was not a proper puppet necessarily, poised and balanced for nuance of movement, but rather a doll, with puppet tendencies, to be presented as an artful gift.

Soon I had pieces of this puppet-doll put together and able to move hither and thither in his own way.

To me, a representation of anything, be it animal, person, or puppet character, doesn’t really come to life (two-dimensionally or three) until the eyes have been gifted the spark of personality.

Creepy as this may look to those averse to clown-styled imagery, it was upon painting this Petrushka’s face that the personality of this tragic ballet-theater character truly fell into being.

Soon I was crafting a little outfit for him, all handmade, as proper gifts often are.

After awhile he was complete, except for the semblance of strings to give him the feel of a proper puppet, if not necessarily the movement of one.

This Petrushka is full of quirky personality, much like our Jack, and much like his amazing mentor, Paul himself.

It’s been a great joy to put time and energy into this project, even if it meant getting behind in and left behind by a few others.

This Petrushka’s workings are a tad on the clumsy side…

 

But he is a lovely sculptural gift for some one who loves music.  Someone who has himself, done much to sculpt the abilities, thinking and sensibilities of our young musician.  Things we as parents can’t always do.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I firmly believe in the truth of this and I take pride in the other adults we’ve invited into our lives over the years to help us in raising ours.  We are deeply indebted to all of them, and this trend continues into the young adulthood of both of our kids.  All that said, Paul Patterson is exceptionally close to our hearts for all the hours he has spent shaping and carving out the musical life of Jack.  We often ran into him at gigs Jack had, even outside of University life.  He always had much to report on all of the hard work Jack was putting into his music, and how we might best support him in our own, non-musical ways.  We can’t thank him enough!

Paul, this one is for you.  With love and gratitude.

Allies

It’s the time of year when everything feels a bit frenetic.  The garden is growing by leaps and bounds.  I’m finding it hard to decide where to place my efforts – weed out more of those plants choking out their neighbors? Thin the greens under my new apple trees?  It’s truly a game of whack-a-mole in many ways.  And the garden isn’t the only place.

There is simply So Much Going On.  But I am reminded that this is how spring goes around here.  I have many details to attend to with regard to the Taos trip which is mere weeks away.  And always I find myself feeling behind there.  That sense of not enough time to get it all tended to.  I have one kid just recently graduated from University and about to spend the summer at a music fellowship out of state.  His worldly possessions must get from his place to ours somehow in the coming weeks. The other kid is over seas in Africa working this month (you can read about her adventures here.)  So there is the quiet noise of worry in the back of my mind.  But if I am to be honest, it’s not as great as one might think.  No more worry really than when she is just up the road at school.  This is good.

There does come a time when they outgrow the nest and must forge their own paths.  I am grateful for it.

In spite of all the goings on, with my art work, the family, our green space, I opted again this spring to take one more thing on board.  Last year at this time it was a 6 week oil painting class focusing on portraiture.  Because painting faces is scary and I wanted to learn about it and challenge myself.  I wanted to be the beginner, the non-expert, uncomfortable, making bad art – before I go out to Taos and challenge my own students to do the same.

I remember last spring feeling much the same during the arc of that painting course as I do now.  That I had taken on too much.  That I wasn’t very good at all this.  That I wasn’t enough.  It is good for the ego to sit with these feelings every so often, just so we don’t get to feeling too smug.  And so I keep tackling new challenges where I can. This spring’s challenge has come in the form of a class called Intuitive Plant Medicine.  I am only a week and a half in and already feeling overwhelmed by all of the new things to learn and consider.

I know just enough to be dangerous in the garden.  I have a green thumb by nature, actually talk to plants, believe in fairies – the works.  But I am no herbalist.  I am not a scientist prone to the Latin naming of things.  I appreciate a good metaphor and enjoy delving into the edges and hedges of things.  And lately, the edges have been those found here on our little green space.  And so I took this class, knowing I’d be flying a little close to the sun with it butting directly up to my time in Taos.

As a class we gather virtually in a wonderful online community forum, rich with beauty, and so lovingly stewarded and curated by our instructor, Asia Suler, of One Willow Apothecaries.  I find such comfort in the vulnerability and openness of my fellow classmates.  Some of them are already quite knowledgeable in the realm of plants and medicines and the like.  While others of us are new to this side of things.  For a few of us, the gorgeous onslaught of so much information has been a bit overwhelming, as written in this lovely blog post by a fellow plant intuitive.  We are learning not only the ‘woo’ side of plants, but also a lot of the nuts and bolts of basic botany.  We are being guided to find plant allies which both physically and metaphorically may have a thing or two to teach us.

For me, I had one before the class even began.  I had read Mary Reynolds’ lovely book Garden Awakening over the winter and had been spending a fair amount of time outside – really listening to what our space wants and needs.  We’ve downed a number of trees due to the ravages of the emerald ash borer beetle and age, and I could sense that we needed to pay attention.  I had been wondering, Oak? Or Maple?  I knew Willow would be placed out front by the creek.  But what about the yard?

And then, one day, I got an unexpected answer.  Apple.

Unexpected because I have never grown a fruit tree.  Aren’t they notoriously troublesome? Don’t the deer ravage their young trunks and eat all the fruit?  The idea came out of nowhere.

But I had my marching orders and I began thinking about apples.  A few weeks later, at a local seed swap, I spied what I believed were apple trees across the room and went to introduce myself.  I learned I would need more than one apple tree to promote proper pollination.  Eventually I looked all around town at expensive and chemically raised apples and was beginning to feel a bit down hearted but finally came back to the same folks I had met at the seed swap.  I bought two young trees to put in the ground and plan to raise them chemical free, which I hear is possible, unless you talk to the guys at the local garden center.  We shall see how it goes.

I’ve shielded the trees from the deer with little individual fences.  And I will keep an eye out for signs of problems.  But so far they seem really well adjusted and even have some young fruit growing.

The other ally I have from this process is an Iris down near the creek.  We have a fair number of these which grow there, blooming golden and lovely each spring.

In spite of stormy weather, which brings a force of water through our creek bed at times, these plants continue to grow and bloom, letting the rushing water wash over them and go right on by.  I feel a bit like these Irises just now.  The rush of life going by so fast, and me, just trying to root down and hold my ground in the midst of it all.

And so I dig in the dirt, literally and figuratively, as my yearly offering in Taos draws nigh.  My workshop began, years and years ago, as a little evening class here in town where I shared how I take a blank book and fill it with life’s little details.  Everything from to-do lists to ta-da! (voilá!) lists, sketches and skepticism, weather reports and vacations recalled and catalogued through drawn and painted imagery.  I marvel at how far this work has come and what gifts it has bestowed upon me.  In recent years, it’s become so clear to me that this process is so much bigger than merely keeping an active sketchbook.  It is a practice in mindful meditation on what makes our hearts sing.  These books of ours are a compass of sorts.  As Frederick Franck puts it so eloquently:

” SEEING/DRAWING as a way of meditation, a way of getting into intimate touch with the visible world around us, and through it… with ourselves.  “

In class I encourage students to trust their own visual voices, to trust that the marks they make with their paints and pencils and pens are important in developing those voices.  That to be the beginner is their only job.  In the intuitive plant medicine class, I am remembering what it is like to be that beginner again as well.  I am reminded that we are enough, right where we are just now.  There is real magic in that knowing.

See me sparkle….

And a quick p.s. on the notion of Allies and Weathering the Storm:

The other night I spoke in front of our village council in favor of a new resolution which would call for specific non-discrimination language to be adopted by our village.  Vital language and a cultural tone which states, all are welcome here.  That hatred and vitriol will not be tolerated.  That this is village is filled with allies to the marginalized.  Some may be thinking that I have backed off of politics here on this virtual space of mine. And perhaps on the surface, I have.  But I am quietly paying attention.  And just as quietly, and subversively, I continue to #resist all that the White House and #45 Himself stand for.  I am planting a garden which will feed us here and there – without chemicals.  I am forging a path of beauty in the world with fellow creatives.  I am attentive to the goings on of my local government where change really begins. These are subversive acts of politics.  I believe we as a country can do better than the likes of who we’ve placed into power at the very top of things.  I’m beginning with my own back yard. 

 

Sketch Antigua Guatemala – Spring 2018

 

UPDATE!!  THIS CLASS IS NOW FILLED! (but feel free to contact me about Taos 2018 and keep an eye out for future offerings by subscribing to this blog. Thanks so much!!!)

Come with me to the beautiful and ancient city of Antigua, Guatemala for a week of exploration through the lens of a travel journal!

March 4-10  ~ 2018

$1240 per person, double occupancy includes the following*:

~6 nights at Posada San Sebastian in the heart of Antigua

~5 days touring Antigua’s many sites, ruins, churches and museums with sketching instruction all along the way.  (entry to sites included in workshop fee.)

~All meals, including dinner Sunday of arrival and breakfast on Saturday, departure day.

~ Transportation to and from airport Sunday March 4 and Saturday March 10.

~$300 deposit holds your spot ($50 non-refundable)

*does not include airfare to Guatemala, gratuities, alcohol or the optional master weaving class.  single occupancy is also available for an added cost.  

 

email me, Amy Bogard at abeefrnd@gmail.com to register.  

Space is limited.  

 

Antigua, Guatemala is a treasured World UNESCO site, nestled into the heart of volcano country.  It is about an hour from Guatemala City where you will fly into.  While ancient in it’s long and varied history, the city is also quite cosmopolitan. Wandering the city streets, you’ll hear a variety of languages and there are many options for dining.

We will spend our week exploring the sites from our cozy home base at the Posada San Sebastian, where upon arrival you’ll be warmly greeted, “welcome home”.   Our host, Luis, is a gatherer of many interesting things and some of our time will be spent sketching his amazing collection of Guatemalan oddities.

Native Guatemalan culture is alive and rich in Antigua and is expressed in food and incredible textiles.  We will learn a bit about these things along the way and capture these colors in our sketchbooks.  While we will be spending most of our time in the city of Antigua, we will travel one day to the nearby town of San Antonio Aguas Calientes to the home of local weaver Lidia Lopez. Her family will prepare chicken pepian, a traditional and delicious dish, for our lunch, and Lidia will talk about the art of backstrap weaving. You will have the option of a weaving lesson for an additional fee.

If you are new to the sketching/travel journal process, fear not!  I will have you drawing and painting more than you could imagine in no time at all!  There is so much to see and do in Antigua.  A travel journal is the best souvenir you could give to yourself.

Join us!

Bells of Springtime

It seems many things in our little acre of land are bell shaped just now, fairly ringing with the bodacious arrival of a proper spring time. Daytime warmth coaxes and whispers to  the plants to grow and the evenings, cool again for resting before another day of more and more growing.

If one listens quietly enough, for long enough, the chiming of these little bells might be heard all around.  Small ones, tinkling near the ground, nestled and tucked under larger, louder plantings.

Other bells chime deeper, perhaps with the promise of a new backyard food source.

Some have a note so high and so sweet, only the most careful listeners might hear them.

And still others have a chime so light and ephemeral, one can’t really know if they sing the song of the mists or the breezes.  But if one listens…..

I’ve been listening.  With my trowel, moving plants around and tucking in new gifts from friends in trade.  Planting seeds and pondering plots and plans, all while these little bells ring and chime and sing all around me.

I’ve been listening with my pencil and paint brush and ink, to capture a bit of this ephemerality, and pin it’s simulacrum to my paper as best I can.

This is good practice as tomorrow I must leave my little plot of land here for a few days to lead two days of sketching with a very speical group in California.  We will visit a lovely garden and some wonderous trees as well, whose names I am eager to learn.  I am so lucky to do this work I do, encouraging folks to find the paths of their own ink lines, pencil marks and paint puddles.  It’s teaching season once again and I am glad for it.

But always I will come back home, to this little place, which is feeling really magical just now with the gardens bursting forth and the beauty of the bells in my ears.

“I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to make it do things for us.”  ~Frances Hodgson Burnett  

(thank you Cathryn Worrell for this gem of a quote.  You can see her Unicorn here.)

I’ll be back in a few days with tales of a land far west from here, but where friends await my arrival.  For now, I leave you with some more magic for your ears….

 

 

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