We are returned safely from travels and settled in, but more on that later……
Recently we heard from Mickey Dunne over in Limerick, Ireland that the half-set of uilleann pipes he is carefully crafting for me is nearly complete. I am very sad that I cannot go to Ireland this fall to collect them in person, meet Mickey and thank him properly. But this is just the way of things, and we soldier on.
Meanwhile, I am as a new parent preparing a nursery with all the necessary accoutrements for the new arrival. This week’s Twist of Hemp offering finds John Joe Badger diligently shopping for all the necessities and sundries so that we will be ready when the pipes (with drones!) finally arrive.
It is week 39 of our weekly adventure, John Joe and I. I am slowly learning a few tunes but still feel clumsy and more at home on the flute. Making a drawing for this series each week helps me keep track of how long I’ve been at this pipes thing while reminding me to just have a little fun with it along the way. It’s been a very long time since I purchased a proper instrument outside of a whistle of delryn flute here or there. I am nervous about it all and trying just to treat it like an investment. In myself, in the music, in the world.
These covid times can mess with our heads if we allow them to. What are you doing to keep yourself sane, grounded and invested in the world? I’m learning tunes, painting and drawing and walking many miles.
I’ve been for a long walk this morning, some exercise before the day begins in earnest. There is a heron out on the swim dock which is great to see. Up to now, our dock has merely been a pit stop for ducks and sea gulls. Yesterday while out on the lake we spied osprey, a magnificent bald eagle hunting for fish, and many iconic loons.
Their calls to one another haunt our dreams.
It is my full intention to be firmly present in these final couple of days here in Maine, but I admit to already feeling the pressure of the journey home which we will undertake in the wee hours of Sunday.
We are steeped in friendship and gratitude, natural splendor and rest, great food, camaraderie and play. The well is nigh full and we can draw on it back in our day to day at home.
There are small projects planned which will keep me grounded in practice, as the goldening of late summer drifts down on everything. There is a wistful sadness to the time of year, always, and especially now.
Tomorrow I shall have one more quick dip in the sea (don’t worry, I’ll avoid any shark tending locales!) and perhaps another bite or two of ocean sourced food, before packing up and readying for home. Next I write, I’ll be back in my familiar haunts and settling into what could be a long autumn, what with one thing and another and so many precious plans canceled. It will be important to maintain an even keel in the months ahead. To lean into the winds in a way that fills the sails and keeps us on course.
Perhaps today I’ll have a sailing lesson.
Much appreciation for you all reading along with me on these recent adventures. I shall endeavor to keep writing, even as we settle back into normality. For there is beauty and even some adventure to be found there as well.
Skies – sunsets in particular – have been magnificent. Reminding us of our small place in the world.
Evening jaunts on the boat allow us a break from the heat on shore and affords us quality time together (at once more than we can handle and never enough – how I love this chosen family of mine).
At times we must dock the boat near the little local general store to stock up on supplies. And sometimes we forget our masks and must improvise which results in iconic fashionry.
In this time of fear and uncertainty, we see others and wish them well, while also hoping they never come too close.
The light here in Maine, from a painter’s perspective, is perfection. I take source photos for later use. Balancing the time here, trying not to be selfish. As usual, I would split the artist side of self off to go work in the corner all week bathed in paints while the rest of human self could dive into a book or a group activity in earnest. But the art always calls and there is no splitting. And so here we are. I do the best I can.
It is a gorgeous day outside, and I have a paddleboard planned with my dearest, long time friend (she birthed both my babies with me back in the day, so you get the depth of our connection.) Later, some socially distant music is planned with a fellow Irish musician local to these lakelands and I am grateful to find a tune here in the wilds, so far from home.
I realize that home is only as far away as the next tune, the next friend, the next dip into some paint of any kind.
I am home the minute I can center into a bit of music, or a puddle of paint, or a beautiful fireside conversation with loved ones (while a mysterious mink waterly wanders by with nary a splash.)
There has been daily practicing of the pipes, as the lady pipers group has done a tune trade this summer and my job was to learn a tune from my “tune fairie” and record said tune to share with my mystery tune-provider.
It was terrifying. Honestly.
But I did it, as I am keen to do this. To learn. To find my small place in this tradition. Even as an American with only distant ties to the motherland of this music, even as an adult learner with so very little musical knowledge. Even as merely an artist. Something about all of it makes just sense.
And so I dive in. Best I can. We have limited time, always. Especially when on vacation. Especially when on vacation during a global pandemic. I know this.
This limit is why I paint. Why I play. Why I write.
There is a recent article in Downeast Magazine about Miss Rumphius, a favorite book of mine about bringing beauty into the world as one lives one’s life. I highly recommend it….
” For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself. He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation.”
This day is close. Like humid and slow. I’m reminded of Ohio and grateful for the lake here.
This morning, a walk before some rain. I go for some time, in order to walk off a bit of the rich food and drink vacation with friends doth provide.
I walk, hike and occasionally jog a bit as well, past Wyeth style fields…. (keen to get this barking IT band back in working order)
…..up mountain roads, and past signs of life in the outer world.
There are stony sentinels guarding these well worn paths along the way.
The humidity suits the fungi sort.
Upon returning to camp, rain has begun in earnest and I retreat to the boathouse to practice some tunes for awhile.
Soon, the sun is back out, and the instruments have had their fill of muggy conditions. I put them away and go for a swim.
Fast forward to now…. I have made a painting. It’s busier than I would like. Perhaps I have waited too long to paint. Exercising and playing music first on this particular day. All are priorities of course. I work from memory along with a few snapshots of last night’s spectacular sunset. So much going on there, so much to capture.
So I just push paints around for while. There are notes of this one I like. “It is only a study” (this I remind myself again and again.) I am finding my voice (aren’t we always?) in gouache and one can’t make a masterpiece at every turn.
It is late afternoon and dinner hour begins soon so I’ll wrap up and be fully present here at camp, as that is the business of vacation. (Also, maybe another swim, jaysus, it’s hot!)
There are books to read, naps to take, boat rides to experience, meals to share. It’s all a bright balance of good things here and now. I am grateful for all of it…..
Yesterday was moving day. The day on which we gather ourselves en masse for a week away from home and, more importantly, work. There are groceries to collect, the packing up of all the essentials for a week at the lake. Usually we figure we can have a meal in town and pick up any forgotten necessities. Usually things are more casual and fluid, especially as the kids have become adults in recent years. But this year is different.
We hunker down.
Moving day, even on a good year, breeds small anxieties in my heart and this year the spin cycle of the mind is even more active than usual. I am loathe to leave the ocean, but excited for the relatively warm, fresh waters of Long Pond. I worry we will forget something, worry I’m not doing enough to be of assistance to our little family unit, worry I’m getting behind in my art work, becoming lazy and complacent here in this vacation-land paradise. I worry my country is breathing it’s final dying gasps, worry about the ripple effects of this damned virus…… I won’t bore you with all of the worries, but you get the general picture. This is my brain on transitions of most kinds, what can I say? I am only human, a work in progress.
There is nothing for a wave of worries quite like playing a bit of music. Good for the soul in so many ways – perhaps merely the tonal qualities of music in general and the necessity of managing ones breath as a flute player specifically. One of my nagging worries yesterday is that I might miss the precious zoom calls which fall on the very hour we are due to be arriving here at our little rented cabin.
But, as with seemingly everything on this gift of a journey this summer, it all works out. Our rental allows for a bit of an early arrival, which means I can attend these conversations after all. My computer remembers the household wireless, so no technical glitches either. With two back to back zoom calls, I get to see the faces and hear the voices of my musical mates from the Swannanoa gathering which shores up the heart in these heavy times. We learn a couple of new tunes, all the while catching up with one another, with hopes to do so in person next summer. But who knows? With a bit of music, and the knowledge that my friends scattered around the world are ok for now, my unsettled heart shifts back into center. I am grateful.
Soon we are unpacked and a simple dinner is in the works. By tradition, we feast on steamed lobster, bread and a salad on our first night at ‘camp’.
After dinner, we load onto the boat for a sunset cruise and a swim.
That’s one way to wash away the lobster juice.
We are welcomed back to this magical place by the mournful calls of loons echoing back and forth across the pond.
Sunset is miraculous and beautiful over the Kennebec Highlands, as it is most days. And we marvel.
The evening descends. Some play games up at the house, others opt to watch the stars come out and listen to the loons down by the dock. My anxieties are by now washed away by the gifts of this magical afternoon and evening.
It is now Sunday morning and there is a full, soft day ahead of us. Each of us keen to soak it all in here together. We all know there was a time, mere weeks ago, when we weren’t sure if we might even make this trip happen. And so we are doubly grateful to simply be here this year, now more than ever.
Thanks to you, dear readers for coming along. I really appreciate all of the emails and messages you’ve sent encouraging me to keep the updates coming. I aim to do so, hopefully with more artwork as this week unfurls……
“I can think of no greater happiness than to be clear-sighted and know the miracle when it happens. And I can think of no more real life than the adventurous one of living and liking and exclaiming the things of one’s own time. ” ~Robert Henri
An early start to the day sees us racing the tides to visit a colony of seals near here.
We get the boats in, just in time and paddle the short distance out to a rocky ledge where our selkie friends are known to congregate at low tide.
We do not venture too close so as not to stress them out, but we can see their velvety bodies slip into the water when they spy our approach. One or two trusting souls hang about on the rocks and watch us watch them. The rest, the shy ones, watch from the water, only getting within 50 feet at the closest. Sea dogs of a sort, they have some curiosity and fascination with us, as we do them, and we spend some time observing one another.
There are also osprey, terns, cormorants, gulls. We aren’t out long, but it is a productive day already.
Back home to gather some of the kids, we then head to lunch at a lovely land’s end marina. We are in our element, and pinching ourselves at our good fortune. No wait, a table by the water, and the best of company.
In the afternoon we walk off our lunch time decadence with a cliff walk trail which leads to an inlet of sorts where we take a swim.
Classic Maine woodland, complete with fairy huts and mushrooms. We soak in the quiet of a natural island pine forest.
We manage to find a path to the water of a little inlet and swim for a time. Salty and warm and lovely.
We are happy campers.
Suffice it to say, I created no art today, but rather took the beauty of the day to gather imagery and impressions for more work in days to come. Tomorrow we shift gears, heading inland to a rented lake home. All of the co-workers have taken the week off and vacation for the lot of us begins in earnest.
I will miss the ocean.
Expect a post here in this space come Sunday, or possibly Monday, depending upon the flow of things. Til then, be safe, wear a mask, be kind to one another.
I start the day with a long walk and a visit to the sea side where it is low tide. It has been rainy overnight and so the day is soft and gray. There are workers here at home doing outside house maintenance and so I opt to hide away for the day at a table in the basement where it is quiet and cool.
Still working out the kinks and idiosyncrasies of my new-to-me gouache paints, I work from a photo and then just from my imagination to craft a couple of little paintings for the day.
These give me hope for better work to come and I see them as studies.
It also seems that I am seeing an arc to the earth I haven’t noticed before in my paintings. It’s fun to experiment.
My intrepid god-child finishes her work for the day and we once again steal away for the day’s dip in the sea. With overnight storms and the gray – but warm – day, the water feels brisk. But we do it anyway and are rewarded with a refreshing swim, with the added bonus of mere time together.
Walking the path back to the car, I spy a stone which catches my eye.
It says everything else that needs to be said for the day.
By day, my porch-based co-worker Poppy and I work on some sketches and picture post-cards to send along to my trusty pen-pals. We also sketch. Crows caw in the trees above, but Poppy pays them no mind.
Technically I am on vacation, but art-making is not merely work for me, but play. This line being quite blurred in the day to day back home, vacation reminds me the importance of the ‘play’ side of the equation.
I begin with pencil, moving on from there to a little traditional sketch with watercolor and a bit of ink. All good, and a great way to warm up.
After a bit, I want to paint but I am too lazy to move off the porch to retrieve the gouache set up. So I ask the watercolors if they might like to play, just for fun.
And these two little paintings happened. I am pleased with them and will treat them as studies for larger works. We shall see. Tomorrow they will be on the wing, stamped for traveling.
Either way, it is fun to feel like I have tapped into something – a bit. We have, after all, been mired in fear and grief, anxieties and longing of late. It can be taxing to a soul. This journey to our Maine homeland has been a pleasant escape, though signs of the state of all things are readily apparent anywhere we go. So few tourists -to drive through Freeport is nigh on creepy. Any ‘outing’ we do has strict protocols for safety and distancing. But we carry on. Occasionally managing an oyster (like on our anniversary) or a beer or two, like last night.
By night, all the household co-workers come together for a bevvie and a catching up on the day, grateful to be together in these strange times. Tonight it’s dinner in, which is good. One can only handle so much town-centered anxiety.
It is nearly 3 pm here and I have yet to get my swim in for the day, but I am keen to try. We shall see…….
Meantime, here is another version of a selkie song I shared yesterday:
With all this ocean swimming of late, here’s a reminder of the wee filim (that’s Irish speak for film) I did a couple months ago (doesn’t it seem like an AGE!!!) with my pal Nuala and her musical mates from the Snowflake Trio: