Bog Silence

Did you know, my middle name is Heather?

Today my Kerry companions and I head north on a little road trip to Ennis in Co. Clare, endlessly chasing the music.  There is a gig to attend by a friend who makes this music professionally and a session in the works up the road after the concert.  And so, this day will be a traveling day.

I know I am not painting “enough” in recent days but writing feels like the art this week.  Gathering imagery and words.  Following the threads of inspiration.  This is “enough”.  Whatever that means.

As I left this space in my last post, I was off to don wellies and wander up the road with my hosts here to visit a bit of bog land that has been a part of their family and culture for generations.   The bog road goes well off the Ballyebunion road and so traffic, if any is light, and consists of other walkers and wanderers seeking a bit of quiet time in Nature.

We dodge raindrops and keep an eye on the horizon for rainbows.  Of course there are rainbows.

The bog is quiet with only the sound of the breeze, the rain falling, bird song and a an occasional gentle mooing of a far off cow.

Bogs are natural wonderlands, filled with all kinds of flora and fauna for those with eyes to see.  Ferns and heather, native grasses and mosses.  It is a lovely place to behold.

The silence of the bog is infectious and exactly what I have been craving.  I find it interesting that this segment of Brain Pickings is about silence and it comes across my digital path this morning as I build a little blog post before hitting the winding road to Clare.

Turf is cut from the bog and stacked to dry for use. This is called “footing the turf” and the structures are like sculptures.

This bog is a working bog and local folks have utilized the turf to heat their homes and light their hearths for years.  This is all now up for discussion nowadays as bog turf holds a great deal of carbon.  My companions are gentle stewards of this patch of bog as well as of the land which holds their cottage and grows much of their food.  They know this place well and appreciate its limitations.   I for one hope that a least a bit of turf can be burned here and there in future as the smell is divine.

After the bog walk, we return to the cottage for a cup of tea and a game of fetch with Pancake, a lovely pup indeed.  I am treated to a bite to eat and evening descends upon us.  Tea turns to wine, conversation turns to tunes, just myself and Michael – flute and accordion – and I hear slides and marches which are new to my ears.  They are local to this place and I wish for them to be collected and played back home, to celebrate this beautiful quiet patch of Kerry.  Mike and I talk about how the old tunes are really the best tunes.  Flash and musical prowess are lovely to behold, but there is something so rich and lovely about a few solid tunes in the kitchen with a local farmer.  I am blessed beyond belief.

Later I return home, my head fairly swimming with music (*finally!*) and I am reminded of the date.  It is the anniversary of the death of one of my best and most influential friends of this life time – Mia.  If she could see where life has taken me, she would beam, I am sure.  When she was ever so ill, I had just begun on the whistle – awkward and shy about it.  But she insisted I play what I knew for her and so I did.  She laughed and clapped in delight and told me never to stop playing.  I haven’t.  I miss Mia on a regular basis and think that perhaps the magic of this special day, from pre-dawn beach time, to a bog-walk under a watery sun and into the evening with new tunes and dear friends may have just been a blessing from the beyond.  I am deeply grateful.

 

A ballybunion morning

Ballybunion is a bustling seaside town in the summer, but it quiets down quite a bit in the ‘off season’, as many of the best places do.  There is a sweet sign in the park which overlooks the ocean, reminding us not to take ourselves so seriously, something time spent at the beach can often do.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round, or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight, or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly, when you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day, it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower, hear the music before the song is over.

David L. Weatherford

There is nothing like the sea and time spent near it to calm the inner storms and frustrations which plague.  Yesterday my companions and I drove out to Ballybunion and braved a bit of rain and wind to take in the fresh sea air.  We were not disappointed.

 

After a lovely, misty wander up and down the beach, we walked back up to the village and warmed up by the fire with Guinness and Wine for some, tea for me.  I am quite proud that I can drive here in Ireland and have thus far done fairly well.

This morning I opted to steal away before dawn for a few more source photos and merely more time by the sea.  If I lived just 10 km down the road from this place, might be found there almost daily.

It rained nearly all the way from Listowel to Ballybunion but the clouds did eventually part and I was treated to a magnificent morning indeed.

As I walked and took pictures, I swept the beach for bits of plastic I might be able to pick up.  There was more than I’d hoped for, but all in all it is such a clean beach.  Still, we must do better.

There is such a sense of history layered upon history here in Ireland and there is no escaping it.  There is the Renaissance era Ballybunion castle ruins which are so iconic, and the old escape hatches sometimes found niched into the cliffs that some say may have predated the castle and began in the Iron Age as food storage cellars.  It’s fascinating!  And I realize, we are only temporary.

Nature will, eventually, take everything back.

There shall be more here, but for now I must find my woolen socks and ready my camera as I am due to be picked up for a visit to the bog with our hosts here in Listowel.  Taking in all I can, while I can.

ps, I am told that the way the woman in this video lives is very much like how my friends here grew up in the very cottage we stay in now, which has been updated with a few modern amenities…..

 

 

 

 

Practice

Yesterday was a day of travel.  My Buddhist friends say, about most everything, something to the effect of “and herein lies the practice.”  This is what I was saying to myself as I drove the Irish countryside, at once familiar and not so.   Though fraught with white knuckled nerves, my journey was uneventful – in spite of monsoon styled rains.  (It was overly rainy, even for Ireland!)  But I managed with the driving, getting used to being the pilot of a strangely-sided vehicle.  I must admit that being fully and constantly present in the moment is actually really exhausting when one actually does it for real.

We go through our lives on auto-pilot so much of the time.  There is nothing quite like driving in Ireland to remind me thus.

This morning, there is peat in the air.  I slept soundly and solidly for the first time since arriving and this has given me renewed purpose.  There may be a visit to the beach today.  Music has been elusive so I will just play on my own perhaps.  One cannot push the plan.   I hope to get the paints out as well, though I am disappointed with the medium I ordered to use as its drying time is a good deal longer than what I use at home.

It can take a few days to feel truly landed in a place.  I am not sure I have quite yet arrived, but I am close.

City Day

Today it rains and rains here in Blackrock, as Ireland is famous for doing, and I am grateful that yesterday was the day for touring.  My dear friend Simone had a work related function in Dublin and so we took the bus into town where we lunched then parted ways for the afternoon – she to her work life, and myself to take in some iconic touristy destinations.

Along my way I spy a couple of fevered protests.  The first is in front of the famed General Post Office where the Easter Rising was centered back in 1916.  Political protests have often happened at this site since that time, as it feels symbolic to the notion that perhaps change is possible.  This current protest is by Kurds  who find themselves here in Ireland.  Their speeches are fraught with desperation regarding the atrocities occurring in their homeland just now and as an American, I am deeply ashamed of the recent decisions by our current “leadership”.

Further down the street, Extinction Rebellion is also holding a peaceful protest near the bridge over the Liffey River.  If you haven’t heard of the Extinction Rebellion movement, you will.  They too are desperate with their message, which is about the fact that we are running out of time before climate change wreaks a havoc we cannot stem.

And it’s interesting to me to listen to the talk of my fellow tourists on the street about their opinions regarding this “movement”.  About how the folks participating in these events aren’t doing enough personally to make their message valid.  That they might only be doing this for “attention”.  Well, this is exactly what the powers that be want us to think.  To so wrap us up in the guilt surrounding our own daily lives that we lash out at those trying to cause some systemic shifts in large level corporate and governmental practice.  I think about how I flew in an airplane to get here to Ireland, and that I will fly some more in the coming months to do the work I do, and I do feel some guilt.  But I also know I am doing what I can, where I can.  Small shifts.  I’m opting out of consumerism where I can, shopping only second hand for most things.  That sort of thing.  But at the end of the day, I live in a system that is largely out of my control, and Big Change will only occur on a large scale.  Extinction Rebellion aims to force that change.  I say good on em.

Eventually, I make my way to Trinity College, Dublin.  The place is thronged with more and more tourists like myself.  But it is beautiful regardless.

There is a wedding happening in the midst of the collegiate and tourist atmosphere which is lovely.

Ivy grows on on walls old and new.

I make my way to the Trinity Library where the Book of Kells is housed.

Over the course of the next hour I read about this ancient tome and how it found its way from the monks of olden times to its climate controlled home at Trinity.  It is remarkable it survived.

It is almost too much to take in in such a short visit but I find the imagery to be evocative and inspiring.  The work of these monks inspired an old artist friend of mine, Cindy Matyi to make her Celtic inspired works and much of what I see at the library brings her to mind.

Eventually we leave the Book of Kells display and make our way up to the Long Room of the library at Trinity.

Even with the crowds, the Long Room is breathtaking and I wander and take photos as best I can.  I can only imagine what this place is like when the masses are gone and a real and genuine quiet descends once more.  Surely the ghosts of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker stop in now and again?

With another hour left in my solitary time, I head back toward the General Post Office to take their tour on the Easter Rising.  I think about what those rebels risked for what they believed in.  And how they eventually gave their lives.  I can’t help but think that some people may have thought they were crazy for doing what they did at the time (much like some think currently about Extinction Rebellion), and yet most scholars agree that it was the Easter Rising which set the course for the eventual forming of the Irish Republic.

This is all history that I barely know the surface of, but I am grateful for the stories told which get my mind buzzing and contemplating the state of our world now.  Countries still fighting over lands in other places of the world.  Border tensions even here in Ireland are set to have some potential issues with a hard brexit on the horizon.  The Troubles are never far from anyone’s mind here.  Peace and prosperity are tenuous at best.  We would all do best to remember that.

Our bus ride home is a rainy one.  We snooze a bit and chat about the day quietly.

I’ll admit to being rather exhausted after a day in town.  Today has been busy getting a few things sorted before I hit the road tomorrow to the West.  I’ll be hiring a car and driving it which I have not done this side of the Pond in a good many years.  But with a little parking lot practice today to jog the memory, I think I’ll be just fine.

The rain has finally stopped and so I am writing a bit here before we go gather dinner ingredients.  There is time for a walk to the sea for some fresh air.

Tomorrow travels resume.  I shall be in touch when and where I can, as my tech set up will get a bit wilder from here.  It is a delicate balance between soaking the travel experience in personally, catching up and spending time with loved ones, crafting material for this blog, all while attempting to make art and music along the way.

But I am keen to try to do it all.

ps. Here is the Brian Boru Harp, also housed in the Long Room at the library.  It is a thing of beauty….

Away from my desk

Miraculously, I make it through a full day yesterday with only the one quick nap, crashing to bed around 10 pm local time. (After a delicious dinner of curry and catching up with Ireland based dear ones, of course.)  Traveling eastwards across the Atlantic on a redeye flight wreaks havoc on one’s inner equilibrium with regard to time and so powering through this day is important.  The journey was uneventful, if not a bit bumpy and I am grateful for a safe arrival and a lift here to the village from the airport in Dublin.

Today is a brand new day and I manage to roust myself out of bed while it’s still morning.  The village of Blackrock in Co. Louth is seaside charm personified.  We walk for a cup of coffee at a place called Rocksalt, where the latte is artful divinity.   Out the window to the alleyway, we watch workers come and go, to and fro and admire an old Renault parked there.  I think I might like an old car such as this, if I lived in a place such as this….

Though the cafe is crowded with freelance workers as well as those there for breakfast and conversation, it is still quite subdued and quiet.  This is something I have noticed on other visits to this country, things are more quiet here.  I can hear myself think which is really nice.

After coffee we step outside for the wander home and I take a quick snapshot and a few seconds of video to show you how very lovely it is here. (note to self on video with phone in future –  turn the damned thing to the side!)

We have been greeted with a gorgeous day, complete with a bit of sunshine and a lovely cool breeze.  I am not sure what the rest of the day will bring my way.  For now, I am enjoying just settling in.  Listening to the quiet of this workaday seaside village, hearing the quiet of my own thinking which is a welcome change.

It is my hope in the coming weeks to keep in touch with you all on the blog here, with photos and updates.  I did, after all the hemming and hawing, opt to bring a few oil paints as well as my usual sketching supplies, so perhaps I’ll have something to show in that department as well.

Til then…..

ps, 2 months into this decade we call ‘the fifties’, and I am really liking it thus far.

Pacing

Too fast paced of late.  Frenetically crossing to-do lists off as if penance for up-coming traveling.  Only time out of doors can check this process.  Finally the temperatures drop to comfort level, leaving “hotumn” behind us.

October temperatures in the mid-nineties will make one crabby.

I find myself outside on a beauty-filled day.  Collecting leaves, plotting a small hillside in the back for a new vegetable bed slated for next spring.  Tunes wander through my head.  I take a break to capture a bit of this ochered season with my camera.  The old sweet gum tree in front is particularly lovely, dropping her petals into the main creek which is, miraculously, always running with a trickle even in the driest of times.  There are little skimmers paddling along in their own little world, which I suppose they do with our without our observation.

I put together a slow paced little gathering of sweet gum and skimmers for you here.  The music is used with permission and is by Nuala Kennedy.  Once upon a time I did a little art work for the cover of the album where this track can be found.  The whole collection is divine and if you haven’t heard it, you should.

It is my hope that in this busy time of harvesting and preparing for the darker days of the season, you too might find the time to settle down for a spell and take in the small wonders.

San – G

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” 

~Irish saying that translates literally as “People live in each other’s shadows.”  (via @nualamusic)

Today is the 30th of September, and the facet of my heart that shines brightest in New Mexico sunlight beats in time with those of my soul family there as they celebrate the Feast of San Geronimo.

This celebration is sacred to my friends, and we don’t talk much about the meaning of it all.  Rather we bask in the company of one another, we celebrate a successful harvest with food and community and we encourage the Lady of the Mountain to don the golden colors of autumn.

There is talk of Shadows when the Koshares appear to wreak a bit of havoc, which adds to the festival atmosphere.

It is a day to sit in communion with the land and the mountains and the folks who live on and with it.  Today I send a lot of love out into the cosmos, especially to my beloved Land of Enchantment.

Autumnal Equity

“It’s all about balance, do you see? Balance is the trick. Keep the balance and – ” she stopped. “You’ve ridden on a seesaw? One end goes up, one end goes down. But the bit in the middle, that stays where it is. Upness and downness go right through it. Don’t matter how high or low the ends go, it keeps the balance.” She sniffed. “Magic is mostly movin’ stuff around.”

~Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

Skies are moody this morning.  Day-job work and exercise loom on the to-do list, yet pondering the still point of the season feels crucial.  My eclipse siblings of the soul were here last night, a gathering to mark the autumnal equinox.  There was talk of “shedding or casting off that which no longer serves us.” (Thank you for that M.) Which is wise talk indeed.  For me, that is this notion of “busy-ness”,  the internal ‘hurry, hurry!!’ feeling in the center of my chest, a trap of sorts to which society programs us for falling into.  To choose to sit and write or draw for a few moments each morning is a radical act of defiance some days.

The key to it all is balance.  To be the center of life’s seesaw when we can, as Esmerelda Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching do with such grace.  It is a strange thing to be a slow-cooker in a microwave, insta-pot kind of age.  And yet sinking into my own pace, my own slowness, affords me the deeper work I strive for.  In the long run, allowing my own pace magically gets more of my best work done, my best self in the world.  And so, on this Monday, the Autumn Equinox, I look for balance in a world gone mad.  And do my best to center in the midst of it all.

And just like that

SOLD!!!!!!!!

At the beginning of this month, I alerted a few eager early birds that I was about to embark on registration for the Taos 2020 Travel Sketch class at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s.  Then just last week I opened up registration to anyone interested.  After a flurry-filled week of inquiries and emails, text messages and notes back and forth with old and new participants alike, I am pleased to say, the workshop is sold out!!  This is the earliest this phenomenon has ever occurred and I am thrilled.  Thrilled that this work speaks to so many, thrilled to be heading back to Taos next summer with a full roster of fellow artists – both seasoned and newly learning their craft.

I am simply over the moon!!

This sketchbook volume is about to come to an end. It’s been widely traveled and greatly loved.

June 2020 is in some ways, quite far off, but it comes around faster than one might expect and I’ll be ready with exciting new things to try in our sketchbooks by then.  I am already looking forward.  If you missed the call for this workshop, you still have some options.  First, reach out to me and get on the waiting list.  Plans can sometimes change for people unexpectedly which occasionally might open up a slot for someone else.  I am contemplating adding a slot or two extra but need to contemplate this and talk it over with my trusted advisors and the team at Mabel’s.  Those on the wait list would be the first to know if anything opens up for any reason.

Mabel welcomes you!!

You can also join me in Guatemala in early spring.  Details on dates and costs can be found here.  I have limited space in each of the two weeks being offered there and I believe it is only a matter of time before this trip too is sold out.  Antigua, Guatemala is a gorgeous, quite cosmopolitan city which carries color and beauty and an ancient magic all its own.  It is the perfect way to warm up during the depths of winter!  So consider this option perhaps.

Other teaching outings are in the works for California next spring, generally the Bay Area and environs, so if you are local to there, reach out to me and I’ll put you on that mailing list.  Right now we are looking at the first weekend in May and possibly some other dates around that time and in that general vicinity to make it that much more worth a trip to the Left Coast.

And so now, I get back to the making of things.   Back to tending the craft that allows me to teach these workshops in the first place.  I can smell an autumnal journey on the winds about which I am very excited.  I’ll be sure and write from the road.

This little guy was created for the Gulf Coast Cruinniú, a musical weekend in Houston full of workshops and performances which should be a lot of fun for all!

As always, consider getting on the mailing list to get all of the latest news from here.  Social media can be a lot of fun but those pesky algorithms do keep us hustling to get the work into the world.

Till next time…..

 

 

gold behind the green

 

We can see it in the light just lately.  A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.

This morning I take the dogs outside.  I take note.  And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.

I begin looking closer.  The colors beckoning.

Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.

Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.

Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike.  On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.

I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them.  We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is. 

My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.

The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville.  I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.

It’s like the hand of a small maker.  Which is how I feel at times.

Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon.  Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.

There just never seems to be enough time for all the things.  But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….

I am grateful for this reminder.

At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9.  (And a banjo.  He must have a banjo.)  So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.

More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..

In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.

Asheville dog culture is wonderful.

It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering.  All was quiet and peaceful.  But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer.  I look forward to next year.

 

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