Back to the daily grind, er, dog

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I spotted the above quote at this site and it immediately resonated with me. Slowly but surely I am settling back into my comfort zone here in the studio. This morning I woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee and started drawing dogs. I feel desperately out of practice. But here is what I came up with…

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One of the constant themes/ struggles in my work world is how to balance the things that make a living with the things that feed my artist soul. I am enjoying the chance to get back into the studio to work but am very aware that the work I do in the studio, as well as on my blog aren’t what keep me afloat financially. I have my ever patient and supportive spouse along with a multitude of part time jobs for that. How do I reconcile this? I am not certain. I just know that drawing is a centering process for me and is a good activity all around, like any exercise. I also know that I can’t afford to think too much about things or I wind up stuck in the muck of my own spinning wheels.

So I am drawing and spending time outside and with my family. Last night I visited the spot where I left the hawk in my woods. Ok, it might sound gross to some people, but I was interested to see how broken down the carcass might be and if any woodland creature had maybe carried it off. I was surprised to see that it was indeed still where I laid it and it has decayed quite a bit. In its own stark way, it is really beautiful and I took some photos. Perhaps this is the sort of abstract thing I should be trying to convey in wax. The shapes are vaguely familiar, but without knowing what you are looking at, it might be difficult to tell what it is (ribcage).

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This is the stuff floating around in my head and on my sketchbook pages. I’m going back outside… then maybe to a movie. I hear Indiana Jones is back in theaters!

Heralding Summer

Once upon a time, what seems like a whole lifetime ago, my husband was in the Navy and I was a Navy Wife. It was a difficult time full of long separations and compromises for both of us. It is not lost on me, especially on the more poignant military holidays, that it is only a stroke of luck and timing that we happened to spend our military service at a time of Peace. We were especially thankful this past weekend for the opportunity to be together for Memorial Day while so many military families are separated or perhaps grieving for fallen loved ones.

Over Memorial Day Weekend my family did what so many Americans do during the gift of a long weekend; we got out of town. We decided to do some backpacking down at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, one of our favorite green places to go. The weather was stunningly perfect and basically, we had a blast. We had planned to go to a place called Dog Fork Creek but due to some apparent villainous sign turnage, we wound up in an unplanned spot that suited us just fine in the long run. We had the area to ourselves and were not even a mile away from the car, which works out well for kids with heavy packs and one aging dog. We took all three pups actually and miraculously, it was smooth sailing with them. Iris and River are new to camping and we weren’t sure how they would do. But after a day of romping in the woods they crashed in the tent with us and slept the night thru.

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Caskie was a real trooper and kept up with the kids and the puppies pretty well for the majority of the trip. But it is strange to see him beginning to show signs of age. He’s a little slow after a woodsy romp and tended to settle into leafy soft spots around the campsite.

We like to eat well on our backpacking trips and consider the limited kitchen items a Chef’s challenge when on the trail. We baked potatoes in the fire and had a basil parmesan pasta for dinner, which hit the spot after hiking and exploring all day. In my opinion the best meal was breakfast which was a curried tofu scramble. Yum! Even River wanted some!

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One of the best things about the gorge is all the hidden treasures you can find tucked away in the woods. Near our campsite was a recessed cave with a water fall. It was cool and mossy there and we all visited the spot a number of times during our stay.

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Below are some weird moss formations (at least I think it’s moss) that had formed in a puddle in the cave.

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Moss and mushrooms and ferns abound in the Red River Gorge. I sketched a little bit and took lots of photos that I hope to work off of this summer. I have always really admired the work of illustrator Jan Brett whose books such as “Town Mouse, Country Mouse” enchanted my children when they were little while captivating me with her lovely naturalistic yet magical drawings.

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No trip the gorge is complete without a stop at Miguel’s Pizza shop (bear with me on the link, Miguel’s doesn’t seem to have a website but this dude seems to know what he is talking about!). This place not only serves up my favorite pizza in the world but provides a camping spot and gathering place for rock climbers who come to the area for the world famous rock climbing the Red River Gorge is famous for.

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The very next day, although a little trail weary, I joined Maddie and some of her class mates for a field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. As usual the zoo provided beautiful animals and plants to observe…

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while giving the kids a chance to spend some well deserved out of class time together.

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Today was the last day of school for both of my kids. On the one hand it seems rather early, but on the other, the timing is perfect. We all need a break from structure and routine and are ready to greet what magic Summer has to offer.

I went for a run around the neighborhood this morning. I found a robin’s egg shell and saw a group of squirrels having what seemed like a squirrel convention. I also ran by a fellow runner. She was a woman running along in her bright red, long, flowing, beautiful sari… and a NY Yankees ball cap.

Bring on that summer magic!

coming up for air

My friend Doug reminded me the other day that I had not posted any fleadh results on my blog as I had promised before heading to Detroit for the big weekend of Irish Music. It was indeed a weekend filled with music and very little sleep. It was a chance to catch up with friends from other cities whom we only get to see at such events. Someone was quoted as saying “would we even get together for such a weekend if we didn’t have a poor excuse such as a competition?” After it is all said and done, most of us here in Cincinnati agree that it is not about the results of the competition. We have a very closely knit community of Irish musicians here in our area, but we don’t have the numbers that some of the bigger cities have. That said, the Riley School kids ceili band was awarded 2nd place in that competition. Lots of Riley kids also placed in the many solo competitions available to them (Jack got 2nd in Mandolin!). It was a successful weekend on many fronts. Unfortunately, the one thing that went wrong is my forgetting to bring a camera! But if you click the link above, you can get the general feel for the weekend from those wonderful photos. Oh, and by the way, the over 18 “adult” ceili band (i.e. “The Little Ceili Band that Could”) didn’t win a prize. But we got up there and played fairly well, despite our nerves.

Once we got home and settled from the Fleadh weekend, the wild end-of-the-school-year pace set in and I have been trying simply to just keep up! There have been lots of concerts and recitals, and celebrations for the older kids moving onto their next adventures. Jack, my 7th grader, was just fitted this week for a pair of glasses. Maddie is slowly putting together her new Irish Dance ensemble since she just acquired her first solo dress. Tonight we worked on a crown which will mach the dress. I think we had success…

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In spite of what seems like an endless spring puppetry schedule, I have managed to make a little art here and there. There is an area of Downtown Cincinnati called Over-The-Rhine which is filled with the most amazing architecture and a varied assortment of residents and businesses. My kids go to school in this neighborhood and so as a family, we spend quite a lot of time there. As many inner city areas do, OTR faces some challenges in dealing with crime and poverty, but a core group of dedicated individuals are working toward making OTR the best it can be. One recent project is the GreenBird House project. These wonderful “green” bird houses were distributed to local artists who then in turn put their own mark on them. The newly decorated bird houses then go up for auction, proceeds going to the Over-The-Rhine Community Housing project. Below is my bird house. Perhaps it’s the presence of all the shiny Irish Dance stuff laying around, or the fact that it’s spring, but I stepped out of my usual aesthetic to make something just this side of ridiculous. I had a lot of laughs working on it!

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Just a few more days of puppetry and being chained to a school schedule. I need a dose of artistic meandering and allowing time to flow as it should. More time to sketch and blog and notice the little stuff.

Spring has sprung

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The azaleas around my studio windows are in full bloom and things are green again here in the Ohio River Valley. Although it has been a rough spring for those who suffer from allergies to pollen, due to all of our rain (for weeks and weeks and weeks….) we have finally been delighted with all that the traditional spring time has to offer – lots of blooming flowers and trees and a number of days in a row of sunshine and mild temperatures. This afforded me the opportunity to get out into the garden and get rid of some weeds, plant a few tomatoes and flowers and lay some mulch down.

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In the studio, time spent in the garden is paying off with good energy being found at the wax table and I am exploring some nature themed (sort-of) art that may or may not find its way into the public eye at some point. This is all good and feels like a quiet center in spite of the chaos from the continued renovation process.

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The kids and I are off to Detroit, Michigan this coming weekend to compete in the Midwest Regional Fleadh Cheoil (that’s Irish for music competition). Jack, ever the musical over achiever is participating in 7 competitions playing almost as many instruments. He never ceases to amaze me with his abilities as a musical chameleon! Maddie and I each are reluctantly playing in ceili bands. She is the “boom-chick” (read : piano playing rhythmic anchor) for the age 15-18 band. I will be humbly playing the whistle in the “senior” age group (18 and up… I am not quite to AARP status). Of the two of us, she is obviously the most talented. At 11 she is a crucial element to the Riley School Kids Ceili band made up of mostly teenagers. I am proud of her poise and courage in this situation. As much as I despise being on stage and being judged, being part of the adult ceili band has given me the opportunity to practice more often and be with friends I care about. At the end of it all, this is what is most valuable to me. I’ll be sure post pictures and results of the Fleadh next week.

Meanwhile, for the next couple of days, I will continue to gratefully marvel at the miracles happening just outside my door….

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Hawk Medicine

Having what might be described as a Jungian approach to both my art and life philosophy, I try to pay attention to images and themes that feel meaningful or might lead me down a tangential path to the discovery of something interesting or fruitful. Often, I don’t have to be paying attention, things just fall into my lap.

The other night I was in the process of running my kids to their various activities and running some errands in the process. I stopped at the grocery for some necessities. Our local IGA is a great place to stop for a gallon of milk or a last minute dinner item. The other nice thing is that for a small, neighborhood grocery, there is a substantial wine selection and I often browse the wine aisles for surprises. I found a $25 bottle of Dynamite Zinfandel on sale for $9 and decided to get it. A wine guy in Nashville once told me that only suckers buy wine because of the label, and I guess that makes me a sucker as I was really drawn to the hawk on this bottle of wine.

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A little while later, on route to Jack’s band rehearsal, a red-tailed hawk and it’s squirrel prey fell to the ground not 50 feet in front of our car just up the street from our house. We slowly drove by feeling helpless as the hawk twitched it’s last live movements. On my way home, I noticed that the hawk (and squirrel) were still lying dead on the road. I ran home and got a piece of canvas and brought the hawk’s body home with the intent of placing it in my back woods for a more regal place to lie as it returned to the earth. The bird was about 18″ from tail to beak and had about a 2 foot wing span. As near as I can guess, it must have received a bit of a shock from the overhead wires as it went in for the kill of the squirrel walking the wire. I think the post-shock fall to the ground is what inevitably killed it.

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My friend Lisa came over to see the bird and the help me make sense of what meaning there might be in this strange event. We looked up the traditional meaning of “hawk medicine” which can be summed up as having the broad vision to see the whole picture in one’s life. However, since the bird fell to the ground in front of me, maybe the reverse meaning might apply which is the notion of paying too close attention to details and forgetting the bigger picture. I suppose a lesson could be taken away from either idea and I have thought much about these and about the poor hawk now back in my woods, away from the road.

I took tons of photos and kept a feather from which I have already made some sketches. Even in death, it was a lovely creature. What an uncanny mayday.

Turns out that Zin wasn’t too bad either.

The New Riley School Website!!!

So I got online tonight with the purpose of heading to the new Riley School Website where I could listen to the tunes I need to practice for Ceili Band.  Lo and behold, the new website is up and running!  This is much to my delight and surprise.  I did a few watercolors way back for this and they have definitely been altered a bit and enhanced some to make them right for the site.  Riley’s webmaster Sherry has out done herself to create a visually cohesive virtual home for our musical village.  Check it out!!!