Gifts that keep giving

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I arrived home from The Day Job yesterday to be greeted by a package addressed to me.  I wondered, very curiously, whatever could it be??  So I took it upstairs to my studio and opened it, ever so gently, to discover what was inside.  To my delight, there was a collection of the most delectable fibrous tidbits.  Delicious roving, hand painted all the colors of the desert and blessed by a hermitted Buddhist nun living and working (and spinning! ) just outside of Taos.

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There were also some raw locks of wool that I shall make into a rough and tumble sort of yarn in which to bundle myself in time for next winter (not that I even want to think about winter just yet after this most recent one!)  I’ve even dug out my old spindles to figure out how thick the roving’s eventual yarn might like to be…

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Other treats in the box were a card, created by my old Taos friend Kate Cartwright (now living in New Hampshire!) and a gorgeous bit of silk ribbon, the colors of which are that of the sunset.

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Call me old fashioned, but I get a little thrill from a bit of beautiful ribbon.  Once upon a time a treasure such as this would have been only possessed by the very rich, royal and fortunate among us.  Suffice it to say, I am feeling rather rich, royal and fortunate.

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But who could have sent this glorious box of treasure??  Inside the card was a note from two of my former sketch-journal students, now dear friends, who had recently returned from Taos where they celebrated their birthdays.  In it they wrote “This is a small token of our appreciation for introducing us to Taos and to Mabel.”  I am so humbled by this.  One of these two women took my local class here in Ohio when the Taos trip was just a baby of a dream.  And both of them attended my inaugural offering of a week at Mabel’s in 2011.  They have been cheerleaders in my growth as an artist and a teacher, (along with countless others!) and have, over the years, become friends.

With the passing this week of the beloved and wise Maya Angleou, beautiful quotes belonging to her have been cascading across my computer screen and one in particular has of course, been shared by many, multiple times:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  ~m.a.

In the midst of the logistics of day to day life, combined with all that goes into putting a workshop such as this one together, it is easy for me to forget how important this journal-based work and my place in it truly are.  Yes, the workshop is about learning to sketch what we see while on a trip to a beautiful, soul-filling place, but it is so much more.  Growth happens on these trips.  Both in myself and in most of the workshop participants.  Keeping a visual diary of what comes across our paths in this life is more than just a lovely legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren; more than just a keeper of details from our travels.  This practice enables us to build our own lives as we see fit.  By opening up to the work in a sketchbook, we can open up to ourselves, the beauty around us, and to each other.  It’s powerful stuff.  And perhaps I don’t write often enough of the deep, deep work I do in these workshops, and in my own sketchbooks.

I saw another quote recently, by psycho-analyst Donald Winnicott:

“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate, and the desire to hide.” ~d.w.

There is such truth to this, and it may partially explain why I don’t publicly delve deeper into the Big Work that this journaling stuff is.  But it is.  And this is not lost on me.  My dear friend and right hand woman Julie and I leave for Taos in a matter of days.  And we are ready.  Ready for the big work.  Ready to midwife those who are also ready for the big work.  To notice this world in all it’s delirious detailing can be overwhelming.  But in the vessel of a little book, with the tools of some color and a pen or pencil, it doesn’t have to be so daunting.

Keeping an illuminated diary is a gift that keeps on giving.  Teaching is a gift that gives even more, as through this vocation, I have earned dear friends who seem to know me in a way many don’t.  I am deeply thankful for these gifts.  And for the earthly treasures that occasionally show up in my post box.

I’m fairly certain that there will be a small space set aside in my travel bag for a spindle and my beautiful roving whilst on my travels this summer.  Then I can work up yarn of a gypsy-journeying sort from which to knit a cloak of summer memories to keep me warm next winter.

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