Last golden days of August

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There has been a string of very seasonable (for our neck of the woods at least) hot days lately.  The sort of days that make a gal cringe to even think about getting into the car after a day at the shop.  The sort of days that have me waking before dawn just to get some exercise in.  It’s brutal and my least favorite time of the year (including our more wintry friend, The Polar Vortex).  I suppose in my soul I am a true northerner, as I would prefer to add layers and sip tea through a cold spell versus grapple with inescapable heat and humidity. All that said, in spite of the temperature, there is a definite sense of the goldening of things. A shift in the way the light leans each day….

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The gardens are beginning to dry out and fade, making way for autumnal splendor on the pallet of the season.

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After all, these are spring time creatures which must take their rest until next year….

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I have the gift of a whole day here at my home/studio today and can take time to notice this goldening.  The dogs enjoy flushing out the rabbits who live in our ferns, to give a quick chase which keeps the poor bunnies on their toes.  Of course if you ask, the pups deny all wrong-doing.

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I sit with my journal trying to capture thoughts, ideas, sketches and stories as they zoom past like so many streaking chickens.

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Meanwhile, in spite of a woeful lack of gardening on our part this year, I was surprised to see a pumpkin in our little patch.  Evidently the deer didn’t get to every single bloom after all.

 

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zoom!  There goes another chicken!

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The girls continue to be fairly productive in the egg-making department and I am so grateful for it.  They seem to love their little hut and the extended run which helps keep Mr. Fox at bay.  Even they seem to notice a change in the light of late.

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Yet still they lay, day to day…..

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As I begin a day holed up in my cozy (and thankfully air-conditioned!) nook of a work-room, I am glad of this shifting of things.  It brings a new energy to life, a nesting of sorts.  I bring some of the outdoors in, until I can invite the autumn breezes inside as well.

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And with the help of my muses, I dive into working…. on bunnies who herd sheep, world-traveling hamsters who are in desperate need of an apron or so, and oil paints perhaps.  As usual, I shall keep you posted on the goings on.

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ps. I posted the video below before in this post but I shall post it again here, as with the word Gold floating around in my mind, the song is as well.

3dG and Me

Perhaps you know of Ginger Small, the little hamster character I have been working to pin down for a good while now.  She is very, very shy, being a small creature in a big world. I have worked with a variety of incarnations of her wee physical self as a way of pursuing a sense of character for her, so that she might share her story with me in word-form, as she has been rather reluctant to do so. And I so very much would like to see little miss Ginger’s adventures become a picture book for children of all ages one day.

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About a year and a half or so ago, I created a little felted version Ginger and played with her a bit in the studio.  Her facebook friends seemed to really love this little three-dimensional Ginger and sent cards and gifts her way.

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But all the while, this rather quiet, awkward and somewhat adolescent version of Ginger didn’t seem to match the confident, fashion-savvy cheek of a hamster that can be found in the drawings I make of her….

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This little Ginger was far more quiet and bookish and chose to mostly stay at home nestled in the embroidery basket practicing the art of divination with tiny Tarot cards.  It is not lost on me that this side of Ginger is really the tender side of myself…

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And so, as we must never push a shy creature too very far out of her comfort zone, I crafted a couple of rounds of paper doll versions of Ginger for the Halloween and Christmas holidays that year.  Her friends were thrilled!!

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This version of Ginger didn’t feel so shy with masks to hide behind.

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Felted Ginger, being a bit of an introvert, continued to make friends one by one, choosing a more intimate exchange of thoughts and ideas.

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This went on for a good while.  Whenever I had the chance, and an idea came to me, I would catalog Ginger’s adventures in illustrative format.  I love doing this best of all.  I know I have shared some of these adventures with you over time….

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Then, just the other day, I was catching up on the blog writing and workly adventures of one of my favorite writer/illustrators, Jackie Morris.  Jackie’s work is such as I hold to be True North in what I like to find in books-with-pictures.  My kids have grown up with her imagery captivating their imaginations, as well as my own.  She has written and illustrated many gorgeous books and you can see them all here: http://www.solvawoollenmill.co.uk/jackie-morris-books.  Her latest book, Something About a Bear, is due out quite soon and I for one can’t wait to get my very own copy.  I may even treat myself to an actual signed copy from the site above, all the way from Wales!

While perusing Jackie’s lovely blog, I came across a sweet video of her reading her new book aloud to a small bear critter named Mary, who was, I came to find out, born in the pages of this book.  Jackie’s friends at Celestine and the Hare made a felted version of the little spectacled bear in Jackie’s book and I dare say this little felted version of the bear has taken on quite a personality!!  I love reading about her and hope she finds herself in the pages of a book all her very own at some point.  She is a delightful little bear and you can see her often these days in the recent posts by Jackie on her blog.

Sweet Mary, her friend a Snow Leopard and their collective adventures had me glancing across the studio to my own little felted critter, wondering if maybe, with a little more hand work from me, the felting needles and some extra wool, 3dGinger might decide to venture out into the world a little more for her own adventures.

And so I took her off the shelf and got back to working on her….

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I felted some more brightly colored wool onto her which plumped her up a bit.  After all, one of the nicest things about hamsters is their plumpness!  I updated her ears and added a proper tail – the tail being one way to tell a hamster creature versus say, a mouse, or a gerbil.

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Soon, a more grown-up, less awkward Ginger emerged….

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And while felting as an art form is not something I’d say I’m destined to do as my Life’s Work, I would say this updated version of herself has turned out rather sweetly.

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She still is the sort that likes to hang out amidst cups of tea, paints and quietude….

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But she has also found there is much she likes to do.  Like going to the aquarium.

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Enjoying a climb in the garden.

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Or sitting by the brook where flowers lean in for a drink.  Don’t fall in, Ginger!!!

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Ginger, like my own self, very much likes to spend time amongst the faery folk.  She visits them at their hut where she drinks honeysuckle tea and discusses lofty and otherworldly ideas.

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I have heard tell that the faeries enjoy her company as much as she loves theirs.

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Like all of us small creatures, Ginger occasionally ponders Beings larger in scope and more powerful than her little self.

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One day, she would very much like to go to Ireland.  But for now, she is content with nestling into shamrocks available to her closer to home and listening to the Irish music that so often graces this place in which she resides.

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This upcoming winter, Ginger and I are going back to Taos, New Mexico.   Most times when I go to Taos, Ginger is off finding her own adventures as I don’t have much time amidst teaching a workshop.  But she does manage to rest and have a little fun on her own.

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In which Ginger Small cavorts with the other-worldly

On this next trip, however, I will not be tied up in teaching.  I have been given the great gift of time and space as a Writer-In-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House for a couple of weeks in January.  This will require a little financial finagling with time off work  at my Day Job and the coverage of some travel costs.  But Ginger and I will figure it out together.  I have a few ideas on how to make it all work and Mabel’s has graciously given me a place to stay, a small stipend and a solid meal each day I am there.  I am truly honored and humbled to have received this gift.

I’m so excited that I stumbled across Jackie’s little bear Mary, who in turn inspired me to revisit the three-dimensional version of Ginger whom I have now nicknamed 3dG. Thank you Jackie and Mary!  It’s such a miracle to be able to check in on the week to week processes of artists via the internet and to have the opportunity to build a character here myself, as well as share my day to day, week to week, month to month…. (year to year!) processes here too on this little blog-place.  I am thankful to all of the artists and writers out there who have kept their blogs as I have over the years.  They (we!) are a gift to the world at large I believe.

When visiting my son at his new grown up apartment at school yesterday evening, my newly invigorated and courageous Ginger climbed up onto a globe in the shape of the whole world.  She told me she rather feels “on top of the world” since getting through this most recent patch of growing pains.  We shall see where her adventures take us.

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A mystical island tale, a lakeside sojourn, a journey’s end and home again.

Last I left you here I was to spend a week in a place much like the land of Brigadoon of lore at the Swannanoa Gathering.  And gather we did.  It felt like coming home to a family I only ever see once a year (twice if I am truly fortunate).  I took no pictures.  I made no drawings.  I played tunes which only live on in the hearts and memories of those of us who were there for the week.  It was indeed a week like no other.  There was a wedding! Yes, a REAL wedding!! And we wore dresses and popped champagne, cried tears of joy over poems read at the ceremony.  The experience was one of time outside of time.  I have designs for an artful gift to make up for the Bride and Groom and will share that with you here later, along with maybe some photos of the blessed event.  Suffice it to say, it was an honor to be a part of it all. And it was over far too soon for my liking….

Yet we simply had to leave.  The Gathering was to turn itself around for another group of folks who have an equal love for something equally obscure, each week being precious and different.  Jack and I were home for about 36 hours, to do laundry, rethink the contents of our knapsacks and to remind our poor dogs that we hadn’t completely abandoned them.  (While we were in Maine, they were in extremely capable hands of a friend who loves them and our home almost as much as we do!)

We were off to Maine.

Perhaps more than any other residence of my soul’s True Self, Maine is where I come home to roost.  The smell of the pine trees and the sea, the expansive green-ness of it all.  It’s captivating.  And it causes a churning and questioning each year about ‘what are we doing, living in Ohio of all places? When we could have this….’  But in spite of this churning, we must return there, having once lived there long enough to be hooked for life.

We stopped in Freeport to pick up our loved ones, and headed en masse to Monhegan Island, the magical, mystical spit of land about 15 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

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It was gray and rainy, and not a particularly pleasant day for a near 2 hour ferry ride.  (a number of us suffer from wave sickness when conditions are Just So, and we were a tad on the worried side…)

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Yet in spite of the occasional rains, the breeze was nice and so was the ferry ride itself.  I felt lulled into trance by the hum of the motor of our dear Balmy Days II.  Soon, through the mists, we could spy Monhegan herself.  ‘The Island’.

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She came closer and closer.  And the rain clouds dried their tears for us, little by little.

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And just like that, upon our arrival, the sun was out to welcome us. It was to be a beautiful 2 days of island exploration.

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Monhegan has an old tale to tell, older than most places in this fledgling country of ours.  The Native Americans who first spied the curious “canoes with wings” (European sailboats) had fished around Monhegan since time before history.  But of written history, there are about 400 years of stories which add up to a place steeped in the narrative of a strong and hearty ilk who have fished, farmed (a bit) and made a life (as well as some art!) on this tiny iconic rock of a place.

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We love to add our stories, even just a day’s tale or so, to the Book of Monhegan.  This island has a way of getting under a soul’s skin.  And if away for long enough, one finds one’s heart fairly longing for a glimpse of it, a chance to walk it’s paths and stack its stones once again.  I myself already can’t wait to return.

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Many ships have wrecked on or near Monhegan over the centuries.  This one below is the wreck of the DT Sheridan.  It’s a lovely old iron vessel that has rusted to a gorgeous oxide color and is still substantial enough to climb upon and explore.

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Some of the locals even use it as a nesting place…..

 

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We all love to comb the coast for stones that call to us.  I for one appreciate stones cast by Mother Nature into the shape of a heart.  I hadn’t seen any of these since Taos.  I was delighted to find many of them here on this island.

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As is the case with many water bourne places, down every lane of this island and tucked in every hidden, protected cove lie boats of all shapes and sizes and utilities.  I never tired of seeing them anywhere.

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And yet the ocean is not the only Great Being inhabiting this island.  There are many acres of protected woodland space and folks like to take found natural objects and detritus and create little fairy huts which haunt and taunt the hiking paths.  So many of them, in every shadowed space! We delighted in spotting them.  And of course in building one of our own as well!

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On this day, I did manage to make a sketch in my journal…

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…and Jack, managed to have a tune, and to find a friend with whom to play it.

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Soon, after a bite to eat and some time to rest our weary feet, the breeze shifted.  As we glanced up, we noticed that the light had begun to change…

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Much like my beloved Taos-land, Monhegan Island has drawn artists from around the world and throughout time with That Perfect Light that people speak of in a hushed and awed whisper.  This is the haunting hour of the day that painters long for.

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I pined for my oil paints, which in deference to space in our old wagon, I left behind in my studio at home.

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But I vowed that next we have the opportunity to return for longer than one glimpse of an overnight, I would make a point to bring them along with me and attempt in some small way to Capture the Light.  In this day and age of Contemporary Art, much of which I am thrilled by, there is some discussion of painting, especially painting plein air or landscape painting of any sort, being a waste of a modern artist’s time and effort.  I firmly disagree.  I believe that to even begin to capture the light of a beloved scene, or the spirit of familiar place is in some way to have touched the divine.  Much in the way some folks may go to church, not to become God, but rather to touch God for a moment through prayer or contemplation.  To me, this is why drawing and painting in a specific place at a specific time (versus maybe from a photo later) holds such magic.  I am fortunate to know many artists who feel the same and do not seem to feel the need to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’, so to speak, with regard to Old v. New in the Land of Art Making.

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The little old houses light up with the breath of the sunset.  Pinks, yellows, limes and golds….

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We laughed and danced in celebration of the sunset.

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And we were treated to a spectacle that most people don’t often get to witness.

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I love a good sunset.  And we do have them back here in the midwest.  But there is nothing like an island sunset.  The photos simply cannot do it justice…..

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[more boats!] 

The following day we were to leave our beloved island, to continue our journey, this time to lake country…..

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We were loathe to leave her behind, but know we will be back….

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And just like that, we were nestled in the Kennebec Highlands, at a lakeside cottage which has become familiar to us and we enjoy returning to…

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We were greeted with moody, changeable skies which rained and threatened rain a lot of many days.  But we were not to be put off that easily.  There was sailing to be had on the new arrival in the boathouse….

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…and rolls to be practiced in the kayaks we had brought with us from 1000 miles away….

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Almost as if we had willed it into place, the light did return to warm us with some sunshine and sunsets.  Though to be honest, so long as it’s not a total wash out, I am a fan of misty, gray days.

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One early morning I awoke to the sense that all was strange and modified in some way.  And so it was.  We had been socked in with fog! I arose to capture an image, and promptly went back to sleep.  It was vacation after all!

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So long as it wasn’t raining firmly, which it didn’t do much, we found ourselves on or near the water.

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Even Ginger Small got in on the sailing fun that week!!

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The sunshine did make an appearance here and there on all but one of our days at the lake, so we were happy campers.  Simply being all together, cooking meals, sharing cocktails and laughter and games was enough for us.

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It is hard to believe how grown up these cousins-of-soul have become.  Each year we wonder if it will be the last of the four of them together at Camp, as Life and Work may yet intervene.  But so far, so good.

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They are, the four of them showing serious signs of Growing Up…..

 

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On the other hand, growing up is highly overrated.  The lake brings out the kid in all of us.

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After a lovely reunion back in town with some old pals from our days in the Navy, it was time to saddle up and head home.  The New England sun rise beckoned us, ‘please don’t go…’.  We drove and drove and drove.

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Soon we were welcomed home by an iconic billboard just north of our fair Queen City which we look to as a bit of a ‘you’re almost there’ beacon, for all its doom, gloom, hell-fire and brimstone.  We do live in Ohio after all, which is not without its quirks.

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And home, while not without its quirks, is also not without its gifts.  I arrived home to find a lovely package from a cousin.  She sent to me some old art supplies belonging to her mom, a great auntie of mine, one of which was an engraved paint box!  I am very thankful for this unexpected gift and must yet make a proper thank you card to send….

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One thing that has unexpectedly pinned me here back here in Ohio is my musical community, which I look to upon returns from amazing travels to keep me from ‘burning up on reentry’ like some traveling Space Shuttle coming home at the wrong speed and at the wrong angle.

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These folks, and the music we share together each week at the local session, have been, are, and likely will continue to be, one of my greatest gifts in this life as I know it.  We gladly occupy our space in Harp Jail for a time every week.  When I am not fully landed from travels, and my soul aches to be elsewhere, these people and this music guide me back to center time and time again.  I am so thankful for it.

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Music is why I have the Day Job that I have; a place that I happily go to many days a month (even on my birthday!) because I love my work and I love the people I work with….

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and they seem to like me as well.  Birthday cupcakes are wonderful… birthday cupcakes with a butterfly ring are just over the top!!

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I like for celebrations to last and so this week my birthday drones on and on in the best way possible.  I am 45 now (in sheep-count-speak that would be ‘two pebbles in my pocket and a yan, tan, tether, mether, pip on my tongue.’)

My mamas (yet another reason to come home to Ohio!) treated me to lunch yesterday at a rather fancy place which I had never been to. We shared amazing food, delightful conversation, cake (!)…

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and even a champagne toast!!

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I was gifted with a small chalice which is just right for a little spot of red wine at the end of the day…..

I couldn’t be more happy with my birthday celebration thus far.  And it isn’t over yet!!

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One reason I like to extend the length of birthdays, and all good things really, is if you imprison your event into one calendar day, potentially other happenings on that very day could taint the taste of your special day, making it not so nice after all.  On the calendar date of my birthday I received a rejection letter from a local arts organization who’s been trying to find some work for me (we will find the right project eventually, I have faith!) and I was quite saddened not to be chosen by their partner on this most recent project because it had seemed so fitting.  Rejections are part of the work of being an artist in this world but they are still a stinging thing, especially on your birthday!!

Also on my birthday came the news of Robin Williams’ untimely and sad passing due to complications of depression.  I was deeply moved and saddened by this news, especially as I have battled depression at various times in my life in varying degrees of severity.  I have tools which work much of the time to keep me healthy, but I am acutely aware of how close the darkness lies.  And of how tenuous my own relationship to lightness truly is.

At the end of a season of travel there is always a time of adjustment, a time that generally holds with it some heaviness of spirit.  But I know through playing music, finding magic and mystery and whimsy in the out of doors (see this guy below??)….

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…I can potentially keep myself from the true depths of darkness.

I can seek the beautiful in this world and catalog it, allowing the ugly news of the world in when I choose to do so  and on my own terms.  Being informed in this age of instant news at all times is tricky business.  It is important to be well read, up to date, ready to vote and be an active part of society.  And yet...  This world needs poets.  And artists.  And pinks so pink they match the shoe laces on my running shoes.  This world needs monks who pray on mountain tops, even when the world seeks to destroy itself while they do so….

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I am home.  I am rested, yet restless.  I am out of practice and in desperate need to get back to the drawing board.  And so I will.  Today I started with a visit to the zoo, where I sketched some lions….

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You will find my virtual self checking in here at the blog, lurking now and then over on Twitter, and eventually back on Facebook*, where I will seek to find some new terms for my relationship with that platform.   Meanwhile, I’ll be seeking beauty….

*{for the time being I am taking a break from facebook, as it has become a place which seems to contribute to my heaviness of spirit.  That said, the day of my birthday was made more lovely by many wishes from friends far and wide and I am so grateful for this!  I shall return to that virtual space after a time for in the long run, there is often great value and connection there for me.}