The woman and the saint

Years upon years ago I spent a fair amount of time training for and running in marathons.  These races and my relationships with those with whom I trained kept me quasi-sane through the early years of motherhood, which like many, I often found challenging and quite lonely.  In the long run, so to speak, I ran 7 of these races which afforded me the opportunity to travel now and then, and fund raise a bit,  keep healthy and even do some soul searching along the way.  At that time, it was the right kind of slow therapy I needed.  Those miles led me to the more real version of me, they helped me find the courage to let my artist-self shine and eventually, I gave up the long distances to walk more in the woods, spend more time sketching, and somehow earn an art degree.

Recently, at the suggestion of a long-time and dear friend, I have dipped my toe back into the idea of running-to-race by committing to a local half-marathon.  This means that I needed to go beyond my jogs ’round the neighborhood and do some longer runs on the weekend.  These runs would train us up for the big day and give us a few hours every weekend to chat, laugh and catch up with each other, something we hadn’t found time to do in ages.  The extra miles have been taxing on my legs but by throwing into the mix some kayaking and cycling through the week to ‘cross-train’, somehow I’ve managed.  This past week we successfully ran 11 miles together and that is the last of the Big Long Runs before the race.  Hoorah for ‘tapering!’

It’s been lovely to run the streets of our fair Queen City and see the mornings come alive as we tick off the miles.  At the tail end of yesterday’s Big Run, we were passing a local church and this lovely scene caught my artist-eye and I nearly stopped in my tracks.

woman and a saint

Here was a statue of Saint Mary, nestled into the side wall of the building in a wee niche (my mom would call her Mary on the Half-Shell), and seated at her feet was a lovely woman in a crisp white sari, trimmed in blue.  Something about this scene captured my imagination.  But as we were running, we couldn’t very well stop for an artful photograph, let alone a sketch!  And so, this drawing is one from my mind’s eye, the details perhaps not quite right.

detail

 

The woman in the sari was readying to answer her mobile phone which was ringing out a lovely Indian sounding ring-tone.  She may have been waiting for Mass to begin, or perhaps she was resting in the niche with Mary for a spell while she waited for the metro-bus.  Regardless of her story, just the glimpse of the two of them there in that brief moment was a lovely sight to see.  And so this morning, I visited that space again, in the land of my imaginings, and made a little drawing.  This is a small painting, only 5″x7″.  It is indeed for sale if it speaks to you.

detail 2

 

 

Speaking of selling little drawings, check back here in the next week or so.  I’ll be offering some things for sale to help fund my writer-in-residence post in Taos this upcoming winter.  These will be sketches and Ginger post-card options, and maybe even an ethereal bunny or two…. I’ll keep you posted!

In the mean time, while we all seem to be running through our lives be it to Fit It All In, or to train for the Next Big Race, let’s take the time to note and perhaps record the sacred in the mundane should we be fortunate enough to come across it.  I’d love to see what you come up with!

Watery and Windswept – some days on an island in an inland sea

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I have written before of our past journeys to a magical little spot of land in the middle of a not-too-very-far-away inland sea…. Kelley’s Island is a few hours’ drive and a brief ferry trek across the waves and we enjoy a different side of it every time we visit.  (For past inland island tales, click here and here.)

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This year, due to a traffic back up on the highway on our way northward, we arrived rather late to set up camp.  It was windy and threatening predicted rainfall.  No pictures were taken, no sketches were made. Tents were pitched against the bluster and the decision was made to stay off the water until the following morning when the annual Kelley’s Island Poker Paddle was slated to begin as darkness was upon us….

We slept fitfully in our tents, which while protecting us from the elements, still allow in the roar of the waves and the voice of wind; and awoke to angry skies and rumors of badly-tempered waves.

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KI 1

 

Alas we found that for this day at least, the poker paddle event was canceled.  So a few of us hopped into cars to drive the island roads and survey the moods of the waves battering the rest of the island.  Lake Erie is a shallow lake compared to its cousins and just an overnight’s wind can kick up some surf.

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Some spots seemed more dangerous than others.  And we contemplated this temperamental lake.

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I snapped pictures of not only the lake’s moodiness, but signs that autumn was already more into full gear just this far north of us.

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Eventually, there were signs that although a circumnavigation of the entire island might be in poor judgement, there might be enough sunshine out to warrant some play amongst the waves in the safety of the little harbor at our camping place…..  And some intrepid souls decided to head out to play.

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I debated.  On the one hand, I have this boat I like to spend time in.

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But I was a bit chilled, and was enjoying being beached.

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I had just brewed a pot of tea.

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But in the end, I opted for a little time in the rough water, more as practice time than anything else.

 

I was rewarded with a few seconds here and there of good surfing.  And while the wind was cold, the water was not, so we practiced getting in and out of the boats to stay up on emergency skills in case of a water-bourne mishap one day.  Hopefully we will not have to use these skills in real life, but it is good to keep up to date.  And to test my stomach.  I had been on the ginger for a number of days, and thankfully, had no sea sickness.

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I came into harbor sooner than most, but eventually we all caught up with each other to warm up and see what else the day had to bring us.

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While the more intrepid stayed out on the water for more surfing, I sat with my sketchbook and watercolors and watched the colors dance on the water and the sky.

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Eventually we decided an afternoon hike might be in order.

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Kelley’s has a rich history of industry and quarrying and so one is likely to wander across remnants of days gone by being recaptured by the forest.

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We continued on through the forest, following the voice of the lake….

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…aided by what felt at times like the spirit of the place. Most places have a spirit of sorts and the spirits of Kelley’s are alive and well and willing to show us the way.

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This island is not a really big place and soon, we had once again reached the water’s edge….

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Kelley’s is renowned for a number of special things such as glacial grooves.  On this hike we visited the Alvar region of the island….

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This side of the island does take a beating from the perpetuation of the waves.

 

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There are even fresh water ‘tide’ pools of sorts which shine like jewels.

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We walked along pebbly shores which were seemingly made up of all shades of beigey whiteness.

 

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Upon closer inspection, of course, we see that no two stones are alike.  Some speak of lives lived ages upon ages ago.

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While others remind us that to show our true colors in a sometimes seemingly-bland world may be the best gift we can give.

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I broadened my collection of heart-shaped stones, recognizing that to show the shape of a heart in a hardened world often means to have been a bit broken along the way.  And perhaps tossed about on the shoreline before being picked up and treasured.

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The light began to change and to call us back through the woods and back toward camp…

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We greeted the forested friends along the way.

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Finding our way back along the path toward a dinner of perch and a more restful night in the tent.

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Fortunately, the winds and waves of one day gave way to a calm and gentle beauty of the next.  We were greeted with a spectacular sunrise just outside our tent door, which I watched for awhile….

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…before finally deciding to step outside and brew some coffee.

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It was to be a perfect day of paddling, at least in my opinion.  Placid and calm.

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It was like four hours (11-ish miles) of a water-based moving meditation.  At the end I was deliriously high from it all.  I was thankful the Kelley’s Island Kayaking Club opted to wait a day for the official event and thankful that my more adventurous cohorts still got their play time on the waves the day prior.  We all got what we needed and wanted from the weekend. The rest of the pictures from our trip to Kelley’s are merely those in my mind’s eye. I didn’t have the camera out for the tail end of this tale which involved some sunshine, a few Lake Erie water snakes popping their heads out of the water to say hello (though I kept missing them by a hair’s breadth of a moment!), grilled snacks and a poker game and finally, some well deserved brews for our group at the end of it all.

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With a somber ferry’s ride back to the mainland and more cornfields than we cared to witness, we were eventually back home where we have traded in the sound of waves crashing for the far off hum of the nearby highway.  Seagull’s cries have been replaced by the sound of sirens and car-horns in the nearby city streets.  But if I listen more closely, I can hear the cluk-cluk-clucking of my chickens out back, and the sighful snores of my dogs. Down the hall, I hear my hub back at his work-a-day.  Life is good.  I am thankful for little island side trips as a gentle reminder of this.

 

 

A Pavilion Wedding in the Swannanoa Valley

As promised awhile back here, I want to share with you the story of a fairy tale wedding which happened this summer amidst the magic and music of the Swannanoa Gathering.  My summer friends, Ellen and David, who hail all the way from Massachusetts, and whom I only see at summer camp, opted to tie the knot amongst friends of the musical variety with the mountains of North Carolina as a back drop.

the happy couple

It was, in true south mountain fashion, a rather unpredictable day from the weather gods.  All day it rained and rained and we began to steel ourselves for the wedding to be a drippy affair.  Though we knew, that there was a pavilion to keep heads dry during the ceremony, a large hall for the ceili reception, and multiple tents for evening sessions. We certainly would not melt.  And besides, we had work to do that day which had little to do with the wedding.  We had new tunes to practice!!!

Work before play

 

A strange thing happened while we were in our afternoon classes however…. the skies began to clear, just a bit, and hopes began to rise.  The bride and groom went off to have a bite to eat, and to get ready for their magical evening and the rest of us gathered at the pavilion to begin arranging things…..

quietude before the blessed event

There were chairs to make into rows, flowers and cakes to welcome…

the bouquet The cakes were AMAZING

Champagne to open, of course.

Shiteloads of Champagne

And favors to welcome guests to the wedding…

Sweet favors to bring this season into next

Soon it was time for the processional.  The ‘Flute Cousins’ all played a gorgeous Scottish march called The King’s House.  This is one of those tunes that can give you goose bumps for all it’s soulfulness and it was the perfect choice for the event.

procession

The wedding itself went as so many weddings have gone since time before history.  There were lovely words and thoughts, tears and laughter amidst the solemnity of it all.

The ceremony

I was honored to be asked to read a poem called How Falling In Love is Like Owning a Dog, by Taylor Mali.  This was a great choice for Ellen and David as they love all creatures great and small, especially dogs.

reading the poem

The newly married couple shared their first kiss after the ceremony….

You may now kiss the bride

…and were ushered out with a flute arch….

recessional

And a wedding reel!

recessional musicians

Within no time, solemnity had shifted into raucous celebration….

mad session ensues

champagne

Which lasted well into the evening, first with ceili dancing and later, more music – on into the wee hours…. For that is what we were there for.

Sessions go on and on and on

Upon returning home from my summer’s travels, I began to ponder what I might put together as a gift for Ellen and David in honor of their big day.  And so I began to build a little painting.  Not so much of the actual way of things, but rather the feel of that magical afternoon into evening in the liminal world…..

How to build a painting

painting 1

I loved how the skies looked that afternoon when the clouds miraculously parted and the rains left everything clean washed and ready for celebration.

early painting detail

I enjoyed the way the pavilion looked before everyone arrived, but more especially after celebrating ensued.

painting detail 1

Folks milled through the misty evening, filled to the brim with love, music, and a bit of drink perhaps as well.  And the session tents around the campus were all full that night.

finished painting detail - the musicians tent

Here is the little painting born of a wedding celebration.  It’s not a big thing, only 9×12, but I think it will be well received as a reminder of not only their wedding day, but also of the magic of the gathering in general, to which we all look forward to throughout the rest of the year.  Many congratulations Ellen and David!  May blessings abound.

Pavilion Wedding In The Swannanoa Valley

 

For Marriage

As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.

As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.

As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.

As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.

As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.

As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.

As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.

As twilight harvests all the day’s color,
May love bring you home to each other.

~John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)

 

(wedding pics by fellow ‘gatherers’, Kate Bradford McFadden and Natalie Wurz, concertina snapshot by Tim Smith, and art by me.)