The Storming Mind

It’s been a wild few days.  Outward, ever outward.  Shining toward others, ever deserving.  Our oldest ‘small’ is returned to the midwest from Aspen‘s heights.  He is beginning a master’s course of study in violin performance, settling into a house he’s rented from a family we know well.  This gives me the hope that he is therefore surrounded by an extra layer of love as he embarks on this new chapter.   I took a day this last week to make the drive out to his new hometown to purchase that first round of groceries (which always proves to be so costly when one is in one’s 20’s) and to have lunch with him and make sure he’s really and truly back from Colorado.

One never knows.

Turns out he’s properly returned.  And feathering his new Indiana nest with joy and hope for the future.

Into the weekend we plummet.  Another road trip to see an art show in Columbus with a couple of long time artful friends and the younger ‘small’ herself, also settling into early adulthood.  It is a wonderful thing when one’s adult children begin to weave their way into our adult lives becoming yet another friend with whom to share experience and art and life.  We walk her new dog, marveling at the blessings of *neighborhood* and *community* and the gifts they entail.

The show, In a New Light, Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement, is stunning and well worth the visit.  The artist’s use of color is at once familiar and cosmic and I become that annoying art viewer with glasses on getting as close to the work as possible, studying brush strokes and color choices up close.  I even purchase the catalog.  The show is that great.  My friends and I study Alice Schille’s life’s arc and timeline and decide she may have known our beloved Mabel.  Would they have gotten along?  Who could tell.  Mabel was a tricky customer.  But Alice was making her art.  And this is commendable.

The weekend barrels on for myself and my family and while I so enjoy the celebrations and time together, I find myself twitchy today and though quite tired, get the paints out…..

Inspired as I have been by Alice’s work, the watercolors aren’t enough and I reach for the oil’s…..

Oil on Arches ‘Oil Paper’, as yet untitled.

And I knock out a couple of landscape paintings I am not entirely disappointed with.  Not a bad afternoon’s work for one feeling torn in too many directions.  One painting feels a bit like home here on the northern edges of Appalachia (culturally speaking at least, for you geographic purists).  It is an expression of the days of late August, goldening on into September.

The other is more of a reaching out to the bog lands of Ireland where I will find myself in a matter of weeks.  (Still considering taking a small set of oils.  Thoughts, dear readers????)

Oil on Arches ‘oil paper’, as yet untitled.

A few of us once found our boots being pulled into the boggy depths of the peaty regions of dear old Ireland and I have fond memories of this day indeed.

Either way, regardless of where my heart is feeling tugged from one moment to the next, PAINT is always a player -at least in my mind if not in practice-  and I am learning more and more (finally) to turn to it when I can, as well as to the trusty old drawn line.  I find comfort in the art.  I can settle into it.  It’s become less something I avoid for *all the usual excuses* and more a place I run toward for solace.

I am thankful for days of celebrating family.  And for friends who will travel to see a proper art show.  I am thankful for women who made art in a time when it might not have been so fruitful or safe to do so.  Have you seen the movie Packed In a Trunk?  You should.

Tomorrow is a normal Monday.  I have work at the shop to do.   Household things to attend to in between attending to the *art mind and body* as it were.  Life has to happen.  How do you all balance the art making with the need for family time, as well as the solitude which feeds the work and self care?

How can we shut out the world for a bit enough to do our work while not ignoring the realities of the modern age?  It’s a tricky business and I welcome any suggestions.

 

Back To Center

“To Paint is to Love Again.”  ~Henry Miller

We are home from Maine, landlocked once again to Ohio.

Ohio is not without its beauty to be sure.  There have been errands to run, adjustments to be made, momentous birthdays to acknowledge and celebrate.

Suddenly I realize it has been a coon’s age since I had my paints out mixing and dancing their way around the palette.  I must dive back in.

August breezes, when they blow, are humid and hot.  I figure this weather is a strange combination of the dooming of climate-change and good old-fashioned late August in the mid-west.  How are we to know?

Storms do break up the monotony of late summer.  They make for dramatic skies and monumental cloud forms.

From the West, always, the clouds gather.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of age that clouds and birdsong catch my attention now more than ever.   I seek to paint them in between the expectations of a busy, modern life.

This past weekend there were tunes, on tunes, on tunes.  Again I remember – this makes for intense happiness in my heart – I recommit.  The painting and the music are inextricably linked.  I may not be very good at either, comparatively speaking.  But each makes my small heart sing.  And surely this is a measure of something in the world.

Something. –  in the epoch of our own humanity.  We are but a blip in the matrix of the Universe as we know it, and yet we seek these bits of joy and meaning like spiritual breadcrumbs of a sort.

There are more tunes slated for this evening when a few of us gather to choose the autumnal soundtrack for the Riley School of Irish Music.  Tomorrow is a road trip to settle one of the smalls (newly returned from western adventures) into his next adventure in grad school.  It is good to have him near at hand once again.

Travel beckons again soon.  I find myself already getting organized for a weekend trip to Sheboygan in September and a longer journey back to Ireland in October.  Some day if I truly settle in one place, it will be a strange day indeed.  I embrace this traveling side of myself and am grateful for those loved ones who keep the dogs fed and the home fires burning when I am away.  It does not escape me that I am truly fortunate.

When I travel, I travel lightly.  I do not plan to take the oils to Ireland this go round as I’ll be on the go more often than not.  But I have ordered a new sketchbook and I have extra watercolorey books to pack as well.

The goldening, autumnal season will see me diving back into a world of words each morning once again to find my way through the dark of winter.  There is nothing quite like pouring a cup of coffee, lighting a candle and putting pen to paper.  This might keep me sane in the dark months to come.  But so will hitting the road, discovering and re-discovering new places and new tunes.

What plans do you have this late-summer/early-autumn to feed your soul?  How do you survive winters in general?  What have you drawn or painted lately?  As always, I’d love to know.

 

A Word for Feeling

“It is the morning after the night before.”     ~Ciaran Carson (Last Night’s Fun)

I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast.  This is not a bad thing.  As I choose pie over cake any day.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With.  On paper I turned 50.  But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really.  Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere.  From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses.  They might give anything to be here.

Art by Christina Wald

“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood!  Time for an adventure.  Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)

Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….

“Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)

One of my oldest and dearest. While I find adventures at the end of a paint brush; she heads down the path of a Good Book. We all do what feeds us on vacation.

We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play.   I for one simply can never get enough of the sea.  In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible.  I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature.  I long to come home to that each visit.  These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?

photo credit Imran Nuri

“Swimming, One Day In August

It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”

~Mary Oliver  via @shippenverse on IG

photo credit: Imran Nuri

“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.”  And so it is.

“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”

~Anne Frank  via @annefrankcenter

Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile.  I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views.  But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events.  I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing  (even online) speaks volumes.  Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).

It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote.   “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”,  I was asked.

Yes, this is different.  No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking.  Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time.  The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.

It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance.  The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it.  The world is left wondering what the hell is going on.  I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand.  I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government.  At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another.  Not at the border, not at protest rallies.

And so where to from here?

So many stars, so little time (click here for the sound track to the writing of this post)

On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world.  Perhaps I have some wisdom after all.  I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world.  These will continue to be my focus and my center.  But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others.  I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world.  It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning.  The world needs more of us.

Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested.  I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first.  So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were.  I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination.  I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm.  Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough.  In other words I am tougher than I might seem.

Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space.  Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.

“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.”  ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)

And yet……..

There is love above all.  And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to.  The day might be long, the news might be dire.  But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”

–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran

(via the lovely work of Karla Sanders)

For me, to do my work, is to love the world.  Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life.  For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.

“You don’t have to move mountains.  Simply fall in love with life.  Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance.  You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”

~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book.  Her words make a world.)

So back again, to the breath and the work.  I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……

“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”

~John Constable, 1821

For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you.  To you quiet new ones, welcome.  It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing.  (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)

Happy birthday to me.  Here’s to many more years.

ps, the art work I share here is often for sale.  Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange.  I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.