These Gifts

There are quiet gifts arriving daily here at our lowly little acre.  A baby oak seedling I have been stewarding in the last year or so made it through the winter and has wee buds of life bursting forth.  My good musical friend Emmanuel found this little tree in a setting that mightn’t have let it grow and asked if he might dig it up for me.  I said yes and so the little seedling arrived and I have crafted for it a home here and the rest has been up to it.  It seems happy.  I am grateful for friends who see the world like I do.

Ferns are coming up.  They are a bit like big-footed teenagers romping through the house.  Taking up too much space, yet gorgeous in their unfurling.  We have some to share if you would like them.  They love shade, and spreading out.  Much like human teenagers actually.  Just send me a message if you would like some.  we can have a socially distant digging party of sorts.

A number of weeks ago, eager for spring, I took a few cuttings from the willow tree we planted last year, which is thriving (don’t worry, I humbly asked permission first).

These spindly little cuttings quickly made roots and are now forming proper trees in various places in the yard.  Getting trees to grow is a big goal of mine here, having lost so many in recent years.   I look forward to helping these little trees become big trees in the coming years.

In the veggie garden, plans are afoot to attempt what’s called a “Hugelkultur” which is basically a little mounded garden space which increases ground space as well as makes way for the organic matter necessary to feed hungry plants.

My beloved hawthorn tree, which is thriving, has spring buds upon it.  She seems really happy to be the mother hen of this new protected garden space and is relieved of the old armor we kept on her trunk to keep the destructive deer at bay.  We are all breathing a bit easier now, in spite of a pandemic.

a few bits and bobs have gone into the ground and I visit a few times daily to see how we are faring.

But garden gifts aren’t the only ones quietly arriving day to day here at Chez Bogard.  The post has been a blessing as well.  Some of my more trusty penpals have taken to the postal waves to comfort one another in these strange times and thankfully, this has included me.

I’ve received belated birthday gifts, hand painted seed collections,  long missives with the hopes and dreams of a pandemic age.  I’ve sipped the gifts of exotic tea bags and read articles from far flung periodicals lovingly snipped and sent along.  And just yesterday, party flags arrived to welcome the new deer boundary.

Firstly, my artist friend Michelle who is hunkering in Sheboygan WI sent me 50 snapshots of her view of Lake Michigan near her home.  50 snaps for 50 years of my own life.  She is a talented gift giver.  For my 40th, it was pebbles in a hand crocheted bag.  I still treasure them.  I’ll admit, these in their beautiful blueness took my breath away and made me a little weepy.

Gifts such as these make my heart soar.

Letters come, big and small, sometimes bearing other gifts beyond words within, like tea and seeds.  But often the words are enough.  The two above are from two separate pen friends.  Both know I adore the natural world.

Other gifts will keep on giving long after arrival.  These pumpkins will be tested on the Hugelkultur this year.  I love the little drawing on their seed pack.  One of a kind.

And the flags, well the flags were a request actually.  I have had them in my living room and now I have a few sets for my garden – the new living-room as it were.  They are part prayer-flag, part party-flag.

Joyfulness is a form of prayer.  I adore them.

Joy in a time of sadness.

They are crafted by my soul-sister in Vermont, @complimentcoins who makes little bits of love and kindness to sow into the world like seeds.

Some of her little coins are on order to send to my beloved pen friends around the world.  We could all use a bit of love and kindness just now, don’t you think?

There is much news that needs attention paying to it just now.  But a big one for me is the notion that the federal postal service is in question here in our country right now.  This is a long time coming as the service has been saddled with rules and restrictions that have caused their budget to be out of balance in recent decades.  It’s a long and complicated thing which I don’t truly fully understand.  But one thing I do understand is that the timing is crucial.

As we face this pandemic, we also stare down what is likely the most vital election our country has ever faced.  Voting by mail simply must be an option this fall in the face of uncertainty at best, and a second wave of the virus at worst.  And sure enough, those in power would like to defund the post office by October.  Just in time for the election.

We must be diligent.  And let our representatives know how we feel about this.  Via post, ideally.

Here is one link who’s action begins this week (it’s not too late)

I for one, plan to vote by mail at the earliest opportunity.  That was my original plan before all of this madness arrived as I hope to be in Ireland for October and a chunk of November this autumn.  Time will tell if I get my residency after all, and honestly that is the least of my worries in a world of so many worries just now.

If this idea resonates with you, write a letter to your senators, write a letter to your loved ones far away, and even one to those just up the road.  A hand written note or packaged gift can brighten these dark days in ways few other things can.

We small creatures must take to the postal waves and make our voices heard.  It is the only way.

Go.  Be the gift.

Ps:  you are not alone in feeling a lack of concentration in these strange times.  I really enjoyed this article about the Allostatic Load.  We will get through this.  (Charlie, this is for you.)

 

 

Making space

::: Twist of Hemp Week 25 :::

Occasionally, between tunes over in the woodshed and foraging for food in the forest, a day must be taken to clear the decks about the hut a bit.  To sweep the dust from the floors, the winter’s grime from the windows, and send the spiders back outside where they belong.  It is a time to craft piles of books, clothes and maybe ideas that could use a bit of shifting.  Until we can be with our friends once again to play a merry tune, John Joe Badger mindfully considers what might be worth keeping, and what perhaps can be let go.

I think this is something perhaps many are doing, yes?  And it’s not all about stuff either.

How has this slowing down changed your view on things in general?  What will you keep from this time when it is just a memory?  Being a badger, John Joe likes his solitude, and the slowness of this isolation; the pace of things and the nature of the day to day in general.  But he does look forward to meeting his musical mates one day again soon.

Until then…..

A glorious something else

“A glorious something else awaits.”

~Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

I sit with the sadness this morning.  Like so many of us in this time of so many griefs big and small.  Not anything in particular really.  I am fine actually, personally, just now.  The sun is beginning to peek through the clouds and it looks to be a potentially nice day.  I may get to see my sister today, from afar, and we will relinquish the little red dragon back into his normal life back home with her and her support team. He is welcome back here any time of course but  I know he will bring her comfort between her shifts in the ER.

Here, comforts are bursting forth from the ground up.  The long (long) awaited deer fencing is up so we can finally grow some proper food in a real garden bed.

Here are the young-uns. Did you know, egg shells are the perfect little vehicle for growing seeds? It’s true.

A few things are in the ground of course already.  The cold weather kind.  And it looks nice to have some life amidst the structure of it all.

Planted strawberries in pots so they might come inside again over the winter and rest in the warmth. I am learning along the way.
Garlic survived not only the winter, but our trampling around it as we built the garden from the ground up. I wanted to get them in the ground last fall and so it rested whilst we laid cardboard down, then leaves and straw and so much time. Later came more straw and wood chip mulch. Building soil, without tilling. This little patch is the only one with no grass barrier. We will see how it goes.
A note about these lettuce plants. They have served us so well. They started out as seeds in a bag of soil under a plastic bin for warmth over the winter. Here’s the how to: *click* 
We created some archway trellises for the more climbing kind of plant-creatures. I look forward to them shading any summer greens we might be able to plant.

I have nothing against deer really.  Like all of us they are just trying to make a living in the world.  But they are decimators of plant life.  And so, while most of our little acre is at their disposal to wander and chew,  we’ve cordoned off just this little bit for ourselves.  I’ve thought for a long time that growing some of our own food could be paramount.  I always thought this notion might be a bit dramatic really.  But now it all seems closer to home.  Closer to reality.

The deer have been warned to move along from this place. With all due respect.

“Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming”

~trad. Irish/Scottish folk song

I am grateful it is spring time.  It is good to walk and watch the wild world come alive.  A normal spring time here would see my work year ramping up into full gear.  Today I was due to be waking up in California, ready to find the weekend’s sketching spots for the upcoming weekend.  Well, we all know how that panned out.

And I would usually be chomping at the bit to get back to the Land of Enchantment for a taste of big skies and grand ideas and the feeling that anything is possible.  That is Taos for me.  But, alas.

A thousand tiny griefs.

It is a difficult balance in this strange new era of corona to make space for all the grief.  We as a culture are so quick to categorize the griefs and the joys as big or small, important or trivial – at any given time.  And here’s the thing, we don’t know what one thing or another might mean to any other person but our own true selves.  The joy of a new sunrise to one person might be equal to the birth of a child to another.  Circumstances differ.  We must make space for what that sunrise means to that one person on that very day.

I think the same holds for grief.  There is so much of it just now.  But it does us no good to hold one grief up against another for comparison.  Better to just allow.  and honor.  All of it.  It’s hard to do.  I’ve been heartbroken this last week or so with the cancellation of not only my Taos work, but the magical week of Swannanoa as well.  I had a good long snot cry over each of these in the bath, I’ll be honest.  I’m doing my best to honor these losses, to give them space, even while I read the headlines of the death toll mounting, and hear stories of the front line from my sister and her co-workers.

All of it is heart breaking.  We must make space.

Stunning photography by Seán Mac an tSíthigh. @buailtin on instagram

And we must compost this grief and cultivate joy in this space.

A wee peach tree given to me last year by my dear friend Kim Taylor. This year I shall place it into a larger pot and it can summer out in the garden, to get a taste of life in the big world. I shall continue to nurture it…..

It can feel a bit like a roller coaster of emotions of late.  I was saying to a friend the other day that if this time teaches us nothing else, it is giving us lessons in the notion of being as fully present as possible in each and every moment.  We don’t know if the things to which we look forward will actually come to fruition.  It is a new horizon in tech as we all try to connect real time with our beloved communities and families.  I can say for the record that the incorrect connecting device for one’s computer might actually drive one to tears (again) and another lost connection is added to the list of a thousand griefs.

And so how to navigate?

“Look at how a candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

~Anne Frank

I am fortunate to know many who somehow manage to exist above the fray.  I look to them for inspiration.  The other day Nuala Kennedy took to the airwaves to do a little concert.  It was inspiring and honest and beautiful.  Much like Nuala herself.

Here’s the post:  https://www.facebook.com/nualamusic/videos/10163320918625188/UzpfSTEzMDEyMzY2NTY6MTAyMjE5OTEyMzA1OTIxMjE/

A couple of far flung artist friends of mine are offering up their teaching online in beautiful ways as well.  Erin Lee Gafill of Nepenthe  in Big Sur, California has a lovely community built over on facebook if you look for “Awaken The Artist Within”, and her tutorials are over on YouTube.  Here’s a sample.

Erin is lovely and calm and brilliant in her scope of experience.  She brings a soothing presence to the canvas and to her teaching.  Getting into the paints is on my list of joyful things to do in these pandemic times….

Would like to translate this tiny sketch of a painting into something larger in scale. The canvas is prepped. But the garden calls.

Fabian Hernandez is an artist I met down in Antigua and he too is offering some video tutorials for free over on Facebook.  I know Facebook is the devil in so many ways, but it is an easy platform in a difficult time.  I find myself finding community there (as well as frustration on occasion too) more than usual.  This is to be expected and forgiven.

Here is a still from one of Fabian’s tutorials. You can find him over on FB here. *click* It’s all in Spanish, but you’d be surprised what you can pick up.

And so, here we are.  In need of a bang trim, trying our best.

My friend Rosemary says “I can get used to just about anything, if you just give me a minute or so to adjust.”  And I agree.  (My metaphor for this same idea is that ” I am not a tug boat in the harbor, more like an ocean liner, and it takes me a bit of time to turn course.”  But you get the picture.)

We are here for a while it would seem and every day brings new challenges.  Like everyone I am learning to sit with it all.  Learning to get my head up in the clouds when needed to get a 30,000 ft view over it all for some perspective.  As the weather improves the garden will go on, giving me focus.  I can get out into the back room (currently under construction) to play some music perhaps.  I’m being more mindful in the last week or so as to what I say yes to.  This to give space to the grief that is and the grief that is to come.  And the joy.

I am trying to see all of this as the space I have been craving for awhile now.  But I do miss my friends.   Especially the musical ones.

*small disclaimer:  I write this from a place of deep privilege which is not lost on me.  I am deeply aware of the bigger broader world, this is just my artful snippet of it.  Don’t forget to vote.  wherever you are.  

A list for better times

::: TWIST OF HEMP ~ Week 24 :::

These are hard days indeed.  Even the most solitary creatures miss their dearest friends more than words can say.  Each day a new ‘cup of disappointment’ is served on large and small scale.  No one is spared.  And so, like many, John Joe Badger must occasionally recalibrate and reset.  He makes his lists, some to get him through a day, this day, the now day.  And other lists for the hopeful some day.  Which will come.

He ponders what will stay and what will go when this strange era has passed.  He seems already to have it fair figured out.   Music, tea, plenty of rest, always.  Then eventually, in a better time, tunes with friends once more.

Contentment is wealth

A TWIST OF HEMP :::::  Week 23
There is content……..
con·​tent | \ ˈkän-ˌtent  \

1asomething containedusually used in plural the jar’s contents the drawer’s contents

bthe topics or matter treated in a written work table of contents

cthe principal substance (such as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a website… “Internet users have evolved an ethos of free content in the Internet”.— Ben Gerson
and there is content.
con·​tent | \ kən-ˈtent  \ Adj.

: CONTENTEDSATISFIED  She was content with her life as it was.

con·​tent | \ kən-ˈtent  \

Definition of content (Entry 4 of 4)

CONTENTMENTHe ate to his heart’s content.
At times we must turn our backs upon all that shouts at us—- the opportunities for engagement and improvement, learning and even loathing.  We can, for a few moments at least, turn to what contents us (transitive verb: to appease the desires of).
………The beauty of an old tune, the turning of a newly drawn line, the scent of a lovingly cooked meal, the sight of a newly sprouted seed.
This is the content I seek.
There is SO much coming at us just now, vying for our attention.    Suddenly the notion of a “talking head” seems to apply to everyone.  We must resist.  Or at the very least, do it all in our own way.
This will all pass, and with it will come a great onslaught of ways to content ourselves and jump back on the hamster wheel.  We must be ready to make the right choices.  To go within, to our hearts-self and find the juice of what matters.
For after all, Contentment is Wealth…..  (music from Mary Bergin)

Ill Wind

In spite of green and flowering times, a cold, ill wind blows.

Sirens blare and we shelter.  In place.

In which we shelter in place with two small dogs during a particularly dramatic tornado warning. I send Tony out to grab the scotch. This makes Ari quite nervous. It is a small room indeed.  We do the best we can.

Each day I attempt to outrun this wind, to no avail.  She catches up by late afternoon.  Daily.

One foot in front of another, I write, paint, play, plant.

Running.

Daily.

I listen to the wind.  The lessons we must certainly learn from these times, yet likely won’t.

I wonder if I will ever get to my places again.  To Taos, the west of Ireland, Guatemala.  (I will walk to Maine if needed, eventually.)  Flying could be tricky from here on out.  We are in changed times.  I try to be open to what needs to happen from here.  I know there will be choices.

Yet there is much hope in the world, though it’s hard to find it on a windy day.  I find that merely being in my body properly (something I’ve worked decades to achieve) is difficult some days just now in this time with its fear and uncertainty so familiar in my bones.

The wind howls outside.

A bard of the ages is lost to us this week; one who was the soundtrack to our era and many others as well.  I wept at his passing and wish for his loved ones to know a gentle grief if at all possible.

Tomorrow I am told a delivery will occur.

The makings of a boundary here.  To cordon off a bit of our small yard to keep for ourselves, away from the voracious overpopulation of deer.  I’ve lain awake at night worrying over this deer fence, about its placement, its date of arrival (will it come soon enough for us to get our tomatoes in?!).

I know it’s not about the fence.

Perhaps I can carve a small safe place in the confines of this new garden bed.  A place where I might leave my worries at the gate and tend to hopeful things there.

And there are hopeful things.

I keep on with the pipes.  (If you missed it, I made a little video):

I’m working with Seattle based musician and song-writer Alex Sturbaum to create some art work in support of his latest album project which is appropriately called Loomings.  His songs are timeless.  A new bard for the ages.

A big box of really nice paper in a larger-than-I-am-accustomed-to size arrived just the other day and I hope to continue to explore the world of gouache painting.  In discovering this new medium I have found a way to take painting on the road without all the solvents involved in oils.

Yet now I wonder if the road will still be there when this is all over.

I try not to think too far ahead.  Some days I am not even sure what day it is.  I just run.  Doing my best to stay ahead of it all.

 

 

 

The Woodshed

::: TWIST OF HEMP 22 :::

There are waves upon waves of anxiety and uncertainty at this time.  So John  Joe Badger heads to the woodshed and plays his trusty tune, slowly and awkwardly, as that is what beginners do.

We are all beginners just now.  Learning a new way of doing things.  It isn’t pretty.  We don’t know what we are doing.  But we forge our path ahead as best we can.

Here is this week’s Twist of Hemp offering.  May we all learn along together.