The woman and the saint

September 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

September 15, 2014 in sketchbook, sketches, travel, Uncategorized

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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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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.

 

 

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A Pavilion Wedding in the Swannanoa Valley

September 11, 2014 in Inspiration, Oil Painting, travel, Uncategorized

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.

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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….

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And a wedding reel!

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

mad session ensues

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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

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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.

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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.)

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Last golden days of August

August 29, 2014 in In the Garden, Inspiration, work

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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.

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3dG and Me

August 18, 2014 in Ginger Small, needle felting, Uncategorized

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.

August 15, 2014 in Ginger Small, Inspiration, music, sketchbook, travel, Uncategorized

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.} 

 

 

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Learning opportunities

July 12, 2014 in Fine Art/ Studio work, Oil Painting, sketchbook, sketches

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It is a deliciously delectable day here in the Ohio River Valley.  We have the gift of mild weather recently making being here this season a rather pleasant thing, which for this time of year, isn’t normal.  I am so grateful for this.  My musician son and I pack off tomorrow for a week of music camp in the mountains of North Carolina, while my dancer daughter sets off for her final week at Irish Dance camp to learn her new sets of steps for the coming year.  (a special shout out to my Hub for keeping all the animals fed and watered while we are away!!)

Once upon a time, when this whole ‘kid-at-camp’ era of our lives began, I was merely an observer; a parent along to chaperone the latest in whatever phase the kids were going through.  But over the years, I picked up a few tunes, learned a little bit about playing an instrument or so and eventually had the courage to sit with strangers and have a tune or two.  These strangers have become my friends, my son has grown to adulthood (and yet manages to have a tune with his intermediate level mama here and there) and I find this camp-thing has become my thing as well.  Something I deeply look forward to the rest of the year.

I believe that a practice of life-long learning is crucial to staying young at heart, tapped into the world and into one’s self.  This year I am taking a class in concertina, a big step as I only know a couple of tunes on this complicated instrument and I will likely be hiding in the back of class with my recording device, trying not to hold other students behind!  But since I help make these beautiful instruments at work, it’s worth learning to play one, as there is always a new instrument there needing to be broken in and scanned for needed tweaks and tuning.

Besides music, another pursuit I’ve taken on in recent years is that of painting.  I took a few classes in drawing and print making while in art school, but my focus there was sculpture.  I am, at heart, a maker of things.  I love tools and supplies and materials.  And my Day Job feeds this side of me.  But painting has been tugging at my soul more and more, especially with trips in recent years to places like Taos, NM and Monhegan Island, Maine; places where the dogma and history of painting is rich and full of history.  While in Taos a few weeks ago (has it only been a few weeks??) my friend Harold over at the Pueblo took a few of us out to visit his herd of buffalo.  At the end of one of our visits, he gave to me a buffalo skull to take home.  I was taken aback by this beautiful gift and have been somewhat obsessively sketching and painting it since it’s arrival here from Taos.

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Hopefully these will be dry when I get home from traveling so I can send one back to Harold as a thank you gift!

 

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Each painting I make I learn something, and this goes for every sketch I make in my journal, and every tune I hack away at in an Irish music session.  All of it is learning.  There is no true mastery of anything, really.  Just a place on an endless spectrum of skill.  Sometimes I look back at all the years of this blog and it’s amazing to see the learning I have accomplished and how so much of it is cataloged here.  I am grateful for your readership over the years!

Likely I won’t get to blogging again here until the summer is near through as our annual family trip back home to Maine comes directly on the heels of camp week.  It is not lost on me that this ability to spend most of the summer on the road is a huge gift.  Sure, the Taos trip in June is work related, and technically summer camp is sort of a parenting gig…. but I know that I am truly fortunate to have these opportunities. While I may not do so much sketching in NC (seems the more music I learn, the less I draw while at music camp!) I will be sure to share some drawings and paintings from our time in Maine.  Maine is a perennial soul home of mine and it fills my proverbial well of inspiration much in the same way Taos has come to do.  If you want to contact me, you know how to find me.

a gift from the faeries

forever looking west

Simply send a message on the wings of a bird, preferably a raven if you can find one, and send it my way.  Or, if it’s more convenient, I’ll try to check in online now and then as well.

Happy summer to you.  May it be filled with learning opportunities, chances for true joy, rest and communion with those you love who might be far away the rest of the year.

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Between

June 24, 2014 in getting started, Inspiration, sketchbook, TAOS, travel

“What is needed is more, more and always more consciousness, both in art and in life.” ~Mabel Dodge Luhan

Travel is a funny thing.  It takes us out of what we find to be the norm, and if we are lucky, we are thrust into new worlds that ask of us to question everything.  What’s up or down, or True North.  (I was deliriously disoriented under the night skies in New Zealand, for example)  In New Mexico, Taos in particular, this sense of otherworldliness is exceptional and I still find myself not here, not there, but somewhere interdimensional, on route.  DH Lawrence is said to have said that “Time runs differently” in New Mexico and I believe he was right.

It’s natural to linger over time spent in a beloved place.  In my mind’s eye I wander the halls of Mabel’s, studying the paintings her beloved Tony did on some of the walls on the second floor…

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I am fascinated by this couple who created the place I turn to for workshops and other creative work and marvel at all they had to grapple with to do it.  If you have not read Edge of Taos Desert by Mabel Dodge Luhan, I highly recommend it.  It begins to scratch the surface of the allure of the people and the place that is TAOS.

Edge of Taos Desert

“The power of this place gives you the power back of who you are each time you come here.” ~Blue Spruce Standing Deer  (Tony Luhan’s Grandson)

Tomorrow I head back toward the day to day in a more concrete way.  I’ll be out of the studio and into the Day Job for a taste of that work.  I am grateful for the work.  Grateful for a couple of days to sit quietly with my books and pens and paints and to run my local roads and reacquaint myself with the air here.  I’ll admit to being quite homesick for the Taos I have come to know through time at Mabel’s.  It’s a magical place where things happen that don’t make sense – they don’t need to.  And with that, I can know that while I am here, I can, at the same time, be there.  That it’s all kind of the same thing.  This all may sound quantum-like and New Agey and I’m ok with that.  I only share the sense I get while there. It doesn’t need to make sense.

While running today a song came round whose words I adore and seem timely,  so I’ll share them (and the song) here.  It kind of sums up my sense of time right now….

Tuesday my heart is brimming
I’m a child in the wild wind
dead leaves and daylight dimming
no beginning and no end
inside a candle of defiance
moonlight
a river of pearls

Cause we’re going to need more
than money and science
to see us through this world

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today

Shut all the windows
lock all the doors
we’re keeping it all out of sight
we’re keeping it all
it’s tearing us apart
you don’t know your good
from your bad from your black
from your blood from your wrong
from your right
so you camouflage your heart

I don’t want no other distractions
there’s too much here to see
faint hearts or jaded reactions
contraptions of history

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today

Shut all the windows
lock all the doors
I’m keeping it all out of sight
I’m keeping it all
it’s mine and mine alone
corrosion collision
I need a vision
to tear off the cloak of the night
and shatter eyes of stone

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today
forever is tomorrow is today
forever is tomorrow is today

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Enchanted

June 23, 2014 in Ginger Small, Inspiration, sketchbook, sketches, TAOS, travel

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It would seem that I have returned, physically at least, from the Land of Enchantment.  Hopefully, if you follow these things, maybe you have been keeping up with my adventures on the road and in the workshop space over on the more day to day virtual spaces I occasionally post to.  Looking back at my last pre-Taos blog post, I was so very ‘prepared’.  My plan was to do some blogging from the road, yes?  What is easy for me to forget when I have been away from this place for a solid year is how on a different plane it is.  Once out there, the LAST thing I want to do is be on a computer, or device.  It was, I must admit, all I could do just to post updates via social media (here, here and here – do join us over on SketchShare!)  And so now, I have pages and pages of journal work to sift through, hundreds of source photos to catalogue, and more memories and stories to share than I could begin to dole out in any measured fashion here in a blog post.  I felt it better just to sit down and type out a few Thoughts on Things Taos, in no particular order.

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Returning to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House each summer for my workshop is something of a homecoming.  This becomes more pronounced each year as we have made close friends both at Mabel’s and in Taos town.  Each year I learn more and more about Mabel herself and I come to respect her journey to Taos and all that it wrought more so as well.  In many ways, Taos is the artist’s Mecca it is today because of Mabel and her influence.  She was an amazing woman.  I sensed she would have been very pleased with how the workshop went this year, on many levels.  When I go to Taos, I like to take a small something to leave on her grave as a sign of respect.  It would seem many others do the same. (one day there were a number of glazed donuts present.  I believe this made the local magpie very happy) Mabel’s is the only grave to be decorated in this little cemetery.  To me, I feel the veil is thin in Taos.  Best to keep those channels open.

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It is said that New Mexico is The Land of Enchantment and I believe it.  I also believe that this is more so the case the closer to Taos one gets.  It is so very different than anywhere else and you have to experience it to believe it yourself.  I come from a rich land here in Ohio, lush and verdant.  The air is literally heavy, especially this time of year.  In the past couple of weeks, I have been at about 7000 feet above sea level, compared to our usual 700 ft in Ohio.  Upon returning home, it can be a bit painful to breathe in this dense atmosphere, something I attempted to rectify with a slogging run in the humidity this morning.  I think it helped.

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(photo credit, Julie Keefe)

Under New Mexico skies, anything seems possible.  Creativity seems to seep from my pores.  Any doubts, backpedaling, nay-saying and other such things seem to disappear when I am there.  It is one of life’s riddles, how to bring that sense of possibility back to the day to day.  The answer is in my journaling work, I am sure of it.  And my art work outside of the little books I keep.  It’s becoming harder and harder to leave NM every time I go back, and this may be something that has to be dealt with on some level one day.  I must admit to the romantic notion of keeping a little casita in the countryside for extended visits to Taos, but I shall not let romance get in the way of my Right Work, which is here, now, in this place.  I have much to work toward.  Plans are already underway for next year’s Illuminated Journaling Workshop, June 14-19, 2015.  I will have pricing structure decided very soon and details will be found on the Taos page.  Some changes afoot from years past, but nothing major.  If you would like to be kept in the loop, drop me a line!  I am getting the sense that the 2015 trip may fill fast.  This season was the best yet.  I had a group of artists that spanned the spectrum of experience from professional to just beginning.  Everyone put forth amazing work in their books and I was in awe each day of how open to just doing the work this particular group was.  Even the beginners bravely dove in and gave new things a try.  By the end of the workshop I had a group of new friends among those I have known from seasons past, and there is already talk of next year.  I am so grateful for these women.

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In Taos, the world as a whole seems to be suddenly in our hands.  Everything is magnified in importance.  Laughter comes so easily.  Small talk simply doesn’t exist.  I feel completely at home.

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(eensy map by Sally Hickerson)

There is a sense of magic that pervades our day to day there.  This year, that magic came in the form of lovely new friends, and some future opportunities…

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Harold Cordova is a Taos Pueblo man who keeps a herd of buffalo on his land up in the mountains.  He is someone I have spoken to on the phone now and then, but never had a chance to actually meet due to logistics and the way Taos Mountain seems to run on her own time and agenda.  I had heard about Harold and his buffalo from one of the staff at Mabel’s who keeps us well fed on our visits there and is family to him (and to us!).  This year she handed me his number and told me to call him.  And so I did.  I always say at the beginning of the workshop that the daily agenda will be shared day to day, always open to changes in circumstance, weather, etc.  I’m so glad I do things this way, as no one gets too attached to a perceived locking in of their week’s experience, including myself.  We wound up shifting things around a bit late in our week to visit Harold’s beautiful herd of buffalo.

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It’s difficult to describe how great this whole outing was for those who went.  The sage was so pungent and fresh out in the field; the buffalo, timid and curious, seemed to look us straight in the heart, wondering what we bring to them of ourselves.  We snapped a few photos but mostly we just soaked it all in.  I had many delightful conversations with Harold, about animals, our relationships to them, Totems (Raven in particular) and Dancing Hummingbirds (he is a hummingbird whisperer).  We discussed magic, in a real sense, in the way we walk this earth and our place in it.  We talked about music and how traditional music in particular is a direct route to the soul, especially to those who can listen and choose to play.   It is my hope that we can share a bit of each of our traditions in a musical way some day….

The same day that the buffalo opportunity came to us, I was informed of an opportunity that has opened itself up to me.  In the spirit of Magical Thinking, I had offhandedly mentioned to Dorothy, Director at Mabel’s (I yet AGAIN did not get a picture of myself with her, but she is one of my favorite people at Mabel’s!) that I wondered about the idea of possibly being an artist in residence.  Was there some way I could get back there, off season, to do some work?  Anything, just to get more time out there?  Well, in her beautiful, twinkly way, Dorothy told me that a writer-in-residence program was being reinstated at the Mabel Dodge house, and that if I wanted to, I could apply and see about working with Ginger Small or some other book idea for a couple of weeks next winter.  But I had to do it STAT.  And, so, amidst everything, I submitted a brief written proposal and by Thursday, I had my answer and some dates for a residency in January 2015.  I’ll be making an official blast of this announcement once I work out the details, but if you are reading this, then you are fan to have made it this far, and so you deserve to know.  I am tremendously excited, and daunted, but I know my first full day back after the culmination of a taxing, though extremely successful, workshop is not the time to fret over Big Things.  But suffice it to say, Mabel Dodge Luhan and Ginger Small are now, inextricably linked….

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And so, quick as that, the workshop was over.  It was time to pack up our supplies and books and examples and souvenirs and mail them off.  It was time to say goodbye to all of the beautiful spirits we worked with, and to those who supported my workshop with their work (I simply cannot say enough about the gracious team of staff at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.)  We took one more spin around the buffalo range with Harold for those who hadn’t the chance to see them the day before.  Lastly we scoped out some hiking paths with yet another dear friend from Mabel’s kind enough to spend an afternoon off of work to show us some of the hidden treasures just outside of Taos Town.

I am very fortunate to do this work.  I hope to build it up even more so.  Perhaps add another class during the year maybe in a different season.  As tough as Taos can be, dry, windy, difficult – Mabel’s makes it possible.  This was her original goal when she set up her home there.  To invite artists from all over the world to come and stay for a spell, to do their work and then to go back into the world to share what they had discovered amidst the quiet, mystery and sense of abandon to be found while in Taos.  Stay tuned for proper residency announcements, and perhaps more pages from my journal as I sort things out here back at home before the next trip.  I love the next two journeys, to Swannanoa to spend a week down the rabbit hole of Irish music and then onto Maine for our yearly dose of precious family time, but I am feeling called this year more than ever to maintain a distinct tether to life in Taos.  Life between dimensions is a tricky business.  But I aim to try.

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Juicy

June 10, 2014 in Inspiration, sketchbook, TAOS, travel, work

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It’s a juicy drippy dribbly sort of day here in the 1 acre wood.  I love it.  It’s my favorite kind of weather actually, this cool, misted rain.  (Reminds me of Ireland.)  And it’s the perfect Ohio Valley send off for this girl about to spend 2 weeks in the desert.  I’ve been spending time in the last couple of days hunkered down here, deeply aware that I will miss the creatures that share this place I call home.  My Hub, the Smalls, the Dogs and Chickens, Cat and Fish too.

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I’m soaking up the green.  Memorizing it, knowing it will come as a shock to the system upon my return.

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I’ve managed to spin up the roving I wrote about last week or so into a clumsy but luscious few skeins of yarn and so will toss them into the back pack along with a crochet hook.  Good to keep the hands moving while traveling, yes?

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But of course, this trip to Taos, NM is all about keeping a travel journal.  As I am down to the final few pages in my last book, I have outfitted a new one…

I call it the Travelogue of Curiosities.

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I love to think of all of the summer adventures that will fill it in the coming months.

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Adventures both along my travels, and of course, in the world of my imagination.

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

(I recently listened to Anne of Green Gables on archive.org.  Highly recommend!)

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I’m rather excited about the travel season officially beginning for me.  I’m fortunate to have crafted a summer filled with comings and goings, some work, some play.  As much of a homebody as I like to be with my creature comforts and comforting creatures, I do feel the gypsy pull of the road when I am too long at home.  I suppose beginning my life moving around much and traveling even more as a child set me on a path that necessitates a regular dose of new sights and sounds, new impressions of familiar places, and a chance for deep quiet.  I am deeply grateful for work that allows me to follow this path.  And for the best Day Job ever that gives room for this work (and later in the summer, play!) to happen at all.

And so, I’m feeling the pull.  If possible, I will use the fancy new tablet to post some picture laden blog posts and share with you here what’s happening on the road.  This latest group of Illuminated Journalers seem like a lovely group of artists.  I can’t wait to share Taos and surrounds with them.

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