I’m excited to offer 5-card sets of greeting cards featuring hand-gilded reproductions of original ‘tiny’ paintings from my travels.
Each set contains 5 different designs, related in theme (i.e., desert, ocean, etc), and each tiny reproduction of a miniature painting has a hand painted gold ‘frame’ around the edge. They are blank inside and may be purchased through me for $20 a set (shipping not included). For now I’ll be creating these sets on demand, so please allow a week or so for delivery. They make great gifts!
Greetings from a Sheraton hotel, somewhere near Cleveland, Ohio, where I am to attend a day of a conference for writers and illustrators of books for kids tomorrow. So today I drove and drove, and have settled into a my little room here. To pass the time (and avoid the tangly trappings of the nets of anxieties which can accompany these doings) I’ve decided to catch you all up on my near mystical time in Maine just this past weekend. (Can it really be just this past weekend??)
Barely a week ago I boarded a ferry (really, just the mail boat which takes passengers on board when room allows) to Islesford Island, Maine to attend a workshop in painting led by Henry Isaacs, Ashley Bryan, with capable assistance from graphic novelist and artist Gareth Hinds.
A few of us taking the 2:30 ferry traveled through the mists to arrive with a bit of time to explore. One of my housemates for the workshop took me to a favorite place of hers on the island. Looking for company, and not knowing my way around, I gladly took her up on the offer.
We walked the roads of this delightful and decidedly working island to arrive at the beach.
There we traversed pebbled beaches, seeking touchstones and following the trail of the tides.
Off the coast there were signs that our weather for the workshop might just improve…. eventually.
That evening we gathered back at Islesford Dock where classes and meals and general workshop business was to be held.
It was a lovely group of people, some of whom knew each other from years past. Others of us a little shyer. But we became acquainted quickly over oysters (oysters!!!!) and a cocktail or two. In spite of my workshop nerves, I was clearly to be well fed and have plenty of interesting folks to visit with in the coming days.
As promised by the light on the horizon just the day before, Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. The class convened for breakfast and followed instructions to a lovely outdoor painting environment for the day. We witnessed some demonstration from Henry but were encouraged to just dive into our own work for the day. Which we did.
I painted some pretty pictures, which was nice I suppose.
But I didn’t attend this workshop to make the same pictures I normally make in watercolors, only this time in Oils.
During critique times that day, and in the artist talks later that evening, we were all congratulated on our hard work, but asked to bring more to the table. To venture, if we were but brave enough, out of our comfort zones.
We all have our formulas. Formulas which work for us. And these are great. But none of us were there to perfect or practice our routine formulas.
“We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house; and it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the utility of the house depends.
Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the utility of what is not.” ~Lao Tse
The above poem was recited to us by Ashley Bryan in the afternoon as he, Henry and Gareth, attempted to gently guide us out of our normality. Late that afternoon, a small group took a tour of Ashley’s house and studio where we were given a glimpse into the genius that is Ashley Bryan. He makes puppets and paintings, has perfected a way to turn sea glass into stained glass panels. He lives a magically creative existence. And I, for one, was simply enchanted. One does not have to build fences between the varying degrees of one’s creativity. One must simply MAKE.
Ashley spoke of puppets as needing a piece of the puppeteer’s soul in order to be brought to life. I truly believe this. Having worked puppets a good bit myself.
He shared with us how he creates these gorgeous sea glass/ stained glass panels with a seemingly simple papier mache’ method. Yet there is nothing simple about his work.
By the end of that day my mind was reeling. I was completely overwhelmed. But I knew there was more to come, and I just prayed to the island gods that I could withstand it all…..
And so we moved on into the second full day of this rather intensive workshop….
We awoke to mysterious fog, wondering what this meant for our painting time that day – so spoiled by the lovely sunshine just the day before.
Over breakfast, in hushed tones, there was some conversation about how intense it all was. Somehow, this brought comfort to me, knowing the other artists might also feel they were flying a bit close to the sun for comfort.
Henry did another ‘demo’ for us (he likes to call them more like ‘suggestions’) and explained to us that we are not looking at a landscape. We ARE the landscape. There is no us and then it. Everything is one big mash up of stuff to paint. We have to paint ourselves into it.
And so, with some company, amidst quite a bit of mist, we settled into day two.
I had no clue what I was doing. I simply took up a spot in front of some rock pilings (a former steamship dock) near the dock and began painting. After awhile the old adage of oil not mixing with water came true and I opted to come indoors to work.
I felt grumpy and not at all sure about the work I was making. Discomfort was truly the name of the game that day….
And yet, something happened. an opening of sorts….
By the day’s end, I had a number of little paintings like the ones above. They conveyed what I was seeing, but they did it in a way that also told of what I was thinking and feeling about what I was seeing. I was thrilled.
The rest of the class seemed to have a similar trek through the fog that day, as everyone made some sort of breakthrough in their work. We all stepped up to discomfort. We all gave our inner children a cookie and asked them to keep working. It was pure magic.
I have seen and heard a lot of what workshops can mean to an artist who needs a jump start. I’ve taken classes here and there and have shared this experience. I teach classes each summer that I hear are life changing. But it had been a long, long while since I had allowed myself the opportunity for such a sea change.
I am so grateful to have had the time and resources to take this workshop. And just after I publish this, I plan to send an email asking for a hold of a space for next year. Because I think I can do better; ask more of myself; go deeper into the work.
As I sit here in a hotel in Cleveland, hoping to make some connections which will afford me the opportunity to make a children’s book about a little hamster who sends back postcards of her adventures, I no longer believe there is a reason to separate the making of a little kid’s book, from a painting destined for a gallery or someone’s grand home-space. I no longer believe there is much of a difference between a hat knit up carefully by hand for a cold day and a puppet created to entertain as the curtains of a proscenium lift. Making is making. Provided it is done with purpose and seriousness of hand and craft and with an eye toward beauty and the betterment of this world.
There’s been a sea change round these parts. And it feels really good.
Although I am nowhere near packed, or ‘ready’ as one might think one should be when headed off to an artistic island adventure, this selkie-souled girl heads to Maine early tomorrow morning for a painting class. Looking back at all of the art making I have done over the years, I realized that this is the first painting class I have ever taken. Really. I’ve had drawing classes that touched on liquid media, foundations classes in art school which breezed over the notion of studying a master’s work for a day or two. But never a painting class. I’ve taken one other workshop far away, but that was a sculpture class in Colorado – after which I decided to go to art school and take things more seriously. And now I am here.
I have always wanted to paint. And as you can see here on the blog, I have taught myself a fair amount about how to push colors around on a surface to get some sort of point across. Or not. Depending upon the day. With my kids out of the nest, this seemed like a good a time as any to learn more about something that calls to me. And to perhaps take it a little more seriously.
Speaking of nests….
This little wren found it’s way indoors this morning. Terrified, it was being pursued by our not-so-very-youthful ginger cat who had it trapped in the curtains when I came upon the drama. I was able to fend off the cat, the wren was able to find a branch to land upon (yes, we keep branches around the house) and miraculously it allowed me to pluck it from this branch and rid it of some spiderwebbing it had tangled on it’s foot. I checked it over for any damage and could find none.
So we went outside to find a more suitable branch for this little wild thing. Given a few moments to regain it’s bearings in the world at large, the little wren flew off to safety. And likely to thank its lucky stars and regale its friends about the near miss indoors!!
In the ‘animal medicine’ department, wren is courageous and resourceful and flies higher than most. And so with that message, I fly off tomorrow, to join a group of painters (a prospect I find a little daunting) and I will be brave and sing my song although the other birds may seem bigger and more colorful than I.
Years ago I picked up a sweet little poem while on a visit to another Island in Maine, Peaks Island. I put it in my journal along with a little drawing and some writing about how someday, I would like to spend extended time on an island. Somewhere. Somehow. That goal remains. Within my beautifully complicated life, I am grateful for the following few days on Little Cranberry Island to live my dream of island life while learning a new approach to pushing paint around on a surface.
I can’t wait to share what’s on the other side of this adventure with you upon my return.
Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago, the Hub and I attended a concert with some dear friends of ours (miraculously, they are still dear friends after all these years!). This concert was held at the State Theater in Portland, Maine. And the Big Show of the night was a band called The Bodeans. I am certain they played the song linked in the video above. I was very pregnant with our first born, Jack. He danced and swayed and moved and hiccuped right along with the music. I have often wondered if this loud concert experience in utero may have influenced his decision to pursue music as his life’s work, which, of course, he has done.
This song (above) has been rolling around in my head in the past couple of days as we have been doing quite an assortment of packing and planning, cleaning and organizing for various trips and travels and changes on the agenda for all of us.
Of course the moves to college are to be expected at this stage. Jack is into a new house with his fellow musicians and they are running hither and thither, moving their stuff into the new digs and getting settled before school starts back up for them.
Meanwhile, Madeleine and I are attempting to make some semblance of order of her worldly possessions to figure out what stays and what goes when she takes off this week for Columbus.
It feels like complete chaos. And really, it is. We have a new dog in our family (for now at least) who has some wonderful new energy due to changes in food and exercise routines. This means she’s energetically barking at odd hours (read, 4 and 5 am.) which makes for broken sleep for the humans…. Good thing she’s cute. But this is something we need to work out. Yes, chaos.In the midst of all of this chaos, Tony (aka, the Hub, my Anchor, you get the idea) and I are smelling a little waft of freedom on the air. We know we can go on an adventure and not leave the other parent in a lurch (small barking dogs, not withstanding, of course). And so, there are travel plans being made.
While Mads is off in less than a week to college, he is off on an expedition to Lake Superior shortly there after. Food must be weighed and planned. Everything very specific, as it must be carried in the boat….
As for me, not only am I looking forward to having the house to myself and the dogs for a few days, I too am scheming to hit the road and nurture the need to runaway.
As I wrote in my last post, I am going back to my beloved state of Maine to paint in September. I am cataloguing art supplies and getting what I need and counting the days to this trip. It may be a bit of a runaway, but it feels like a healthy one.
And now, just today, I have made plans with my dear friend Tina to head to Taos for a feast day at the end of September. I will get to touch base with my work out there, show a good friend the awesomeness that is New Mexico and just breathe in the ocean of sage to be had there.
In between these two artful sojourns, I’ll be attending the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s convention in Cleveland to shop around some of my Ginger book ideas and get a little feedback. This is all a bit of a whirlwind! And yes, I suppose a bit of a runaway, avoidance behavior toward all of the changes happening here at home. Watching the last of the smalls leave the nest is indeed a momentous and emotional thing. We keep stopping in our tracks and saying to the other, ‘so, this is happening!! she’s moving out!!’ Change in truly in the air.
For this fall, for now at least, we are meeting this change with travel and a bit of adventure. Perhaps it will all slow down (or perhaps, maybe not, who knows?) eventually. We continue to follow our noses. To nurture ourselves as the kids follow their own dreams.
I think there are few wrong ways to ride this wave of seeing these adult children onto their lives ahead. The trick being that we all do the best we can to do the best we can.
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!
If you have followed this blog in recent months, you’ll know that I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in Taos this past January to work on a couple of kid-book projects long in coming. Those projects are swimming along nicely and I’ll be shopping them around this fall. But time in Taos is always colored by the work I do there in the summer, which is to teach the art of keeping a visual diary. And so, while there in January, I began to wonder, what would it be like to teach a winter-time class at Mabel’s? The season would call for more work indoors. Winter is a time of looking inward to our own interior spaces and pondering things in a very different way than we do in summer. It is a time of withdrawing.
And so, I have decided to offer a workshop this coming winter to do just that. The class we be held at Mabel’s, as in summer, but we will focus on the interior spaces of this beloved, historic home. We will find the hidden corners of the house and of our own hearts, and sit with them while we draw and paint. The act of drawing and painting a scene is one I find extremely meditative, and that will be something we discuss and work toward – finding that state of stillness in the making of art. I’ll be combing my own library in the next few months for readings and poems to point us in the right direction in this class. Taos, New Mexico, and more specifically, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House itself, is a hotbed of creativity and has historically been a place where the creme-de-la-creme of the arts go to recharge their creative batteries. I look forward to this new offering and hope you’ll consider joining us this year for what I hope may be an annual journey.
Do get in touch if you have any further questions.
I think there is nothing quite so nice as to get a little something in the mail. And so I am a sender of mail myself. I love to write cards and letters to friends far and wide. Most recently I took to making a slew of wee thank you gifts in the form of tiny, one of a kind paintings. I am hoping they will be well received by those lucky enough to be on my list lately… This exercise of making tiny paintings is something I do with my classes as a way to shift our thoughts on scale and the time it takes to make a work of art. Unlike some miniaturists of late, these little paintings don’t take too very long at all. And they capture the impression of a place quite quickly. This series was clearly based on my recent weeks in Taos and I am keen to keep going with them. I gild each little painting in gold leaf and it becomes like a little jewel to don a card or perhaps dress up a page in my journal. There is a small part of me that wonders if these would be something to sell at some point. You may see them soon at the local art center gift shop perhaps…..
Are you a fan of tiny art work? Send me a message and perhaps I can whip up a tiny painting for you! I know Ginger Small will be happy to get some new works into her Tiny Gallery.
It’s difficult for me to fathom that just over a month ago I traveled to Taos to teach my annual summer travel-journal workshop. Has it really been a month?! Was I really just there three weeks ago, mid-way through a fantastically perfect week filled with the company of the most amazing group of people?
If I look at the calendar, it would seem so. And yet, I look at some of the snapshots of that week (captured by my trusty assistant for the week, Taos artist, Jan Haller) and it seems that the workshop never happened, or is happening right now, or perhaps, is just around the corner once again. Taos has that relationship to time.
There was much laughter. Belly-laughs as deeply rooted as the ancient cottonwood trees.
And there were also plenty of precious moments of solitude and quiet.
There were those moments of ‘aha!!’ when we learned a new trick with those wiley watercolors.
There was a fair amount of demonstration done by yours truly, to show my approach to capturing the world in my own journal….
…and yet we learned that there is no better way than one’s own way of working. It was my goal for the week for each workshop participant to find their own visual voice. Which they did. In grand, beautiful fashion.
At the end of this gorgeous week we celebrated our hard work and new friendships with a dinner at Mabel’s which fed not only our bodies but our souls as well, as meals at Mabel’s generally do. There was more of that nourishing belly-laughter, and perhaps some equally delicious tears over deep conversations too. This work is so much more than just drawing and painting in a book. It’s about an approach to life that can sometimes be difficult to find in our day to day. But we re-discover it at workshops like these. We find it in these fellow artistic souls. We are reminded that beauty and laughter, grace and joy, great food and fantastic, fierce friendships are crucial to a life well lived. Today- just now – back in Ohio, it is (not surprisingly) raining buckets. In my ears, on repeat while I work, is thiswhich is the perfect blend of arty and trad. Combine this music with the sound of rain and things can seem a little somber. Especially when compared to the bright beauty of New Mexico.
But there is a lushness to this valley that is at once suffocating and yet deeply and beautifully compelling. It is travel season, and I am torn between all of the amazing, soul-home places (yes, including Ohio!) and people I have the great fortune to know intimately. Those who know me and love me best know that this very restlessness and yearning are what keep me moving artistically. The need to be on the move was instilled early on in me by my ever-changing home life and I’m grateful for the ability to travel as much as I do now as an adult, especially in summer!
Next up is my now annual trek to the North Carolina mountains where I will play music for a week with far-flung friends at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Celtic week. I will be updating the blog a bit in coming weeks (between trips) with next year’s workshop offerings. There’s a new one being offered in February 2016 about which I am very excited. Much of the same sort of work, but deeper and richer. So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted!
I have returned, truly just a matter of hours ago, to this luscious land of my rootedness. There are many travels still to embark upon in coming weeks and I am attempting to float above it all to soak up my experiences in Taos, whilst engaging in things back in Ohio and preparing for more to come. Attempting not to burn up on re-entry. Attempting to make sense of a world a world away.
One of my crew of 16 workshop participants this past week wears daily the visage of a frog. It’s a pretty little thing, made of silver and inlaid with some lovely stonework. I asked her about it one day and she said, ‘this represents the fact that I live in and of two worlds.’ She is a lovely woman who is a frequent visitor to Mabel’s and I immediately tuned what she was saying. For her, the two worlds seem to represent a going between her ‘normal’ home life, and the rich artistic breeding ground to be found at Mabel’s and other hotbeds of creativity. For myself, the above two worlds are also the same as I go from Mabel’s and, in a matter of weeks, to music camp. But I have the added world-switch of going from 7000 ft above sea level to 700 ft. which frankly feels a bit like drowning.
Today I am drowning.
I came home to a clean home. Coffee in the cupboard and milk to accompany it in the morning. There was even wine for my frazzled travel nerves to sip upon. My family knows how to buffer the re-entry from this trip each year, so full of magic. So very full of hard, hard work. I am grateful. But I also came home to things that need to be done. By me. The home-steward. Something I value, actually. We have a new member of the pack, potentially indefinitely, in the form of a little dog that a family member may or may not be able to care for in the long haul. First stop was the vet’s office today for that little friend. Next stop was the market for some fresh food for tonight’s meal, and then a nap. Between all that and a proper re-engagement online, the day is nearly over. And still I float.
I have a gagillion photos to share of the workshop week itself, thoughtfully taken by my friend and co-facilitator, Jan Haller from Taos. But for now I will share what I have here.
First off, love. And a whole lot of it. This year was very different than year’s past. My dear friend Julie who has in the past helped keep my nose pointed in the proper direction is now stewarding the very place itself so important to my work. And while this is wonderful, and all as it needs to be, I’ll admit to being really lonely for much of the working side of this trip. But perhaps, that too is as it should be.
As we grow older, kids move on. There are no guarantees to how long our beloved partners will choose to accompany us. Our parents will inevitably move along before us, if things flow as they ought to. The only thing we have is our right work. Perhaps I’ll live to be 103 and see the passing of most of those I love…. but I will still have my work, such that it is. I will still be able to engage the arts on some level. This may seem a little depressing, but it’s all true. And for me, it makes me value my loved ones in the here and now, and to allow the work the space it needs at the same time.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old andtrembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I am so fortunate to have folks in New Mexico now who hold a space for me to come ‘home’ to when I go to work there. Portal Keepers in Albuquerque – Ron and CC, who provide me a place to land, on the way in or out, any time, with a mountain view, a bit like that of Taos Mountain. There is always a nourishing meal, laughter, artwork and a spot of wine or tea awaiting me there.
I simply can’t thank them enough for their support and friendship.
There is also the crew at Mabel’s. Arriving there is really like a homecoming.
This inn sees hundreds of folks a year there. To do workshops, experience the B&B end of things in Taos, to make a movie or to do research. The staff at Mabel’s see and hear it all. And somehow, most miraculously, I can walk in for my week there and be received like family. (um, yes, that is a ‘Go Forth and Doodle’ sticker on a real live Taos truck!!!)
Perhaps they treat everyone like this. I’d not be surprised. But I adore the people that run this place. Their skeletal crew keeps this historic treasure running like clockwork, making it seem easy, which I know it certainly cannot be. They even have their dogs on hand in the off hours for those of us visiting who might need a fix…
Enzo tells me he is a football fan and may very well need a Bengals tee-shirt just his size. I am already shopping. This may be the first NFL item I have ever sought out.
Every trip to Taos yields a certain level of unexpected magic or synchronicity that may or may not send me down some unexpected rabbit hole. I’ll share a couple of these with you here…
Firstly, this year is the 100’th anniversary of the founding of the Taos Society of Artists. There is much to do in town about all this with art shows and articles. One artist who’s work caught my eye amidst the to-do is Ralph Meyers. Technically, he was not an ‘official’ TSA artist, which kind of makes me like him even more. I enjoyed viewing some of his work at the Taos Art Museum when I visited and the more I dig, the more I admire. After the workshop ended, some of my participants (who are now dear friends, of course!!) remarked that they had seen a photo in town in a gallery of a young girl from back in the day that looked a bit like my youngest daughter. Well, you know how it goes. One takes these things with a grain of salt having grown up with an every-girl face like mine. But then I walked by her…..
I did a double take and decided to ask about her the following day. Because, Sally was right. This young woman is the spitting image of my own Madeleine.
The photograph was of Ralph Meyers’ wife Rowena who hailed from Pennsylvania. They met in Taos and the rest is history. Their son, Ouray, is now himself a successful local artist in Taos and I highly recommend a visit into his lovely gallery for a peek at his paintings.
Things like this remind me, as my friend Harold says, that ‘we are all related.’ I’m keeping my ear to the ground regarding Ralph, as even his grave, situated right by Mabel herself, is intriguing in its simplicity and beauty. I believe we should follow our noses regarding this sort of thing. Perhaps a historical figure calls to you, maybe you too should follow the winding path and see what there is to discover….
The next turn down the proverbial rabbit hole came at the tail end of my trip…. (pun intended.)
Before leaving New Mexico I spent a little (not enough, never enough New Mexico) exploring the Petroglyph National Monument per the advice of my Albuquerque based friends, Ron and CC.
Amidst the basalt stone, if one looks closely and sticks to the path, there are literally hundreds of ancient images carved into the stone there….
It was a quick trip, as I had a plane to catch, and it’s hard to leave good friends in a sacred-to-me land, but I am so glad I made the effort.
I felt a true sense of guidance amongst these images. They feel like signposts. Sadly, one needs to ignore the occasional scratches of more modern day people who have felt the need to add their marks to the mix. But I regularly ignore the stupidity of the modern day in my search for the magical things and once on the trail, it wasn’t so bad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, getting as far off the beaten path as possible, leads, generally speaking, to fewer idiots. Though this has it’s exceptions, and is not a scientifically proven fact.
I have so much more to share with you as I gather photographs from the workshop itself. The work done there this past week was the most focused yet compared to years past. I believe part of the reason for this is the space I gave it. I didn’t concentrate (at. all.) on my own art work. I was there to be a steward to the work of the participants there for the week who ranged from beginners to professionals. And this paid off in folks who worked hard on their books, their artful craft, their soaking up of New Mexico and Taos in particular. One has even written a blog post already!! More to come in due time. But as you know, time is fluid in summer…..
My raven friends accompanied me on a run this morning. In spite of altitude, I managed a brisk and energetic half hour on the paths, which will serve me well on this big day.
After two days of much running around, visiting, preparation, meetings, thinkings and plannings, it’s time to leave this little tree house of a place hidden down a magical lane….
…..and to move over to Mabel’s. Closer to the mountain, closer to the classroom, where I finally get access today.
I stopped by Mabel’s grave after my run, to say hi, and to ask her blessing on my work here. Taos always tests, and I always walk humbly here.
Looking forward to being nearer the mountain in the coming days. This morning she was shrouded in mists and mystery. I feel a bit that way myself.
As I ran the lanes and paths and roads I’m so fond of here, I pondered the teachers I have had in the past, in art, music and life in general. My hope is to channel their love and enthusiasm into my own work this week.
I also welcome any hidden folk along the way who’d like to be helpful…