Piping is tricky. Most days it seems like an impossible task. We hear the playing of one of the greats, and we think, “there is absolutely no way I’ll ever even get one note which has the magic of that…..” but we honk away and carry on anyway, the attempt at puzzling it all out being one of the reasons for it all.
Like so many things in this strange life, the beauty of playing any musical instrument is in the process of capturing the seemingly incapturable, and of occasionally being granted a glimpse of it. Much of the time, it is like turning lead to gold. Impossible. But we keep trying.
There is a lovely and welcoming new gallery space situated right downtown where things are busy and fancy like. Some of us “urban sketcher” types have wrangled a few of our recent drawings into proper frames and are having a show. There is even an Opening.
The pipers are learning a new march this quarter, their fingers attempt the gymnastics of a classic pipers move, The Cran. They bubble and dwiddle, sparkle and dribble, deedle and didle and work their way toward the classic cran and that “stuttering warble.”
Carry on pipers!! Carry on John Joe! The world needs your music.
Miraculously, the sun shines here this morning, setting aglow a sycamore tree outside my window. I am delighted by this quiet beauty here at home, yet a feeling of deep sadness echoes in my heart.
Yes, and. As it goes most of the time these days.
I talked with a dear friend in Australia yesterday. A long overdue delicious conversation, rich with traded thoughts on writing, art, friendship and of course, the fires raging there and the crack-pot politics of both our countries.
It is all so much to take in, really. The news from there in Oz, the war-drum-beating antics of the leadership in this country, the climate deniers in both.
Fear and fire, mayhem and madness.
I attempt, this morning, to find quiet in all of it somehow.
And I suppose, the usual paths will just have to do.
My work, both here in the studio and at my beloved day-job. Moving my body to remind myself to remain there as I am prone to jettison at times. Resting my mind – careful and mindful as to what is permitted to take root there. Always a delicate balance.
There is nothing I can do just now with regard to the bush fires in Australia, or the beating on the drums of war by my own government. But I can sow a bit of kindness where I can when I go out into the world today. I can keep to my work of depth and beauty, in spite of and perhaps because of what is going on in the world at large. It is challenging.
We must keep faith, we quiet artists, hiding in the sidelines of things. But this can change the world. At least on a small scale. If this is all we can do, for now, today, then we must do it.
Sending love and thoughts for gentle rains to Australia.
It is the dawning of a new year, nay – a NEW DECADE!!!!! With this comes the courage to try new things, to meet new friends and learn to trust more in the old friends we have.
John Joe Badger is keen as ever, and maybe more so, to continue his journey into this new and exciting chapter of his playing. What will you do this next, new year to challenge yourself? With whom shall you share these times?
Old friends or familiar, known tunes or new, let this next year and new decade be one of brave new adventures into the challenging and unknown of what you love most.
Bliain nua shona duit, mo chairde. We will see you in 2020.
“Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God. Then if a bird sing among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it. If you are conscious of something new – thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being – do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness.”
Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Amiel’s Journal
We come toward the end of what feels like a turbulent year, and I suppose a turbulent decade.
The weather has been unsettlingly mild here in our valley. Then last night a tempest blustered in with all the drama of a storm we might normally see in March. Complete with thunder and lightning, the wind put an end to any idea of peaceful sleeping. And now, this morning, it is more seasonably cool, the skies a steely gray, which I love.
All in all though, we have been blessed with a restful holiday, busy enough with gatherings and visitations, yet spacious too, with blocks of time affording moments of self-reflection, some well over-due house-tending and organization. A true hitting of the proverbial re-set button. It’s been nice.
In a few days the workaday routine will return once more of course, but with it, a tad more intention in how it is all approached. My “word” for 2020: INTENTION. I’ve never been one to subscribe to “resolutions” at the New Year, as it all seems so pressurized and fraught with potential failure. I for one do not thrive under those conditions. But with a word or two steering my course each year, I find I can tack toward a general desired direction and I suppose that is just how it goes. The work is mostly internal these days, breaking down the strange damaging stress responses I seem so hard-wired to; changing the old fear-based, internal dialogue into something a bit gentler, more flowing. Through all of it, to simply allow it all to just be, much like the gorgeous quote above suggests.
There is a small note in my calendar “allowing” myself to return to the noisy world of social media once the New Year dawns. I jotted that note down with a question mark next to it, wondering how that return might feel after a month away from it all. I thought I might be chomping at the bit to re-engage. Alas, after more than a month away from the ‘Big Three’ (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) I am even more keen to stay logged off. And so, I must make some sort of plan to have a more balanced relationship with these platforms. I wonder if the work I do can yet carry itself without the back up of “sharing” on social media. I do not know.
As with all things, the outcome will likely not be one thing or another. I will have seasons of engagement online and seasons of withdrawal for deeper work, this is for certain. And in the long run, it won’t matter if I am “posting” daily or if I take a week or two or three off now and then. Y’all know where to find me.
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.” ~Wm. James
Tomorrow, John Joe Badger will have a post here wishing everyone a bright and tuneful new year, and I wish you all the same. Thank you for reading, for coming along on traveley and painterly adventures along the way, either in person, or virtually here on the blog.
It is the eve of Christmas. There are parties to attend with fellow creatures, many feasts to enjoy, gifts and food to share. John Joe is careful to capture solitude amidst this holiday chaos.
Along the way, while practice may fall wayward, John Joe Badger takes some time to listen. Playing is important, yes, but the real trick to learning is the listening. So between parties and other such social mayhem, put on a favorite record of your favorite player, playing your favorite tunes. It is yet another way of learning.
Merry Christmas season to all. May you find light returning to you in whatever form it takes.
Pipes are nigh on impossible to keep in tune. Especially in winter! John Joe, and so many like him, take to more magical ways of dealing with temperamental reeds…..
Like a good, long stare. That should do it, yes? Yes.
*I have heard it said that the great Liam O’Flynn would do this on occasion when a reed was acting up. He would remove it from the chanter, take a long hard look at it, and then put it gently back into place without saying a word. Miraculously, the reed would then be in tune. But of course it would. No reed would misbehave long for Liam O’Flynn.*
Raw December day, wet, dripping with rain and fog. Last night’s few inches of snow turn to slush and mud. I opt for a day home sketching and drinking tea after a busy weekend of music-making, and other such peopling. I am deeply grateful for a flexible schedule.
The paints have been fairly ignored recently, my hands opting for other activities. I know this is simply my way and the paints do call again eventually.
I work diligently on a set of mittens, maybe a second set if there is time. Gifts of heart and hand.
Iris rests in the studio room with me, both of us vying for the space nearest the space-heater.
The house is cozy, with the season’s usual suspects tucked into their places, remembrances of years past.
The paints have indeed been calling, which is why I take to them for a few sketches today. I can always feel the tug when it begins. I see something that I want to interpret. A scene or a landscape featuring a special light of some sort perhaps. And I want to delve in. This often finds me disturbingly out of practice.
Yesterday, before the snow came, I attended an art-book fair. I found it refreshing to wander the stalls of fellow artists and see they are still keen on political disruption, unable to sit with the state of things, pretending this is all *normal*. It is not normal and it will “not always be like this”. I hope this is true.
On route to the fair, I noted the beauty of a pre-snow sky as the backdrop to our city skyline. Today, I sketch from memory.
My friend Kim and I spend the late afternoon and early evening talking about art and resistance and I am refreshed. She shares with me the story of artist Charlotte Salomon, about whom she’s been reading and who’s work exploded from her while evading Nazi capture (and sadly, other evils even closer to home). Her tale has more to it than I can even begin to portray here, and I have ordered the books from the library to dive deeper into it all. In the meantime, there are many articles about her available which I have been reading today. Here are just a few along with some of her images…..
The sheer scale of her making is almost unbelievable. I think about Charlotte painting as if her life depended on it, with urgency and desperation to tell her story before it was too late and I am glad the work survived at all. Indeed, this storied work may very well be the world’s first graphic novel as it is now called. I simply can’t get enough of looking at these paintings.
I think about other artists whose work has captivated my attention, not only for the caliber in the work itself, but for the stories behind the work. Artists like Edith Lake Wilkinson and Alice Schille, both of whom I have mentioned in previous posts here and there, and both of whom I have found inspiring for their art-making lives.
And through the lens of the work of these artists who’ve come before me in the Grand Arc of Art History, I think about my own work in the world. I think about how it continues to evolve, stretched between words and image making, between material studies and experimentation. How it is never comfortable, and when it is, it gets boring. I wonder how many women artists, like myself or others, have flown under the radar their entire working lives. Many more than we might possibly count I would wager.
So on this quiet day, here is where my head is. I mentioned to a friend of mine the other day how spacious this time without the demands and distractions of social media has felt. We laughed that it’s a bit like when as a stay at home mother, your children first go to school (or perhaps when they leave for college) and suddenly, there is room in your head to actually think deeply. We in this world do not spend enough time pondering, wondering, engaging in our own thinking, following the mindful breadcrumbs offered from the gods of creativity.
I wish for everyone to give themselves the gift of this space. I believe the world at large could sorely use some quiet time.
John Joe Badger has worked and worked for weeks on his own, amidst countless cups of tea, and twigs on the fire in the woodstove. This week, in spite of his misgivings, he accepts the invitation of friends to share a few tunes. Perhaps he will try to play the one simple tune he’s (mostly) learned for them on his pipes. Or, more likely, he will play his flute or penny whistle.
But tunes are made to be shared. And for this John Joe is grateful.