Category Archives: activism

The mess we’re in

“We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust…”

~Albert Camus (via Maria Popova of @brainpickings)

Life is messy.  Birth is messy.  Democracy, equally so.  We must choose the mess in which we live really.

Outside my window, I can hear the soundtrack to an Ohio autumn – an  endless hum of gas-powered leaf blowers in the distance.  It’s maddening.  I think about how one person’s version of ‘messy’ is so different from another’s.   My grandfather had some cottonwood trees in his yard with whom he battled.  They would scatter their seed with hopes for new beginnings in another yard elsewhere, and my grandfather would sweep them out of his little space, grumbling all along about how ‘messy’ they were, to his eyes at least.

Here in our little village we are blessed with much space, big trees too, which grew here before the village did.  So many of my neighbors employ gas blowers to gather the ‘mess’ that autumnal droppings bring, while we (in the minority) mostly leave them lie where they land.  Where my neighbors see a mess, we see possibility – a place where next season’s moths might grow and hatch, as one small but important example.

Last night I watched (and celebrated with a ‘wee dram’) the speeches of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden as they acknowledged what our sitting president has, as yet, refused to – the fact that they are the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect of the United States of America.  It was an historic moment and I wept through most of it.  Harris represents the hopes and vision of generations of women who worked for women to have a voice at the table.

It was, indeed a lovely moment.  And we are right to celebrate the ousting of such a vile representation of ourselves.  But here’s the thing, these last four years ARE a representation of ourselves.  We might not want to admit it, but there it is.  I live and love here in Ohio where I am consistently confronted with folks whom I consider to represent the very underbelly of this great nation.  But the concepts these people represent and fight for are the very things our country was built upon.  We have so much to unpack as a nation.  I feel like we are finally beginning to at least talk about the elephant in the room.  It’s a start.  And it’s a start that Kamala Harris is in now the VP-elect.  It’s a start that  an old white guy chose her as his running mate.  These are all good things.  And last night, I slept the sleep of the unburdened for the first time in perhaps four years.

Many of my friends and loved ones posted about feeling like they could breathe easy once more.  I felt (and posted) the same.  It’s not lost on me that metaphorically, this is poignant.  In an era of George Floyd and Covid, the ousting of the very representation of the worst side of ourselves gives us space in which to breathe again, at least for the moment.  But there is work to do.

We must climb into some semblance of heart space and tuck in for a good long winter’s resting.

We must awaken with fresh eyes at what is in store.  We mustn’t look away.  A couple of people dear to me have recently stated something to the effect of:

‘ I plan to just hide my head in the sand until this is all over. ‘

This is not a good plan, for one will only drown sooner.

Perhaps better to confront the demons that built us.  To show up with kindness in the face of great challenge.  To avoid any gloating or shaming of ‘the other side’ and instead seek to know what brought them to that dark space in the first place.

This may sound preachy.  But remember, I really only write here to suss out my own feelings.  I have people in my direct daily or weekly contact in my life who feel this election now as I did four years ago – like the world is going to hell in a hand cart and that all is lost in this young country.  But unlike their response to my sadness four years ago, I have no desire to wallow in their despair.  I merely want to get through to the next chapter on this planet with out killing ourselves in the process.  This will take all hands on deck.

Yesterday we took the afternoon to attend a foraging class at the Cincinnati Nature Center.  I could sense that at least a few of our fellow foragers were folks not on the same political train as we were.  It was pouring off of them like smoke.

But we foraged together anyway, averting conversation of anything besides the juniper berries at hand.  Honestly, had it come up and been a point of contention, I was not ready to pat the back of anyone disappointed in the results of the election.  That said, I also had no intention of being as cruel about it all as the vitriol I’d experienced four years ago.  And so we foraged.

We learned about distilling the flavor found in this native tree.

simple syrup with juniper berries, which aren’t really berries but rather tiny pine cones. it was delicious!
goat cheese coated with juniper ash. a strange and new flavor to me. I am intrigued to give it a go on our own!

Later that evening, T and I took turns doodling the little dishes of these tiny berries over a beer.

“We are our choices.”  ~J. P. Sartre

The world at large celebrated with us as the news traveled yesterday.  Bells were rung, songs were sung, leaders reached out to the effect of  “welcome back, America.”  It is this more than anything that leads me to believe that I am on the right side of history.  That we will look back at the trump years as a dark era indeed.  It is my hope that people hoodwinked by his way of thinking might come along for the ride, but we shall see.

Today, my body is weary from four years of a trump presidency, but at least I slept well.  I am keen to reclaim a hold on my inner-knowing a bit now that the noise of a constant, top-down gaslighting is to end soon.  I am working to pivot my working life inward toward the studio in order to better weather the financial storm of this pandemic.  I want to keep learning music, to knit more.  And, as part of all of this, I want to work for a better future for the planet.  With Biden and Harris in office, this feels more doable than it did just a few days ago.

And, for now, today on this lovely day, I’m gonna go have a few tunes.

Wishing you all well.  Let us go gently into the liminal months ahead of us……

 

 

 

Ciúin

Yesterday evening I took a break from breaking news.  (not news at all really, more like a collective zoom-based anxiety rave bent on driving us all insane as we wait, feigning a patience we do not feel.)  In the darkness, (’tis the season, what with the time change)  Charlie and I ambled quietly up the drive after her evening meal.

“Ciúin”  (Irish for ‘quiet’)

It was quiet, but for a couple of owls hooting to one another in the trees.

Quiet.

Any bit of true quiet feels like a miracle these days, noise of current events occupying mind and even heart of late. I find my little doses of quiet in these small moments – an evening meander with the dog, a morning wander around the village to put the moon to bed.  I’ve come to treasure these times.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~Mary Oliver

Charlie snoozes in early morning moonlight. I get up to walk my miles. She doesn’t move an inch.
Friends, it’s okay to say Hello.
It will likely help us, and we do not do so alone. I also believe God greets us as we greet our days.
Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer,
And we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit,
But.
I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning, I sit, I kneel, waiting,
making friends with the habit of listening,
hoping that I am being listened to. . .
There, I greet God and my own disorder.
I say Hello
to my chaos,
my unmade decisions,
my unmade bed,
my desire and my trouble.
I say Hello
to distraction and privilege.
I recognize and greet
my burdens,
my luck,
my controlled and uncontrollable story.
I greet
my untold stories,
my unfolding story,
my unloved body,
my own love,
my own body.
I greet
the things I think will happen,
and I say Hello to everything I do not know about the day.
I greet
my own small world,
and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet
my story,
and hope that I can forget my story during the day,
and hope that I can hear some stories,
and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead.
I greet God,
and I greet the God Who is More God than the God I greet,
Hello to you all, I say,
as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.
Hello.
~Pádraig Ó Tuama
As I write this little missive, the democratic process continues to play out and unfold here in this country.  The other day I awoke especially early to play my small part in that unfolding, volunteering at the polls to hand out democratic slate cards on some shifts, and refreshments to all voters on other shifts.  The goodness of donuts and hot cocoa are something both sides of the political equation can agree on. 
Perhaps. 

It was a hopeful day.  A day of feeling like, no matter the outcome, I was doing my part (and had been for much of this election cycle, I should tell you).

It was cold that morning!!!
Mae Mae is a lovely dog who stopped by to check on things.  Her handler was there to help at the Caring Place.

One of my shifts happened to coincide with pick-up day at a local food pantry held at the same location as this particular voting precinct.  It was very interesting to me that the very outcome of this election would hold sway on whether people would or would not have to rely on community support merely to have food to eat.  One woman, both voting AND picking up food, said she relies on the food pantry because between food and her prescription medicines, she has to choose the medicines.  My heart broke.  Another lovely fella stopped in, also to vote as well as to pick up supplies.  He had a large roller  bag suitcase with him to carry what he needed.  He had recently become homeless.

I offered him a donut.

When my sister and I were kids and my mom was a newly divorced single mom struggling to make ends meet, we were, for a time, on food stamps.  I was young and don’t remember too much about the specifics but I tell you this as a snapshot of explanation for my left-leaning, take care of folks when they can’t take care of themselves, kindness-driven view on government.  People struggle.  This is a great truth of humanity.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
~Maggie Smith
Photo by Maine photographer Peter Ralston. Originally posted in the amazing newsletter offering of Heather Cox Richardson. Her writing is an informed balm to the soul each day.

I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled about the outcome of this election over all.  I had hoped that more people would see through the chaos of the last four years and would see that the Grand Old Party is simply not there for the regular citizen of the good ol’ U. S. of A.  Instead, I am disappointed that nearly half the country is willing to witness an experience another Trump term.  This is where we stand.  In all likelihood, we will see a Biden presidency presiding over a minority rule.  It’s not a total loss, of course it’s not.  There is much to celebrate!

How to move forward?  A big issue for me is climate change and I am figuring out how to be of service to bring this concept  into the collective light more fully.  After all, these changes will affect EVERYTHING in the very near future, in fact have already begun to do so.  We have a lot of work to do.

But first, for now, should things play out as they seem to be headed…..

We take a deep breath.  We drink medicinal teas complete with tinctures  (and possibly some bourbon this evening) to ease our anxieties.  We shed some long over due stress tears.  We listen with hope to someone who might be able to provide unity in our divided land.  Democrats should waste no time in appointing Stacey Abrams as their new leader to forge a new path – a path that speaks for everyone.  We as a country must learn to slow down and really see each other, person to person.  We must do some difficult soul searching and come to a reckoning with ourselves and with one another.  It is my hope we get this opportunity.

But, like so many – around the world even – I wait.

Just be quiet and patient.
Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you.
Do not try to avoid them.
On the contrary, observe them carefully.
Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. People can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness.
The main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.
Patience is the master key to every situation.
One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing…
There is no such thing as bending or breaking.
It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself.
That cannot be avoided.
To abandon that path is always to break in pieces.
One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself.
The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love.
One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait.
Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.
— Franz Kafka
Meanwhile, like so many things during this strange era in which we find ourselves, there is a juxtaposing personal angle to this concept of waiting and patience.  We are officially looking for a new dog to welcome home to us.  I’ve put some heeler-feelers out and have filled out some forms to local rescues.  We have a bit of house work and building beginning next week here and the pup will hopefully arrive as that process ends sometime in December.  We shall see.  We don’t have an actual, specific dog in mind.  But we have narrowed to a blue heeler girl dog if we can find one.  I can just about picture her in my mind….
As we navigate these uncertain times, may we find moments of stillness, moments of joy amidst the seemingly overwhelming largesse of the world just now.  Yes, things are hard.  But there are dogs in the world.
And maybe, just maybe………..eventually…………..a new path forward.
Yours in patience and quietude,
Amy

 

Just the same

It is pouring rain this morning.  Despite this, I walk a few miles before sitting down to write.   Work at the concertina shop beckons as well – buttons to be polished, a case to be outfitted.  These quiet rhythms of walking and working, in one form or other, keep me grounded in the here and now, skirting the edges of anxiety – though thankfully not drifting too far into that country.  Worse yet in times of past perils, is the propensity to escape my body altogether.  This too, isn’t an ideal state.  So I keep to the rhythms of my days, best I can.

Yesterday, a day gray and heavy with weather to come, I stock up on a few basic groceries to set us up for the weeks ahead.  My favorite place is a market downtown, Findlay Market.  There is a lovely man visiting with a friend there and selling the Streetvibes paper.  I am glad to have a bit of cash in my pocket to buy his paper and support his efforts.  We stand  and chat about the weather and upcoming election, that there is a hurricane coming once more to the folk in Louisiana.  “Where is all this water coming from, anyway?” one of the men asks.   I answer, only slightly in jest, “Tears of our collective grief.”  This gets a laugh.

“There’s rain in the river and the river’s running through.”

~Nick Mulvey

I’ll be quite honest when I say that while my physically anxious tendencies are indeed mitigated with recent self-care and the slowing down only a pandemic can bring us, I am deeply concerned for what will happen in this country in the coming days.  The level of vitriol between opposing world views  is so palpable.  So much at stake.  And each side of the political coin thinks the ruination of our country will come with the election of the other side’s candidate.  It is no hidden thing that I am not a fan of this so-called president or his rabid followers, so you know on which side of the coin I rest.  To me, the direction of the world, not just our country, is really what’s at stake here.  No side of any coin will be able to exist amidst the climate changes already happening.  The election of Donald Trump would defy any efforts to save our poor crumbling planet.  His direction is simply the wrong way.  Greta Thunberg says “We are running out of time.”  and I believe her.

To anyone I know who still supports this mad man, all I can say is,

“I know you are so different to me but I love you just the same.”

Nick Mulvey

The song above has been rolling around in my head since I heard it on a podcast I’ve been listening to about the issues surrounding climate change.  It is a strangely hopeful show called Outrage and Optimism and I highly recommend it.  Instead of worsening my anxieties about the state of the world, it has merely deepened my ideas about changes that need to be made and how we can make them.   As I listen to this song, the words remind me of an old bible verse from Psalms:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 

Begin Again, Nick Mulvey

Mary was my mother’s mother and my sister too
There’s rain in the river, there’s a river running through
To the sea around these islands, crying tears of sorrow, pain
There’s rain in the river there’s a river in my veins
Mary, young as we may be you know, the blood in you and me
Is as old as blood can be
Is as old as blood can be
As old as blood can be
Living lines of memory through the markings on my hand
Ancient lines of living love, awaken in this land
Saying, I am in the forest, in the city and the field
I am in the bounty, come on, know me as I yield
I am in the falcon, in the otter, and the stoat
I am in the turtle dove with nowhere left to go
And in the moment of blind madness when he’s pushing her away
I am in the lover and in the ear who hears her say
Can we begin again? Oh, baby, it’s me again
I know you are so different to me, but I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
Love you just the same
Love you just the same
Love you just the same
Nigh-e
Nigh-e (Love you just the same)
Nigh-e (Love you just the same)
Nigh-e (Love you just the same)
Mary, if the world had 1912 to ’72 (Love you just the same)
Though we never met in flesh, here, I remember you
(Love you just the same)
Were woman you were gentle, you were modest, you were kind
(I love you just the same)
A mother, wife and gran you were a woman of your time
(Love you just the same)
Mary, young as we may be, you know, the blood in you and me
Is as old as blood can be
Is as old as blood can be (Love you just the same)
As old as blood can be (I love you just the same)
She says, I am in the living I am in the dying too (Love you just the same)
I am in the stillness, can you see me as I move? (Love you just the same)
I am in the hawthorn, in the apple and the beach (Love you just the same)
I am in the mayhem, in the medicine of speech (Love you just the same)
In the moment of blind madness when he’s pushing her away
I am in the lover, and in the ear who hears her say
Can we begin again? Oh, baby, it’s me again
I know you are so different to me, but I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
This may seem like a leap for some, but to me the idea of “I am” is inherent to the notion of the divinity in all of us, including those in the natural world.  Those whom Joanna Macy calls ‘the more than human world.  One time in a yoga class, one of my instructors laid out the following further break down of the Psalms verse:

“Be still, and know that I am.”

“Be still and know that I”

“Be still and know that.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Will, Cincinnati Yoga School

We sat with each statement for a few moments to let it sink in.  To ponder what the essence of the words might mean for us.  It was a lovely meditation of sorts.  Perhaps thoughtful meditation is what is lacking in our country.  The ability to sit in silence with one another.  The opportunity to think and breathe deeply and just BE – which is as close as we can come to divinity most days.

We are not a culture prone to stillness, quietude and self-reflection.  In the 2016 election, I was the only one amongst my circle of friends not to be surprised by the outcome.  I’d had a spidey sense all along that Trump would be the result of that grizzly contest, though I couldn’t have imagined how badly things might go, and how quickly too.  This election, I don’t even have a spidey sense about what’s to come –  a likely result of 4 years’ gaslighting from our Abuser In Chief.  I have spent a lot of time these last four years angry and anxious about the state of things.  With the pandemic came the time to slow it all down and think deeply.  To sit quietly with radical uncertainty.  As awful as this year has been, I am grateful for the slowing down it has wrought.  I seek to find the bright spots in this era of darkness.  That is one.

As we careen into the days (likely weeks) of uncertainty ahead, may we find ways to center amidst the madness of it all.  Our own fears for the future of our country and for the world at large.  May we continue to find divinity in our fellow human beings, (no matter our differences) and in the not so human beings as well.  Make some soup, drink some tea.  Be well, stay safe, stay kind.

I love you just the same.

And one other lovely nugget from the Faroe Islands……

I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
Can we begin again?

Choose

::: TWIST of HEMP :::  Week 42.

Hiya  friends.  Amy here, the creatrix of John Joe Badger.  It’s a strange time to be drawing gentle, tuneful badgers.  There are so many badgers from which to choose in this harsh, fast-paced world.

There is the screaming, spitting, distrustful American badger; the go-your-own-way, screw-everyone-else, “independent” honey badger; and of course our own John Joe Badger, based as a character more on a “European” styled badger.

John Joe loves tea and gathering with fellow woodland animals – even, and perhaps especially – when they differ from him.  He is quiet, thoughtful, and believes in fair opportunity for everyone.  He believes in the arts (tunes and seascapes are his favorites!)  and good, local food, available and affordable to all.

A friend of mine on the book of faces ranted recently “enough of politics!!!”  And I hear that.  But perhaps todays’ politics are more than “just” politics.  Perhaps the choices these days are about life versus death, art and culture as life-saving things.  Education and critical thinking as ways forward, not things to be afraid of.

It is difficult to make art, share a joyful tune, laugh at a silly pun, when the world is literally burning.  But we MUST!

Today is week 42 of John Joe Badger’s “Twist of Hemp” series.  I will bring episode 43 to you when my new pipes arrive from Ireland which might be a few weeks what with one thing and another (unless another idea springs to mind which sometimes happens.)  There are tunes to record with my flutilla mates and our capitán of recent weeks Kevin, and tunes to record for the start of our strange new quarter at the Riley School.  There are also votes to get out, volunteering opportunities to rock, old dogs to care for, gardens to harvest.

Art is a funny thing.  It encompasses so much.  And it’s not always what some might consider to be “art”.  Sometimes, it’s politics.

"ce n'est pas de la politique"


		

Prickly territory

This evening I was walking the lone, remaining dog up the drive.  She doesn’t care for a long walk really, being fully deaf and mostly blind, but she does still like a good ole sniff along.  I spied some neighbors walking by.  A mother and adult son by the looks of it.  They were thick into conversation, and looked up just in time to wave to myself and little Charlie from afar.  And I got to thinking about the silverish lining of these strange and grief-full times in which we find ourselves just now.

Today would have been Full Day One at the Swannanoa Gathering and to be quite honest, I have been a bed of ready tears since the day before yesterday.  I had texted my friend Peter on Saturday about the snacks and tunes and books-on-tape we might have shared along the drive south together on Sunday if we had been able to actually go.

Then Sunday morning, the waterworks really began as there were videos available from the Celtic Week Staff (only temporary, so click *here* for now, but not forever…) to wish us all well as we weather this heartbreaking non-time.

Thankfully the weather here locally was remarkably reasonable so I went for a hike and a little bicycle ride with the Hub and tried not to think about what we’ve lost this year.

It didn’t work.

I still had a good sob in the bath upon returning home, in spite of a day well spent in good company.

Grief is a funny country.  It doesn’t follow the rules of polite society.  It’s prickly territory.

Having had a dance with griefs big and small over the years, I figured, let’s just dance with it again and see what happens.  As I communicated with all of my favorite summer and musical soul mates we talked of how fortunate we all are to have one another, if but from afar.  To have this music in our lives to give us strength in hard times.  We are all sad not to be together this year, but we are all hopeful that we will persevere toward better times.  We know what we have here.  And we are grateful.

So for now we work on our craft, learning new tunes, new instruments maybe.  We weather this grief, personally, collectively. We know our loss of this week together is just one small loss in the Grand Scheme.  But we grieve anyway.

There are plans to gather online in coming days, weeks, months, as best we can and we solider on with the help of our loved ones who seem to know how hard this is.

Case in point, I was drawing late this afternoon and heard the distinct sound of Irish music coming from outside.  And wouldn’t you know, my Hub, knowing how difficult this has all been on me had set up a little ‘beer tent’ in the back yard in honor of Swannanoa.  It’s the most thoughtful thing.

I think about that mother and son from my neighborhood and wonder if he, as a young person, is perhaps stuck at home unexpectedly with his parents in this wild, pandemicly charged time.  Might they be getting to know each other in new and unexpected ways?  I do not know.  But maybe.

Small, unexpected silver linings in what is indeed a very dark time in the world.

As for me, I’ve seen more of my garden this year than in years past and I am glad of it, even if it means the work I do in the world will not look as it has in the past, at least this year.  Even if it means my adventures have been tamed for the season.  I am glad of the time here at home, fraught as it has been with worry about The State of Things.

Do I wish I were with my musical mates this evening down at Swannanoa?  Yes, of course I do.  But instead,  here I am in a different sort of time, trying to make sense of things as they are.  Blooming where I am planted.

****if you haven’t listened to Dolly Parton’s America podcast, you should*****

In a couple of days we will make the quiet drive to Maine.  Stealing away like thieves in the night.  Before departure, I’ll get the garlic out of the ground for the season, and engage a neighbor to water the rest of the plants while we are away.

I’ll admit to be a bit anxious about the journey.  There are no plans to engage anyone or anything once there, besides our extended family.  We know how fortunate we are to even have this option of ‘away time’.  And this is another prickly level of things.  To allow grief for the things in our lives that aren’t happening this year, and joy for the things that are, amidst the complexities of the world at large.

We must make space in our hearts for all of it.  To be at once missing wistful tunes in misty mountains outside of Asheville while also making fervent calls to government representatives.  To doodle gentle creatures  while gardening as if our lives might depend upon it.  Perhaps they may yet.  We mustn’t lose our capacity for complexity in these times.  We must remain richly invested in all of it.  The good when we can find it, the difficult when it confronts us, the grief-ridden – especially as a collective of human beans.

In a long ago chapter of our early days together, we were faced with a number of long deployments due to Tony’s work in the Navy.  Fortunately, these were in peaceful days and the dangers were relatively few.  But nevertheless, the separations were difficult.  I used to have a system of whining about it all that gave space for the grieving without wallowing in it.  A couple of days of feeling pitiful, with allowances for ice cream for breakfast, an extra bottle of wine or what have you.  And then, I’d wipe my tears, and get back to the job at hand.  The time eventually passed, possessing its own arc and way.  This pandemic is a bit like a long and terrible deployment I think.  We have no idea how long it may last.  I think it’s vital to let ourselves whinge a bit now and then about the waves of losses that have come in the wake of this thing.  To be a bit weepy for a day or two in the midst of it all is far better than to armor up completely under the guise of “being strong” or feeling like our small griefs do not count when others have lost so much more.  Armor is not good for an open heart.

I hope y’all are keeping safe and sane in these difficult times.  We will get through.  Together.  Seek joy where you can.  Lean on one another.  Send letters.  Have a good sob in the tub now and then.  But don’t lose faith all together.

PS:

Here’s one more lovely thing as well.  I am ever so grateful for music.

Sweetness

It is summer.  And with summer comes the heat of the season, and if we are lucky, perhaps the occasional cone of ice cream.  This summer brings with it all kinds of new stressors beyond heat and humidity, and decisions much weightier than merely what flavor to choose at the scoop shop.  We all know this.

John Joe Badger is taking a few moments away from all of the weightiness and is treating himself to some ice cream.  Though it is a small thing indeed, he has decided to put his few dollars down behind the big ideas of a good company.  Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

You can read their full statement here (*click*)

I might not be as bold and loud with proclamations and performative (read social media postings for some) as Ben and Jerry’s, but rest assured, I am doing the quiet work over here.  And hopefully, also continuing to make my art which has always felt like the boldest thing I can do in this world.

What’s your favorite flavor?  And what are you doing to treat yourself kindly in between and amidst the very important work which needs doing?  We must be in this for the long game, yes? Yes. Let us know.

ps.  John Joe (and I) love mint chocolate chip and black raspberry chip generally, locally speaking.  In the Ben and Jerry’s realm, Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Therapy.  Yum!!!!!

Listen

Listen.

:::Twist of Hemp Week 30 :::

I debated even posting a John Joe Badger drawing this week.

Where does my work illustrating anthropomorphic creatures even fit in to the fabric of things just now?  I went for a long walk to do some thinking, and I kept coming back to the idea that the music that John Joe, and I, play is steeped in at least a couple of concepts connected to the times at hand.

And so, I sat down to draw a badger.

Irish music is joyful to the ear to be sure, and yet when you read Irish history, there is so much strife, oppression and “troubles” along the way.  Music may have provided some solace to a country facing dark and challenging times.  The tunes are a small something.  Sometimes.

Perhaps.

The troubles of one country aren’t the troubles of another of course.  But maybe musical solace is something we can share.

The second concept I keep coming round to is that of listening.  In the world of Irish music, there is no greater skill really than to listen.  You can be a fab player of all the lovely tunes available to you, but if you don’t listen to the other players and to the players of history, your session experience will not be a successful one.  The best sessions, the ones where we feel that deep sense of community and tuneful camaraderie, are the settings where each member of the musical community are listening, deeply listening to one another, while also listening to the history that got us here.

We find ourselves at a time in the United States where deep, communal listening is necessary.   There are many ways to do this.  There are many ways to protest recent atrocities and to amplify the voices of African-Americans who have for too long been sidelined.

Since John Joe Badger is primarily an illustrated character, I share with you this:

Here is the link: https://www.embracerace.org

Children’s literature can shape young minds who will shape the future.  Let us feed their minds with books that inspire a future we can be proud of.

I’ve barely published a thing. So I barely have a voice, really.  But I believe in the power of story and of the drawn image.  I believe in the idea of change and that this change can be driven via inspiring imagery.

This weekly John Joe illustration is my small offering, in this space, just now.

If you read this blog regularly and want further reading and deeper ideas on how to dig in and do the hard work, I suggest digging into the following:

https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies?fbclid=IwAR0H2eaXoa9KrcmpBQHd0G2fng49J-Jty8eBDsfpBf480qLLc4LF_cJehTo

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hpub-jkm9cLzJWqZSsETqbE6tZ13Q0UbQz–vQ2avEc/preview?fbclid=IwAR3TBQvG2A0RagdMjltfsvLAoV6cfNHMhZD8x3MZEv4OsZjXi3uDvWY3ol8&pru=AAABcqEADEM*MC6i5_NRAcTanK1bAEQlHg

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/?fbclid=IwAR045Qg2fo7lfMHA9vLWU8sarQTBx_EJQG8e7oDQOp7uWPC7f_jXbtisuLk

This is Week 30 of my little series.  Depending upon the state of things, John Joe and I may go on a bit of a hiatus until fall when things like velvet waistcoats, hot tea and strolls in the forest come back into fashion.  But we may surprise you and keep going.  I do not know.

Either way, through it all, the tunes and the tea will still be flowing. In hard times, joyful tunes and aromatic tea are a balm for the senses of a sensitive creature.

I thank you for reading…..

 

Attending

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

~Mary Oliver

It’s funny to me, my own internal cycles of inward-facing versus outward-facing; of intense productivity versus steeping an idea for a time.  The notion of developing something a while and then, at the proper juncture, sitting down to implement that development into something real in the world, something which was once just an inkling in the outer reaches of my mind’s eye.

These cycles are no less apparent in my relationship to the online world.  In the midst of this pandemic, and that amidst a country further mired and deeply more into trouble, I have once again, like so many I know, fallen into the trap of too much information and too much time on the standard culprits.  It is time for a break.  I’ve learned that I do not need to pull a Lorde and burn up my social media presence, rather I simply need to pull back into my own sphere for a bit to recalibrate.

“This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”

~Mary Oliver

A good while ago, knowing the news wasn’t going to get any better anytime soon, I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone (always a wise move even in the best of times) but it’s not enough.  There must be a balance to these things.  A balance of being informed but not inundated, of monitoring where my attention falls.

I have heard it said that what we do with our days is what we do with our lives.  I believe this to be true.  And so we must decide what we want our lives to be.

“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

~Mary Oliver

There is a lot to take in just now.  Heartbreaking news from every corner of the globe, but also breathtaking beauty in our gardens and new ideas to pursue in our imaginings.  Neither of these things should outweigh the other.  We must pay witness to the tragic, yet not dismiss the miraculous, however small or fleeting it may be.

None of us are any good to anyone if we become mired in the unreal world of social media.  My goal personally is to read more deeply about the issues at hand – about this pandemic and it’s long term challenges.  About how the rest of the world is viewing our country (and the UK)  just now in the wake of recent, racially motivated murders.  I’ll investigate ways to look keenly at my own inherent biases and consider how to best navigate them and change from within.  (Here are just two things for a start:  The Groundwater Presentation and The 1619 Project .)

We are in tumultuous times to be sure.

 

We must pay attention to everything.  Closely.  It is what artist’s do really.

 

“Instructions for living a life.  Pay Attention.  Be astonished. Tell about it.”

~Mary Oliver

One of the pitfalls of social media is the old “if a tree falls in the forest” concept.  If one is not on facebook lamenting the latest lunacy from the white house, is one really informed or engaged at all?  My answer is “yes”, perhaps even more so.

So while I may appear to disappear into the folds of my own little world here, you can be sure I am keeping up with the broader context.  I might seem to be hiding in the garage making stop motion videos, or getting lost in an imaginary world where animals wear clothing.  But rest assured, I am quietly staying informed.  Engaged.  We all just need a break sometimes.

A time in which to grieve the horrendous loss we are experiencing as a collective, to bear witness to ongoing atrocities in our “perfect union”, and yes, a time to weep at the beauty of the blooming of a simple spring flower.

Turns out we DO have white peonies in our yard after all! But we can still share some pink peonies with our gardening friends.

“Attention, without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report.  An openness – an empathy – was necessary if the attention was to matter.”

~Mary Oliver

I wonder and worry as to whether I’ll ever get back to Ireland. (And with that, how to get delivery of my new pipes due in October as well….) As a small prayer of hope, I planted some fuschia in a pot in the back garden. I am told the hummingbirds will like it. And maybe the bees too. These can be found all over Ireland in hedge form. Little fairy jewels on display. And I love having them around here at home.

A measure of quiet

Special thanks to Julie over in the Adventures of Claudia world for sending along these lovely words attributed to Brother David Steindl-Rast.

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…..

Museum Publicity

Smithsonian

The Guardian

The New Yorker

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.

 

A Word for Feeling

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

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

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

Art by Christina Wald

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit Imran Nuri

“Swimming, One Day In August

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

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

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

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

~Mary Oliver  via @shippenverse on IG

photo credit: Imran Nuri

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

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

~Anne Frank  via @annefrankcenter

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

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

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

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

And so where to from here?

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

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

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

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

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

And yet……..

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

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

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

(via the lovely work of Karla Sanders)

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

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

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

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

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

~John Constable, 1821

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

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

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