Category Archives: children’s literature

Hamstertown Ball

“You can think and you can fight, but the world’s always movin’, and if you wanna stay ahead you gotta dance.”
— Terry Pratchett

riley-school-turns-20Yesterday a number of us gathered at the local Irish Heritage Center to celebrate a very special birthday.  Our beloved Riley School of Irish Music turns 20 this year and to mark the occasion, we put on a ceili, which could be described as like a wedding, only without the happy couple.  There was music from our ceili band, much dancing, called and instructed by the one and only Éamonn  de Cógáin, lots of food and drink to be had, and all in all was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
It is difficult to describe the place the Riley School has held in my life personally, and in the collective life of our family.  The music my kids (one more than the other) and I have learned and played over the years has changed us all for the better.  We have life long friendships now which we’d have never found without this school.  I began at the school as a mere parent accompanying my child to fiddle lessons – and I found my tunes and my tribe.  This music has taught me many things which apply to a life well lived and art well made.  I’ve learned to be less shy, to laugh more, to make mistakes and keep on playing.  My son has gone on to pursue music as a profession and my daughter can still pluck out a few tunes on the banjo.  (Party tricks do come in handy and one must always be ready to surprise people.)  We are better because of this little school which teaches what some might call a simple folk music.  Which I suppose it is.  But it’s complexity is to measured by the effect it has on the lives it touches.  dancers-learn-their-3s-and-7sMusicians play so that dancers might dance, at least in the Irish tradition.  It was lovely to have such intrepid souls out to dance this day, many mere beginners.

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But soon our caller Éamonn had everyone laughing and trying steps and smiling and dancing.

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With all of the malcontent the recent political happenings has dredged up, I have been thinking a lot about the place of music and artfull-ness, and dancing and laughing in the face of all of it.  I imagine that those who played Irish music over in Ireland during the troubles certainly must have played in spite of, or perhaps because of, difficult times.  And we do too, now, in these difficult times. To be fair, I suppose many voters do not think we are in difficult times with our new leadership choice.  Though I certainly do.

And so, it is more important than ever to dance.  To play our favorite tunes with vim and vigor.  To paint the brightest of pictures.  After all, we are all running along on the hamster-wheel of life.

I hear told that there was a similar dance, also with a band, in the town square of HamsterTown.  One wonders what tunes they danced to that day, and whether their caller could even hold a candle to our Éamonn.  I imagine, he’d have given him a run for his money…

hamstertown-ball

Under Pressure.

I am just returned from an intensely inspiring conference at the Mazza Museum, an oasis of beauty and innocence in northwestern Ohio of all places.  If you are anywhere near Findlay, Ohio and have an interest in or love of children’s picture books, I highly recommend a visit.   The weekend conference seemed to be geared toward teachers and librarians, the very folks who use and champion the work of people who make illustrated books for kids (in whose ranks I will be one day!!)  There were also a couple of us art folks lurking in the audience as well of course but it was really wonderful to meet such lovely educators and book enthusiasts.

The panel of authors and artists was top notch.  top-notch-panel

We heard from David Wiesner who spoke eloquently about “worlds within worlds within worlds”.  He signed not only the book I picked up for my nephew, but also my sketch book.  I consider this inspiring glitter to have been bestowed upon my lowly book.

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Next day we heard about “sharing the truth of the world”, “clinging to a raft in a sea of doubt”, and how publishing a book is like an electrical impulse going pole to pole to pole from author Tony Abbot.  He also discussed the tremendous responsibility behind the notion of telling a good story, whether through words, pictures, or both.

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“Children are a much more important audience than adults.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson

Sergio Ruzzier talked of his love of picture books as a child when the ones with too many words proved overwhelming.  I am anxious to try out pen and ink in a new way after his demonstration and talk.  His books are beautiful, and his lecture was really entertaining.

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Brian Biggs’ series Tinytown books (among stacks of many he’s made) are all about “creating a world I want to live in.”  Amen.

Nikki McClure had me in tears during her speech, as I have been on the verge of tears ever since the election and all that has gone with it.  She was honest and vulnerable in her talk as she too spoke of deep grief over the meaning of recent events.  They are not trivial and are not politics as usual.  She spoke straight to my heart.

“Make.  Learn.  Speak.”

“Books are a place of calm and centering.”

“Trust the child.”

“Draw. Draw. Draw.  Thinking comes later.”

“Books should have food in them.”

“Use color to tell the story.”

“All you need is a pencil.  All you need is a dream.”  (in which I am, once again, weeping.)

Dan Santat finished off the conference, exhausted from what seems like a grueling touring schedule, with an inspiring talk about his own work and the trajectory it’s taken.  He talked of embracing boredom, and being comfortable in your own skin as an artist.  That is where one can find one’s individual style.  I shared with him this sweet image of my good friend Alice who is a huge fan of Beekle.

alice

All in all, it was just what my gentle heart needed after this past week.  I had to drive through the heart of Trump-ville to get there but it was worth it.  And I cried some more on the way home, allowing my grief to flow, although I know the conservatives who voted for our new President-Elect just don’t understand this depth of sadness and are asking us to get over it and stop being such crybabies.

Well here’s the thing.  Perhaps it’s this election and all of the vitriol involved.  Perhaps it’s the essence of middle age.  But I am done being told, in ways subtle as well as straight up obvious, how to feel.  About anything.  To be an artist, in my truly humble opinion, is to have an open heart.  To feel deeply whatever it is I am feeling.  There is really no other way to our best work.  And so I weep.

The Mazza conference was just the shot in the arm I needed just now.  I feel recommitted to getting my stories and pictures out to publishers and eventually into the hands of teachers and librarians and children themselves.  I had spent the days before this conference wondering how to move forward from here in a country so hell bent on moving backward in time.  We had come so far and yet now, we tilt back into a time of rekindled hatred and distrust.  It is heartbreaking.

So the pressure is on now, to give love a chance.   I leave you here with some Bowie and Queen.  In hope.  Under Pressure.

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give love that one more chance
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
Because love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

Changing Tides

11202886_10155872437970048_5120591334540910967_nToday 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….

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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.

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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.

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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….

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A song that captures the sense of a week at swannanoa is this

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….

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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!

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I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….

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…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean.  YUM!

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!’.

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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!

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‘Full-Blooded Magic’

spring canopy CNC

Finally, after some flirtatious hints in previous weeks, the goddess of Spring has bestowed upon us warm breezes in which to bask, a carpet of greening with which to readjust our vision of the out-of-doors, and the fleeting gift of spring-blooming flowers, strung up like so many lines of fairy lights amongst the trees and tucked into the base of the forest itself.

I sit here today at this writing machine, feeling an urge to catch you all up on things ’round here with a juicy blog post. So if you have a little while to spare, brew a cup of tea, tuck yourself into the coziest chair and I shall fill you in.

In spite of the coming of Spring in our river valley, we extended our journey into Winterland for a number of days as we headed northward to the great city of Montreal…

winter still up north

Our friends in the North were waging their own battle with the tail end of winter and we were graced with brisk but beautiful days to tour the city, as well as a rather dramatic snowfall one morning.

Montreal snow

Why Montreal, you may wonder? Well, our youngest, Madeleine, was part of a team competing in the World Championships of Irish Dance being held in this fair city.  This was to be our last trek to a ‘major’ and so we opted to make a real trip of it and spend a few days in what I believe to be one of the most charming cities in North America.

Around every corner, there were little bits of Other World.  It truly has a feeling of a city much older than the rest of civilization available on this side of the pond.

fairy land

As a woodsy girl, I am not one to bask in cities in general. But the Spirits of Montreal are present if one simply seeks to view them.

Architecutral spirit

I managed to find the local Irish music session there on our first night and was welcomed by a charming, talented bunch of musicians who not only play Irish tunes, but also tunes from their area in the Quebecois and Cape Breton styles. It was a highlight of the trip for me personally and set the tone for the rest of our time there.

While M and her friends practiced, shopped and explored the city in their own way, we met up with far flung northern friends we seldom see.  We walked and ate and visited, not really caring what we did to occupy ourselves beyond the simple bliss of merely being together.

amy and kris amy and kris and alicerue st paul

Though to be honest, I just wanted to stare at Baby Alice’s sweet toes.  And so I did a bit.  Amazing to think that our little dancer, about to graduate into the Big Real World, once had toes as tiny and juicy as these.

Sweet Alices toes

Soon, touring and visiting were over. The competition was at hand and the McGing Pirates danced a perfect rendition of their well-practiced routine.  In fact, all 9 teams competing danced a perfect rendition of their clearly well-practiced routines. When the dust settled, our girls had placed a respectable 4th in the world, good enough to medal. They were thrilled! It was a beautiful note upon which to end Maddie’s dance career.  She will likely never truly stop dancing when she hears a proper tune, but this season of competitions and stage-worthy costuming is over.  We couldn’t be more proud of her.

And I, for one, was ready to leave the built environment of the city, as nice as our trip had been…

“…most of us get used to living a hectic life that even the present moment, with its vast spiritual resonance, is unavailable to us.  This is less true of the solitary, quiet workers whose company I have treasured; they seem to be living in a different psychic space from other people on the evening news.  I do not mean farmers alone, but my grandfather in his carpentry shop, or Robin, when he comes home from a day of tuning pianos (which is how he makes his living). Such people may not know that their daily experience – contemplatively charged as it is – is different from other people’s. When something, like a trip to the mall, brings the disjunction to their awareness, they may fault themselves for being ‘out of it’. A day in the city looking for a couple of shirts can fry the brain of a normal country person.” ~from The Barn at the End of the World, by Mary Rose O’Reilley 

….ready to come back to my blissfully quiet and mostly contemplative life at home.  We catapulted across miles and seasons, once again coming upon the greening of more southerly climes.

This spring time is filled with many special occasions for us as a family, as we hold space for and make witness of the many endings-to-beginnings sort of happenings for Madeleine.  One of these events was the Senior Prom.  The kids looked stunning in their fineries, perched on the cusp of adulthood.  It is such a blessing to behold all of this promise.  Knowing my own young-adult children as well as their friends, I have a great hope for Times to Come as they venture into the world to make their own way of things.

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With ‘World’s’ and ‘Prom’ successfully behind us, we took advantage of the beautiful weather to head outside. One lovely place to spend the day outdoors locally here is the Cincinnati Nature Center where not only is Spring on grand display all along the woodland trails, but there was music to listen to one day over the weekend.  We sketched and enjoyed the breezes in the outdoor pavilion space as we listened….

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The songs were mostly in French, providing an outside-of-time-and-space feel to things, which is precisely where I like to be, generally speaking.  After the show, we hiked for awhile, pleased to see so many signs of life here, there and everywhere.

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We came across tadpoles, newts and turtles in the reservoir ponds on the property of the nature center and of course stopped to observe them and enjoy.

“Is it possible to grow a worthy cosmology by attending closely to our encounters with other creatures, and with the elemental textures and contours of our locale? We are by now so accustomed to the cult of expertise that the very notion of honoring and paying heed to our directly felt experience of things – of insects and wooden floors, of broken-down cars and bird-pecked apples and the scents rising from the soil – seems odd and somewhat misguided as a way to find out what’s worth knowing.” ~from Becoming Animal by David Abram

CNC tadpoles

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The Cincinnati Nature Center is a treasure in this metropolis.  Where else can even a trip in to the loo turn up so much to look at??

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Back here at home, we have had to have a number of dead trees removed from our property.  This changes the look and feel of things quite a bit.  Despite the promise of perhaps enough sun for a small vegetable patch at long last, I mourn the downing of these beings who have brought such shade and shelter to this place for so many years.  The majority of these trees are Ash trees and victims of the emerald ash borer, a non-native and clearly invasive beetle wreaking havoc on the trees here.

Yesterday evening my hub and I donned our wellies and walked the creek out front to collect downed limbs in order to keep them from building up and causing water to back up and flood when the storms come.  As we did so, I was hit with a supremely nostalgic smell from my childhood.  David Abram says it best…

“…there’s a new texture to the air, a moistness: water suspended in the medium, unseen, though you can feel its presence as the air washes against your face in waves. And riding those waves, vaguely enticing at first, then too pleasureful to resist: smells! Dark, stygian smells gliding over the rippled glass of the lake to mingle with the aromatic dank of the soil underfoot and the high-pitched scent of the green needles… the darkly laughing scent of cool water lapping up against the shore (infused with the chemistry of tadpoles and trout and the tannin of drowned leaves), and a host of other whiffs sometimes merged and sometimes distinct, all sparkling like wine in some part of your brain that had earlier been rocked to sleep by the soporific dazzle of sunbeams, but has now been startled into attentive life by this more full-blooded magic, as though your mammalian intelligence has abruptly dropped anchor and suddenly found itself really here, bodily afoot in these damp woods.” ~from Becoming Animal by David Abram

As a kid I spent countless hours barefoot, walking the local creeks, turning over stones to look for ‘crawdads’.  The smell of being down in our own little creek for a bit last night brought back those timeless hours spent exploring.  I decided to see if there was anything to spy just yet under the stones in our little waterway.

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creek fossils

“This land is in my bones. Land under Wave.” ~from Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

 

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Success! I found one and I am sure there were others.  I shall visit them when the sun returns, as today we are graced with the cooler side of Spring.  Such a temperamental lady, our spring.  Yet I am glad she seems here to stay for now.

Spring being firmly footed must mean that summer is on her heals.  I am beginning to feel the pull toward a summer spent mostly on the road….

My annual trek to teach in Taos is less than two months away, with workshop participants arriving exactly two months from today.  Like some sort of nesting bird, I am busily collecting supplies and ideas to bring to the workshop.  Just the other day I hand printed some little canvas bags into which will go some basic necessities.  I didn’t need to print anything on the swag-bags, but I really wanted to.  So I did.

swag bag prints taos

That rather sums up my state-of-mind of late.  I’m following my nose as much as possible.  Sure there’s loads that needs to be accomplished.  And I manage to get to most of it.  But sometimes it’s fun to climb aboard that ‘cross-town bus’ and see just where it takes me.  It is there that ideas spring up out of the newly tilled soil of the soul.  I hope to share with you soon where some of these ideas are taking me.  They are shaping my approach to my kid-books projects. And that is a good thing.  These projects will shift their shape over time, I am certain.  I have already received my first official ‘rejection’ letter from a company to which I submitted some of my work.  Along with the small smidge of sadness that my ego wanted to strap to its back came a much brighter sense of really doing this.  I am in the game.  Doing what needs to be done, a bit each week, moving forward.  Someday, with some persistence and enough caring and constructive critique to keep the work improving, it will be ‘good enough’ to be birthed into the world as books with stories in them that began in my mind’s eye and in the heart of my creative soul.  This all feels really, really good.  As does spring.

And so, we come to the end of this rather lengthy tome of a post.  I don’t post often, but when I do….

What’s happening in your world? I’d love to know.  Blessings on your new season, wherever it may find you.

One week down

10923582_10155022976295048_734283691227867210_nA week ago today I arrived in Taos here to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House to begin my long awaited residency.  It has, thus far, been a magical time filled with wonderful opportunities for inspiration around every bend.  I have had a chance to catch up with my Taos based community of friends over tea and the odd burger and beer.  I have had hours to walk and admire the natural beauty, even on the meltiest, most muddy of tracks.  I’ve been able to set up a bit of a routine which looks a bit like ‘up, write, coffee, check emails etc, write or draw some more, take a walk, have some lunch or a visit with a friend, walk some more, work some more, have some dinner, and then paint.’

I am so thrilled to have so much time and energy to myself.  While time is certainly passing as it is wont to do, each day feels nearly endless.

treesI love the idea of having enough energy at the end of the day to get a second wind and play with my oil paints. Here in Taos, where so much seems possible, I have been able to paint a bit in the evenings.  And to think I considered not packing my oil paints…..

cactiIt’s been an interesting transition into full time creative work on a daily basis.  When at home I am used to dividing my time between day job work, animal/household daily chores, cooking etc.  Just dealing with the day to day life of things which are part of my very rich and gratifying life.  I fit the art and writing in where I can.  gorge

However, here in New Mexico, everyday I stand at the edge of a great chasm of time and space which, I will admit, had me a little rattled upon arriving.  While I managed to step up to the drawing board and writing notebook a great deal each day to go about making the necessary work at hand, I spent my first few working days under the great weight of a sense of generalized anxiety, the likes of which I had not experienced in ages.  Not just nerves but the Utter Sense of Crushing Doom for which I am, sadly, somewhat hard wired.  The familiar elephant on my chest just wouldn’t let up.

So I walked, I wrote, I practiced my flute, I painted and drew picture postcards to place myself into the heart and mind of Ginger.  I just kept moving.  There is a lot of current writing and talking about creative work and how it can tend to go hand in hand with anxiety, what with all of the unknowns faced by those of us giving birth to new things and the vulnerability inherent to this work.  At least I’m in good company.

After some well timed conversations with friends who get this side of me, I began to visualize the elephant on my chest and decided to ask her why she might have taken up residence on my heart, disallowing this work I truly love so much.  And a word came to mind.  Play.  And then another. Relax.  So I opted to take an afternoon off of drawing and writing and took myself and my elephant for a hike.  Not just a walk for exercise, but a real hike a little out of town to a little bench I had heard might be waiting at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Elephant and I had a little chat.  I told her that while I can work when she’s snuggled so weighty upon me, it’s actually much easier to let ideas flow when I am not in a state of overwhelming anxiety.  She looked over at the gorge and asked me if she might ever be able to ride the wind in the way of the Eagle.  I told her anything is possible.

elephant

 

And so, on the little bench at the edge of the Gorge, I helped elephant strap on a little harness which is linked to a very capable parachute, enabling her to safely ride the thermals.  To my knowledge, she is still out there.  But I’ve made her a little bed in the corner by the fire to lie in and have promised her a lollipop if she keeps to herself while I work once she decides to come back.

Adjusting to life in Taos is exhilarating and challenging and different every time I visit, so those first few days feeling so weighty is no huge surprise.  Therefore, it is also no surprise that now the elephant has stepped away for the time being, I am finally feeling comfortable in my own skin again.  I am relaxing and playing and getting even more work done.  (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)

I’m taking my daily adventures and figuring out what Ginger Small has to think about it all.  She’s having a ball.  She has skied with her friends (utilizing the handy Raven Ski Lift Company who are ever so trustworthy as one cannot be too careful in the mountains when one is a mere Small Creature)photo

 

 

And Ginger managed to make friends with a field mouse on the Pueblo who taught her how to walk quietly among the buffalo and to gather the purple cacti that small creatures find so medicinal.  This adventure was exceptionally powerful.

buffalo

The Wonderings and Wanderings of a Small Creature in a Big World is coming together – bit by juicy little bit.   I am enjoying the work and am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here. You all continue to remind me how loved and supported I am while out here…

mailMail is a thrilling thing.  I’m excited to head into week 2 of conjuring the Adventuresome Correspondences of one Ginger Small.  

p.s. There’s been a fair amount of counting in a long lost language of rhyme in the Rabbits Who Herd Sheep department as well.

Do stop in over on facebook, instagram, twitter etc to keep up with our adventures.  And thank you, again, from the bottom of my thankfully lightened heart.

Readying a Retreat (and other exciting news)

In just over a month’s time, I have raised over 65% of my goal of $2500 which will offset costs for my upcoming writing/working retreat in New Mexico.  It’s been amazing to get checks in the mail and see paypal bits pop up in messages on the computer.  Thank you SO very much!!

Steampunk Thanks update

 

There are still two weeks left to contribute to my residency fund and every teensy bit helps.  I am busily preparing the cards and other rewards available for contributors as thank you gifts.  It’s wonderful to see Ginger’s adventures in print on cards and it feels like a sneak peak into what she will look like in book form, which of course has been a long time dream of mine…..

card stash

I am humbled by all the support and praise of this little character I spend so much time with.  A dear and far-flung friend of mine said this about our Ginger…

“I love that she’s so fearless! Sailing, traveling, etc. I admire that. I think it strikes a chord with people.”

And it’s true.  She IS fearless.  Or at least, like most of us, she pretends to be.  And that affords her opportunities in the world she might never have dreamed possible!  There is much about Ginger’s story I do not yet know, and that the point of this residency in Taos.  To suss that story out.  There is a wonderful scene in the movie Miss Potter where Beatrix Potter is presenting a new painting to her publisher, friend and future fiancee, Norman Warne, about a rabbit’s Christmas party.  She says about the story of this legendary party…

“Now I know such a legend exists, because I made it up….  I know on this night, that they will eat and talk and laugh and dance, and roast apples on the fire, but I’m not certain how the party ends, because I haven’t made that part up yet.”

And that’s exactly how I feel about Ginger’s story.  There are things I know.  She is adventuresome and a bit of a fashionista, in spite of her shyness.  She loves to meet other animals who are equal parts like her and unlike her, and she loves to send postcards….

ginger writes

postcard woddland

The postcard angle is where Ginger got her true start and it continues to be a huge theme in her story.  Since I too love anything to do with hand-crafted correspondence, it is no surprise that I have been following the work of the Letter Writer’s Alliance for a number of years now.  With their tag line reading:

it’s no wonder I love the work they do, gifts they share and postal related products and activities they post!  You see that stamp on the post card above featuring the cardinal? That stamp is an example of what the LWA calls “fauxstage”.  Not true postage contributing to the delivery costs of the card, but rather a stamp-like image that adds to the postal allure of the card.  I adore letters and postcards that come with extra cool stamps, don’t you??  Well, it occurred to me that with Ginger’s love of all things postal, a wee partnership with the LWA might be in order.  So I contacted them to see if I might put together a Ginger themed stamp design of my own to offer as a free download on their site.  It would prove to be a fun exercise for me, and would be a gift to offer to others who adore sending well adorned envelopes and postcards through the mail.

ginger stamp for blog

And so, here is the result of our partnership!!!  I took a winter/Solstice-time themed image I created last year in this post, and added some stamp-like things to spruce up its postability and to make it look official, and voila!! You can download this page at their website now, in a printable file version.  I think it turned out really sweet!  And it’s our gift, to you.

ginger stamps page

While we are thinking along the lines of stamps and post and holiday correspondences…. this image is also now available as a printed card that you can get at my Society6 page.

And so, amidst the busy-ness of this season, I am also preparing for my retreat from things in just over a month’s time, for that is when my best work is known to peek out of it’s shy nest hidden at the edge of the woods….

“Physically, the creature endowed with a sense of refuge, huddles up to itself, takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed.  If we were to look among the wealth of our vocabulary for verbs that express the dynamics of retreat, we should find images based on animal movements of withdrawal, movements that are engraved in our muscles.”  ~Gaston Bachelard (from The Poetics of Space)

We’ve had a mad road trip to a cacophonous regional dance tournament and ill loved ones bravely facing down end of life visitations and decision-making.  There are concerts in which to participate and to attend… gifts to seek out and parties to plan for, bake for and to attend.  It is December, and somehow the Spirit of Waiting which our souls crave during this season of Advent and Solstice is harder and harder each year to achieve.  Yet I celebrate all of the gifts of gathering this season brings while I prepare for the calm at the end of the storm.

During those first few precious days of a New Year, I will retreat to work in Taos, at a place that never fails to stir my deepest creativity.  I’d love for you to be a part of this retreat; to follow the story of a small creature in a big world, who believes in the magic of a well drawn, hand-written postcard in the mail box.  I’d love for you to join a young rabbit, who in spite of being a rabbit is quite the shepherdess, as she counts her sheep in a long lost language of rhyme.  Pitch a coin into the little donation basket being offered by these creatures. Be a part of their burgeoning adventures.  I thank you kindly for all of your support.

Happy December to all….

 

 

 

 

Ginger’s winter preparations… a new post card from Ginger Small

photo-1

It is autumn time and despite some sneaky warmth in the weather, Ginger and her friends know that winter cannot be far on the heels of fall.

And so, between jumping into leaf piles, gathering pumpkin seeds, and building winter-worthy nests, Ginger has made some new friends in the forest and they have swapped preparatory skills.  The field mice, experts in softening up a home with fresh mosses and mushrooms show Ginger around the darker sides of the forest.  Squirrels, the quintessential gatherers, share that putting up food for a winter pantry is as simple as gathering nuts and canning berries.  Simple things, when the work is shared among friends.

In return, Ginger teaches her woodland friends how to knit eensy sweaters to keep the drafts at bay and how to brew a proper pot of tea, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

photo 1

photo 2

photo 1-1

photo 2-1

Ginger loves to make new friends, and to keep up with her old friends via the post.  She is excited to send postcards to all of her dear ones when she is traveling later this season, ready to get to work on her memoir.

If you are interested in hearing more from Ginger Small, just look here, here and here.  Til, then, do stay warm, and keep a proper cup of tea on hand.

 

A Golden Opportunity and a Call to Action

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It is a blustery and quite rain-drenched day here in the Ohio Valley.  Indoors, Ginger Small and I are carefully weaving together our plan for the work that will be done in just a few month’s time back in our home-away-from home in Taos.

But we need your help in turning this plan into a successful reality.

As I have mentioned before, I have the honor and opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in Taos as the Writer-in-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.  I go there this upcoming January with a number of ideas and characters adrift in the watery depths of my imagination, two of which are almost firm enough to touch.  I have Ginger Small’s adventures in pictures, collected over the years, which could use some corralling into story.  And there is a nearly finished picture-book manuscript which needs it’s pictures to come to life.  This is a sleepy-time book about counting sheep, and the shepherdess is a young rabbit named Edith.  I won’t give away much more, as I am sure Edith’s story will change and grow, much like Ginger’s has.

Edith and Ginger need my undivided attention and care to come to life in this world; to take shape enough that they may knock on the doors of publishers and printers. This residency offers me this chance to tighten up these stories and get them out into the world.

How can you help? 

I am aiming to raise $2500 between now and mid December which will assist with the following costs:

~airline ticket

~car rental for part of my time in Taos

~food and sundries

~$ to cover my time off of my day job

 

In exchange for your donation to this project, I will be offering some rewards:

$15 level – hand-printed, single color, lino-style thank you card sent to you in the mail

$25 level – A copy of the Eco-Chic Retreat DVD set (I am proud to be a part of this amazing film project. This reward was kindly donated by film-maker Jody McNicholas of Walk-in Productions.  Only 1 available!) (Update – this reward has been claimed and is no longer available!  Thanks!!)

$40 level – set of 3 Ginger Small note cards featuring a variety of images from Ginger’s best known adventures. OR sheep/rabbit images, your choice!

$75 level – A postcard from Taos! New Taos Themed Ginger Small images will be happening for this trip. We will have them professionally reproduced and then send you a handwritten greeting from our little cottage at Mabel’s.  (approx. 5″x7″, these will be sent as a post card, through the USPS and so will have the look and feel of the original postcards that started us on this adventure in the first place.)

$150 level – All of the above!!!!

$500 level –  Your choice of a one of a kind felted Edith (similar to 3dG and approximately the same size, about 4″ tall) OR an original sheep-themed watercolor, 8″x10″

Most of these rewards will be received by you, with my gratitude, during the month of January 2015.  The Taos postcards will be posted from Taos- to you while I’m at my residency Jan 5-19.  Felted Edith and original watercolors will be slightly longer in coming as they will be made to order.

Many thanks to you in advance for any support you have to lend.  Financial support is of course wonderful, but do not discount how meaningful it is to receive comments on the blog here and over on my facebook page as well.  I picture all of you in the stands waving colorful flags, and tossing handfuls of glitter and confetti into the breeze to keep things whimsical.  The world needs whimsy, and imaginary animals who go on the adventures we dream up.  Thanks so much for your help and encouragement!

~AHB  (and GS & EE, too!!)

(Click this image or the one just like it over in the sidebar to the right to get started!  Thanks!!!!)

paypal

 

bunny 5 bunny 4 bunny 3 bunny 2 bunny 1

 

*A note on crowd~funding: As this is, in the grand scheme, a small scale fund raising project, I opted to keep it grassroots.  It is small enough for me to manage here and I decided not to engage Kickstarter or Indiegogo, as I might very well need to go that route to get these stories published into physical books one day soon.  But we shall cross that bridge when we come to it.  I plan to shop them around in old-school style a bit before opting to self-publish. Thanks again for your support!