I sat down this morning to play with a new little something I recently acquired, called Joy. No, really, it’s a pen, called the Lamy Joy. Recently a former student of mine shared a link with me to the website and sketching work of Liz Steel down in the Land Down Under. I love the look of her sketches which have so much life and color and bold line work. She uses ink to draw and watercolors from there to bring things even further to life. I often work in the same way but have always used permanent ink pens such as Microns, Sharpies and the like to create my lines – before and after painting. I enjoy the look of a fountain pen line, but had never translated it to sketchbook work. She recommended this pen and, with a name like Joy, how was I to resist?
Last fall I attended an inspiring series of lectures by a number of wonderful children’s book illustrators and writers. One of whom, Sergio Ruzzier, works in pen and ink for the drawing, and then, like Liz Steel’s sketches, follows with watercolors later. I love the look of these drawings and have been playing a bit since then with a variety of pens and some inks. But these inks would ruin a proper fountain pen overnight.
These have been fun to experiment with in the studio but aren’t as friendly for on the go sketching. I do have another Lamy fountain pen which I love, but the ink I use in it wasn’t at all water-resistant so unless I wanted to stay in the grayscale world, it too was not exactly sketch friendly.
Reading Liz’s posts on fountain pens inspired me to do a little more digging into that world (it’s an overwhelmingly big and enthusiastic world, the world of fountain pens!) and see if there was possibly an ink I might take on the go, in fountain pen form, but which might be a tad more welcoming to watercolor. An ink that with proper precaution, wouldn’t ruin my new pen, but would allow some color.
Apparently, noodler’s black ink is the one. You can read all about it anywhere on the interwebs and with many posts all around giving it a thumbs up, even in actual working fountain pens, I decided to give it a go.
Guess what!? It seemed to work!
After just a few seconds of drying time, the little Fox in the Snow became a regular old orange fox and the lines did not run at all. I was thrilled! As much as I love the micron pens, I will admit that my stomach churns every time I go to discard a used up marker. Perhaps there is a way to recycle them somehow, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
In this throwaway culture of ours, I look for even the smallest ways to not be such a consumer. This feels like a small way to do that. Maybe this pen, with it’s ink that can stand up to watercolors, and it’s variety in line weight options in just the one pen, can be a beginning.
I will need to draw a tad more often to keep that ink flowing, and make a point of cleaning out the ink more often than I do in my other pen. Perhaps this notion will keep me more in practice. I’ve been a bit out of practice since summer’s sketching and travel. This usually happens. But I am ready to dive back into daily sketching, and more and more painting and see where it all leads.
I’ve technically been here in Antigua Guatemala for a day. Just shy of 24 hours. And in that time I’ve seen a city of history alive and laughing. I’ve heard many tongues being spoken upon the breeze. One conversation between a lovely, crackling fireworks display to end a raucous saturday evening in town and the volcano in the distance which answered with its own beautiful breath of fire and light in the distance.
Life happens amongst the rooftops and streets here. Creature comforts being the first order of business for this weary traveler, we had a snack before bed late last night up the street and coffee and a hearty breakfast on a local rooftop this morning. The volcano was still whispering its thoughts on the breeze. After breakfast we followed rumors of a procesión happening a number of blocks away. A celebration of the Lenten season.
Temporary carpets were being delicately installed along the streets where the procession would return them to dust.
It was hot, diligent work. The carpets (alfombras) were crafted of tinted saw dust, raffia, flowers and vegetables.
Some had a way of looking at us.
Soon we reached the center of all the activity, Santa Ana Church.
Here, hundreds (thousands?) of faithful folk gathered to watch the spectacle. I am told this happens every Sunday leading up to Easter Holy Week when things are happening every day by then. But all in all, we were lucky to witness what we did.
After the crush of humanity it was great to get lunch and head back to our hotel, Posada San Sebastián which is a wonderland really. And a feast for the senses for anyone with a whimsical bent.
This special place contains many collected items set around in groupings. Such as chairs.
And my personal favorite, a cabinet chock full of baby Jesus.
Yes it’s true.
One might think that with barely a day here, all of this activity might have had us so busy as to forget our art making. But I did manage a page in between times. And after some rest, tomorrow will bring more. Sometimes it’s important just to fully soak up what’s in front of you in the moment .
Good night watercolor set. Goodnight baby Jesus. Goodnight chatty neighbor.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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
It is my favorite sort of day. One which began inspired and meditative, flowing along at my own pace, following my nose in an artful way, with no lists or have-tos clouding my inner compass.
Today I have been graced with the following….
Meditation at the very tip of my pencils.
Green chili stew on my stove top. (I don’t eat much meat, but this stew’s protein came from my friends over at Grassroots Farm. I am so very grateful for their work.)
Many (many) mugs full of tea. It’s fuel.
Ghosts at my doorstep. It is a liminal time of year, is it not?
Cool autumnal breezes in the tree tops. We have been afforded a most beautiful fall season. This doesn’t happen every year. It is a gift.
The warm glow of candlelight on my studio window. (The gorgeous candle is by my favorite honey and wax peddlers, Bee Haven to be found locally here in Cincinnati at Findlay Market on week ends.
A four legged friend who is up for adventure and doesn’t talk that much.
and finally, some paint on my paint brush. I’ve been coaxing a little painting along lately who is not so keen to tell me all of her secrets. She is to be wooed slowly it would seem. I am giving her time and space to tell me what she knows. We will go from there. But this much I do know…..
she knows of the power in the flutter of a moth’s wing. she knows she must always have a basket handy for carrying the gatherings, (though what is in her basket, I do not yet know). she spends a great deal of time outside as it tends to keep her thoughts clear.
Awoke this morning to the call of magpies. A bit bleary eyed after a long day of travel but oh so grateful to be here.
And so I wandered down for a cup of coffee and a stroll….
All is quiet so far. No students to greet just yet. Few other guests at all really. I treasure these relatively rare quiet moments at Mabel’s.
It’s so good to be back in a small town atmosphere. So close to Big Nature, yet I can also hear summer ball practice being held over at the park and the local church chiming the time.
Upon arrival last night, I was just in time to catch the premier of a beautiful new documentary by my friend and film maker Jody McNicholas called Longshotsville. Its all about a group of local actors seeking their best art and truest selves through stage and film acting. So many local folks were there, people I count as friends now since I return once or twice a year. It was refreshing to have a good cry and root for the creative process these young artists are seeking.
This is Taos. A place that demands that you be here. Now. Which I mostly try to be at home as well. But in places like this, the connection to self, to the present moment as it stands, seems more accesible somehow.
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!
I have returned, truly just a matter of hours ago, to this luscious land of my rootedness. There are many travels still to embark upon in coming weeks and I am attempting to float above it all to soak up my experiences in Taos, whilst engaging in things back in Ohio and preparing for more to come. Attempting not to burn up on re-entry. Attempting to make sense of a world a world away.
One of my crew of 16 workshop participants this past week wears daily the visage of a frog. It’s a pretty little thing, made of silver and inlaid with some lovely stonework. I asked her about it one day and she said, ‘this represents the fact that I live in and of two worlds.’ She is a lovely woman who is a frequent visitor to Mabel’s and I immediately tuned what she was saying. For her, the two worlds seem to represent a going between her ‘normal’ home life, and the rich artistic breeding ground to be found at Mabel’s and other hotbeds of creativity. For myself, the above two worlds are also the same as I go from Mabel’s and, in a matter of weeks, to music camp. But I have the added world-switch of going from 7000 ft above sea level to 700 ft. which frankly feels a bit like drowning.
Today I am drowning.
I came home to a clean home. Coffee in the cupboard and milk to accompany it in the morning. There was even wine for my frazzled travel nerves to sip upon. My family knows how to buffer the re-entry from this trip each year, so full of magic. So very full of hard, hard work. I am grateful. But I also came home to things that need to be done. By me. The home-steward. Something I value, actually. We have a new member of the pack, potentially indefinitely, in the form of a little dog that a family member may or may not be able to care for in the long haul. First stop was the vet’s office today for that little friend. Next stop was the market for some fresh food for tonight’s meal, and then a nap. Between all that and a proper re-engagement online, the day is nearly over. And still I float.
I have a gagillion photos to share of the workshop week itself, thoughtfully taken by my friend and co-facilitator, Jan Haller from Taos. But for now I will share what I have here.
First off, love. And a whole lot of it. This year was very different than year’s past. My dear friend Julie who has in the past helped keep my nose pointed in the proper direction is now stewarding the very place itself so important to my work. And while this is wonderful, and all as it needs to be, I’ll admit to being really lonely for much of the working side of this trip. But perhaps, that too is as it should be.
As we grow older, kids move on. There are no guarantees to how long our beloved partners will choose to accompany us. Our parents will inevitably move along before us, if things flow as they ought to. The only thing we have is our right work. Perhaps I’ll live to be 103 and see the passing of most of those I love…. but I will still have my work, such that it is. I will still be able to engage the arts on some level. This may seem a little depressing, but it’s all true. And for me, it makes me value my loved ones in the here and now, and to allow the work the space it needs at the same time.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old andtrembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I am so fortunate to have folks in New Mexico now who hold a space for me to come ‘home’ to when I go to work there. Portal Keepers in Albuquerque – Ron and CC, who provide me a place to land, on the way in or out, any time, with a mountain view, a bit like that of Taos Mountain. There is always a nourishing meal, laughter, artwork and a spot of wine or tea awaiting me there.
I simply can’t thank them enough for their support and friendship.
There is also the crew at Mabel’s. Arriving there is really like a homecoming.
This inn sees hundreds of folks a year there. To do workshops, experience the B&B end of things in Taos, to make a movie or to do research. The staff at Mabel’s see and hear it all. And somehow, most miraculously, I can walk in for my week there and be received like family. (um, yes, that is a ‘Go Forth and Doodle’ sticker on a real live Taos truck!!!)
Perhaps they treat everyone like this. I’d not be surprised. But I adore the people that run this place. Their skeletal crew keeps this historic treasure running like clockwork, making it seem easy, which I know it certainly cannot be. They even have their dogs on hand in the off hours for those of us visiting who might need a fix…
Enzo tells me he is a football fan and may very well need a Bengals tee-shirt just his size. I am already shopping. This may be the first NFL item I have ever sought out.
Every trip to Taos yields a certain level of unexpected magic or synchronicity that may or may not send me down some unexpected rabbit hole. I’ll share a couple of these with you here…
Firstly, this year is the 100’th anniversary of the founding of the Taos Society of Artists. There is much to do in town about all this with art shows and articles. One artist who’s work caught my eye amidst the to-do is Ralph Meyers. Technically, he was not an ‘official’ TSA artist, which kind of makes me like him even more. I enjoyed viewing some of his work at the Taos Art Museum when I visited and the more I dig, the more I admire. After the workshop ended, some of my participants (who are now dear friends, of course!!) remarked that they had seen a photo in town in a gallery of a young girl from back in the day that looked a bit like my youngest daughter. Well, you know how it goes. One takes these things with a grain of salt having grown up with an every-girl face like mine. But then I walked by her…..
I did a double take and decided to ask about her the following day. Because, Sally was right. This young woman is the spitting image of my own Madeleine.
The photograph was of Ralph Meyers’ wife Rowena who hailed from Pennsylvania. They met in Taos and the rest is history. Their son, Ouray, is now himself a successful local artist in Taos and I highly recommend a visit into his lovely gallery for a peek at his paintings.
Things like this remind me, as my friend Harold says, that ‘we are all related.’ I’m keeping my ear to the ground regarding Ralph, as even his grave, situated right by Mabel herself, is intriguing in its simplicity and beauty. I believe we should follow our noses regarding this sort of thing. Perhaps a historical figure calls to you, maybe you too should follow the winding path and see what there is to discover….
The next turn down the proverbial rabbit hole came at the tail end of my trip…. (pun intended.)
Before leaving New Mexico I spent a little (not enough, never enough New Mexico) exploring the Petroglyph National Monument per the advice of my Albuquerque based friends, Ron and CC.
Amidst the basalt stone, if one looks closely and sticks to the path, there are literally hundreds of ancient images carved into the stone there….
It was a quick trip, as I had a plane to catch, and it’s hard to leave good friends in a sacred-to-me land, but I am so glad I made the effort.
I felt a true sense of guidance amongst these images. They feel like signposts. Sadly, one needs to ignore the occasional scratches of more modern day people who have felt the need to add their marks to the mix. But I regularly ignore the stupidity of the modern day in my search for the magical things and once on the trail, it wasn’t so bad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, getting as far off the beaten path as possible, leads, generally speaking, to fewer idiots. Though this has it’s exceptions, and is not a scientifically proven fact.
I have so much more to share with you as I gather photographs from the workshop itself. The work done there this past week was the most focused yet compared to years past. I believe part of the reason for this is the space I gave it. I didn’t concentrate (at. all.) on my own art work. I was there to be a steward to the work of the participants there for the week who ranged from beginners to professionals. And this paid off in folks who worked hard on their books, their artful craft, their soaking up of New Mexico and Taos in particular. One has even written a blog post already!! More to come in due time. But as you know, time is fluid in summer…..
My raven friends accompanied me on a run this morning. In spite of altitude, I managed a brisk and energetic half hour on the paths, which will serve me well on this big day.
After two days of much running around, visiting, preparation, meetings, thinkings and plannings, it’s time to leave this little tree house of a place hidden down a magical lane….
…..and to move over to Mabel’s. Closer to the mountain, closer to the classroom, where I finally get access today.
I stopped by Mabel’s grave after my run, to say hi, and to ask her blessing on my work here. Taos always tests, and I always walk humbly here.
Looking forward to being nearer the mountain in the coming days. This morning she was shrouded in mists and mystery. I feel a bit that way myself.
As I ran the lanes and paths and roads I’m so fond of here, I pondered the teachers I have had in the past, in art, music and life in general. My hope is to channel their love and enthusiasm into my own work this week.
I also welcome any hidden folk along the way who’d like to be helpful…
After a long day of travel, peppered with delays, cancelations and many, many hours of knitting, snoozing and sketching, I found myself at long last, arrived in theLand of Enchantment. Ginger Small was as annoyed with the delay as I was at the way our day of travel had gone…
…and for the second leg of the journey, opted rather for a hot air balloon ride.
Last I heard, she may have tracked down her cliff dwelling friends further down the mountain, but that is a tale for another post.
Meanwhile, I arrived, very much alone. I was greeted by moody skies, a darkening landscape and storms.
It was all quite lovely really and I just got into my little car and drove, intent to make the most of the last of daylight, intent to eventually arrive in Taos.
Thunderbirds guided me up the mountain.
After a day off to soak at the hot spring and nap and visit, yesterday finally found me truly landed and ready to get to work. There are many supply gathering sort of errands to be handled, and meetings with the team of folks here in town and at Mabel’s who make this workshop possible. But I did take a couple of hours yesterday to hike a well loved desert path.
I met many new friends, who were in full plummage due to recent rains.
I was able to sit for a few minutes with my sketchbook and do a quick rendering of a bit of the Rio Grande Gorge before I had to head back up the path to get back to town. It was wonderful to sit in the quiet and witness Raven riding the thermals, and to feel the sun on my shoulders, and the breeze on my cheek. The noise of town and traffic well behind me. I need more open space in this life.
It feels so precious to be back in this strange land, so very different than my own homeland. By experiencing, exploring and cataloging new landscapes, we are surely discovering and perhaps even altering our own inner landscapes. Every visit here reminds me I have much to glean here. From myself, and from the land.
The trip has only just begun, and there are already so many tales to tell and drawings to be made. I am grateful for this quirky place and it’s rugged landscape and beautiful people who are fortunate enough to live here full time.
A 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.
I 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…..
It’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.
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 Doomfor 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.
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)
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.
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…
Mail 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.