Category Archives: In the Garden

Awakening

I’ve made up a pot of stew, and put the kettle on as well, as this is one of those long and winding posts to share with you a few notions of what’s on my mind, in my heart in recent days.  Welcome, and enjoy!

Remember that warning in my last post regarding the poor plants eager to strut their stuff so early in the season?  Alas, the last gasp of winter (one hopes) has been blowing across the eastern half of the country and sure enough, those antevernals have taken quite a hit.  Many of our flowering trees will have to wait until next year to flower once again, as they are already burned by the brutal cold.  It’s sad, but it’s life in a way. Time in the way of trees. Though to be fair, it’s been a strange season in many ways – as if winter got lost along the way and arrived late and possibly drunk to it’s own party.

This probably seems especially true further out east where recovery from the blizzard is just beginning.  As for us back here in the hollers of south-western Ohio, we had a bit of snow the other day, some serious cold and wind in the meantime, but all in all -unless one is a spring time flowering plant –  we find ourselves relatively unscathed.

(I did manage to rescue a few of the daffodillies before things got too crazy.  And for that I am grateful.)

It’s been a time lately of a restless longing which I can’t seem to name.  And naming it seems important.  As if by naming this vague sense, I could perhaps grab it by the tail and reel it in a bit to get to know it better.  Is it the annual hushed call to be outside, barefooted and full of wonder, after the long months of winter’s hibernation?  Perhaps.  But I sense it is also a desire to delve even further into work I do from the heart.  This art/writing/teaching practice of mine seems to be doing some shifting and deepening on it’s own over these last months (maybe even years).  Whispers of this seismic activity have been in the darker cornered spaces for a time now, but I am beginning to pick up words of meaning hither and thither, as if I am possibly (finally) learning the language of my own heart.

“How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite.  and what is the Infinite?  It is the silent, small force.  It isn’t the outer physical contact.  No, it isn’t that.  The infinite is not confined to the visible world.  It is not in the earthquake, the wind or the fire.  It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies.”

~George Washington Carver (former slave, plant genius)

In the deep desire to learn this language, I have been following bread crumbs down many darkened paths.  In my ears as I draw and paint or do the delicate handwork at the concertina shop day job, have been podcasts and stories from near and far.  By early morning I gobble up books and other publications crafted by such writers as Sharon Blackie, Robert MacFarlane, Sylvia Linsteadt and Mary Reynolds whose words and images evoke lands quite far from here but which sound so very familiar to the ears of my soul.

In the book If Women Rose Rooted Sharon Blackie writes:

“Once, we were native to our own places; once we belonged.  There is a Gaelic word for it and coming from a language which rises out of a deeply connected animistic world view, it is not easily translated to English.  These are the languages of root and leaf, of field and stone, of seaweed and salt.  These are the words whispered in our ears by the land as if by a lover; the languages which tell us that we and the land are one.  In Irish the word is dúchas; in Scottish Gaelic, dùthchás.  It expresses a sense of belonging to place, to a certain area of land; it expresses a sense of rootedness, by ancient lineage and ancestry, in the community which has responsibility for that place.  In the Welsh, the word cynefin has a similar meaning. This is the way our ancestors lived.”

It is this belonging I seek.  It is this belonging we all seek really, if we but take time to listen to the whispers of our own longing.  For me, much of this sense of belonging has come by learning the languages of art and music.  These are languages of pure magic.

Through the language of creativity and the visual arts my true inner self was awoken, around the same time as my children were born.  Birthing and motherhood were for me the creative sea-change which unleashed my inner artist.  The kids and I have artfully come of age together in some ways.

Robert MacFarlane tweeted this quote the other day:

“”With words at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see”

~Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’d go a step further and say one sees even more clearly through the act of sitting still and quiet and drawing.  The notion of learning to pay attention in this bold and beautiful world is at the heart of what I teach in my workshops.  To open up to beauty in small ways as we go about our travels or our day-to-day is to open up our lives to beauty in general.  Like attracts like.  The more we hone in on that which makes our hearts sing, the more we draw these things to us.   Drawing is powerful, critical magic.  When I started my journaling classes, I saw them as simply a way to make some art, to share the notion of being more creative in our lives.  But it’s become so much more!  What I teach is a life-altering practice.  And it’s wonderful to awaken to this and shout it to the skies!

And then there is the music.  It’s the Season, after all…..

This bright beautiful music for which I am grateful every day of the year, not just on St. Patrick’s Day.  The learning of any music making is a gift of being human in general, but to find that specific type of music which sings to one’s soul – which opens up the notions of community and friendship and travel in new ways – well, that is a true bronntanas an chroí, a gift of the heart.

Like so many Americans, mine is a hodgepodge heritage of mixed ancestry.  I know bits and bobs of where I come from, genetically speaking, and lord knows I’ve grown up a child of the world at large – moving from place to place, often country to country in the early years, traveling always and mostly saying, “I could live here.”  My family teases me about this, that I seem to be at home most anywhere, especially if there is beauty to behold and capture in my sketches.  And it is true, to an extent.  I tend to bloom where I am planted, with only shallowed roots.  Yet I am always pining for that ‘perfect place’ to call home, while knowing there is no such thing really.

A number of years ago I traveled over to Cavan, Co. Ireland for ten days of the annual Fleadh Cheoil (“Festival of Music”) with my son and a few other close musician friends.  I had been to Ireland once before to run a marathon.  That had been a memorable trip, full of laughter and tourism and many, many miles with my friends from DC where we lived at the time.  A quick in, quick out weekend really.  And we didn’t even get far out of Dublin as there was simply no time.  But this more recent trip to County Cavan was far different.  In the years since my last visit, I had learned so much about Ireland beyond the touristy stuff.  I had taken some big bites of the music and had begun to make it my own in my heart.  I was so much more wide awake this time around.  And the land itself spoke a good deal louder there in the Cavan countryside, away from the traffic and the noise of a road-race, circus-like atmosphere.  Each day as we walked the village roads into town from our little house, I felt a sense of home that, if I am to be completely honest, scared me.  It’s trite in some ways to admit to that sense of home in Ireland.  Especially at this time of year.  It is not my place to claim.  I live in Ohio.  And yet, I have not been able to shake it off in the years since.

I purchased a tiny landscape painting by local Cavan artist Imelda Bradley on the street one day when the sun was actually shining.  This moody image of the misty, lake-strewn land of 365 lakes (one for every day of the year!) hangs by my bedside now and informs my dreaming.  I look to it to inform my sense of home back here at this home, where I live now.  Because this is where I am for now.

I am seeking to deepen that sense of belonging right here, right now. For now is all we are ever promised.  Just now.  Just this moment.  In all of my recent reading and research, I am seeking to find that sense of dúchas in this place in which I currently find myself.    I’ve been reading quite a bit of Wendell Berry’s work, as he lives just down the way in rural Kentucky.  And funny thing is, apparently so is Robert MacFarlane across The Pond who tweeted this out recently:

“….to defend what we love, we need a particularising language, for we love what we particularly know.”

~Wendell Berry (agrarian, writer)

I am finding the language I seek through a mycelium-styled network of like-minded artists, writers and thinkers, many of whom live far away but whose word-ways feel familiar to me.  Sometimes they lead me back around nearer to where I live now which is nice.  While I read the latest book by Irish garden designer, Mary Reynolds,  I also will sign up for an up-coming plant-magic sort of class with Asia Suler of One willow Apothecaries, just south there in the Appalachian mountains, a bit closer to home.  I find both of these gardeners carry a similar take on the magic to be found just below our feet and the messages it all may have for us.  I also plan to seek out the four stands of old-growth trees right here in my own city (yes, it’s true!!!) as written about by local naturalist John Tallmage in a book I am still devouring called The Cincinnati Arch, Learning from Nature in the City.   

I am learning so many new languages.  Layers upon layers of expression to bridge the gap between myself and the world.  The Spanish language, which I will re-visit and practice once again in Guatemala in just over a week.  The language of Irish music, which I’ll play so much of the day tomorrow on the Feast of St. Patrick.  The language of trees, which I hope to learn on many levels.  Having taken down a number of trees recently, I am wholeheartedly asking our little patch of land what it wants in the way of new trees to replace those which have passed.  I hope to have the ears to listen.

I am eager for the language of story as well.  So many of the stories to which I am drawn are from far away places.  The local stories, at least the older ones, are proving difficult to dig up.  But I shall seek them out, even as I enjoy the others, for if a story calls to your heart, then surely there is something there to be learned from it, yes?.  Here in Cincinnati, we live on land much like The Chalk, described by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld books, the Tiffany Aching series in particular.  This Land Under Wave is as good a place to dig in for now.  This place from which to explore the rest of this wide and wonderful world, this place to come home to.

 

 

River Run Wide

For days, it seemed as if it would never stop raining.

We hunkered in our homes, all of us  (including the Faeries, I do believe!) watching the gardens begin to awaken between raindrops and the rollercoaster weather patterns for which our region is known.

We tended our indoor plants as well, hungry to touch something green once again.  We are all of us ready to go outside once more.

As the rain poured down, our normally babbling brooks not only rushed but eventually even did a fair amount of flooding.  Up and over our little bridge and the drive.  Thankfully, the flood waters only lapped up to the door, with nary a trickle actually making it indoors.  We were lucky.

Eventually, the sun has shown here and there.  And things are beginning to bud and bloom.  Risky behavior for these intrepid plants, as warm days are still fleeting.

But bloom, they do.

While the streams rushed outside our doors, and the Ohio River and its tributaries raged closer to town, another far sweeter and gentler River has begun flowing…..

A new album of folk-styled music has been taking shape out in Seattle where my young friend Alex Sturbaum now lives.  You may remember Alex from my post about his amazingly hand-crafted wedding a few months back.  Recently Alex created a Kickstarter campaign for his River Run Wide project and it has been successfully funded (though there is always room for more)!!  I was thrilled when he gave me a call and asked me if I might be able to produce some art work to contribute to the design of the CD and it’s wee booklet.

There are so many tales to be told and behold through Alex’s music -both via traditional songs he’s interpreted for this solo album as well as his charming original works. Narratives rich in visual detailing and a sense of nostalgia for something just out of reach.  You can practically smell the salt air of a ship’s passage in his maritime songs….

You can feel the pull of a mighty river and maybe hear the voices of those working it just over the lapping of the river waves on shore…..

There is a longing for home that music such as this evokes.  It may very well be a sense of home which can never be quenched.

Congratulations to Alex, and his talented band of merry, music-making friends, with whom I’ve shared a number of late night sing-alongs.  May this album head into the world and encourage more singing, more gathering and telling of old tales, more joy in the making of music.

Where your name is spoken

Looking Westward, a drawing of mine from a few years ago…. Raven is a bird close to my heart.

What a winter we are weathering.  Not for the normal reasons which might lead to a bout of winter weariness such as darkness or the ice and snow (we’ve had little of either, though we do suffer our fair share of a seemingly endless milky-gray pearlescence, which is a nice, wordy way of saying ‘day to day dismal’.)

Instead, there seems to be a general sense of malaise in all corners, at least to my winter-wearied eyes.  The political climate of late is one I am deeply committed to keeping track of, though how to do so and still nurture my rich inner world is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  (I am up to the challenge.)  All told, through this winter’s darkness, both literal and metaphorical, I’ll admit to having had to dig quite deeply to find any light lately within my heart- physically, creatively.  Some days I have felt quite extinguished indeed.  It’s been a hard time, ‘I don’t mind tellin’ you.’  

But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and all is not lost, fear not!  I am back to running the local village paths once again more routinely, just in recent days, no matter the weather! This morning I awoke with the clearest head I have had in months, the cobwebs having been cleared from my seratonin-deprived brain by just a few short, but successful hard runs around my neighborhood.  I could nearly weep with joy for the returning of this source of bliss and emotional sustenance in my life.

While running has not been available to me, walking still has.  Our dogs enjoy a wee trot outside each day, provided the roads aren’t too salty for their exposed paws.  I delight in a rhythmic jaunt where I can get lost in my thoughts.

A few days ago, the sun did shine for a day. (read: a brighter milky-pearlescence).  My hub and I went to the local nature center for some sketching time.  There are all sorts of very still, very dead, yet somehow quite animated taxidermy-style animals there and we took some time to draw them.

There was woodsmoke in the air there that day, and a sweetness as well, signaling maple sugaring season.  We enjoyed learning about how our native forebears likely processed, consumed and traded the sweet, valuable maple syrup and crystalline sugar using handmade tools they gathered from the earth and adapted to their needs.  I did not take a picture.

We discussed that day of how sad things have been (how sad I’ve been) and we talked also of how mood-changing a song might be when it catches our ears just so.  My Hub found one such song called I Don’t Recall done up so very beautifully by Lavender Diamond. They have a new video….

We were intrigued by the biography of this project to be found on Spotify…..

“The folk delight that is Lavender Diamond originally came to life in Bird Songs of the Bauharoque,  a punk operetta inspired by the work of American painter/architect Paul Laffoley.  Vocalist Becky Stark wrote and created the piece with a friend while living in Providence, RI, and starred as Lavender herself, a winsome part bird/part human who wants peace on earth.”

Hub wondered at which point in the song she was human and which bit might find her in bird form – to which I argued, why can’t she be both?  Both, at the same time.  animal.  woman.

I’ve been pondering a great bit lately this whole notion of polarity.  Political polarity, yes of course.  But also the light vs. the shadow sides of ourselves.  The Masculine and Feminine bits too, always in a dance, yes?  And even to how we react to times of great strain.   I am intrigued (and often infuriated) by the discussion of a perceived necessity to choose one thing over another.  Why can’t we be Both.  I am both Woman and Animal.  I am Light as well as Shadow.  I enjoy tapping into both the (traditionally regarded) Masculine AND Feminine within my whole self.  When I allow this, I am more wholly alive as a total human being.  Perhaps like Lavender herself.

Music has indeed been a balm and an inspiration when Mother Nature is resting and doesn’t give us much to go on in the way of sketchable stuff.

Though if one pays close attention…..

One of my favorite flute teachers shared a song the other day which caught my ear, as songs of old often do.

It put me in mind of leggy hares to be found across the pond.  so different from our own bulky little bunnies.  so I sketched one up.

As I continue to climb out of the dark hole of my recent state, I am grateful for things which catch my ear.  The music often being the first and foremost quality of a song shared.  If I get a tune rolling round in my head, words or no, that can be a good thing.  It can, indeed, change the tone of an entire day for someone sitting rather on the edges of things emotionally speaking.

But sometimes, what catches my ear is deeper still than just a catchy tune.  Sometimes, as I listen to a newly found thing, often on obsessive repeat, (yes it’s true, and part of my charm, I like to think) the words partnering with the music to enchant the heart can act like will-o-the-wisp.  Lights in the darkness, taking me down an enchanted lane to other worlds….

This morning the lovely Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame?) shared the music of one Ali Dineen in the form of this song in particular, which much like the Lavender Diamond song above, has a happy feel to it.  (and, turns out, Lin was one of Ali’s 7th grade teachers.  Can you imagine?)

This song led me down the proverbial musical rabbit hole of her music in general and I was not to be disappointed.  (Thank you Lin!) Little lyrical snippets pulled at my heart strings as I jogged the paths here amidst this gray, cold village here in Ohio.

“Somewhere else there were
miracles, carnivals, and a space in the air
only your bones could fill.”

Just weeks away, I am reminded by this tune, is a trip south to Antigua, Guatemala where I will sink into constant art-making for a solid week.  This makes me happy beyond imagining.  And reminds me that winter will pass.  In spite of how hard things can seem just now, personally, nationally,  globally.

“Spring it brought madness and chaos and song
the wind growing warm, the days growing long
I watched the world blow through your mind
we stooped low to pick up what it left behind
Scattered stories of our country’s childhood,
though we’re deaf to their sounds
We’re trying to stand up straight
but we don’t know what’s weighing us down.”

“go when your feet are restless
go when you hear a faraway song
heed what your bones are saying
don’t wait for your saint to come….”

“go where your name is spoken
stay when you feel like standing still
no one can guide your footsteps
so walk where you will “

So, yes, later this spring, I will travel to Guatemala, where once upon a time, my name was spoken.  I have been trying to tap into that little gypsy girl who lived everywhere and nowhere.  The me who spoke Spanish “like a native” (my mom’s words) and who seemed to feel at home anywhere.  I seem to have lost track of her over the years but I am keen to get reacquainted.  I’ve been taking a formal Spanish course locally and it’s been more difficult that I had expected.

We conjugate a good bit, which I will admit, I don’t know how to do adequately in English, in spite of my ability to speak the language here.  I am banking on a small faith that this class will warm me up to hear my name spoken on the warm volcanic breezes in the Highlands of Guatemala.  I’m told I went there as a girl when my Nana Campbell came to town.  I do not remember.

But I do remember what calls to my soul:

Music.

Art.

Stories.

Other Artists.

(we are all artists)

Thank you for reading…..

~a

ps.  do go toss a few coins into the hats of any or all of these amazing artists.  they deserve it.

 

 

 

 

On rest and re-cooping

In which we wait too long to do our shopping and alas, the wicked good slippahs from Maine are on back order. But the sketch was well received.

There is great value in slowing down, even if such restful slowing is thrust upon us.  Internal rewiring continues, this seismic shifting written of recently.  Illness continues to pervade the household, my hub hacking and racking in his own version of winter’s torture.   The weather gods seem to be arguing over whether to allow winter’s arrival after all.  I attempt daily forays out of doors to test my lungs with a bit of walking and jogging (I would not yet call said activity anything kin to ‘running’, but we must start somewhere. )  One day bundled in woolens, the next in shirt sleeves.  It is no wonder Christmas dinners and gatherings are somewhat sparsely attended by extended family.  Good to spend time with those healthy enough to be together.

Utilizing bits of energy hither and thither, my work space once more resembles a place ready for Deep Working and Fresh Thinking.  It is the sunniest place in the house on a rare sunny day.

The morning routine here at Chez Bogard has been exponentially simplified with the unexpected offer to re-home our lone hen, Elvyra.  I had been worrying over her, alone and cold without her sisters to snuggle up to, but had been loathe to take on new hens, thus perpetuating our chicken experience.  I have adored keeping hens.  I love their gentle chatter as they scritch in the yard for off-season insects on a warmish day.  They make me laugh with their antics. (you really should see a chicken running across the yard sometime) And of course, when possible, there is the miracle of freshly laid eggs.  But a lone hen is a depressing thing.  They are not creatures built for solitude, but rather for more of a hive-minded existence.

With Elvyra as The Last Hen Standing, we were at once in a holding pattern and a decision making position as to whether or not to get more chickens.  With the traveling we do, and some interesting and creative thoughts as to life once the kids leave college, we decided it might be best to opt out of hen-keeping for the time being, at least for a few seasons.  And so, while catching up with a dear friend at our local music session (my first in weeks – I could hardly play without coughing or losing my lip to atrophy from disuse) she offered to introduce sweet old Elvyra to her young flock of hens – solving our lone hen/what do we do now question, while simultaneously offering a much better life for one lonely chicken.

Elvyra and I got along famously, but chickens just need other chickens.

So Farmer Kate arranged for a friend of hers to pick up Elvyra who’d been stashed in a crate for transport and we commenced Operation Chicken Hand-Off.   I was nervous for her.  Chicken introductions can be tricky.  But in the end, I heard the next day that all is well.

Elvyra is keeping herself to herself, feeling a little shy in the first few days but observed to be roosting, eating and drinking.  Her new flock is giving her the space she needs and there is no pecking-order business happening from either party.

With yesterday’s incredibly unseasonably warm temperatures, the flock explores the farm and scritches for bugs and Elvyra is apparently right at home.  Remarkably simple creatures, chickens.

The cessation of our chicken adventure (which began with grassroots political change in our village to even legally have them!) leaves room for energies to be spent elsewhere.  I continue to rest with complete abandon both body and soul.  While not completely off line, a mindful avoidance of once-routine clickety behavior on my part and moderation/modification of such continues.  Anxieties are still, blissfully, at bay.  The blues may even be shifting and lifting, a bit, though I allow an engaged conversation between lightness and darkness in my heart to be ongoing.   The ebbing and flowing between sadness and joy are the warp and weft of a wide awake life.  It can be an uncomfortable state at times.

But, as Elizabeth Zimmerman has so aptly put it:

“Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.”

and so I do.

Postscript: 

RIP Carrie Fisher, whom I heard passed away just a bit after posting this.  This quote from her caught my eye and speaks eloquently on why we sometimes must share what we feel inside….

“It creates community when you talk about private things and you can find other people that have the same things,” Fisher told Terry Gross. “Otherwise I felt very lonely with some of the issues that I had.”

May we all continue to nurture our inner rebels with strength and grace and humor, as she did, both on screen and off.

 

 

A slower kind of grief

gray-day

It is a gray, cold day here in Ohio.  Like many people I know, both here at home and abroad, I awoke this morning after a fitful few hours’ sleep to a world blackened by the election results of this country of ours.  I am shocked, honestly, at the outcome of what has been a really painful time to be an American.  Perhaps I am naive but I thought better of neighbors, extended family members and yes probably even a co-worker.  I find it truly hard to believe that anyone would vote for someone who carries himself in the world the way our new president-elect does, though I knew there were those people out there, fearful enough to go for his vague messages of ‘change-maker’ and ‘political outsider’.  But yes, perhaps I was fooling myself.

And today, I am grieving.  Not in the way one might be disappointed after an election goes in favor of the other party.  I’ve had those years and that did feel bad enough.  But, one wakes up, trusts in the system and has an extra cup of coffee.

This is a deeper level of grief.  A grief I am truly having trouble wrapping my brain around at the speed expected of such things in the world these days.  I am a slow cooker when it comes to most everything.  I don’t do well with hurrying along emotions or decision making.  This morning I visited my usual online haunts first thing, to commiserate with friends, and perhaps begin to wrap some words around this awful sense I’m feeling in the gut of my deepest gut.   And I found an interesting phenomenon happening there.  One which I think is indicative of the pace of things in the modern world.

People are already moving on.  

I think part of this notion is the desire not to get mired down in the deep dark depths of negativity, which on the whole, is admirable.  And yes, I do believe the path forward must be one of light and peacemaking.  That said, I can’t go there yet.  I am still grieving.  At my own apparently geologic pace.

For many of my more moderate friends, this election was difficult in that they really didn’t feel they had a choice.  I know many who ‘held their noses and voted for Hillary’.  While I don’t understand this thinking, everyone comes to their beliefs through their own experiences (and, it must be said, ‘news’ agencies).  It’s my own experiences that are feeding this deep aching grief of mine, however.

For a short while there, I’d had a sense that the world, and indeed our country, were changing for the good.  There seemed to be more acceptance of those with differences, a real desire on the part of people to further understand one another’s religions and cultures and true selves.  This felt like a world I could live in.

Some snapshots…..

When I was a kid, after having moved around all sorts of places in the world, my broken family came home to live back here in Ohio.  We were poor, very poor, and my single mom did her very best to do her very best through work, food stamps and night school.

A few years later our household eventually held two women and three children, living together under one roof and this was apparently problematic in the small Ohio town we landed in.  We weren’t exactly lovingly accepted into the community fold.  In fact, one time, we even had a rock thrown through our living room window.  Even at that time, I knew why.

As a woman, I’ve witnessed and experienced the countless subtle and not so subtle ways women can be demeaned in our society. Hillary Clinton’s campaign gave me hope that in spite of this, perhaps women could have their equal time at the table.  That inclusion could be possible for everyone.  As the mother of two young adults, one of whom is gay, I was feeling like the world could be safer than the one I grew up in. That fewer rocks of ignorance might be thrown through our windows.  That maybe my daughter could pursue her own path of service and leadership in the world on an equal footing.

I don’t often write here on this blog in such a personal way.  I attempt to keep things liminal, otherworldly and artful.  I shall head back down that rabbit hole for my work and my own sanity eventually.  But I feel compelled to write this personally after this dreadful election.  Tweets and facebook posts aren’t enough.  We must do some deeper thinking as a country.   Some slow, deep thinking.  I wonder if anyone slows down to think any more.  It certainly doesn’t seem so.  It’s all about the next tiny parcel of semi-information, and sound bytes –  small cogs in the wheel of the world spinning out of control.  Perhaps the pace of things is different elsewhere.  I don’t know.  I do know that I’m having a hard time with how things are rolling along here and now.  I worry that this very pace of surface information flying hither and thither contributed to the awful results we face this morning as a country.

This all being what it is, today I plan to get some spring bulbs into the ground.  Which feels infinitely hopeful.  I am trying to tap into our wiser selves a few months in the future….

hope-for-better-days

And I await the arrival of a missing printer which I am fairly excited about.  These are small, practical things I am looking forward to in my small day to day.  But I will continue to grieve for the bigger picture of things.  I am deeply grateful for friends who get that maybe for some of us, this grieving may take some time.  Those of us who have been desperately poor, or have been victims of misogynistic behavior or have been on the ‘fringe’ of society somehow or other, will need a bit of time before we can ‘move forward’, ‘stay positive’, etc.  We can get to that in January.

Thanks to my dear friend Justin for these beautiful, kind words which he wrote just as I began this lengthy blog post.

“I see a lot of folks on my feed telling folks that are reacting negatively to the election outcome to keep it together and get over it . . . so I just want to throw this out there:

If you’re sad, no shame. If you’re angry, no shame. If you’re scared, no shame. There is absolutely not a DAMN thing wrong with sadness, anger, or fear. You don’t need to “get over it”, “man up”, “move on”, “grow a pair”, or whatever else. You have (and God knows you don’t need it from me) full permission to experience YOUR experience, and there isn’t a soul alive or otherwise that has the right to make you do any different. Love is the greatest ally to all persons on this planet, so start with yourself and own your experience, no shame.”

And while we are on the subject of wise words, here are two more quotes bringing me some small solace this morning.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”   ~Julian of Norwich

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“FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam.
SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”     ~(not sure if this is quoted from the book or the movie, but it’s from Tolkien’s The Two Towers. )

 

NOPE. My little patch of paradise

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I went for a long, hot, humid run today.  Not my favorite weather in which to hit the roads, but I have been a bit of an anxious mess lately, and running indoors would only have exacerbated that sensation.  You see, my neighborhood, and many others near ours and like ours (some of which I’ve resided in in the past) is under assault by the big bully energy company who is supposed to be providing ‘service’ to our community.

Last Wednesday I skipped the churchlike regularity of my weekly Irish music session to attend a community forum…

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At this meeting, light was shed upon the whispers of a tragic injustice potentially headed our way, courtesy of the fracking movement and spearheaded by the very company which is supposed to bring us ‘service’, Duke Energy.

I sat at this meeting, horrified, filled with dread, my ears fairly bursting with the news of this plan to bring an industrial strength, highly pressurized ‘natural’ gas pipeline straight through our back yards.  I’ll fess up that I thought I was headed to this meeting for a bit of ‘not in my back yard’ tete-a-tete, and just to see what was up.  This isn’t about my back yard.  This is about all of our back yards.

For the first time,  a pipeline of this magnitude is being considered for a path straight through the middle of a densely populated neighborhood area.  A path that navigates it’s way not only through quiet suburban backyards with mature trees and woodlands such as ours, but also through neighborhoods with houses whose closer fence lines provide much more day to day contact.  And right by schools where our neighborhood kids learn and play and live their little lives.  And just near nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals and houses of worship.

This is no ordinary pipeline, I learned at last week’s forum.  This is not about service to us from our local energy provider.  This pipeline is a highway.  A 30″ transmission pipe headed south to make money for Duke Energy.  This pipeline has nothing to do with us, if I understood the information I gleaned from the meeting.   Sure, it might be part of the overall ‘system’  ‘needed’ to be in place for us to get the natural gas we use so thoughtlessly utilize on a regular basis.  I do not know.  I am still in the process of researching it all.   But I am no Erin Brockovich .  I am just a quiet artist, trying to lead a good life.  Trying to stay one step ahead of my anxieties about the world.

And so we went to our local forum.  We sat riveted and horrified.  And we came home to think about it all for a day or so.  And now, we have written heartfelt letters to our local politicians, and to our local utility company (which feels laughable, considering their confidence in making this pipeline a reality).  And today, I knit socks in my little patch of paradise while no one else was up besides me and the dogs and our last, lone chicken.  And I pondered the kids and older folks by whom this pipeline would pass.   And I thought about how vulnerable they all are.  How vulnerable we all are.

When something goes wrong on one of these lines, there is no warning.  No evacuation.  Folks are just in the blast line.  Or they are not.  Currently, for at least one path this line is considering, we are in a fairly direct path of a potential blast.  I don’t want anyone to be in this blast line.  A line of this caliber belongs in industrial areas and along interstate routes.  For in the long run, what is traffic and re-routing, if countless lives are potentially saved?

I sat in a state of endless anxiety for a good while.  And then I went on that run.  Due to the heat and humidity, I had to stop here and there.   I chatted with a dear neighbor who has a new (to me) dog named Rocket.  I wandered my streets filled with love for this place.  This isn’t necessarily my perfect place.  That might be nearer to the ocean perhaps.  But for now, this is our place.  And I am fiercely committed to it.  I ran and ran and ran.  Just one step ahead of the elephant that loves to take up residence upon my chest so often.

and then I saw it.

A little wild rabbit.

The morning sunshine was slanted just so that the creature’s ears were lit up like little rose petals.  I stopped.  Caught my breath.  And got an idea.

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I almost can’t handle the idea of older folks, school children, and my own home being in an explosion caused by a highly pressurized natural gas pipeline in a densely populated area.  But I can escape to my imaginary sphere.  And wonder what the animals might think of it all.

After all, regardless of property values potentially falling due to this pipeline, or dangerous safety concerns for our most vulnerable citizens, the environmental issues surrounding this project are absolutely staggering.  Changes to storm run-off patterns in place for generations,  construction run-off into the millcreek watershed, mature trees and woodlands decimated.  I could go on and on.

But here was this rabbit.  And here was myself, in a state of agitated anxiety.  So for the afternoon I escaped into my imagination.  Where the woodland animals were banding together with their own social media campaign.

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And I made a little drawing.

Because besides chatting up my neighbors on both sides of the party line, and sending letters to my governmental representatives, this is all I know to do.  I mustn’t cave to endless fear and anxiety over this notion.  I must act.  And today I acted.  And I will continue to do so when I can.  There have been stories of communities able to stand in the face of these environmental atrocities and make change.  And lord knows there are others with a less happy ending.

But we are at the beginning of this struggle.  There is a core group of citizens comprised of a variety of affected communities who have banded together to make some trouble and spread the word of this project so very inappropriate for this area.  It seems the energy corporations are getting more and more desperate to make a dollar (or billions) and they are putting the very communities they are supposed to be ‘serving’ at risk.  I really expected better community stewardship and responsibility from a company I, until now, trusted.

NOPE Cincy is a group online providing the latest updates on this tragic idea in the hope that we can get things rerouted.  At the rally they put on which I attended, many local representatives were on hand ready to speak for their constituents.  (shout out to Todd Portune whom I last heard speak at my friend Tina’s mural opening last fall.  He is a politician who shows up.  I find that tremendously admirable).  In the current political climate so often filled with vitriolic mayhem, this all feels like a breath of grass-rooted fresh air, in spite of the horrific issue at hand.  And it is just this notion of neighbors working together from ‘both sides of the podium’ as they say that gives me some real hope for where we are headed.

I made this little drawing today.  This is all I know how to do besides writing letters and talking to my neighbors.  It is putting my head in the sand where I feel safe, while not truly doing so.  It is my form of activism.

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At One

We are down to one hen, having lost the family favorite, mischievous, curious, moxie-laden Bernadine.  Her personality here on our little acre of land will be sorely missed.  11295616_10206664562194990_1017598909952787150_n

That leaves us with Elvyra, who was kind of the extra one from the beginning.  We went to the little farm in Kentucky to get four chicks, and came home with 5.  The farmer suggesting ‘that little easter-egger over there’ might be a good one to have if we wanted a pretty flock.

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And pretty she is.

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Of all of the flock, this one has been the quiet one.  Part of the flock enough to be safe, but not overly keen on human attention or affection.  Having read that lone hens are prone to depression and rapid decline, I have been keeping a close eye on Elvyra, but so far, she seems ok.

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She preens her feathers regularly and scritches around the garden and woods for bugs and fresh spring green things.  She’s still laying daily and roosts  predictably at night.  She is eager to de-coop in the morning and join me for a cup of coffee and some treats on the back stoop.  It’s become a bit of a thing for me lately amidst this crazy time of year.

There is just something so soothing about watching a hen peck around the yard for a bit each day.

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Even if it is just the one.

 

I’m gearing up for the Taos trip here in a few weeks and so have ramped up my yoga practice and running routine to get my head on straight, to be the best I can be for my incoming students.  Spring can be a frenetic season with graduations and birthdays to be celebrated, chores to be caught up on and of course the usual day to day work to be done.  Busy.  a word I loathe, but to which I must occasionally succumb.  I am woefully behind in my own sketchbook, but have instead been at the easel a bit each week in a painting course I decided to take from Manifest Drawing Center here in town.  I am learning  a lot in this class about color and painting in oil paints, some of which I hope to apply to my own teaching out west.  It’s important to me not to rest on laurels and to always be finding new things to share in my classes.  I am keenly aware that to do this work is a great gift.  I do not take it for granted.

While we are down in numbers in the avian world, our canine sphere is fit to burst since last year.  It’s nearly a year since we took over the stewardship of my Mama-in-law’s little dog Charlie.

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She was not as little as she really should be when she first joined us.  But with some exercise and the company of other dogs, she has trimmed out a good bit and her more boisterous personality has begun to shine (read, bark).

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Charlie seems quite happy here with us and still makes regular visits back home to Mom as well, which is good for everyone.

And so, on this very average day, I must get back to work.  Attempting the task of getting ahead of myself a bit before the summer travels begin in earnest; pondering the One-ness of all things via the simple avenues of home – ‘fanimals’ and family.

Til next time….

Flights of fancy

Luna

I love moths.  Not so much the ones who like to eat up our woolens when we aren’t looking, but rather the more showy ones.

A number of years ago I embroidered the luna moth above.  She remains still one of my favorites.  Although the model for the above moth hailed from West Virginia, all sorts of varieties of marvelous moths can be found in this Ohio River Valley, including the Luna, as we are situated along the very edges of Appalachia where loads of wonderful creatures reside.

I am excited for summer’s warmth to come to us (though not our late-summer heatwaves!) and along with it, perhaps a few more interesting moths to observe in the local woods.  The One-Eyed Sphinx Moth, though not tremendously common, might be found on occasion in our Ohio woods.  Today, however, I found one in my thread basket….

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Well, really she came from my mind’s eye, with the help of a guide book and some source photos, with the eventual plan of being worn as a talisman.  Much like the recent mushrooms growing in the same said basket!

It’s still quite chilly out of doors, so it is no surprise I found her curled up amidst the chaos of my embroidery.

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And as I was home today awaiting some puppy meds for our Iris, I decided to follow this moth’s lead, and see where she might lead me. sphinx midway

Eventually she came together into a tiny, mothlike facsimile with which I am fairly pleased.

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The art of embroidery is a slow and steady conjuring, consisting of the magical ingredients of time, patience, a bit of thread, and perhaps, a dash or two of binge-able Netflix.

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As this work is so tiny, it will be installed into a wearable frame, looking much like a little embroidery hoop.  I shall post it on my instagram feed when it is ready.  Should this lovely moth strike your fancy, let me know.  I’d love her to go to a wonderful home…..

ps… here is the necklace this little sphinx found herself into.  I think it turned out nicely!

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‘Full-Blooded Magic’

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Out like a lamb

peonyIt is the end of March, finally.  After a rough February, March did treat us with a few fine days and a serious snow melt, and for that all are grateful.  But we have also seen subfreezing temperatures in recent days which took this Ohio River Valley a bit by surprise.  One expects these tricks of the weather gods in New England, but not here.  Yet the garden knows that even with occasional cold temperatures, it is time to unfurl and find the sun.

Today’s softened breezes feel like a gift.  The fam and I are off to Montreal, Canada for our final Irish Dancing competition (which just happens to be the World Championships.  I say why not go out in style yes?).  While there is still much packing to do, I simply had to go outside and sketch for a while.

peony sketch 1Nothing is better than sitting in front of real plants, growing outside in true garden soil, surrounded by happy animals (in this case dogs and chickens) while I sketch and paint.  I am rusty and need more practice, but that is always the case this time of year.  And I am glad for the opportunity for a little quiet before the storm of our last Irish Dancing ‘Majors’ competition.  Hoping to get a little sketching done while in beautiful Montreal, but I have learned that these events have their own timeline and expectations of all of us.  We shall see.

For now, the peonies and I have had our time together, and upon our return, I shall tidy up their beds to make more space for them to burst forth.

Happy spring everyone! And blessings and fertility on your Easter celebrations as well.

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