Category Archives: life

The U-Bend

It is a gentle, rainy day.  “Soft” as they sometimes call it in Ireland.  This kind of weather might annoy some people, but honestly I like it.  The coloring of things hints at autumn, my favorite season in spite of or perhaps because of inherent melancholia to be found therein.

Melancholia is a constant and faithful friend of late.  I find myself thinking a lot about death.

The gardens themselves lean toward the great sleep, readying here and there for a dying back into autumnal composting and winter’s rest.  Spring’s regrowth will come once more, eventually.  We as humans seem to forget our place amidst nature’s seasons.  Lately I find my mind ill at ease – a feeling of being consistently gaslighted by society.  Over 180,000 people have died of Covid-19 in this country and few seem to even take note of it anymore.  Around 1000 people PER DAY.  How can this not be the day’s big news?  There are even some who don’t believe the numbers.  We throw these figures around and forget that behind every number is a lifetime of dreams and hopes and fears and faults.  Laughter and learning, lightness and darkness.  The messy stuff of everyone’s everyday.  These are someone’s loved ones.  How can the world just go “on”?  I find it almost too much to take.  And maybe this explains why no one is talking about it much.  Maybe no one can take it.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

–Mary Oliver  (I love this poem and was re-minded of it recently by the wonderful daily poem sharing offering of Shippenverse.  Go give her a follow on the socials if you like timely poetry.)

It is a grave mistake in a well lived life not to give death a good mulling over now and then.  I have at times (in the before times) been playing music with my dearest friends in a local session and have found myself so overwhelmed with a tearful gratitude that I think:

“Remember this.  It’s not going to happen again.  These people are a gift.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Pay attention.  We could lose one another in an instant.”

Cheerful.  I know.

But I do maintain that to toe the edges of things, to contemplate Great Mysteries, is to be more deeply alive, to live closer to the bone.

On soft days such as this one, I find myself thinking about Ireland, a land with its fair share of soft days and a place where the lines between life and death, this world and the Other, before and after, us and them, are blurred.  I find myself most comfortable in a place that openly acknowledges the delicate nature of our very existence.  Ireland is such a place.

Looking back on this Year of Years, we come to realize we were truly fortunate to begin the year’s wave of griefs on griefs in such a magical place.  Tony’s mom died while we were over there.  To explore ancient burial sites and wander the misty and mystical Burren in Clare was to feel a part of things in a very deep way.  I wish I could be there again this fall, to process all that has happened – all that IS happening – but this is not to be.

Will you look at this gorgeous new evocative work by my friend Lillie Morris, whose relationship with the music and magic of Ireland runs as deeply as mine. This is entitled, “The Immovability of Stone” which refers to a poem called ‘Stone’ by David Whyte. (I share this with Lillie’s blessing)

Last week in the tail end of a yoga practice a thought, or perhaps even a ‘command’ of sorts came to me.  “Tell the earring story” it said.  And so I shall….

My friend Mia was dying.  I had been lucky enough to leave my day to day behind and spend a few quality days with her before she slipped into that “between place” where she could no longer be reached by us.  It was the wee hours of the morning and no one in the household had slept much that night.  Professional nurses, Mia’s mom Ruth and husband Morris tended to her final moments and then, just like that, she was gone.  The quiet was that strange sort of quiet that sometimes happens in a room where a birth has occurred.  Dying is a different kind of birth I suppose. I stepped outside to get some air and to give Mia’s family a bit of space.  I could feel the All of Everything outside.  It was a beautiful morning.  A bit later, Morris and one of the Hospice nurses approached myself and two other women on hand and asked if we might accept the task of washing and readying Mia’s body for viewing.  Their family’s close community was to come to the house to pay their respects, share food and kinship, and bid farewell to their dear friend.  Washington state allows for a family to hold on their loved ones for one full day before needing to send the body on to final burial or cremation.  This was to be Mia’s day.  We accepted this task with great honor and the Hospice nurse filled us in on what needed to be done.   It’s a strange and wonderful thing to tend to the final physicality of someone we love.  Yes, we were filled with grief, but something about the very earthiness of it all was a salve to that grief.  We were mindful and in the moment.  We put on Mia’s favorite music, opened the window to allow her soul passage.  We washed her gently, and put her into her favorite clothes.  Soon, we were nearly done.  I had put in one of a pair of earrings into her ear when we were interrupted by someone entering the room.  A friend in the community who hadn’t realized we weren’t *quite* finished.  And just like that, the bubble had burst.  Something of a strange reality had entered the room with this newcomer and there was no more that could be done.  Mia’s head was turned and so no one would notice the missing earring anyway.  My fellow caretakers and I had a bit of a strange laugh over this turn of events and the day carried on.  I pulled Morris aside and told him of the earring still in my possession.  He too found it all a bit funny.  The earrings in question were moonstones.  Mia and I had gotten matching sets we before she’d moved out to Washington and we liked to wear them at the same time like a couple of middle school bff’s.  When the day came to an end it was time for the funeral folks to come and take Mia’s body away.  I did a puppet show for the kids in the other end of the house while Morris took care of this bit of business.  Later, he handed me the first earring.  I took some pliers and converted that earring into a small pendant which I eventually took home with me.  I made the second into a pendant as well, and left my set of earrings and that matching pendant with Morris to give to their daughter when she was old enough to wear them.  (she was in the first grade if I remember right.)  I still have my little moonstone pendant and keep it on my flute case as a constant reminder to live this life to the fullest.  Mia reminded me always to follow my art dreams and to keep playing music.  I have done and am so grateful for her early encouragement as we ran mile after mile together in between our busy lives and young motherhood.

I tell the story above as a small snapshot of the complexities of the end of a life.  To remind us that once there was a time when tending to our dead was a privilege.   This virus has so many dying that I believe we have a hard time really taking stock of so much loss.  Our minds can’t wrap around the level of destruction.  And with all of this death, comes a deep loneliness as well as many are having to die alone so as not to endanger their loved ones.  The virus has robbed us of the very things through which we cope with difficulty.  Gathering, hugging, singing, sharing.  And these are difficult times to be sure.

A couple of artful friends in my life are stepping into what one of them calls her “final act”.  They are seemingly facing this next chapter with a grace all of us might hope for in the end.  They wisely advise us all to have the difficult conversations about what we might want for our own end of life chapters, how we might want things to go if difficult decisions are faced.  Have you done this?  Do your loved ones know how you might like to be remembered?

My friend Jeni sent this below to me (not knowing I was brewing a death-themed blog post, but this is how the muse works sometimes, eh?)  And I absolutely love it.  I read this and think, I might have been friends with this woman had we met.

It seems easy in these scary times to just step out of our bodies and forget we are limited beings.   I think many people have really.  So much anger, so little time for self-reflection or kindness.  We aren’t taking the time to ask one another “How’re you doing, like really?”  We won’t be here forever, this much is true.  Something about turning 50 on the cusp of a global pandemic will drive this home to many of us.  Much as the ads promising me the fountain of youth would like me to step away from my own sense of self, I stay put and face this age, my age, as it is.  It isn’t pretty most days.

I make the conscious choice to stay in my body, as difficult as this feels in this harsh world.  I run when I can, even on (perhaps especially on) cool rainy days.

Me and the graceful neighborhood rats

I eat spicy food and cry easily.  Much like old Moaning Myrtle, I am not afraid to talk of death.  Perhaps it is, in the long run, the only thing left we might have in common these days.

Be kind to each other, check in with one another.  Bake some cookies for your neighbors if you can.

And perhaps take some time for self-reflection on these remarkable times in which we find our small selves.

 

 

Genius Home

It seems an age ago that were in Maine.  Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.

We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.

We always know when we have returned firmly to Ohio…..

As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care.  This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home.  And so we do.

A bit of harvesting.

And a few things still growing along nicely.

I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think.  And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter.  Beauty in dark times.

This begonia has been through the wars. Originally a cutting gift from my friend Vanessa, it was eaten by deer one year, but eventually bounced back and needed a new pot this year.

I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year.  The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up.  Keeping the deer at bay.

I am grateful.

The dahlias have put on a show this year.  Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully.  Surprisingly.

They are a constant delight.

My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine.  She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really.  When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents.  Life has a way of marching on.

Note the dates. My grans, married for 64 years, died within just 3 days of one another. My grandmother, who married at age 16, used to quip about my grandfather, “Why Herbie? Well, he practically raised me.” I can still hear her say it in her quintessential Butler County drawl.

Last week I added another digit to my age line.  It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends.  It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.

My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years.  When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks.  But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc.  Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.

Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.

I already have lists going, and some quotes.  Tunes I must work on……

This is my new half-set of uilleann pipes being crafted by Mickey Dunne in Limerick, Ireland. I think they are a thing of beauty indeed. Though honestly I am not sure quite what I have gotten myself into!  As Louise Mulcahy said in a presentation she did yesterday hosted by Southern California Pipers Club, perhaps it’s just the “medicinal sound of the drones.”  I’ll be sure to post here when I receive my beautiful new instrument!

“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”

~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)

Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him.  He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.

We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only  the one aged dog along for the ride.  (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)

Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.

It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak.  My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons.  I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being.   In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own.  My travel journal business  was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home.  For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill.  Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.

I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit.  With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now.  It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime.  There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy.  Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.

It’s time.  Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home.  Of this I am sure.  To seek beauty in a dark world is important work.  Sometimes, that starts at home.

And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print.  We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things.  We do the best we can.  Being gentle with ourselves and each other.  Following our noses as to how best to proceed.

How are you all doing? I’d love to know…..

Of interest

” For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself.  He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation.”

~Robert Henri

This day is close. Like humid and slow.  I’m reminded of Ohio and grateful for the lake here.

This morning, a walk before some rain.  I go for some time, in order to walk off a bit of the rich food and drink vacation with friends doth provide.

I walk, hike and occasionally jog a bit as well, past Wyeth style fields…. (keen to get this barking IT band back in working order)

…..up mountain roads, and past signs of life in the outer world.

There are stony sentinels guarding these well worn paths along the way.

The humidity suits the fungi sort.

Upon returning to camp, rain has begun in earnest and I retreat to the boathouse to practice some tunes for awhile.

Soon, the sun is back out, and the instruments have had their fill of muggy conditions.  I put them away and go for a swim.

Fast forward to now…. I have made a painting.  It’s busier than I would like.  Perhaps I have waited too long to paint.  Exercising and playing music first on this particular day.  All are priorities of course.  I work from memory along with a few snapshots of last night’s spectacular sunset.  So much going on there, so much to capture.

So I just push paints around for while.  There are notes of this one I like.  “It is only a study” (this I remind myself again and again.)  I am finding my voice (aren’t we always?) in gouache and one can’t make a masterpiece at every turn.

It is late afternoon and dinner hour begins soon so I’ll wrap up and be fully present here at camp, as that is the business of vacation.   (Also, maybe another swim, jaysus, it’s hot!)

There are books to read, naps to take, boat rides to experience, meals to share.  It’s all a bright balance of good things here and now.  I am grateful for all of it…..

 

Notes:

 

Weekday

By day, my porch-based co-worker Poppy and I work on some sketches and picture post-cards to send along to my trusty pen-pals.  We also sketch.  Crows caw in the trees above, but Poppy pays them no mind.

Technically I am on vacation, but art-making is not merely work for me, but play.  This line being quite blurred in the day to day back home, vacation reminds me the importance of the ‘play’ side of the equation.

I begin with pencil, moving on from there to a little traditional sketch with watercolor and a bit of ink.  All good, and a great way to warm up.

the real post card is much prettier, especially in the sky. blues are tricky to photograph, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

After a bit, I want to paint but I am too lazy to move off the porch to retrieve the gouache set up.  So I ask the watercolors if they might like to play, just for fun.

And these two little paintings happened.  I am pleased with them and will treat them as studies for larger works.  We shall see.  Tomorrow they will be on the wing, stamped for traveling.

Either way, it is fun to feel like I have tapped into something – a bit.  We have, after all, been mired in fear and grief, anxieties and longing of late.  It can be taxing to a soul.  This journey to our Maine homeland has been a pleasant escape, though signs of the state of all things are readily apparent anywhere we go.  So few tourists -to drive through Freeport is nigh on creepy.  Any ‘outing’ we do has strict protocols for safety and distancing.  But we carry on.  Occasionally managing an oyster (like on our anniversary) or a beer or two, like last night.

By night, all the household co-workers come together for a bevvie and a catching up on the day, grateful to be together in these strange times.  Tonight it’s dinner in, which is good.  One can only handle so much town-centered anxiety.

It is nearly 3 pm here and I have yet to get my swim in for the day, but I am keen to try.  We shall see…….

Meantime, here is another version of a selkie song I shared yesterday:

ps:

With all this ocean swimming of late, here’s a reminder of the wee filim (that’s Irish speak for film) I did a couple months ago (doesn’t it seem like an AGE!!!) with my pal Nuala and her musical mates from the Snowflake Trio:

pps.

The swim happened.

Day 5

 

co-work

It is monday.  I walk the roads for a bit before the temperatures climb too high.  Our folks here asked us to bring some warmer weather with us when we arrived.

Perhaps we overdid it.

Co-working spaces are selected, but shift throughout the day as conditions change.

As for me, I manage to sketch for a few minutes to get the bones of a little painting down.  Not wild about the results, but practice is practice.

In the heat of the day, a few of us steal away to swim and cool down a bit.  The ocean does not disappoint.

Day three of ocean swim.  I couldn’t be happier.

Today is our 29th wedding anniversary.  We started off right here in this place all those years ago and it’s nice to be here to celebrate this year.  Hopefully with oysters if we get lucky…..

*****later******

and so we were lucky indeed…….

Cheers, y’all!

 

Test Run

****** EDITED for recent events.  See below….

Outside it blazes a midwestern summer.  Inside, cocooned, I write letters to pen pals, grateful in knowing that notes and small treasures will be back and forth in the weeks and months to come.

So excited to dive into some vintage stationary!!  (click for link!!)

While on route to Bloomington, Indiana over the weekend, I work on one such little treasure to mail, a knitted crown, fit for a queen.

I hope she likes it, and never loses her youthful moxie.

We are welcomed to Bloomington by old walls, hand hewn, washed with time.

We are welcomed with love.

Our eldest, living, working and studying in this delightful Indiana college town, keeps his distance from us, of course, in true pandemic style, while also sharing with us the things he loves most about his new home town.

don’t worry, we have masks on.

We thoroughly enjoy the time there, shadowed as it is by the all of everything.  We bike, hike, sweat, take photos.  It feels a world away.

This bridge reminds me much of Swannanoa, and the bridge we walk daily there to get to meals, classes, concerts and the like. Perhaps next year. For now, we travel empty bridges.

Sometimes, in the heat of the day, we escape to our little cabin to nap in the cool air for a bit.

Smoke keeps the bugs away, mostly.

The weekend continues with dreadful temperatures but delightful company.  We take to the woods for an early hike.

It is quiet but for birdsong and an occasional fellow hiker.  The green is soothing to our citified souls.

Lake Monroe is lovely, and we get a peek of an inlet while hiking. But I pine for a more glacial lake if I am to be honest. It’s only a matter of days……

John Joe Badger is inspired by this little fairy door and a shrew we meet in the woods…..

This little adventure is a bit of a test run.  Not only do we want to touch base and deliver some home cooking to our boy, but we want to measure the state of things outside of our home here in Ohio.

Aside from trips to the grocery store and my occasional visit to the concertina shop to get some part-time work done, we don’t really do anything.  This weekend we find ourselves at a restaurant for the first time in months (out of doors, and the staff wear masks and there are plants dividing the spaces, it feels safe…. I think).

I am remotely comfortable with this set up and it all bodes well for our eventual (hopeful) trip north later this month.  But the hum of worry stains everything.  It just does.  Everywhere we turn, there is the threat.

But carry on we must.

and follow the path of those in the know.

Learn what needs learning.

Seek the edges and toe them accordingly.

Our society is so keen on the avoidance of the proverbial elephant in the room.  Perhaps we might do well to say what needs saying.

“It’s enough to be walking with you.”

More soon…..

edit:  When I wrote “more soon” above yesterday, I didn’t really mean THIS soon.  Last night we saw news of outrage and protest in Bloomington after a horrific event.  Here is the article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/07/vauhxx-booker-indiana-investigation/

We are a nation on the precipice.  A ‘powder keg’ as my husband called it this morning.  And I am heartbroken.  

 

 

 

 

In coming days

We have some gentle travel plans in the coming weeks.

Masked, isolated, distant, outdoors.

I don’t think our plans match those of some folk who might like to get back to bars and restaurants and “normality” etc.

Mostly we just stay home really.

But when we do leave, we keep ourselves to ourselves.  We stay home, even when we travel.  But it will be good to see some loved ones eventually.  Safely.

I hope y’all are staying safe and keepin well.

notes to self

It is a discombobulated time.  I for one feel a bit unmoored and adrift of late. (Perhaps we all do.)  It is the season for journeying but I, like everyone just now, find myself rooted to home.   Still the journey must go on.  And so I go inward.

A new book, just for me.  I return to old practices.  With no inclination to share.

These past couple of days give the gift of a break in the weather, a lifting of humidity and oppressive heat.  The break in weather affords the gift of a bit of hope, at least for me.  A backing off of the blue dog which has been hovering at the doors of my heart lately.  I make a mindful choice to hit a reset button.

Perhaps only half true, but I am at least still young at heart.

 

An online music festival provides unexpected glee with workshops in flute and pipes.  One instructor speaks of tunes as poetry and palindromes, the other talks openly of the magic of this music, some of it “old and outside the laws of the land.”

I am reminded of my place in the world.

“G is not a tone, it’s a place.”  ~Conal Ó Gráda

I’ll admit, it all made me a bit weepy.  I am deeply missing my musical mates these last months.  I shall just work on my craft and connect how I can.

The noise of the online world feels unbearable as I wade through the news of the physical world day to day.  I find myself online less and less in an attempt to situate myself in reality to offer up my best self to the world.  This is as it should be.  Plenty of times have I vowed to spend less time in the hall of mirrors of the social networks, and always I seem to drift back.  Just now however, it is more of a drifting away from that hall and a journey inward, in lieu of summer’s teaching travels.

We have harvested lovely bundles of scapes in recent weeks.  Garlic, sent to me from a dear one in Maine, planted last fall as we began the new bed out back – The Before Times.  It all seems so far away, muted by the mists of time, dappled with a light we will not see again.

Scapes are like the “flowers” of the garlic plant.  Up and up they rise and curl.

Eating them, lightly sautéed, with an egg at breakfast, I taste the garlic to come.  It is essence of future garlic.

“While they are indeed a delicacy of early summer, we do not harvest scapes merely for their culinary flare.  To harvest these showy curls is to send the energy of the plants down below into the ground to the very base of the garlic – the bulbs – which we will harvest later in the summer.

I see a strong metaphor here for our own meandering growth.  It is lovely to flower and curl and show up in the world.  But we forget to cut these flowers off now and then to allow for real development below ground.”

 

This is where I find myself, metaphorically speaking.  I need to grow the bulbs.  It is summer, and in a normal summer, one might find me off to New Mexico to teach, or to North Carolina to take in some music workshops.  And often, I am too busy with these adventures to be spending much time online.  This is as it should be.

This summer I devote that time to a more inward journey.  To work on my art outside of the constancy of the online world and its performative pressures.  To play and experiment.  To read books, both for fun and escape as well as for the ongoing journey to educate myself.

It is entirely possible we may find ourselves in Maine later in July.  Fingers crossed.  We shall do so if we can do so, safely.  This potential gives me hope.  As does the deep pool of a new book, filled with good paper, some new ink for an old pen, and time to dive into it all without an audience.

But don’t worry, I’m not going far from here, this little corner of the internet that I call home.  Til next time……

That’s it!  File under life.

 

 

Attending

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

~Mary Oliver

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

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

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

~Mary Oliver

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

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

“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

~Mary Oliver

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

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

We are in tumultuous times to be sure.

 

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

 

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

~Mary Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

~Mary Oliver

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