Category Archives: life

Mind on Fire

Difficult to believe that at this time just last week, we found ourselves in the magical, mist-ical lands of coastal California -my hub just barely cracking through his shell of over-work, only to have to dive straight back in again.  But it was good to see a glimpse of himself to be sure.  I am hopeful he could be coaxed back to this real life once again soon.

It is always a strange thing to return back to our regular doings back here at home in Ohio.  For me, the mark of Good Travel is that it makes for a yearning and a churning of the soul, a fire in the mind, which keeps us asking questions of ourselves about how we are living this One Wild and Precious Life of ours.  While we balance chores and responsibilities, work and dreams of what can be, time marches on ever faster.  We must make sure we are on the right track.  Travel and all the soul-nudging it brings with it, is one sure way to track our proper path isn’t it?

Yesterday my daughter sent along a new song to add to a running playlist I get going each year which tends to set the tone for the up and coming Taos sketch trip.  This annual trek to the high desert is a flagship workshop for me as an instructor/facilitator.  And the yearly playlist often carries a loose theme through the songs which happens strangely and organically.  One year it was about light, especially Golden light, as I found myself craving the sparkling quality of light that is found in places such as northern New Mexico.  Yet another year the loose theme seemed to be about the heart of the matter  – on finding ones heart beating below the surface of all that is thrust upon us in the drudgery of the day to day.

On a whim, I sent along this new song to a dear musical friend of mine, also the parent of a young adult daughter, knowing the both of them might appreciate it.  He asked how I found myself relating to this new song and it got me thinking about my playlists in general and how I use and relate to them.  About why I gather songs and how they capture a moment in time.  Like the old mix-tapes we might have traded around in our teens, these playlists relay a certain kind of longing.  Today’s longing is a more complex, multifaceted thing than my middle school obsessions.  Now, I find myself pining for wilder places versus people, be it a sea of salt-water or a sea of sage.  I suppose my yearly playlists are a listing of love songs to landscapes that are out of reach to me in my daily life.

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”  ~Terry Tempest Williams

Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a scientist. I love all animals and could spend hours upon hours in observance and wonder of them.  Alas, I do not have the mind of a proper scientist which remembers long and (to me) complicated names and specific facts and figures, and so my observance skills took a different path to that of artist.  Now, my very favorite thing is to go to a wild place and watch, and draw, and wonder.   Just a different kind of scientist really.

We had the great fortune to obtain access to a beach near Santa Cruz which the majestic elephant seals come home to for a season each year to go about the Business of Life.  Here they mate, struggle for territory and status, give birth, nurture and nurse, grow and learn, rest and recuperate.  We were fortunate to have a patient guide on our tour who allowed us to tarry a bit longer than other groups so as to take it all in properly.

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”  ~Aristotle

And amidst all of this marvelous wildness, we had also the comfort of dear friends who welcome us to this wild land with open arms.  In the evenings there was a warm fire in the hearth and plenty of tea and long over-due conversation.

The ocean and it’s splendor was a indeed big player in our whirlwind trip west.  I had a run on the beach one morning and we sketched the waves.  I was captivated by the variety of dogs to be found having their daily walks along the shore.

We also took part of a day to meander down the coast and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we watched, entranced, the displays of Jellyfish and other watery wonders.

“Jellyfish: The sea offers up flowers of glass like thick light.  They are transparent landscapes.”  ~Raquel Jodorowsky

I was reminded of some old work of mine with the jellies, and vowed to come home and make more.

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  ~Loren Eiseley

“…the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.”  ~Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Amazing bronze drinking water fountain in Santa Cruz.

But the trip was not all ocean all the time.  I was invited to an Irish music session at a local home of a friend of a friend of a friend, which is how it works in musical circles, and was welcomed with open arms to share a few tunes.

Welcomed with open arms is also how we felt in the Redwoods just minutes inland from the sea.

To walk and wander in a forest of these trees is to experience the notion of Cathedral.  We found ourselves whispering in hushed tones out of respect. Even the local wildlife is quiet.  With the trees comprised of naturally inherent tannins, they are insect-repellant, and therefore even the chatter of birds is kept to a minimum.

We sat and sketched a giant for a good long while.  It was cold and quite humid.

All in all, it was a wonderful getaway.  January in Ohio is not for the feint of heart.  A friend of mine, also from the world of Irish music, was saying last night that while she has lived in places with reputations for the harshest weather winter can throw at us (i.e. Alaska, Montana) she has found that winter here in SW Ohio/ N. Kentucky is particularly draining for it’s gray heaviness.  Difficult to convey to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, we here in this river valley trudge through the winter months as best we can, thankful for the opportunity to get out of town when we can.

I left the Hub in California to do his work and I to come home to do mine.  The temperatures were in single digits upon my arrival which was shocking to the system to say the least, considering I had had my toes in the pacific ocean just days before.  But, I made some little woolen boots for my smallest dog, brewed a lot of tea, and carried on.

“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire?”

“Have you seen the girl with the heart as big as the sea?”

I am not the only one with a big heart and a mind on fire, yearning and churning for a bit of change.  The world at large is calling for it as well, at least women and those who love and respect them.

This past weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the Women’s March and we did it again.  While the news didn’t make much of it, the numbers appeared to be as large if not larger this year.  I was at our march here in Cincinnati and while the palpable shock of the election of a vile predator-in-chief was not as present this year, a continuing sense of outrage was.

The energy was palpable.

These strange times seem to have unleashed a free for all on many levels.  On the one hand, the highest levels of power, especially in this country, are seemingly above all scrutiny.  Politicians who once would have run a president out on a rail for the kinds of shenanigans ours pulls off, merely turn a blind eye and shrug off the behaviors of the current administration.  I marvel.  But the flip side of this coin is the notion that really, anything is possible.  And I find a bit of hope in this.

I find that there is a fire in my own mind of late.  The travel bug is turned on full-force by this most recent trek to the fair state of California.  Guatemala is right on it’s heels, a mere 37 days away for me, with workshop participants arriving shortly there after.  And there are more adventures to follow.  Traveling shifts perspectives and asks us to consider hard questions.  Questions such as, should we give up this little track of land, with is gardens and trees and lovely, soul-nourishing green space and quietude, for a condominium with less upkeep?  Could doing so free up even more time and money for travel? Or would we regret giving up this amazing space?  Do we want to even stay in Cincinnati?  For me the draw of my family and friends (this includes my art and music family) is a big one.  But part of me feels my studio practice could really use a daily walk in the wild, versus the familiar suburban paths here in Ohio.  These are all the questions burning just now.  And likely they will continue to do so for a while.

One could go a little off the rails with these ponderings, but the work will always bring me back to center.  Sitting down to write a bit here settles my bones.  From across the room, the paints call to be mixed up to craft some new paintings.  Who knows where they will lead.  Story ideas come and go, flitting and floating in clouds of doubt and fear.  Rays of light amidst the dust particles.  Today on this day of endless gray, I’ll follow the words, follow the paintbrush, follow the breath to whatever comes next.

I could live in condos such as these, couldn’t you?




Winter finally arrived in our fair river valley in the form of a harsh and deadly freeze which assaulted most of the eastern half of this country over the holiday season.

Occasionally, I’d glance at the temperature gauge in our car and see a number hovering around or below zero.  With the biting wind, it often seemed colder.

Our three dogs were not keen on going outside to do any amount of business, especially the smallest of them who found herself at the veterinarian with a nasty bout of colitis which may or may not have been related to cold weather issues and, ahem, business or lack thereof.

And yet, we soldiered through.  Fortunately for the human beans in this pack of ours, we could don coats and boots and we did manage to spend some time outside, in spite of the deadly temperatures.  And it was lovely indeed.

“We must go out and re-ally ourselves to Nature every day… even every winter day. I am sensible that I am imbibing health when I open my mouth to the wind. Staying in the house breeds a sort of insanity always.”  ~H.D. Thoreau  (via Brainpickings)

One particularly brisk day I attended a winter plant walk to see what we could see.  I learned a lot, procured some mushroom tonic which I believe helped me shake a head cold, and met a new friend as well.

Oh to have an alpaca coat in this cold clime!  We had a lovely conversation and I was whispered many alpaca secrets that morning.

Eventually, we were treated to a bit of a thaw, as we are wont to do here in Ohio being neither North nor South.  It is nice to breathe cool air instead of gasping at the cold.

This winter has been so very different from the last.  I look back at last winter’s blog posts and feel the fragility and desperation of a self barely holding on, riddled with illness – in both body and spirit – and a palpable malaise in front of which only the act of writing could keep me.

This winter, today, now, things are lighter.  I approach this harsh world with a new foundation forged of the groundedness which yoga practice, healthy eating and the like have afforded me.  I am deeply grateful.  The other day at in meditation class we learned that the idea of mindfulness, which everyone goes on about in this day and age, is actually a bit of a mistranslation from East to West. That a more fitting way to put the notion is that of heartfulness. 

I found this idea quite captivating and found myself ruminating upon it long after our hour together as a group.  What if, when we begin the spinning sensation of uncontrollable thinking – “good” or “bad” (light or shadow) – we might just go and curl up in our heartspace for a bit?  The space where kindness dwells.  The space where we are beyond judgement.  We are so very hard on ourselves, aren’t we?  When we think dark thoughts, or lose our patience or don’t live up to some constant standard we hold ourselves to.  What if we could just let these human tendencies come, and quietly, without judgement, let them go?  With a full heart.

This notion is not a new one, I am sure.  I am not one for labels or for following one particular tradition or spiritual path.  But this idea of heartfulness over mindfulness really makes sense to me.  And it’s nice for things to make sense now and again, isn’t it?

There is much brewing here in the studio, amidst all of the bothers of the day to day, and the workings of the day job.  Following the lead of my friend Kevin Necessary (amazing illustrator and official cartoonist at our local WCPO) I did something quite out of character the other day and downloaded a digital drawing application on my phone called Procreate Pocket. Kevin had posted some lovely digital drawings and I was interested to see if I might be able to do something of my own with this new tool.

And so I am something of an old dog learning a few new tricks.

It feels nice to use the phone as a tool, versus feeling used up by the phone and all of its trappings.  I’ve curbed my social media use in recent days, being more conscious of whether I am using it, or it is using me.

I’ve ordered some clayboard panels which should be in next week to expand a small painting of mine into a triptych of sorts – a special commission for some kind patrons who happen to like cows.

I’ve said yes to a low-paying illustration job in the hope that the exercise alone will be worth the effort.

I’ve recommitted to not only keeping up with the flute playing so near and dear to my heart, but learning a few tunes on the concertina which I spend so much time around anyway at the shop.  (So far, I have a polka, a bit of a waltz, and half of a jig.  and maybe a bit of that old hornpipe I tried to learn a few summers ago)  I am so fortunate to have access to these beautiful instruments.  I might as well learn to play one.

With the dawning of a new year, thoughts turn to re-centering in the things which mean the most to us.  My word for 2018 is T R U S T.  I like having a word to ponder and work with, versus a long list of resolutions.  I’m learning to trust my own intuition more and more.  A real gift of this stage of one’s life.

Tomorrow the hub and I head west for a couple of days by the ocean in between our busy work schedules.  Like a landlocked mermaid, I can already taste the salt air and am deeply looking forward to hearing the waves crashing.

“Dance upon the shore; What need have you to care for wind or water’s roar?”  ~W. B. Yeats

Keep an eye out in the usual posty places (IG , Twitter) for drawings and musings as we travel.  Wishing you the brightest of New Year’s offerings.  May it be all we hope it can be.  And more than we could ever have dreamed of.



On Midwinter

Solstice dawns bright and beautiful.  I head outside with a hot cup of coffee and three eager dogs and marvel at the pink light on a lovely sycamore across the creek from us.  I snap a little photo with the ever present phone, as you do in this day and age.

Just after capturing the image, I hear crows calling and they fly into the frame with the same sycamore and I think that would have been a nice photo as well, but I merely stand and watch them fly and listen to a snippet of their airborne conversings amongst one another.

The dogs snuffle around on the ground, surely on the trail of deer, fox or coyote who wander in the night.

After a bit I am chilled (and so is my coffee) so we head inside.  I check the usual electra-outlets of things and am thankful for a well curated online sphere.  There will be news when I decide to take on the days’ burnings, but for this morning, which is Solstice, I opt to seek beauty for a bit.  To sift my intake through the lens of loveliness.

The Splendid Table did a piece a while ago on the country of Georgia and it’s culinary traditions.  They discussed which foods would be presented, and how they might be served (in lots of lovely small dishes), and that often, between courses, those at table might take to singing.  This morning I am once again reminded of Georgian singing via a post by a musical acquaintance.  And now, thanks to him, these lovely singers are in my ears as I ponder the still point in the turning of the world.  Somehow these minored harmonies are a fitting soundtrack to the day.

We must be so very careful what we feed ourselves just now.  There is so much work to be done in the world.   On some days, the prospect of shifting the huge paradigms which must be shifted if we are to survive, seems insurmountable.  Music, powerful art, the magic of poetry all serve to shore us up and supplement our souls during these dark days.  Nourishment.

I’m grateful for the gatherers of words who keep me nourished online.  Here are just a couple of examples…..

Shapechangers in Winter (excerpt)

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.
Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
The walls of the house fold themselves down,
and the house turns
itself inside out, as a tulip does
in its last full-blown moment, and our candle
flares up and goes out, and the only common
sense that remains to us is touch,
as it will be, later, some other
century, when we will seem to each other
even less what we were.
But that trick is just to hold on
through all appearances; and so we do,
and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than it is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.
—Margaret Atwood

via Shippenverse over on Instagram


I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

A magical thing And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring Than we were in September,’

I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

– Oliver Herford

via @FintryTrust over on Twitter

The second quote was shared on Twitter by a young naturalist I follow over in Ireland named Dara McAnulty.  Dara keeps a blog of his outdoor adventures and he is passionate about the world.  He and his siblings offer a glimmer hope for the future of humanity.

I am grateful for my fellow image makers who sprinkle their visual magic around like a healing fairy-dust of sorts.

In her tweet accompanying this gorgeous image, artist Rima Staines writes, “Merry Yule to you all! Here’s to the coming of the strange masked mummers through the snow-bound village, playing music to sing the light back up out of the dark belly of the world.” Indeed. Her work has kept many of her fans, myself included, spellbound for many a season. You can find more of her work at the Hedgespoken Shop.

This past year has been a tumultuous one for much of the world.  I find myself in somewhat of a dystopic frame of mind and have had to work quite hard to remain above the fray psychologically.  (thank you yoga and the well worn running paths of this here village.) 

I wonder, how can I better be of service?  How can things change, in part by the actions of small players like myself in the great theater of the world, when our leaders collectively seem hell bent on a path to destruction on the backs of the vulnerable? 

I find myself questioning the very systems I once believed undeniable.  (I’m looking at you Capitalism.)  How can we operate in this world more lightly, how can we exchange work and energy and our livelihoods in a more just way?  There are many forging a new path and I find myself becoming a part of that conversation.  I choose bartering when I can to the notion of cold hard cash.  I read and listen to the words of fellow artisans and writers asking the same hard questions such as Amanda Palmer, Eloïse Sentito, and Ayana Young.   All the while, holding on tight to the tail of my work, even when it can feel a bit senseless at times.

It is the season of Christmas parties.  At our local illustrators gathering, a few of us talked of how the very act of making books for children is a political one.   We tuck the seeds of kindness and compassion in-between the lines and in the imagery of work for children, be that picture books, traditional fairy tales or puppetry.   Crafting beauty for the next generation feels like a radical thing indeed these days.  Perhaps they will rise up and be the leaders we need.  Kind.  Compassionate.

My beloved day-job fellows at Carroll Concertinas gathered for dinner last night and talked of the past year’s work.  On average, we produce 24 handcrafted, high end concertinas each year.  We make all of the parts ourselves and piece them together into these amazing instruments.  Our boss and dear friend Wally commended us on our craftsmanship and acknowledged the many other gifts and skills we bring to the table collectively as artists and musicians and fellow human beings.  In a some small way, to do this kind of work, at this intimate level, is also a somewhat radical notion.  I do not take the gift of this lightly and am deeply grateful.  Would that everyone in the world has work which challenges them and makes them happy and compensates them deeply on many levels.  That is a world I can wrap my weary brain around.

These are my ponderings on this day, the Solstice, the very time when we catch our breath as the world turns back toward the light.  May this metaphor come to pass in the coming months.  May we all have the courage to follow the light home to ourselves and to each other.  May the mere act of following this light be seen for the very brave thing it is.

And one more musical nudge…








Mode of Magic Making

Life’s pendulum slowly begins to swing back to a quieter state.  Only a smattering of art-related events left to attend to and soon the art work will come home to roost once again where it belongs.  Well, most of it.  Some small things have sold and will be finding their way to forever homes which feels like an accomplishment of sorts.

Last night, upon returning home myself from an evening of sharing a few tunes with my musical mates, the headlamps of my car alight upon a great buck who has come to pay us a visit.  He is regal and quite stately, taking his time crossing the little bridge over our creek.

Today I look for evidence of his brief visit, as he is quite magical and a brain entranced by hours of music can often see things which are not of this world.

I find the evidence in what is left of our recent snow fall, a track across the bridge where my dogs stop to have a sniff of this wild creature’s path.

Playing around with ‘watercolor graphite’ I attempt to draw the buck.

In my drawing he is bulky and strange, but I find myself excited to use this medium which I purchased awhile back and have not yet used much.

Rustiness seems to be the name of the game lately as I have been presenting and exhibiting, showing and teaching, meeting and greeting.  A dear friend of mine remarked at my last opening that he could see why I am not a fan of art openings in general (even the fun ones!) because it’s as if ‘you were just getting swallowed by people’.  Which feels true.

I am eager to get back to the magic of making.

I have recommitted with a vengeance to the act of daily sketching and outings with our newly sanctioned Urban Sketchers of Cincinnati group are just the ticket to get the pen moving across the page once more.

Though it’s painfully crowded, I manage a warm up sketch at first.

And then a bit later, settle into a quieter place, with a more fantastical little structure to draw.

The rusty drawing skills begin to come to life and I feel the gears slowing down in my bones with pen to paper.  It is strangely familiar and I am grateful for years of practice which don’t ever truly leave me.

I finish the sketch at home later that evening with a bit of color.

Our Urban Sketchers group is open to anyone who wants to get out and draw so do join us if you are in the area.  I promise we are quite friendly and do not bite unless provoked.

This is a indeed a magical time of year.  With the Solstice nearly upon us, in theory we begin to witness a return of light, though the world seems very dark indeed just now.  To combat this darkness, we must make magic in our own way.

Over in the land of Twitter, writers Julia Bird and Robert MacFarlane have cooked up a plan for the internet to co-read the novel The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.  We begin December 20th, the very same day the story begins, and I am excited to be a part of it.  Reading a beautiful classic is a balm in these dire times.

I am inspired by dear friends who have been making magic in the world in very special ways.  The first, someone I hike and paddle with, has a job in the world of retail where she knows how to line up deals and coupons to make things quite affordable. She uses this super-power to purchase new coats for those in need to donate to the coat drive at a local charity.  This is especially wonderful for the rough and tumble little boys who are so very hard on their coats and therefore gently used coats are few and far-between.  I marvel at her spirit of generosity and urge others good at shopping in the world to consider doing something similar.

Another friend has been crafting and conjuring magic in his own way and a few of us closest to him have been presented with a wondrous gift indeed.

A wand.  I have other wands.  Those with paint-brush tips.  But this is a whole new animal indeed.  It is a branch of elm, sanded and shaped and bedecked with a gorgeous calligraphy nib for writing and drawing….

It makes lines like a dream.  At the other end of this wonderful wand is a little reminder of where my heart lies…

I am truly blessed to know people who play music, make art, walk ever so gently in this world.  I aim to be one of them.

Meanwhile, unbelievably (inconceivable?)

It has been 10 years of making magic here in this little online world of mine.

“Creativity is really the structuring of Magic.” 

~ anne kent rush

This anniversary time feels momentous.  Seismic in its shifting of my work and my thinking and life in general.  I look back on the woman who started this blog ten years ago and I know that I have grown and changed.

Around the same time as this blog was getting going, I got my very first tattoo.  A moth, rooted.  That tattoo has served me well for many years and the symbolism still resonates with me to this day.  That said, it had faded a bit and had grown a little tired.  When my daughter (now about to turn 21 which here in this country means one is a fully fledged adult) suggests we get tattoos together, I decide to use this opportunity to reinvest in the moth design.

Her idea is to get ferns, each in our own way, to our own liking.  Ferns are all about unfurling into one’s true majesty, which I think we both are doing just now as human beings.

She knew right away what she wanted and so, she goes first.


Simple, graphic, hipster.  Very her.  We both love it.

A few weeks on I come to the idea of reworking my moth and proceed to Flying Tiger Tattoo where my friend and fellow artist Megan Butler works.  She comes up with a way to reinvigorate my beloved luna moth, while incorporating the ferns.  She also nurtures the root ball of the design, adding in mushrooms to aid this forest inspired work of art, brightening and delineating the roots, giving them room to breathe.  I simply could not be happier with it.

It is earthy, bright and beautiful.  Colorful and confident.  No longer fading.  It is more cohesive than the original, more well thought out.  It may yet be added to.  It is a rich environment for new growth to occur. 

All of these things feel applicable to myself just now.  Which as I look back on this time last year, fills me with a relief I cherish.  This season finds me filled with so much less anxiety and depression, having worked exceptionally hard to shift back into a yoga routine, once again going back to eating vegetarian.  Self care and overall health are great gifts indeed.  They add to the magic making, at least around here.

And speaking of magic, here are a few more tidbits to share.

Magic in the littlest moments.  Noticing. Placing attention on these things….

One of my all time favorite characters in any book is Tiffany Aching.   She is a young witch, who is, among other things, “good with cheese.”  I like to think she’d be rather proud of my first foray into making cheese.  This time, a simple paneer.

And lastly, I leave you with my efforts from the month of October.  At the last minute, I opted to take part in “inktober”, putting together an alphabet of creatures as a way to get to know my new fountain pen.  It was great fun and I hope to have sets of post cards to share with you in time for the holidays.  Prints of individual animals are also available. 

*special thanks to my dear and wonderful friend who has allowed me to use her music in my videos over the years.  Kim Taylor, you are the very vision of friendship.  I love you.


Stone Whispers

“With my feet on the dash, the world doesn’t matter.”

The sun peeks through goldening September forest land as we take to country roads, optioning out of the city for the day and into the waiting arms of Appalachian foothills not so very far away.

Our destination is the mystical Serpent Mound, an internationally regarded effigy mound, crafted in the shape of a snake in a time before written history.

We arrive at the park amidst other touring travelers, motorcyclists out for a day’s drive, families of multiple generations exploring the museum and grounds.  There is much Native American trinketry to be had, little arrowhead reproductions to purchase, crystals and dreamcatchers, sage bundles, and many books.

Much has been written theorizing why the mound was built.  It is not a burial mound, as there are some of those dotting the grounds as well.

The sinewy curves do mark special times in the astrological wheeling of the year and so for all we don’t know about the folks who created Serpent Mound, we at least know they were likely wise and watchful and capable engineers at the least.

We have brought our sketchbooks but neither of us are feeling much like drawing.  We do scratch a rubbing from the granite sign which marks the beginning of the path around the serpent herself.

The mound is best seen from above, and there is a viewing platform for those courageous enough to risk a trek to the top.

We are.

I wonder about how the grass is kept so cleanly cut.  It seems like sacrilege to run a mower over these forms.  Visitors are kept to an asphalt path.

We wander and wonder around the length of the Serpent.  I have in my heart a similar uneasy sense about it all as to my visit to Chaco Canyon over the summer.

While in the museum, we take in the exhibit about the variety of artifacts found in the area over the years and what they mean.

I spy one which stops me in my tracks, as it is quite familiar to me.

The sign reads that these are ‘gorgets‘, like a pendant of sorts, worn at the throat.  The one which has caught my eye is a quadriconcave gorget crafted from slate and it is exactly like one I had in my hand just the other day…

You see my Uncle Jim passed away a number of weeks ago and this has us all in a familial circling of the wagons state of mind.  My mom and I going through old papers and pictures, visiting gravesites of ancestors long gone from this plane.

One of those ancestors, we think perhaps Joseph Kelley, a farmer, was ploughing the fields of his farm one day.

This is the old family farm. Much dilapidated now which we are sad to see when we drive by. But it still has it’s stories in the land.

His horse drawn plough hit something out of the ordinary and so he stopped to pick the object up and see what it might be.

The story goes that the plough took a small chink out of this strange stone in its unearthing.  The farmer might have dusted off the object and tucked it into his pocket to share with his family over supper that evening.  This would have been over a hundred years ago, and ever since that day, The Indian Rock has held pride of place in the home of whomever in the family happened to be in possession of it at the time.  The most recent steward of the stone was my Uncle Jim who had an affinity for local archeological finds and a knack for knowing where to look.  Apparently he had quite a collection of arrowheads and tools and such which he picked up on his countryside ramblings over the years.  But my mom had always treasured this one, and so now it resides with her.

When I spot the one in Serpent Mound Museum I know I must share it with her, as Now We Know what exactly our Indian Rock might possibly be.  We had guesses as to it being a tool of some sort, but never were quite sure.  What I wonder now is why does our stone lack holes in it?  When the original stone-crafter lost this particular piece, was it perhaps yet awaiting it’s drilling?  The style of our stone, the more looking around I do on the internet, seems to come from the Adena culture.  I have never heard of the word “gorget” until today…

I love this.  We all want to sparkle like a hummingbird, do we not?

I think about the original inhabitants of this land of ours, so very distant in the past, yet just as human as we are, with foibles and desires all their own and not so different from us after all.  Their stories and lifestyles are but whispers on the winds compared to the native cultures which have stood the tests of time, in spite of rampant colonization.  I wonder about who might have made our family’s gorget and whether they missed it when it was lost.  I read that these stones are often found in fields here in the midwest and into the southern states as well.  And they are indeed a lucky find and treasured by those who discover them.  Mom is excited to take her stone on a wee field trip to Serpent Mound and chat up the archeologists there to gain more insight on this family treasure of ours.

I continue to try to slow myself down into a more stoney sense of time.  A drive out to the foothills does this, for a bit at least.  On our way home we are treated with Krista Tippett’s timeless interview with John O’Donohue, whom I consider a spiritual teacher of mine as his writings speak to my soul.   It seems the world is coming at us reckless on most days.  This chaos is at the global scale, and the personal scale as well.  I do my best to merely keep above the fray, as best as possible, tucking in the magic wherever space allows, and sometimes even when it doesn’t.

How are you managing in these crazy times? I’d love to know.  In the meantime, I highly recommend a day’s drive out into the country to slow things down and give a bit of perspective.

til next time…..



Cosmic Reverence


Today it is a delightful late-summer’s day here in the Ohio River Valley.  I have the windows thrown open for fresh air and the sun is shining brightly in an uncharacteristically blue sky.  (usually August is Smogust.)

I’ve taken this day to attend to a final few veterinary well-visits for our menagerie (weeks in the doing of it), as well as to attempt a bit of wordsmithery here on the blog.

In the midst of all of this normalcy, I am finding it difficult to put into words a most liminal day earlier in the week.  For on this past Monday, myself and a few fellow intrepid souls took to the backroads on a Quest for Totality.

We had heard that many folks would be traveling en masse to see the spectacle that was to be the Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017.  As our plans came together rather late, we opted for One Big Day of travel to and fro and knew we were in for an adventure.  I packed a picnic lunch and many jars of tea and set off in the wee hours of the morning to gather my friends for the day.

I’ll admit to experiencing some trepidation regarding the notion of standstill traffic….

We careened along carefully chosen backroads in Indiana and Kentucky, through national forest lands and in and out of mist-laden farm country.  The phrase ‘over the river and through the woods’ comes to mind.  And we found it beautiful.  There was to be no traffic, thankfully, at least on the way down.

The journey was quiet and filled with interesting stories and conversation.  We did not need the radio on, so satisfied with each others’ company were we.

The sun did rise eventually, and the miles did pass.  Each seemingly unaware of what was to come on this momentous day.

We had our star charts, and an idea of where we might need to be to witness a total eclipse of the sun in our region.  And so, we drove and drove, perhaps a bit farther than some as we opted for west, then south to avoid the crush of sun-seeking humanity.

Eventually, we arrived in a small town called Marion, Kentucky.

There were signs for a municipal park nearby and so we followed them and found ourselves in a delightful setting.  Enough fellow sky-watchers to feel a sense of human-camaraderie for the Big Event, and yet enough private green space to feel centered in the scope of what was to come, just by ourselves.  We had come prepared for reverence.

We ate our lunch together on some sporty bleachers and watched those with large telescopes prepare.  We celebrated the tail end of our meal with the most delicious brownies ever.

  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
  • Maybe around 1/4 c peanut butter (a nice blob in any case. This is optional though.)
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips for topping (optional- but…)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 f
  2. Add all ingredients into a blender (except for the chocolate chips). Blend it till all the beans are blasted apart. Batter will be a bit runny.
  3. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish and pour the batter inside.
  4. Top with chocolate chips or nuts
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean if you poke it
  6. Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. This is so it doesn’t fall apart when you cut it.

But I digress.

After lunch, it was TIME.  We heard it announced that It Was Starting.  And sure enough, when we glanced up at the Sun with our special glasses, part of it appeared to be missing.

This was a relatively slow process actually and so we took turns monitoring the Sun being shadowed by the moon and spent the in between time tending to our sense of the Divinity in it all.

There were crystals to charge, prayers of thanks to offer, bundles to smudge, bless and wrap for sending along to the nature spirits and the Otherworld.  We burned incense which had been given to Justin and Megan  by our dear departed friend Cindy, and we shared stories of her generosity and her most artful life.  (as for me, Cindy is who first lent me a flute to see if I might like to tackle this most difficult instrument.  I am forever grateful.)

We struggled to get our normal camera gear to cooperate in these difficult and potentially harmful conditions while we attempted to document the undocumentable.

I was so tickled to be with friends who are at once practical and spiritual in their endeavors.  I maintain that my Irish music friends are the deepest and smartest people I know in my lucky life.

Soon, it was clear that Totality was nigh.

this snapshot, used with permission, is by Natalie Coleman

And so it was.

I took a picture and then took my glasses off to merely witness.

As totality had approached, all of the things that were supposed to happen did so.  The light changed, the birds rested and dogs howled. As the darkness took hold, a cheer went up from our fellow sky-watchers.  The tree-frogs and crickets began to sing.  Street lamps turned on.  And, possibly because we were in Kentucky, gun-shots were heard off in the distance as well.  I suppose we all celebrate things in our own way.

There are times in our lives when the universe seems to hold its breath for a few moments.  If we are fortunate, and if perhaps we have taken the time and care to be paying proper attention, we can catch a little whiff of the Otherworld in these auspicious times.  

Still points in life are found in the usual, expected places – the moment a baby is born and draws it’s first breath, or at the bedside of a loved one in the process of a peaceful passing on.  I’ve witnessed a fair number of both of these scenarios and for a time immediately following these life changing moments, the world doesn’t seem quite it’s usual self.  There is a palpable divinity in everything somehow.  It is as if a veil is lifted for a time and we are Reminded.  In a more reverent and perfect world, perhaps we could feel this in the day-to-day, yes?

I find it difficult to express the Otherworldliness that this eclipse provided our merry band of sky-watchers.  The mere shift of the light was the very same I’d heard described (but never quite witnessed) in all the stories of Faerie-land.  Time stood still.  We marveled and wept at the cosmic beauty we had the great fortune to behold in this very moment.  Life itself is a miracle really and moments such as this remind us in a way that is nearly heart-breaking.  

I could go on and on.  But it is difficult to convey.  Perhaps Annie Dillard says it best in this quote from her article from 1982:

“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”

I have seen partial eclipses in my lifetime.  But this was an altogether different animal indeed.  I will go so far as to say there was before, and now there is after.  There is a sense of feeling one’s place in the cosmos.  My friends and I are already plotting the best situation for April 8, 2024.

When totality had passed, and we once again had to don our viewing goggles, there was an indescribable sense of glee in all of us.  We danced and cartwheeled and made music and laughed.

As if we were under some faerie-land intoxication.

Perhaps we were.

We continued to watch the sky for awhile after totality as the chunking out of the sun is truly miraculous to watch.

And after a while we settled in for a bit of a nap.  All of us feeling we were under some sort of spell.

This is where it came to me that we had witnessed one of those liminal moments.  Like a birth or a death, or the moment you know you’ve met your beloved – there had been a shift, a change, and none of us would ever be the same.

Eventually, the heat and the ants let us know it might be time to pack up our things and begin the journey toward home, which suddenly felt so very far away.  But we still had each-other, and this amazing shared experience.  And thankfully, a well-timed cup of coffee on route through Kentucky.

We did face some traffic on route home, which alas, gave me some comfort.  In this day and age of cynicism and sarcasm, reality tv and ‘fake news’, the path of red tail lights on the highway informed me that much of humanity still holds wonder for the Great Beyond.  We still wonder at that which we cannot altogether explain.  The astronomers give us the timing and the maps for witnessing, but our souls show us the way into the cosmos.

In the beginning was the dream…
In the eternal night where no dawn broke, the dream deepened.
Before anything ever was, it had to be dreamed…
If we take Nature as the great artist, then all presences in the
world have emerged from her mind and imagination.  We are
children of the earth’s dreaming.  It’s almost as if Nature is in
dream and we are her children who have broken through the
dawn into time and place.  Fashioned in the dreaming of the
clay, we are always somehow haunted by that; we are unable
ever finally to decide what is dream and what is reality.  Each
day we live in what we call reality, yet life seems to resemble
a dream. We rush through our days in such stress and intensity,
as if we were here to stay and the serious project of the world
depended on us.  We worry and grow anxious – we magnify
trivia until they become important enough to control our lives.
Yet all the time, we have forgotten that we are but temporary
sojourners on the surface of a strange planet spinning slowly
in the infinite night of the cosmos…
There is no definitive dividing line between reality and dream.
What we consider real is often precariously dream-like.
Our grip on reality is tenuous…
Excerpt from Eternal Echoes
by John O’Donohue
May you take the time to journey toward cosmic wonders in your lifetime.  May you see these wonders in your day to day, even in the simple changes in the light of day….






There comes a time in late August, every summer, where I take note of a slight shift in the light in and around things.

This is a visual thing, having nothing to do with temperatures, which at this time of year in our Ohio River Valley, tend to be a bit stifling.  But this goldening is not due to heat, rather more to the timing of things.

The school buses are making their routes now around the neighborhood and all things garden seem to be leaning less green, more gold.

Along my runs, the light has a certain slant to it that I love.

By night, even if it’s hot outside, I crack the window, just a bit, to hear the crickets and tree frogs sing.

I am not prone to being hermetically sealed indoors.

I’ll admit to having this blog post brewing for days now, but to being a bit tangled up inside my heart about ‘what to write’ and  ‘how to put it’ and ‘shouldn’t I just be painting?’, while none of these question/options seemed to fit.  The world, (this country specifically) is going mad of late and to respond off the cuff doesn’t seem enough.  To not respond is even worse.  And so, in typical slow-cooker fashion, I have been mulling it over.  And over.

I so admire the microwaves in our modern culture.  The JK Rowlings of the world who are so quick witted and can take down nay-saying haters in a heart beat with a single tweet.  Alas, I am not cut of that cloth.  I am a slower cooker, a crock-pot, one who stews.  Someone who mulls over things and then re-mulls again in the wee hours (this can be a tortuous prospect).  But eventually, I’ll occasionally put my two cents in if I feel strongly enough and many times, my commentary is late to the game.  But here it is anyway.

It’s been a week since the horrifying events in Charlottesville, Virginia and I am as heartbroken today as I was when they happened last week.  Unlike some of my fellow middle class white friends, these marches came as no surprise to me.  In fact, the election of President Trump came as no surprise to me either last fall. (I mean, c’mon, I live in Ohio). I may be a white girl, but I grew up a poor white girl, on food stamps, raised by closeted lesbians, and let’s face it, I can still smell trouble when it’s brewing.  Our country has been a proverbial tinder box for awhile now, possibly since the election of Barack Obama, and perhaps it was only a matter of time before the white rage hit the stage.

The thing about being an artist, writer, thinker, dreamer in this world is that, much of the time, we must hold two ways of being at the same time.  On the one hand, it is my job to rise above the fray and make stuff and think up stories and paint pictures and play tunes.  To bring joy.  On the other hand, it’s often the artist-writer-thinker-dreamer types who forge necessary change in the world.  How to navigate?

On the Book of Faces the other day, an old friend quipped, ‘a lot of self-righteousness here on FB, overflowing, wallowing in it.’  While I had not shared much over there regarding recent events (#slowcooker), he may have been right to a certain extent in that the quick shares just didn’t go deeply enough.  I decided to opt out of that platform for a few days and do some deeper digging into what thinkers and writers were saying elsewhere. Here is bit of what I came up with along the way:

At our local art museum, there is a work I have visited a few times and plan to see more before it goes away again called More Sweetly Played the Dance, by William Kentridge.

While this came together well before the events of recent weeks, I feel to witness this work of art is to begin to take on part of the narrative going on here in our own country (though it hails from South Africa, where racial narrative is fraught with peril as well, different though similar).  The work is brilliant, and beautiful and really difficult to sit with.  It involves many senses and asks many questions.  And if you are in the Cincinnati area, I recommend spending some time with it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted their guide to navigating these tumultuous times (see link above) and there is a lot of good information there.  We can all start somewhere.

In Boston today, I am seeing reports that a hundred white supremacists are on the march, but in opposition, are 15,000 counter-protestors.  This gives me great hope.

As someone who likes to operate in ‘woo-land’ a bit (you know, magic and metaphysics, fairies, crystals, etc.) I think there is still responsibility in the day to day lives we live in ‘normal’ time.  Layla Saad of Wild Mystic Woman over on Instagram posted a very powerful letter on her website, the first part of which can be found HERE.  (second part is forthcoming).

She asks hard questions and asks those of us in any place of privilege to really question our place in this world and how we came to it.  I think it’s brilliant and well worth reading.

I could go on.  I like to think the good outweighs the bad in this world but perhaps that is my privileged perspective.  I think we must be diligent never-the-less.  History has taught us that the bad can come barreling at us out of nowhere if we are not watchful.

In yoga class yesterday, we talked of stress.  I made a light-hearted comment that the news is stress enough.  A woman in class remarked that there are ‘many sides’ (many sides?? seriously??)  to the news these days and we can not always believe what we see and hear there.  She left rather abruptly.  I wonder if she was a Trump-supporter perhaps.  I only know that I don’t watch commentary.  I read articles from good publications.  I watch and listen (even though it sickens me) to the statements of this current administration.  I make my own thinking from there.

I also attempt to move beyond the News of Now and steep myself in broader, bigger thinking.  I’ve been reading books and articles by Martin Shaw  which I love.  There is a really good interview with him on a new-ish podcast called The Lumieres Podcast.

We must feed our minds with good sentences.

John O’Donohue is another thinker whose words resonate just now:


In the parched deserts of postmodernity a blessing can be like the discovery of a fresh well. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness. In the light and reverence of blessing, a person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew. It is ironic that so often we continue to live like paupers though our inheritance of spirit is so vast. The quiet eternal that dwells in our souls is silent and subtle; in the activity of blessing it emerges to embrace and nurture us. Let us begin to learn how to bless one another. Whenever you give a blessing, a blessing returns to enfold you.

~John O’Donohue

And this from David Whyte:


is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without; vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature; the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse to ask for the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusory privilege and perhaps the prime beautifully constructed conceit of being human and most especially of our being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.

The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.

~David Whyte

May we find ourselves vulnerable in these tumultuous times.

In coming days there is to be a great shadowing of our sun.  May we find secrets behind and within those shadows.

May we find ways of transforming the leaden weight of our current time into something more golden and worthwhile…….

I am preparing a fall show about which I am nervous and excited.  More on that soon.

Next summer is shaping up with a few announcements which shall come along soon.  Ginger Small is polishing her eclipse-wear and I hope to have a drawing to share with you tomorrow.

Wherever you are, keep your eyes on the stars and sky, but perhaps keep your hearts closer here to home, where we might all strive to make the world a better place.

Til next time……

Update:  Here is the drawing of Ginger Small and friends, ready for the eclipse!



Edge time (chaptered)

Chapter 1.  – seaside

Not two full days home from my blissful week of music in Swannanoa and I find myself flying east to my soul’s home in Maine to visit friends of auld.  These are friends who have known me longer than they haven’t, and I am blessed beyond the stars to have them in my life still.  As a family we are fragmented this year for what is usually our time of solidarity.  But this is how it is to be. One must follow his heart home for recovery after a Big Summer of Big Work;  another, I have secretly purchased a two day ticket up to join us for just a moment or two and fingers crossed it all works out as planned (it does).  And lastly, our anchor in all things fun, my hub Tony, does his best to come along for just a few days.  He is successful and we pack a lot into a couple of days time off.

We spend as much time as possible by the sea or in the sea.  Ferrying to our favorite places….

I like to sketch my fellow ferry passengers when I get bored.

….eating oceanic gifts of the odd lobster or oyster;  swimming, beach-combing the ever interesting, ever-changing wrack-line.

To me this is paradise and I collect a few little tid-bits to drag home to paint.

The coastline sets my heart all aflutter –  all I want to do is paint.  And yet I am restless and frustrated in a way I cannot name – torn between time with those I love and miss all year long, and my desire to make stuff.  I also find myself really missing the music I have only just the week prior been steeped in, more so than in other years.  Perhaps the music is sinking deeper into the pores after all?

Eventually, the paints do come out.  But it takes time.

And wandering.

I’ve been carefully breaking in these shoes since spring time and they now wear like slippers. Such a sturdy travel shoe, and one of a kind. You can get your pair at Kakaw Designs.

And keen observation.  But the art does come.  It starts slowly.

I was captivated by the limey green of this seaweed on the coast at Land’s End on the very tip of Bailey Island. Wonder if you can eat it?

In between boat-trips and cock-tailed laughter, oysters and teenaged catch-ups, we take some time to drive round the old haunts of our early days all together -when there was Peace in the land but our boys did their military duties, deploying too often for our liking, even when babies were due.  These are the things that can seal friendships for life.

In spite of hard winters and time apart, we remember our days in Maine with rich fondness.  It is one reason we come back each summer.

Chapter 2.  – to the lake side

Soon our seaside time was at an end and we were headed inland to a lovely lake house we’ve taken to commissioning for a week each summer.  It feels like home, all the while we discuss going full on ocean-time.

We are torn.  We love this place.

We love it’s moody skies and ever-changing weather patterning.

And the sunset views, which never disappoint, even on rainier evenings.

Note the loon family….. they were part of our world all week. Calling to one another, teaching the youngsters how to be loons on Long Pond. The kids gave them names. Parents Jose(Paco) and Marcia, and their kids, Judy and Lola.

Chapter 3 – romancing the stone

Before my family leaves, we take a little kayak jaunt across Long Pond to Beaver Brook where I am captivated by a stone divided into three parts by ancient ice and time and other such forces.  I vow to go back to sketch the place, as I have come with nothing but a hat and a paddle.

Soon enough, though surrounded with dear friends, I am left as the only Bogard on vacation which is a strange sensation.  Tony has been dubbed the Julie McCoy of the group, always corralling us all to gaming and cocktailing, water-sport contesting and the like and things are really, really quiet with-out him around.  This all plucks and strums strings of empty-nesting woes I don’t even think I was aware of until now.

I play it all out in the boat house on my flute.

I make it back over to the little cove where the Beaver Brook runs and the captivating stone resides.  I marvel at the language of light and shadow which I can barely translate.

I believe there is something here to translate.

And so I ask the stone to help me.

It’s a start.

I am not one for series usually, but I am called to paint and have been looking for a form I could play with, from painting to painting.  Not just the one-and-done sketch I usually go in for.  This stone is just the ticket and I am enjoying exploring it’s complexities.  There will be more, especially once I am home near the oils.  I have traveled lightly this trip.

Chapter 4 – critters large and small

One day I go for a run across the way on the Mountain Road.  A place I return to every year for it’s lake views through the trees, its lack of proximity to cars and traffic noise in general.  Along the road I find a sweet feather which is eventually identified as a low wing feather of a wild turkey after much back and forth discussion and postulation both online and with my compatriots back at the camp.  I even meet a lovely older gentleman along the road who thinks it could be eagle, though my guess is owl.  I am not disappointed with turkey, as they are wonderous to behold in the wild.

I set out to sketch this lovely gift before I must leave it behind here where I found it.  Sometimes I keep feathers, but this one shall stay.

I appreciate it getting my paint brush filled and setting me to painting, as it comes to me before the stone paintings begin.

This day’s run is truly fruitful as I also spy some horses through the edges of the woods and I stop to capture them with my phone-camera (the only camera I brought this year as I am traveling light.  Still not sure about this decision.)

The horses pay me no mind and I think about the wild ponies some artists I follow online are fortunate enough to have in their lives as they go about their daily wanderings.   I wonder what I need to do to have more woodland walking right outside my door, more ponies to spy on through the edges of the hedges.  This is a constant wondering, as always.

Most times we wander down to the water from our little house here, we are treated to the antics of a local loon family who have some still young but near adult fledglings along with them.  I borrow Amy’s proper camera with a decent telephoto lens to capture them up close for this post.

Pretty sure this is the mama, Marcia
Judy and Lola are never far from her. And she works hard to keep them fed. a mama’s work is never done.

They are absolutely captivating as they call to one another, throughout the days and nights.  This is the soundtrack to my dreaming and I am glad of it.

I am indeed glad of dreaming in general as there has been some wakefulness in the household in recent days.  A wee mouse has gotten a bit too friendly, joining my friends in bed night before last, which gave them a start indeed.  Last night, as lights are out, I hear a rustling and sure enough, wee mouse (we hope it’s the same) is in a paper bag into which I have stashed my knitting and a few varieties of tea I like to bring on my travels.  This leads me to believe he is a country mouse indeed (I mean, tea and knitting, come on.)  and he is escorted out of doors by our brave knight in PJ’d armor.  No harm no foul, but we hope the lil thing stays outside for the remainder of our time here.  I calm my late night nerves with a bit of bourbon and sleep fitfully from there.

Chapter 4 – where to from here

I write this missive in present tense, a style I see on occasion over at one of my favorite follows, These Isles.  I have no idea if it works or not for others, but for me, today, right now, it works.  This writing style allows me to step outside of a linear path of  ‘what happened when’ and to step into the concept of the Traveling Now.  The Traveling Now is not unfamiliar to quantum theorists, though this name for it is from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  I find more and more that the order of things matters not.  What matters is that we are present in it.  Now.

On what might be the calmest evening left in the week, I wander alone down to the waterside for a quick swim in the moonlight alone under the stars.  If you’ve never skinny-dipped for whatever reason is holding you back, it is something I hope you do at some point in your life time.

I arrive back up stairs, sobered and refreshed (pre-country mouse adventure) and I find this by John O’Donohue (one of my all time favorite go-to writers):


One of the sad things today is that so many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them. This identity may be totally at variance with the wild energies that are rising inside in their souls. Many of us get very afraid and we eventually compromise. We settle for something that is safe, rather than engaging the danger and the wildness that is in our own hearts. We should never forget that death is waiting for us. A man in Connemara said one time to a friend of mine, ‘Beidh muid sínte siar,’ a duirt sé, ‘cúig mhilliúin blain déag faoin chré’ – We’ll be lying down in the earth for about fifteen million years, and we have a short exposure. I feel that when you recognize that death is on its way, it is a great liberation, because it means that you can in some way feel the call to live everything that is within you. One of the greatest sins is the unlived life, not to allow yourself to become chief executive of the project you call your life, to have a reverence always for the immensity that is inside of you.

John O’Donohue

I like to think that even something as simple as going to the lake side for a moonlight swim in nothing but my birthday suit is one small way to ‘live everything’.

Tomorrow we leave this place.  As we do, we know nothing of the year to come.  The third of the four kids who do this magical week with us each year (our two went first, now theirs) is off to college in just a matter of weeks.  I do not know what the end of summer into fall-winter and beyond hold.  I have some ideas of things I’d like to set into motion, which I will do.  But for now, I read things that make my head and heart spin on its very axis,  I make plans for an upcoming show that has me thrilled and terrified in equal measure.  I continue to answer the (also terrifying though I do not know why) irresistible call to paint in ways I have not yet done.  I show up.

This summer has been a gift beyond imagining and I am grateful for it.  Each year I grow and make and play in the hopes I can bring that home to my friends and family and to my students along the way.  It is a gift, and I do not take it lightly.



A week in a minor key


One of the small things I love most about Maine is that in the 70’s billboards were outlawed. There is nothing but green and granite to contemplate when on the roads. It’s so part of the charm of this place and I wish it were in my day to day.

I write this to you from my soul-home in Maine where I can smell the ocean on the air upon wakening.  I await those in my little family who can make it up here for even a day or two in the coming weeks and miss those not joining us this year.  But while I fully sink into life back here where it feels so very familiar, I’ll admit that part of my heart is still under the enchantment of a week of music, magic and mayhem that is the Swannanoa Gathering.  You will know that in year’s past there were much shenanigans (and one year even a wedding!!) amidst the musical goings on.  This year, it seems that while we had an immense amount of belly laughter and all around craic, the music itself took front and center.

The trip down to Swannanoa this year began, blanketed by a low hum  in my heart- consisting of worries Big and small, varying in proximity to me personally.  Some closer to home, some via merely a glance at any news, at any time.  It seems that the world-at-large continues to fly a bit close to the sun, cosmically speaking, and I don’t feel like I am the only one sensing it.  Everyone I know seems to be feeling chaotic and a bit frenetic.  These summers of mine,  so gypsy-like from the outside-looking-in, are my way of assimilating the year past, and of lighting a way forward as the arc of each year moves on into the darker months ahead, to fall and winter.  They are a necessary re-set button and I am glad of it.

My week of workshops in North Carolina last week (was it really just last week?) began Monday morning with classes with the fabulous flute-player and singer, Nuala Kennedy.  You might remember her from her beautiful Behave the Bravest, for which I made the album art.

It was so wonderful to be sitting back again in music class learning a few new tunes.  I have let my Riley School doings fall aside of late as I work to build my art and workshop-offering practice and I have missed it dearly.  Nuala always teaches interesting tunes that strum the heart’s harp-strings and this year was no different.  The first three tunes we learned – a march, a strathspey and a reel were all in the key of B minor.

Now I am no musical theory geek but I know enough to know that the minorish keys tend to be a bit more moody and pensive.  For me at least, this key fit the mood of the early part of the week and we gobbled the beauty of them up in class and in our flutilla-led rehearsal time which we kept each day between classes, open to any of our classmates who could make it.  It is here we made some new friends, which is a bonus each year.

Some days in Nuala’s class we had a special guest, for whom we played a gentle version of our March.

Surely Wee Lochlann is soaking up every note. He’ll be playing circles ’round us in no time, I’m sure of it.

…or who graciously took our class photo.

Thank you Julie Adams for sending this along!

Between classes we practiced more, occasionally napped or snuck in a shower- as camp life can make for late nights and sweaty days.  And by afternoons we found ourselves in the presence of the one and only Kevin Crawford who keeps us on our toes and usually laughing a good bit too throughout the week.

Here Kevin expresses to us that he hopes at least a bit of the tips and tricks of the trade he teaches us will be something we take home and apply to the tunes we already play. Always a challenge. Challenge accepted.

Kevin hears every note.  Good or bad.  Especially if he sits right down in front of you….

And as if the flute weren’t difficult enough, he’s taken to trading instruments with his bandmate Colin Farrell and playing a jig now and again just to get a laugh from his class.  If you are not a musician, you might not realize how hard this is.  These guys make it look simple.

The week wore on and little by little, the key of things changed a bit.  We came fully under the spell of music and the people who make it and there were moments of magic to behold along the way.

One evening a few of the staff snuck away to one of my favorite corners in which to play, the Kittredge breezeway, and had a bit of a session.  Here is just a snippet….

It’s amazing when this happens.  The staff at Swannanoa give their all to this week between teaching and hosting other goings-on, but much like us, sometimes they might simply want to run off and have a tune with old friends.  Sometimes these are situations we students might join in if invited, other times, it’s nice to just sit back and listen awhile.  And so I did.

Yes, that is Grainne Hambly, John Carty and Martin Hayes. Royalty in the Irish music world, really and all around great folks indeed.

This little session was a perfect blend of tunes and song.  All of these artists listening to one another along the way.

Eamon O’Leary and Cathy Jordan take in the tunes along the way.

There was even a bit of step dancing by dance instructor Siobhan Butler to add to the magic of the evening.

Our week at Swannie always seems to fly by but this year it seemed exceptionally quick-paced.  One day it was Monday with the whole week ahead of us, then suddenly, just like that, it was Friday.  But as I look back, there were at least a few shenanigans along the way….

There was a ceili to attend on Tuesday.

And I was sure to catch up with my new flute friend Julie so we could snap a picture of our matching flutilla swag!!

There were late night sessions with loved ones from near and far, and we enjoyed music and many many laughs.

We talked of the importance of being silly together. Why must we be so serious all the time? The world is serious enough as it is. Let us laugh together more often, yes??

By day the skies might open and deliver thunderous rains on occasion, but always the clouds parted, and the sun did shine once more, as it goes in these misty mountains.

Each day we packed in as much music as we could, learning from our teachers.  It was fun to approach tunes we may have heard on recordings and to listen to the nuanced differences in how each player approaches each tune along the way.   The goal is, after all, to take this music into our hearts and make it our own somehow.

Here we were listening to Paddy Keenan play Condon’s Frolics from the album Poirt An Phíobaire. I love how delighted Kevin is when listening to one of his old favorites. He passes this delight on to us along the way. Thank you Kevin!

Many evenings saw us attending concerts where we could watch our instructors do what they do best, which is perform.  These folks are the best at what they do and it’s a true treat to hear them live.  Especially when they gather together and make music perhaps never heard before.

The flutilla force is strong here. For the record, the bodhran player shown here, Matt Olwell, is also an amazing flute player himself. Maybe next year we will add a couple more flutes to this routine….

When our days weren’t too full, and we weren’t too tired, we attended what are called ‘pot-lucks’ where some of the staff shared a topic of their choosing for an hour or so.  I attended one by Cathy Jordan called The Happy Subject of Death.  She and some of her fellow instructors sang murder ballads and other dark songs and there were many tears and a good bit of macabre laughter as well.  This all felt in keeping with the minor key of the week for me and I loved it.  I also attended a chat by Martin Hayes, sometimes referred to as the Buddha of Irish music.  We talked about why we play music.  Some folks look to perform perhaps, others might just want to play along with a recording by themselves or sit in the kitchen over a cuppa having tunes with friends.  There is no wrong way.  But the biggest goal for him, and I must say, for me, is to play with real Joy.

I read this week somewhere that on CNN, someone was quoted as saying,

“Joy is active resistance.”

I believe this to be true and I am holding on to it with all my strength and fortitude.  What else do we have?  It is this joy in the making – of music, of art, of laughter – which gives us the strength to do the hard things along the way in this crazy world.  At least this is how I feel.

As I have stated, Friday came along on the heels of Monday far too quickly for our liking, and suddenly we were rehearsing for the student showcase.  The showcase is a fun evening where we get to play a few new tunes together as a class to our fellow ‘gatherers’ and to hear the work of the other classes as well.

It was a steamy, North Carolina style evening and though we were all feeling sticky, we gathered down at the pavilion for the showcase. The photos that follow are some captures by photographer Tom Crockett who’s brother Tim was in class with us.  He hiked and took pictures out in the mountains most of the week but attended the showcase on Friday and snapped a few photos of the Flutilla. I share them here with you by permission.

In between acts, we shared stories and laughter. Ellen and I have shared so much over these long years at Swannie, we have decided we simply must get together more often. Let the wild rumpus begin, I say!!
Here is Kevin’s flute class playing a set-dance into a Jig. The air was so humid, I am surprised we could even play!
Kevin is one of three of my musical mentors in the flute department. He, and my dear friend Ellen Redman here, have changed and enriched my little life for the better. I am beyond grateful for their teaching and their friendship over the years.
This is a rare capture of myself with my flute instructor John Skelton, whom I work with back in Cincinnati when I can at the Riley School of Irish Music. He too has changed and enriched my life for the better through music and a lot of laughter.
This week Nuala Kennedy taught us a couple of interesting reels and we added some harmonies. This is another week where I learned how to use one of the keys on my flute. Nuala is a brilliant teacher.
How did I get so fortunate to have such amazing, caring teachers to work with???

(Thank you so much Tom for the gorgeous photos!  They are truly treasured.)

And now here we are.  Back in Maine once again, soaking up a bit of the seaside and lake time which we will draw upon time and again in the year ahead.  These weeks of art and music, friendship and fellowship, always set me to thinking about things in a deep way.  They remind me to practice what makes my heart sing.  To play my flute, no matter how clumsy it might feel when not backed up by my flutilla.  To push a paint brush around even when I don’t know where it’s going.

To remember to head out into nature more often, as She is the real conductor of things.

And most importantly, to trust my inner knowing along the way.  A lesson I am trying so hard to take more and more on board.

I love the little boat called Intuition.

If you are reading this and attended the Swannanoa Gathering’s Celtic Week, do leave a comment with your favorite moment(s) of the week.  I’d love to read them!

Til next time….

Sometimes, I day dream of tunes in the pavilion, to the rhythm of tree frogs singing.
If you’re even remotely curious about Irish music, this is a fantastic read

Breathlessness and Brilliance

A few days ago we flew and flew, with great love in our hearts, only to find ourselves in Breckenridge, Colorado – breathless with altitude and not without some concern over recent local wildfires.

Alas, while we were there storms did kick up, rain did fall and temperatures too, just enough to get at least this fire under some semblance of smoldered control.

Our travels to this high country were to visit our eldest, Jack, as he is working with the National Repertory Orchestra for their popular summer symphonic festival of music.  Each day we were able to attend their rehearsals which are free and open to the public, many of whom attend with friends in tow.

In a whirlwind of just a few days we managed to take in not only these rehearsals but two fabulous concerts.  The first included Shostakovich’s Fifth along with music by Mendelssohn and López.  We enjoyed it immensely!

Warming up just before the show!

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”  ~Plato

When not taking in music we enjoyed a bit of what Breckenridge has to offer in the way of touristy fun.

While the Hub worked one day, I opted to go horseback riding.

I’m not entirely comfortable around horses but each day we should do a little something challenging.  And so I did.

What is it about horse-loving girls.  They tend to have a spot of admirable moxie I think.

Between rehearsals and concerts and everything else, we did get to see and feed Jack.  And to catch up on selfie shenanigans, which was great fun.

I’m not one for selfies in general but sometimes one can’t resist the temptation for silliness.

We even managed to get in some sketching here and there……

My favorite is this sketch below from our drive up Boreas Pass where I was captivated by some yellow lichen on the side of the mountain.  And so I painted it.

The views from up there weren’t half-bad either.

Saturday soon arrived and by then we were feeling a bit more acclimatized to the altitude.





I did wonder how the wind players were faring with the altitude, but apparently they have über efficient embouchures and were therefore all right. The poor reed players on the other hand were carving new reeds for themselves day to day due to the intense dryness of the climate. I marvel.

Saturday was to be a special day all around because a dear and long time friend who now lives in Denver was to drive up for that evening’s concert featuring the music of Star Wars composed by John Williams.


We watched a bit of rehearsal, of course, getting in the mood for the evening’s Star Wars excitement.

Royalty was in attendance that night and the mood was light and energetic.

(side note, the first few notes of this bit of Star Wars music once conjured a whole slew of summer camp shenanigans as we were learning this Breton tune below from our beloved and brilliant flute instructor, Nuala Kennedy.  See if you can hear what I heard….)

The evening’s concert ended with an encore presentation of the wonderful and iconic Cantina piece, with a solo by none-other than the NRO’s brilliant conductor, Carl Topilow.

More selfie shenanigans.

Even though he must’ve been exhausted, Jack graciously posed for photos with us, as well as with our long-time friend Amy from Denver and his amazing ‘host-parents’, Tom and Darlena.

Tom and Darlena graciously sponsor a musician or two or three each summer.  Taking them on wonderful hikes on their days off, and out for iced cream after concerts.  (Not to mention the backing they provide to the NRO itself!)  Even though Jack is a fully-fledged adult, it’s nice as a parent to know he has parental influences to call upon should he need them.  We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner out all together before the concert.

I’m told the NRO is the only summer festival that provides a host-family experience for the musicians. It really helps them feel at home and part of the community for the summer.
Soon it was time for ice-cream….


As it goes with whirlwind weekends, our time in the mountains was quickly past.  We bid goodbye to Amy who headed back down the mountain to her life in Denver.  We told Jack we would meet him in his birthplace of Maine in just a matter of weeks.  We too made our way back to Denver, not unaware of the toll the altitude was taking.

I for one was ready to get back to some oxygenated air, although a bit muggy as things tend to be back here.

There is more to come in this summer of wonders.  I find myself marveling at it all lately.  Dear friendships, these amazing adult offspring of ours (do click the link and see what Madeleine has been writing about in recent months) and the places we get to see along the way.  Some days the world feels as if it is going to hell in a handbasket.  But it’s good to step aside from that, if we are fortunate enough to be able to do so, and to bask in the brilliance of a host of talented and driven young musicians.  In their small way they are making the world a much better place.  We are thrilled Jack has has a part in it this summer!

As for me, I am attending to household to-do’s and re-packing for next week’s adventures down to an older set of mountains for some older sets of tunes.  Til next time….