Category Archives: music

Lately

Rain is falling and it is said snow is coming.  What a perfect time to share this……

So excited to finally share with you a little drawing I made in late summer or so.  It is the cover art crafted for a beautiful collection of pre-twentieth century European Christmas carols, all arranged for fiddle and guitar and performed with such delicate grace by Finn MaGill.

You can obtain this music digitally via the link below during pre-order days for just $7 until Nov. 29:

https://andrewfinnmagill.bandcamp.com/album/christmas-carols-for-violin-guitar?fbclid=IwAR3vwHOu5eB5xoZ2SX-ybMINGJv4UJ_EDdvLKD30Cy4b-T4ByUFbHV7FLoE

In a world so mad with the day to day, it is really nice to find a pensive work of music to set the tone.  Especially for the holidays.  Truly, it’s lovely.  Go get it.

In other news, I have been pulling myself up by the bootstraps a bit as I dig back into colder weather and grayer days.  I look back at older work to see where newer work might come from.  My friend Rima Staines posted online a week or so ago a weeklong set of prompts for “Folk Tale Week” and at the last minute, I decided to play along.

It was good for my mood.  Here they are….. (but to read my reasoning behind choosing these particular images for these specific prompts, go to my instagram page.)

  1. HOME
  2. SECRET
  3. PATH
  4. SMOKE
  5. DARKNESS
  6. KEY
  7. CROWN

It really was fun to re-visit some of my older drawings, and fun to feel inspired to make a couple of new ones as well.  New ideas are a funny thing.  We need the space and time in which to create them, and in a busy modern world, finding that is a feat in and of itself.  But we must also seed new work with perhaps pieces of our own old ideas, or maybe some new things from people and things that inspire us.  and so, we strive for balance.

This balance is always up for scrutiny, at least for me.  Too much time alone with my own thoughts can be dangerous.  Too little, is equally or perhaps more so.  But I keep wandering the artful path.  Trusting that time spent playing my flute or learning new things on the pipes is time well spent (let’s face it, no money is being made and in this modern age, that can seem like a waste of time!!).

In pipes class the other day we were lamenting the piping path, fraught with peril.  And a new idea occurred to me of a series that might happen showcasing a newish piper, a Badger perhaps, clumsily finding his own way along the road to piperhood.  And so I may have a new friend.  He may look a bit like the fella singing in the album cover above…. John Joe?  is that you?

More soon on all of it.  In the meantime, treat yourself to the quiet beauty of Finn’s new album.  It’s gorgeous.  And for once, I am excited to put on Christmas music.

Enchantment on the edge

” I sat down on the bank above the beach where I had a splendid view all around me.  Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.”

~Peig Sayers

We are more than a week home to Ohio now.  In this time we have run the gamut of human emotions.  Grief over the loss of and  funeral for Tony’s mom, love and glee at reconnecting with far flung family at said funeral, relief at being in one’s own bed and living space, awe at the turning of the season, as autumn in Ohio carries its own special splendor.  Overwhelm at the return to the reality of regular responsibility.

So often the case, I find my soul lagging behind my body after a trip of such magnitude and so part of my mind’s eye is still fixed on the magical hills and cliffs and windswept beaches of western Ireland.  But I am more fortunate than most who return to the US from a trip to the Emerald Isle.  I have music.

I shall start with that.

This fiddle playing owl graces the doorway of Neligan’s Pub in Dingle, where we happened upon an “open” session in which to play a few tunes.

Irish music has been in my life for a good while now.  Beginning with my son taking on the challenges of the fiddle, which led not only to his life’s work as a musician but also to me forging my own brambled path via whistle, flute and eventually (gods willing and the creek don’t rise) the Uillean pipes.  To say this music is a gift in my life would be a vast understatement.  Everywhere we laid our weary heads whilst in Ireland had something to do with the music.

Our friends in Blackrock, Co. Louth are both musicians.  Through their work over the years, they have come to know many influential people in the relatively small world of traditional Irish music.  And this is how I came to find myself treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a private lesson with a legend.

Things I took away from meeting Seamus: I have good tone (this is really good news) and I need to work on my ornamentation (not news to me of course, and also not unexpected from a Sligo styled player)

Seamus Tansey is a force to be reckoned with.  His playing carries the wild, untamed side of Irish flute music and his mercurial personality matches this fierceness.  He’s a character not to be crossed, from everything I have ever heard about him.  And yet, because I came connected to someone he holds in high regard, I think he took a shine to me.  Our lesson was mostly me being stunned at the musical gymnastics he was asking for and him being patient with my inabilities.  There is nothing more humbling than this music and I have so much to learn, it’s true.  Perhaps this lesson with a legend would have been better spent on one besides myself, one with more knowing of the intricacies of this tradition.  But when one gets this opportunity laid in front of them, one must say, “I accept.”  I am grateful to Seamus and his lovely wife Joan for their gracious hospitality, to Simone and Sean for shuttling me to Northern Ireland for this opportunity and to Lillie whom I took to the airport hotel in Dublin far earlier than maybe suited her so that I could get to Belfast in time for all this.  Life is rich indeed, and we all do things to build each other up, do we not?

One of my favorite evenings of this trip was of a night in a Kerry kitchen, trading very local tunes with my friend Michael, a lovely box player who is a bit too shy to play at the sessions but who has loads to share.  Another favorite memory is that of an open session in a little pub in Dingle called Neligan’s.  Another box player called Michael, along with a few other lovely players and another lovely night of tunes indeed. A shout out to publican Dara who makes all feel welcome and at home in his pub.  Thanks for the encouragement to come along and play!  (We shall catch up to ourselves in Dingle shortly here in this writing…..)

Dingle is quite the touristy place really.  I can only imagine the throngs during the season.  But I think of this music as a bit of a back stage pass. Knowing a few tunes and humbly sitting in (only when invited, of course) at a local session can mean that the local musicians might stick around for a chat after the tunes.  And just like that, one makes a new friend or two.

Thankfully for Tony, all was not incessantly musical.  There was much touring to be done in our short time in Ireland. I was keen to hook him on this country I hold so dear with the hopes of luring him back once again.   I will be there next year for a whole month of course and I hope for him to tag along for a bit of November perhaps….. we shall see.

We took in the windswept Cliffs of Moher where there was not only natural splendor…..

One can see the rains coming in just in time to take cover….

Small beauty, amidst the majestic.

 

The wind makes drawings in the grasses.

Dizzying heights.
Classic cliffs. There is a reason this place is famous.

But the splendor of quirky humanity as well which made my heart swell.  There was an intrepid couple from away, maybe Portugal or Italy (difficult to hear with the wind blowing) who were keen to get some iconic wedding photos made….

Her veil blew in the wind and the rains did fall.  Everyone seemed to be good sports about it all.

Others got in on the fun and had their own impromptu wedding shoots….

It was one of those rare, feel good moments when one feels a part of things and good to be a human.  These kids might have been from Germany (again, so hard to hear with the wind as it was).  But strangely, all seemed right with the world for the moment.

Eventually, the next day, as you know, saw us headed further south, further west to the Dingle Peninsula, “Corca Dhuibhne”.  We soldiered on through rain and fog and down impossibly small roads which found us over impossibly foggy mountains.  The skies did clear and Dingle did cast her spell eventually and we found the music there that night at Neligan’s.  Sadly we barely had 24 hours to explore this amazing peninsula, but we took in what we could.

All around there was a feeling of being in an “other” world, of being blessed by those who exist in a greater beyond.  Things seem chancey and strange here.

An old “famine cottage” along the Slea Head Drive. Although it was €3 to enter, we found it fascinating and ghost like.
Mary, ever present. The Goddess in modern vernacular.

“Then I went to Ireland.  The conversation of those ragged peasants, as soon as I learnt to follow it, electrified me.  It was as though Homer had come alive.  Its vitality was inexhaustible, yet it was rhythmical, alliterative, formal, artificial, always on the point of bursting into poetry.”

~George Thomson, The Prehistoric Aegean

Language, in English as well as Irish piles up like stones.  Every nook and cranny, every stream and small strand has a name.

we begin to see where the swirls come into play….

The sheer breadth and depth of such a small place is difficult to capture and express.  It is said that Ireland is the size of our Indiana.  And yet, it carries aeons of legends and myths, tales of wonder and woe.  It would take a life time to learn and unpack it all.

We start with small words, easy to learn.  Familiar concepts.

Creatures we know we love already.

Looking out to the Great Blasket Island from the Blasket Cultural center. An amazing place to visit should you get the chance.

Perhaps through painting the sights we see, learning the tunes which waft through the air, and engaging in a word or two of Irish here and there, we might find our way to being accepted by this land I feel so drawn to.  I am keen to spend more time in Ireland.

I like the idea of being able to walk to the sea, and to the local bookstore, and the local pub, which might not only feature a warming bevvie, but also a nice cup of soup on an evening I don’t feel the urge to cook.

I actually don’t even mind the backward driving….

I love the constant presence of ravens and crows (kind of like in New Mexico).

But alas, here I am, now, in Ohio.  And I do not grieve this.  I have an amazing inlet and outlet for music via the Riley School, I have a wonderful community of fellow artists.  We have a patch of land where I am about to go set some garlic in for the winter and batten down the hatches against the squirrels.  Life is good wherever we are.

But I am glad to know of a few places, one especially, which make my heart sing.  Most folks might go a whole lifetime and not find this.  For this I am grateful.

 

 

 

Pacing

Too fast paced of late.  Frenetically crossing to-do lists off as if penance for up-coming traveling.  Only time out of doors can check this process.  Finally the temperatures drop to comfort level, leaving “hotumn” behind us.

October temperatures in the mid-nineties will make one crabby.

I find myself outside on a beauty-filled day.  Collecting leaves, plotting a small hillside in the back for a new vegetable bed slated for next spring.  Tunes wander through my head.  I take a break to capture a bit of this ochered season with my camera.  The old sweet gum tree in front is particularly lovely, dropping her petals into the main creek which is, miraculously, always running with a trickle even in the driest of times.  There are little skimmers paddling along in their own little world, which I suppose they do with or without our observation.

I put together a slow paced little gathering of sweet gum and skimmers for you here.  The music is used with permission and is by Nuala Kennedy.  Once upon a time I did a little art work for the cover of the album where this track can be found.  The whole collection is divine and if you haven’t heard it, you should.

It is my hope that in this busy time of harvesting and preparing for the darker days of the season, you too might find the time to settle down for a spell and take in the small wonders.

Back To Center

“To Paint is to Love Again.”  ~Henry Miller

We are home from Maine, landlocked once again to Ohio.

Ohio is not without its beauty to be sure.  There have been errands to run, adjustments to be made, momentous birthdays to acknowledge and celebrate.

Suddenly I realize it has been a coon’s age since I had my paints out mixing and dancing their way around the palette.  I must dive back in.

August breezes, when they blow, are humid and hot.  I figure this weather is a strange combination of the dooming of climate-change and good old-fashioned late August in the mid-west.  How are we to know?

Storms do break up the monotony of late summer.  They make for dramatic skies and monumental cloud forms.

From the West, always, the clouds gather.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of age that clouds and birdsong catch my attention now more than ever.   I seek to paint them in between the expectations of a busy, modern life.

This past weekend there were tunes, on tunes, on tunes.  Again I remember – this makes for intense happiness in my heart – I recommit.  The painting and the music are inextricably linked.  I may not be very good at either, comparatively speaking.  But each makes my small heart sing.  And surely this is a measure of something in the world.

Something. –  in the epoch of our own humanity.  We are but a blip in the matrix of the Universe as we know it, and yet we seek these bits of joy and meaning like spiritual breadcrumbs of a sort.

There are more tunes slated for this evening when a few of us gather to choose the autumnal soundtrack for the Riley School of Irish Music.  Tomorrow is a road trip to settle one of the smalls (newly returned from western adventures) into his next adventure in grad school.  It is good to have him near at hand once again.

Travel beckons again soon.  I find myself already getting organized for a weekend trip to Sheboygan in September and a longer journey back to Ireland in October.  Some day if I truly settle in one place, it will be a strange day indeed.  I embrace this traveling side of myself and am grateful for those loved ones who keep the dogs fed and the home fires burning when I am away.  It does not escape me that I am truly fortunate.

When I travel, I travel lightly.  I do not plan to take the oils to Ireland this go round as I’ll be on the go more often than not.  But I have ordered a new sketchbook and I have extra watercolorey books to pack as well.

The goldening, autumnal season will see me diving back into a world of words each morning once again to find my way through the dark of winter.  There is nothing quite like pouring a cup of coffee, lighting a candle and putting pen to paper.  This might keep me sane in the dark months to come.  But so will hitting the road, discovering and re-discovering new places and new tunes.

What plans do you have this late-summer/early-autumn to feed your soul?  How do you survive winters in general?  What have you drawn or painted lately?  As always, I’d love to know.

 

Like a River – Flowing

(give the video til  30 seconds in…..)

Laundry hangs on the line, drying best it can in this humidity before we hit the road again.  On my desk are half written lists of to-do and to-remember along with the fragments of last week’s fun in various states of unpacking, unfurling into readying and re-packing.  My mind and heart are full to brimming with a collection of new tunes I can carry with me into the next journey which is to Maine.  A yearly homecoming of sorts, much like many of my trips tend to be.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Last week we leapt into the mists of yet another magical “Celtic Week” at the Swannanoa Gathering in beautiful North Carolina.  Much like the story of Brigadoon, we picked up right where we had left off the year before greeting old friends as family, getting to know new friends as well, as if nary a day has passed, let alone an entire calendar year.  Irish music does not follow the rules of linear time.  The only line it truly follows is that of tradition. The river of music flows along over top of that tradition, above and below it, side-stepping occasionally into other musical paths, (this IS a living tradition after all.)  Eventually though, it always comes home once again to the thing itself.   We came to the week with no agenda except to improve our playing a bit by spending time with masters of the craft.

The flute sisters are off to class Day 1. Many thanks to Kate McFadden for this capture.

“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”  ~Socrates

Somehow I have carved my way into classes and sessions loosely labeled “advanced”, and yet I come to this week with my mind fully open to learn new things, to be -always – the beginner.  There is no place at Swannanoa for ego or agenda.

Our musical “rock stars” who tour the world with their gifts come to camp not only to ply their musical wares….

I don’t yet read music from the written page, but I purchased Gerry O’Connor’s gorgeous compilation “Rose in the Gap”. It was so lovely to meet him!
Two of the worlds top teachers in the Irish flute tradition, Nuala Kennedy and Kevin Crawford. I am deeply grateful for their tutelage and friendship over the years. (Kevin has a new album out with Colin Farrell and Patrick Doocey called Music and Mischief. Nuala’s latest project is called the Snowflake trio. Both albums are gems!!!!)

…..but to have a laugh and a tune as well, to bask in the amazing community that is the Swannanoa Gathering.  It is so readily apparent how hard they work all week, but it is also clear that this week is as special to them as it is to us.

Thanks for the new tunes this week Kevin!!

As the space which holds this special time, Warren Wilson College does not disappoint.  It is nestled in the mountains near Asheville North Carolina, with views and vistas at every turn and even in some of the classroom spaces which remind us of what is possible if we but relax into it all.

Originally crafted as a gift for my dear friends Ellen and David in honor of their Swannanoa Wedding.
Occasionally difficult to stay focused with this view out the windows, but we managed.
We are surrounded by words of wisdom, reminding us we are but water in the river of this tradition.

The week was one of metaphor and depth.  We talked of honoring those who have come before us in this music by looking back often to older playing which may have gone out of vogue for a time.  We must never forget those who have come before us.

Sometimes we wandered through cathedrals of bamboo and dove into the depths of the river Swannanoa for a bit of wild swimming.  This returned many things back to center, especially our core temperatures.  It was a warm and steamy time.

The Bamboo Cathedral, managed and utilized by the WWC farmers.
Flutes are ancient, once made of even our own bones, or perhaps the bones of the bamboo plant. We bow low to honor the old ways when we can.

There were concerts and a bit of dancing.  There were classes filled with new tunes, but not too many.  Just enough.  There were moments of goosebumps up our arms and spines as we felt things bump against the root of all things.  Music and art making are conduits to this great source.

A few of us have been attending this week of music for many years and we opt for dinner and a bevvie or two out in town one evening each year.  I was thrilled to see a bit of our musical shenanigans have made their way into that other world….. viva la flutilla!!!!

resistance is flutile stickers in the wild at Native Kitchen in Swannanoa and Black Mountain Ciderworks.

Soon, we had crested mid-week into late-week, then late-week into last night.  The mists of time descended upon us that final night as if to tell us it’s time to go back…..

Many years, this thrust back into what some might call “the real world” is painful and we find ourselves pining and weepy.  This year was different.  This is not to say that I don’t miss my flute family.  I really do.  Instead, I think it is clearer than ever that the real world, at least for those of us willing to live in it on a daily basis, is that of art making and the sharing of a tune or a story.  The real world is that quintessential Irish humor and side-eyed self deprecation which puts everyone at ease and the belly laughs that come along  with this “craic”.  We live in difficult, trying and combative times.  Perhaps we can learn from the Irish tradition and its history that even in the most dire of times and conditions, there is always room for a tune.

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse

Thanks again to the staff and everyone who makes this gathering possible.  til next year!!!

if you are new to the reading of this blog, I have other posts about other years.  Just type Swannanoa into the search bar.

 

 

Comings, Goings. Doings, Beings.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

“I don’t want realism.  I want magic.”  ~Tennessee Williams

There is much coming and going of late.  Hither and thither we work and play.  I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops.  Antigua beckons…..

A sample of the magnets I have designed as give aways for my workshop participants! I figure if they see these on their fridge in the day to day, they will remember to work in their books more often, yes?

Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West.  When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.

pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise.  I was captivated by the murky depths.  And miraculously I did not get sea sick.

Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner.  Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum.  Though to be fair, rum has its place.

If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold.  And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..

Hens, chicks and roosters are to be found everywhere. They are well socialized and cry the song of their people. A lot. Cockadoodledooooooo!!! (and chuk-chuk and peep-peep as well!)
The Young Man And The Sea, our ship’s crewman Dale.
The captain and crew of the good ship Sarah took great care of us on a sunset cruise on the ocean. If you are ever near Key West, I recommend Danger Charters, in spite of their name.

We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.

I found Key West to harbor great juxtaposition. The locals care deeply for the ocean, that is clear, and yet single-use-plastics are still the norm at local businesses. We declined all straws/utensils/bags when it was an option.  It’s a small thing, but it’s worth doing.
Cemetery Sentinel

There is magic around every turn there.

Tree guardian being? Or a large fairy fist, offering us a tropical green bouquet?
Our Queen City-scape, with a river running through it. Quite lovely from the sky, though I am not a city girl at heart.

Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio.  But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.

My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test.  He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark.  With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world.  Music as well.  This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.

Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks.  This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  It’s one of our favorite places to play.  Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel.  Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail.  Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?

I am so grateful for the music.

And this music as well….

Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night.  It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed.  There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.

All is not angelic and ethereal round here however.  As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala.  This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong.  I embark on that journey later this month.

But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work.  That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.  

I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.

All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge.  This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.

My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.

Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.

Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough.  And this is good.

And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues.  While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this.  We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.

I say this as a reminder to myself really.  Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh    –      o         –    o   …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes)  This is all part of the process.  I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.



Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in,  always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work.  I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts.  I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.

To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc.  I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day.  And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.

But I do keep trying.   And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……

 

I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October.   We are thrilled!!!!

In which Amy and Julie get together for a cup of tea once each summer.  Don’t mind my lake hair – we are usually at camp!

We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.

I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans.  But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.

So much rich stuff ahead.  And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well.  I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. –  This is not an easy task.  But I aim to try, as I have for years now.  To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change.  It’s what the artists I most admire do best.

Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us.  It’s terrifying really.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”                   

                                   ~Georgia O’Keeffe

The Holly and the Iris*

There is difficulty in the balancing of things in this season.  Our bodies seek quietude and a hibernation of spirit.  Yet current culture stretches us into the further reaches of the Land of More.

It is nigh impossible to reach these heights.

But there is much to harvest from even the darkest nights and the most bustling of times.  We can (must) find our balance amidst the busy.  This coming weekend has a slew of beloved gatherings on hand – those of a musical and artistic nature, as well as the beginnings of the familial toe-touches we do from year to year.  It is my goal to be present at each.  Fully.

The Holly

This last week finds me in conversation with a familiar physical reminder to keep my own delicate balance.  My Jaw has been giving me great trouble in the the form of TMJ.  This little embodied red-flag rears its head when I’m overly tired, anxious or having trouble expressing myself somehow, and perhaps it’s all of these things just now.  But a reminder indeed.  A reminder to attend all the Holly related activities of the holiday season, but not without stepping outside with my wild Iris Rose at my side to keep in balance.  Today I did a bit of yoga and walked my dog.  The new time-blocking plan is going well, having cut my commute in half to day job and yet I still struggle for balance this time of year.  I suppose we all do.

The Iris

I look forward to the weekend ahead and send my roots down beneath the iciness to more fertile ground awaiting new ideas when the space is there to work on them.

And whether you look to the skies for celebration….

…..or opt to hibernate with friends a little closer to home…

May this season afford you some balance amidst the madness.

Solstice is coming, bringing the light.  Hold tight until then…..

*and for my more “literal” readers, yes, I know it’s “the holly and the ivy.”  But Iris is who she is, and this season can be a bit squirrelly, yes?  So I went with it.

How are you balancing things this season?  Do let me know in the comments…..

Lately

Faery magic is strong in the woodland this time of year.

This is a world gone mad.  Too many things to take in, too much heartache for a body to navigate really.  The things I love which carry me into the gentle places of my soul and self and which keep me grounded when the winds do blow have suffered for lack of care.  I look at this little home of mine here on the interwebs and realize that it’s been since August that I’ve written.  It is not as if I have not written, or drawn, or painted in general.  Just not here, where even when no one is reading, it matters most.

Today I took to the woods with one of our trusty dogs, the one and only wild Iris Rose, to ponder a plan of how to negotiate the dangerous waters of our time in a sustainable balanced manner.  It is October, my most favorite month of the year.  I adore autumn and all it has to offer in the way of cooler temperatures, misty mornings and the desire to get the knitting needles clicking once more….

A little drawing in response to Rob MacFarlane‘s word of the day “die Füchse kochen Kaffee” which translates literally into “the foxes are making coffee”; German regional phrase for morning mists….

I’ve recently taken to fair isle color work and I am fairly in love.

Iris and I walked the golden woodland…..

We paid homage to those who’ve been before us in this well loved place.

This lovely bronze plaque was placed in memory of dogs who’ve hiked here well before our time.

We admired the colors signaling a late but welcome change of season….

I played a bit with my fancy camera which, like this blog space, has grown a bit dusty with disuse.

The pace of things in the world has me feeling a bit weary.  All this running and seemingly little to show for it.  The season and my soul alike beg for a backing off, a swing toward the internal to come once more to the still point of my personal center.  This country, and the world at large could stand the same I believe.

With the dark season ahead, one often fraught with personal mental health challenges, I am looking back with pride on a few months of wondrous productivity and activity whilst simultaneously crafting a structure of future quietude to keep the wolves at bay in the months ahead.

The Resistance, as it stands, is in full swing and its toiling does take up space and energy.  I quite mindfully make the space necessary to be of service in these dark times but must balance that of course.  There is canvassing and volunteering and much reading to stay informed.  The news is too much to keep up with and it can drag a soul down to low places, but I do my best.  I am careful to turn it all off and hit the paints or the road when I need a break.

The flurry of work and words in the past couple of months have been exciting to birth forth.  Here I share a few things that have been occupying my eye, my keyboard and notebook, my interest and my heart.  It is my hope that I take to engaging more here in this space in the coming months as it forces me, in the best way possible, to slow down.  To think about what I am writing and the images I share.  Social media channels are wondrous in their own way, and I certainly find myself lurking in the more creative corners of their hallowed halls.  There is so much to inspire.  But here, in my own designated space, I can think through my fingers….

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
Isaac Asimov

….and maybe go a little deeper.

So, last I left you dear reader, it was August, and so very hot.  September came along and while the heat gave no break,  I encountered a small challenge to make a drawing a day in 1″ square scale.  This painterly adventure, combined with a whirlwind trip to Taos, NM was balm indeed to a tired soul….

The Reluctant Trapeze, inspired by the amazing tune Le Funamble,  (do click the link!!) composed by Gilles Le Bigot and played by Nuala Kennedy.
“But we haven’t even covered redcaps and hinkypunks!” ~Hermione Granger
“When encountering a new soup recipe, one must proceed with caution.”

These drawings were part of a month long 1×1 challenge put forth by the House of Illustration in the UK.  An artist they showcased, John Vernon Lord, had completed a year of them.

“He dreamed himself very, very small.”
“The harvest is in, and I am feeling too small to deal with it.”
“I can’t fly but me pigeon can.” ~Charlie

I completed the challenge and made 30 of these little works.

Even when the news did say there were magnificent displays of ill will and malevolence.

“I read the news today, oh, boy.”

Toward the end of the month of September, my long time, dear friend Kristin (whom you may remember from this post) and I somehow managed to make our way from Ohio (me) and Vermont (she) to Chicago for a seamless meet-up at O’Hare and on to a quick flight out to New Mexico.  The opportunity to introduce a dear one to one’s soul home is a gift indeed and we savored every second.  Not much was catalogued of our time there, but we did manage some image captures…..

Photo by Kristin McCole.

“It’s the most wonderful place you can imagine.  It’s so beautiful there.  It’s ridiculous.”  ~Georgia O’Keeffe

Photo by Kristin McCole
Koshares, uniting shadow with darkness; playfulness with survival; divinity with debauchery.  At least that is how I interpret it.

We timed our visit with the Feast of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo (every year on September 30th, you should go) which enabled me to see and visit with some dear friends there at a very sacred time.  It was a gift and blessing to share these folks and this place who are so dear to me, with an old friend from the way back, equally as dear.  Kristin said to me at one point, “You’ve built a whole world here, Ames.”  I do believe I have.  I am deeply grateful.

Majestic Taos Mountain

Our journey was far too short for a proper catch up.  To be honest, in spite of the splendor we encountered, we spent a good deal of time in a state of deep grief over the recent goings on at the Supreme Court.  There is a collective, primal scream of rage emanating from  the women in my life over doing this all over again.  How many times has this story been lived, eh?  Though this time is was so public, and so top-level.  I am still grieving.

But, and this is the thing, somehow we must keep going……..

And so, once home, early autumn life began with a focus toward music each weekend at the Riley School of Irish Music.  Those of us who love the music aim to bring just a smidge of this video below to our own playing….

Little Sea Folk Festival – Open The Door For Three – Church Hill / Monaghan Jig from Dean Merrill on Vimeo.

While we may never reach this level, we did manage to play our annual ceili dance once more and folks who attended seemed to enjoy it.  Chatting with our caller, Éamonn  de Cógáin after the dance, he remarked, “This is growing!!” And indeed it is.

This gathering was such good medicine just one day after the horrific news from Pittsburgh.  Just one more act brought to bear by the hateful rhetoric spewing across the nation from the White House.

so much musical love

The season brings with it, as mentioned before, a renewed commitment to new needle bound adventures.  I’ve invested in some gorgeous wool from my local knit shop to attempt the crafting of a sweater.  We shall see…. But in the meantime, it’s always fun to get to know the source of all things wool.

And maybe even attempt a sketch or two.

Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of whiplash of the soul.  One minute darkness and rage – the next minute, a shaft of light to pierce that darkness and provide a respite.  We here are fortunate to have these moments of lightness.  To make art and craft worlds with words is a privilege indeed, and one I do not take for granted.  I believe to my core that it is an act of resistance to play music, and craft beauty with line, paint and words.  I am fortunate to have the support of family and my day job that enable me to live this artful life.  Not everyone can.  Yet somehow, artists get the job done, one way or another.  Here are just a few whom I support and so should you…..

Claudia: here, here, and here

Folk On Foot

Terri Windling

Four Way Quartet (Did I mention we hosted a house concert???)

The list goes on.

And so where does this all leave me?  As you can see, there’s been a great deal of output here in the form of energy and a good bit of intake as well which is wonderful.  But my hope is that I can slow it all down a bit.  To corral things to more depth and to a more manageable realm for me as an artist.  I like to say that I am a crock pot in this world of microwaves.

I’m being careful to begin my day with thoughtful words, such as the lovely poetry by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland or stories by Sylvia Linsteadt who’s recent book The Wild Folk  inspired a tiny sketch…..

Which led to a larger painting….

The Offering, 24″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas

My hub and I are running away a couple of days after the election to Guatemala to visit friends and make some art – to shore up our souls for what’s to come in our lives personally and collectively, good or ill.

We will get home just before Thanksgiving (yes, I’ve ordered the bird from our favorite market vendor.)  I plan to write here on this blog-space from down there if I can connect, as it’s one of the most inspiring places.  So do stay tuned.

If you are interested in my travel journaling workshops based in Taos, Nm, Antigua, Guatemala and a few other smaller venues, do get in touch and we can talk about the best options for you.

Wherever this reading finds you, I hope you are finding some gentility in this rough world.  We are at a crossroads as human beings and we have some decisions to make as to the path ahead.  For me, it’s one of kindness and art making.

“Hang in there, make art, be kind.” ~Neil Gaiman in response to the news of Brazil’s election of a nationalist, right wing president.  To my friends in Brazil, we are here for you.

Love,

Amy

ps.

Left coast musings

Recent days have seen me traversing the country, jetting between varying worlds, and even escaping to far, far galaxies on occasion.

I found myself suddenly in California just over a week past, admiring the coastline and it’s intrepid surfers, breathing in the brisk sea air, sketching the magnificent scenery.  Many thanks to my friend Steve who took me on a California field trip to Natural Bridges State Park.

Sketch of Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz CA

I took a couple of days to acclimate to time and space there and to catch up with dear ones who live too far from my particular holler.  We made books together.

Rosemary’s gorgeous new sketchbook. I was delighted she used a facsimile of an old sketch of mine to collage the cover.
My new summer season sketchbook with some found imagery and art lent to me by my dear fellow artist-friend Tina Westerkamp. I love cross-pollination between fellow artists.
Mushroom washi tape is among my favorite little things just now.
These pages will have much to hold in the coming months

Soon it was workshop time.  The Saturday portion found us at Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, California.  It was a bit chilly and there was tree work on the grounds dramatically making itself known with saws and a chipper, but we found a somewhat quiet corner to begin our day.

Karen starts out her page with a study of the colors to be found on this day, in this place. This is a great way to get to know a new place.
I really admire folks who like to draw architecture.
Sandi did an exquisite job on the trunk of this wisteria

There was a wonderful wisteria tree which caught the eye of many of the sketchers who found their own way to interpret it.  It was early in the workshop so we talked a lot about capturing color and the basics of tackling a complicated scene.

Later we went out in front of the main house where an artist’s installation of birdhouses makes one special tree very different indeed.

I demo-doodled a few birdhouses in pencil. There are many ways to capture a sketch.

Alas, I did not take many photos that day, as I was too entranced by teaching!

After our sketch day, we went back to the lovely and artful home of Rosemary who hosts this event each year to visit with one another and toast the day with a bevvie or two.  I even managed to have a quick tune with my friend Tim who’s family had spent the day sketching with us.

Day Two of the workshop was here before we knew it and the morning had us up and over the mountain, bundled up along the shoreline of Santa Cruz.  The weather was cold that morning but this did not bother my intrepid group of sketchers!  We even dodged a few rain drops!

The girls look off into the distance to see the colors I am getting down onto the demo page. Once you really begin looking with an artist’s eye, you’ll be amazed at the variety of colors you see, even on a seemingly gray day. (photo courtesy of Rosemary Berwald)

Photo courtesy of Magdalena Cabrera
Photo courtesy of Magdalena Cabrera

Everyone quickly got to work.  Eventually we moved places, closer to the local lighthouse and lunching spot for more drawing.

We played with color and scale.  And the sun even came out for us in the afternoon.  A day on the seaside is an ever changing adventure.

Our youngest sketcher, Tess, paints a lovely little circular landscape to install into her sketchbook.
Here Waller discovers the subtleties of the shifting seascape grays of the day.
Rosemary has perfected the art of the tiny landscape painting!
By just Day 2, Robin had really hit her stride!!
Robin had a small admirer of her work so she showed her what we were up to. Sketching brings everyone together.
Magdalena studies the ever changing hues of color in the sea and beyond.
Lani managed to capture the essence of the poppies around some stones where we were sketching. It’s a tricky color!
Joan found herself captivated by the distant sailboats who’s sails were billowing in the breeze. She captured it perfectly in this tiny landscape painting, later installed in her new sketchbook.
Here Rosemary demonstrates her tinies prowess.
Connie spent a great deal of time on the stones with the poppies and really managed to capture the subtlety of stone and the pop of poppy color.

Soon the weekend was over, and we said goodbye to this group of amazing sketch artists who will now go forth and doodle in their own daily lives.  I opted to stay an extra couple of days to do a little work in my own books.  We traveled to Point Reyes Station for lunch and wandering, then headed into the hills to sketch this mystical region.

The next day found us admiring the new vine growth at a local vineyard called Savannah Chanelle.  It was quiet with bird song and chickens cooing and clucking in their coop near the villa.  The vintner admired my drawing and offered to trade a bottle of wine for it.  But alas, it was trapped in my sketchbook.  Perhaps I’ll send along a proper painting to trade for next time.  The wine is quite tasty there!

Alas, soon it was time to once more travel toward home here in the Ohio River Valley.  But I felt as though my teaching self was reinvigorated and reminded of it’s true purpose.  I was reminded of mindfulness and how this practice is a direct line into being truly present.

This poem came to me via Shippenverse a day or so before the weekend workshops and it seemed like the perfect thoughtful intention with which to begin the time together.  So we typed up a copy for each participant and gave them as little favors.  I kept the one with the most typos.

I have a small thing for real typewriters.  Upon returning home to Ohio, I was alerted by my Hub, who knows good things when he sees them, of this little gem awaiting me at the local antique mall.  Of course I had to get it.

I suppose I might have opted to stay in California forever but alas there was a great event to attend back here at home.  A number of local rebel artists banded together to craft an art show so magnificent, it was literally out of this world….. in a galaxy far, far away…..

Pretty sure this storm trooper was with the rebel alliance and in disguise. He was exceptionally polite and kind.
This pint-sized Rey has apparently been dressing up for May the Fourth since she was a tiny baby. Her parents said I could post this adorable picture of her.

A good time was had by all that evening and the art came in all shapes and sizes be it sculpture, painting, or cosplay.  I displayed 8 tiny landscapes from this captivating world created by George Lucas and by the time I arrived, 3 had already sold.   The work is on display at local rebel watering hole, Brew House here in Cincinnati through the month.

It is finally spring here.  Our aging cat Ian took down a mouse the other night which surprised all of us, likely Ian most especially of all!  There is finally life and blooming and even, as of today, a bit of sunshine.  I have a to-do list a mile long as I gather everything needed to launch the 8th year of the Taos Illuminated Journaling workshop.  This is my flagship class in this process and each year I look to it as a true indication of how things have shifted and changed over the past year and I come home once again full circle to the things I know to be central to the work.  I am brimming with gratitude that this is even my job and I know I can’t do it alone.  So, thank you to those intrepid souls who take a leap and attend one of my workshops – a week or a weekend, at home or abroad – Thank you.

And to my husband Tony who manages things here at home when I am away and keeps spreadsheets like a boss. My friends and family locally who step up to help him when things get crazy -Y’all know who you are.  And then of course a big virtual hug to my art-pal and fellow typewriter enthusiast, Rosemary, who so loves this work as much as I do that she helps me figure out where to go next!  Thank you friend.  For everything.

I am really looking forward to getting back to Taos as well in a matter of weeks to the folks who make my work possible there.  Friends who have become like family over the years.  You are deeply appreciated.  all of you.

Til next time…..

 

 

Down the Barrel

To attempt any kind of plan on any given day in the month of March in Ohio is to play a game of roulette.  But March 24th was the day nationwide when the youth of this country, and those of us no longer so young who support them any way we can, came together to demand something be done about the overwhelming problem of gun violence in this country.  And so it was that our city found ourselves bracing for a spring snow-storm, as well as an anti-gun-violence rally downtown.

Let me first preface this writing with a few quick words just so you’re clear where I stand…. (it’s by no means complete, but it’s a start.)

I am not anti-gun.  While not a gun enthusiast myself, I see the place of a shotgun on a farm to deal quickly with a suffering beast or an overzealous predator.  While I’d not join them per se, I appreciate the hunters who help to quell the population of deer and are careful to process, consume and share the animals they take down and who do so with a reverence to Nature.  I’d rather see an animal taken down with a well placed bullet (or arrow) than one starving to death.   I married a Navy guy who was a sharp shooter in college.  I am not anti-military.  (In fact, I truly appreciate the many veterans who are speaking out on the subject of gun violence.)  I am a former school teacher.  I am an artist who lives and speaks in symbols, story and metaphor.  I know the difference between a shot gun and an assault rifle…..

So, with that out of the way, let me share with you a bit of the past few days, as I have an interesting tale to tell about my own experiences related to this past weekend’s March For Our Lives.

My beloved flute maker and dear musical friend of many years, Dave Copley of Copley and Boegli Flutes, sent along an intriguing message about someone who wanted to commission him to craft a series of flute like instruments out of gun barrels hitherto the March for Our Lives which was to happen a couple of weeks later here in town and all across the country.  Upon reading the message, I knew this was something special and encouraged Dave to get involved if at all possible within his budget and schedule and, that I would help out along the sidelines if I could.

Pedro Reyes is an internationally renowned artist known for his capacity to tackle socio-political issues in innovative, creative and distinctly participatory ways.   He is based in Mexico City where he lives and works with his family.  Cal Cullen heads up Wave Pool Gallery which is “a dynamic place where art intersects with community. We act as a catalyst for social engagement and cultivate artistic development.”   Factored into this mix is The Welcome Project which is affiliated with Wave Pool and is helping out a lot of vulnerable new members of our community.  Somehow, these folks found flute maker Dave.  Inspired by the 17 lives lost at the Parkland, Florida mass shooting this past Valentine’s Day and the activism sparked amongst the surviving students, Dave was to craft 17 flutes from 17 gun barrels to honor those lost and to inspire those now marching for change, backed by the people and organizations I have mentioned here.

(Yes, I know these are shot gun barrels.  Please read above statement about my love of metaphor and symbol in art practice.)

Dave took on the project.  At this point I was out of the country doing my work in Guatemala but I was keeping my ear to the ground as to how it was going.  Last week upon my return, I stopped over for lunch with Dave and Marlene and got a chance to see the flutes in person.  They are heavy and cumbersome but play surprisingly well.  I make a decision on the spot that I will help to play these at the march the following weekend.

This one looks a bit like proper flute. A bit.

Did you hear that Remington has filed for bankruptcy?

These former guns are still collectively creepy.  They are heavy, cold, each a bit different from one another.  They pose a bit of a challenge to Dave as an instrument maker but he soldiers on and they eventually make their way to Wave Pool where we give them a spin.

Remarkably, they play beautifully (at least when warm)!  He crafts a few in each of a couple of keys.  The ones in E are slightly lighter in weight and we choose them to play the coming weekend at the march.  We had hoped for some local kids to help play them, but alas, no one shows to the rehearsal.  Perhaps a case of mixed signals…..

We find our way into Saturday morning.  Local music school classes are not canceled as we thought they might be and so some of our number had to go to work which left three of us to wield the new flute barrels best we can.

Wave Pool had sponsored a day of mitt making while I was away, crafting the Evil Eye onto gloves for the march.

I was prepared with my own crafting of the idea as this too was a concept I could get behind.

Those who know me well know I have an evil eye on my flute case.  The charm is from Greece and was brought back to me by my friend and mentor Pam shortly before she died.  I treasure it….

Somehow, all of the flute-related magic is coming together.

The weather is raw and unforgiving on marching day.  The mitts are necessary and perhaps not nearly enough to keep fingers challenged with steel gun barrels from freezing.

We get to City Hall and already there is a great crowd gathering.

We are put into place to begin the work of musical activism.  On the steps of City Hall, the three of us present to play remark half heartedly that we sure wish we had more flute players.  It is cold and we do not trust our fingers on gun steel.  Nor our embouchures really.  And wouldn’t you know it….two of the young people on hand for the march chime in, “We play.”  Just like that we are 5.   And stronger for it.  Thank you Lila and Kennisha.  You saved the day for us older folk.

While introducing the kids to these strange instruments, we meet Ethel Guttenberg whose grand-daughter Jaime was a victim at Parkland.  One of the 17 who sparked this rally, one of the 17 who sparked this gun barrel flute project.  I am speechless and reeling from the gravity of what we are doing here.

We play a few classics.  We Shall Overcome, Amazing Grace, that sort of thing. We only have a few minutes.  And it’s cold and raw to be placing bare lips and fingers to cold gun metal.  Miraculously, the crowd begins to sing along and it is magical.  This is the genius behind the vision of Pedro Reyes and his biblical notion of ploughshares from swords.  This is not a new concept really, but one brought beautifully to bear by this modern artist.  To be quite honest, I find it hard to keep my quivering lip playing the simple music at hand, especially after talking with Ethel.

Ethel speaks to the crowd on hand, which is sizable, especially when combined with like minded folk across the country and around the world.  Before her and after her are the children responsible for this amazing event. Kids like her grand-daughter Jaime.  Kids, really.  Up till now perhaps the world would have discounted these kids.  But they are the future.  In fact, I’d say they aren’t even the future.  They are the now.  They are stepping up where our leadership cannot.

“and these children that your spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ~David Bowie

As a parent of two young adults who weathered some serious storming in their own young lives along the way, I know what it is to be a parent witnessing the undoing of innocence in our children.  I have been thinking so much about Emma and David, and their friends,  parents and loved ones.  I’ve seen snippets of what they are grappling with off stage and out of the spotlight.  These are kids, y’all.  Children.  Children grieving the loss of their classmates.  Children grappling with their place in a limelight none of them asked for.  Their lives are altered. Taking a peek at what the interwebs has to offer in the way of feedback, a good chunk of it is negative.  But a fair amount of it is also positive.  From good people like myself wishing them well.  Hoping they might even consider running for office one day.  Sign me up.

I write to you crickets here in this echo chamber, hoping maybe my words will ring true.  Even to just one person.   Maybe two on a good day.  Hoping that this avalanche of gathering young snowflakes is embarking on change….

I share Sam Cook’s music with a nod to how these kids have made it a point to include people of color so often left out of these conversations. Something I find remarkable and a glimpse of the future…..

People like Naomi.

She’s ELEVEN.  

ELEVEN, y’all.  Let that sink in.  

These kids are our future.  They are poised and educated and can dance their way round the internet in ways I couldn’t have imagined. (Let’s face it, at their age, I couldn’t imagine the internet).  

And so, time marches on.  At this writing, over a month has passed.  More shootings have occurred.   These kids have a job ahead of them to be sure.  But I have faith in them, despite the internet throwing shite upon them at every turn.  Let’s find ways to support them as the tide turns.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~Albus Dumbledore