Category Archives: music

Happy holiday

We have seen much rain and fog here lately which makes the swing of the year’s pendulum back toward the longer days and shorter nights a welcome notion.  When there is too much darkness, we light candles…..

And curl up for naps in our cozy beds.

And occasionally, the clouds part and remind us of all the beautiful stars in the sky.

It has been a delightfully busy time in recent weeks.  I’m continuing to practice the art of bringing marionettes to life in preparation for my first performance in January.  The Frisch Marionettes are old-school gorgeousness and when I am around them I feel I am a part of a centuries old puppetry tradition, which, I suppose, I am….

In between puppetry practice and building concertinas at my other Best Job Ever at Carroll Concertinas I have managed to put together some drawings for a small commission I was offered.  The task was to sketch 3 dogs who are cousins.  One of the pups, the older wire haired terrier had recently passed away and so I worked from photos of her, as well as of the new puppy in that household, neither of whom I had the pleasure of meeting.  It is a challenge to capture the personality of dogs I have never met but I went with what I could glean from the photos and from my meeting with the scrappy little dog Sandy whom I did have a chance to spend some time with.  The results were well received and I think the recipients of these drawings on Christmas morning will be delighted with them.

Although I never met Mulligan, apparently I captured a bit of her spirit in this sketch.  I was so happy to do so!

Commissions were not the only thing brewing in the studio however.  It is the season of giving and so I have been elf-busy creating some handmade gifts for Christmas as well as some overdue wedding presents.  My friend Simone is a wonderful artist and had some amazing ideas for hand made votive candles made of beeswax as well as some tiny terrarium necklaces which are just so fetching that I made one for myself!!

The votives started as water balloons dipped in wax and ended up like this:

They smell amazing and cast a wonderful warm glow.

These tiny terrariums contain moss and a crystal and are sealed with beeswax.  I just  love them!  This is the first time I have built terrariums at this scale, but I have had an interest in larger ones for a long while now.  I put together a couple of big ones to present as wedding gifts and am so excited with how they turned out.

While out and about choosing gifts for my loved ones, I came across a strand of labradorite beads which I decided to fashion into a Solticey necklace along with some moonstone beads I had laying around.  These baubles look especially fetching against the back drop of pottery by my friend Lisa.

And so the days continue to pass….

We found time to choose a tree…

and to bring it home.

In spite of the busy-ness of the season with semester exams for the kids and school concerts to attend, we have also found time to celebrate this season in my most favorite way, with music.  I enjoy attending irish-music sessions whenever I can, but the best ones are often near the holidays when the college kids and young adults are back in town and we can all catch up on long over due tunes together.

I sincerely hope this holiday season is good to you, no matter how you celebrate it. May you be blessed with a chance to rest and reflect, to spend time with loved ones, and to play your own tune…..




Today my boy Jack (who is a fabulous musician) and I (who am hack musician) are heading to Chicago for the annual fleadh cheoil.  This is a big competition for those of us who play traditional Irish Music.  Jack will compete solo in fiddle and mandolin and then later in the day, we will both compete in the group competition.  It is a wonder to watch Jack play in the solo competition.  Fiddle especially is a huge field of really great musicians and each one plays independently in front of the judge while everyone else looks on.  This gives me a nauseous and shaky feeling just writing about it.  He is simply grace under pressure.

I have been thinking a good bit about risk lately.  The things that we do in life to keep ourselves challenged, to get us out of our shells in order to grow.  For me, music ranks highly in this department because until a few years ago, I was not a musician.  Now I can play with my friends and we can sound pretty good.  The difficulty comes with the notion of being on stage.  You cannot imagine (well, perhaps you can) the level of terror on a truly gut level that I get when it comes time to play for the judges.  Intellectually I know its silly.  We are not really playing to win.  We just love to play.  We love the preparation and the creativity that goes into arranging some trad tunes into a playable/ listenable  7 or 8 minutes.  The first time I played at the fleadh I was literally so scared stiff that I don’t think I was able to play 3/4 of the notes required.  I have come a long way to where I no longer feel total faint but still have to struggle to keep my nerves under control.  It used to be a struggle for me to get the guts up to play at a session and now I play at least one a week with my fellow musicians.  I get such joy from this that I think sometimes ‘somebody just pinch me,  I can’t believe I am actually doing this!’.  I am so grateful for this gift of music and for what it has done for my over all self-confidence.

But why do I push to get over stage fright and my shyness around people I do not know?  Because this is what being alive feels like.  Because in the long run, I crave to be a part of things, even though it took me years – literally years – to get up the guts to even say so.  Pushing the boundaries of my own creativity also keeps me honest about what I expect from students.  In 6 weeks I will be shuffling 13 intrepid fellow travelers to Taos, New Mexico to learn the art of traveling with an active sketchbook.  I will be asking them to draw.  A lot.  This is terrifying for many people. Similar to my fear of playing music where anyone can hear me, putting an artful line on paper stimulates a fear of failure so strong that most people will not do it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I can’t draw” from someone who hears what I do for a living.  It is my belief that if you can write your name, then you can draw.  But unless I understand this fear, I cannot help students to overcome it.  And so I push and I risk in order to move beyond the pounding heart and adrenalin headache that comes with stage fright.

Writer Peter Levitt writes:

“We are not only born to create, we are also born to risk.  These are actually the same.  Taking a creative risk is not only essential and freeing, it is also the least risky  thing you can do.  Any attempt to stay safe will never get you where you want to go.”


you may have noticed a lull in my blog posts.  The reason is, I got a job!!!  I am now a proud member of the concertina making team at Carroll Concertinas.  I am slowly learning the many different steps involved in building one of these amazing instruments.  The tasks are endless and require lots of interesting materials, tools and processes.  It is the perfect job for me.  I am able to work with my hands on a variety of things.  There is no pressure to be in a hurry in any way because quality and safety are the top priorities.  Every day involves problem solving and design challenges and the utilization of multiple hand and power tools.  In a word, it’s bliss.  I have had many folks ask ‘what is a concertina?’.  Basically it is like an accordion, sometimes you see pirates playing them in movies.  Here is a pro jamming out some reels.  Her name is Edel Fox and we will be building a Carroll Concertina for her very soon….

And so that is the news from Chez Bogard.  As I come to balance with the new job hours, I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how the Mammoth Cave quilt is coming along and keep y’all up to date on Taos trip news as that draws ever closer.

season of green

Recent weeks have seen a distinct greening on many levels.  There are signs of spring in the warmer nooks of the city, indicated with a few daffodils sprinkled about and some trees gingerly allowing their buds out to play in the warm breezes.  However….

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” –  Charles Dickens   (I came across this quote on this lovely blog!)

Yes, we have been fortunate to have some mild days, but in true Cincinnati style, I hear snow is forecast for tomorrow.  sigh.  It will be in the 90’s and humid in no time, so I’ll settle into what this wild season has to offer which is a see-saw of unpredictability.

Grass is not the only green showcased this time of year.  March also brings us the ‘High Holy Season of Irish Music’, the days and weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s day.  Suddenly, if one can play a few jigs and reels, one is pressed into service to play the many gigs around town, serving up the annual dose of Irish music to folks who normally don’t pay it a whole lot of mind.  As musicians of varying levels of skills and reputations, we split ourselves up into groups and hit the town to play and play and play, which is what we do any way!  St. Patrick’s Day itself was a whirlwind of venues and friends and tunes…. Here are some of the highlights:

Gig 1:

A few of us from our beloved Riley School of Irish Music gathered to ring in the day at the Claddagh Pub in Mason. Ohio with a few tunes together.  We played for about 2 hours.

Gig 2:

The next place I headed to that day was a little bar called the B-list, located in Bellevue, Kentucky.  Of all the places to play, the B-list ranks as a favorite among those of us fortunate enough to play there.  The owner of the bar is an old friend of my harp-goddess friend Jeni and we are warmly welcomed as family.  I love it there.  But alas, the show must go on….

Gig 3:

My friend Patrick organized a little gig at the Claddagh in Newport, which is where we like to have our weekly evening sessions.  They too treat us kindly with an occasional pint and access to our favorite corner in which to play.  We were joined here by young James who is turning into quite a fiddle player!!

As the day wore on, things got more chaotic.

The more recognized bands were brought into play at this time with large sound systems (when they could get them to work!) and it was time for the rest of us to go and watch the pros at work….

I doubt the drunken masses had any idea the level of musicianship they were witnessing.  They didn’t seem to care.  But the musicians in the audience did.  The flute player here is John Skelton with whom I am fortunate to study each week.  He is a world class Irish Flute player among many other things.  Dan and Bev of Liam’s Fancy are used to dealing with the chaotic late night bar scene, so they had this wild St. Pat’s crown under their spell in no time.  I simply don’t know how they do it.  In spite of the green-clad crazies, a good day was had by me and all of my fellow Irish music admirers.  My husband asked me at one point if there is such a thing as total saturation of Irish Music (read: “Don’t you ever get tired of playing tunes?”).  The answer is, of course, no!  Never!  Sure we might get physically exhausted by the rigors of pressing and plucking strings, creating a (somewhat) tuned in embouchure, keeping a proper beat, but our souls never really tire of the feeling that a well played tune can bring.  For a good bit of the time on St. Pat’s, I was able to transcend any fear of playing in public, making mistakes, etc and simply play, with my flute or whistle as an extension of myself.  This, I have to tell you, is bliss.  As good as it gets.

And so we have been steeped in green.  Interestingly enough, the green does not stop there.  I have also been getting paychecks (two in one week after months without one!!) and have begun work at my new ‘day job’ at Carroll Concertinas.  For now I am outfitting concertina cases with velvet encased foam which involves a bit of precision and lots of spray adhesive.  It’s fun and I am already learning a lot.  You simply cannot imagine all that goes into creating a well made concertina.  For me, this allows me to breathe a little easier as I go about my fine art work and the work I am doing with the study of creativity and arts-based learning in business.  Someday, sooner than later I think, these pursuits will begin to pay in the form of actual paychecks that can be relied upon to feed us and help with college costs (this notion is bearing down upon is rather quickly I am afraid).  But until they do, it is wonderful to have the structure of a day job.  Especially one where there is creativity and ingenuity bouncing off the walls every day.  Maybe I will even learn a tune or two on the concertina.  I have heard this is something that is expected over time and it makes me happy.  One can never learn enough new things.

One last note before I sign off here.  I have timidly put my foot into the strange pool that is Twitter in recent weeks and have begun ‘following’ folks who are doing similar work to mine or whom I find interesting.  This has paid off with connections and opportunities that I couldn’t have seen coming.  Mary Gordon at Creative Voyage has a brilliant blog about the ins and outs of living and working creatively.  She does not shy away about the green elephant in every artist’s room – money – and her blog has plenty of uplifting and useful advice for anyone pursuing an artful life, part time or full time.  I had the opportunity to be a part of her ongoing series of interviews with artists who have had experience with the series of books called the Artist’s Way. You can read my interview here.  It was great to ponder these questions about my own creative journey which has been so rich and relatively quick in coming forth.

Although I do not spend too much time online with everything I have going on, I do attempt to keep up with artists and writers I find inspiring.  I also try to stumble upon a new one or two each week.  Discovering these fellow artistic spirits in the virtual-ether-inter-world is enriching and creates a feeling of community in a sometimes lonely profession.  For this I am grateful.  I encourage you to seek out other artists who inspire you.  But don’t forget to spend some time with the one most worth getting to know….. you.

*a note about the pictures.  I have been playing around with filters and actions and such in photoshop.  the current craze in i-phone hipstamatic options inspired me to find some ways to do this on the computer.  I love how the photos look a bit like my dads old photographs looked when I was  just a little gypsy child in the jungles of Guatemala…..


Today was the Solstice and I heard there was quite a lunar spectacle last night in regions not plagued by cloud cover and snow.  I’ll take the snow though as it makes everything lovely.  It’s been quite a winter already… and winter is just starting.

Tonight I got an early start on one of my New Year’s resolutions which is to get back into playing music in sessions more often.  It felt so good to gather with long time friends and share a few tunes.  Food for the soul.  Some other food for the soul is this interview with one of my favorite authors, the late John O’Donohue, sent to me today by Jessie.   I highly recommend.   So much of his writing centers around the notion of Beauty and its place in our lives.  For him, and me, music is a tremendous source of true beauty.  What brings beauty into your life.  What gives you joy?  Seek it.  Find it.  Share it.  Happy Solstice.

What do i know?

“Science works with chunks and bits and pieces of things with the continuity presumed, and the artist works only with the continuities of things with the chunks and bits and pieces presumed.”

~Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance

Last week I traveled to New York City.  This was only my third visit to the ginormous metropolis but it was the most relaxed visit I’ve had thus far due to a comfortable home base and a good long time to stay in town, not to mention friendly locals.  The primary reason for the trip was to accompany my friend kim on a music trip but I also knew that it would afford me the opportunity for some time on my own to think, draw and write in my sketchbook.  The week was filled with music, coffee, more music, amazing salads, subway rides, dog parks, more coffee, lots of thinking, writing and a bit of drawing.  From an art making perspective it felt very deep and nourishing.  Un-rushed, with very little schedule to adhere to, I just wandered around NYC some, watched Kim make a few new songs, and thought a great deal about art making, my career, and this balancing act called life.  It occurred to me that I don’t often have so much time on my hands to think and it felt really great.

Lately I have been so wrapped up in the business of art and the teaching of art that I haven’t allowed much time for the making of art.  My sketchbook is a great place to keep myself drawing and noticing the world around me, but I have not spent enough time actually working on the more conceptually sound art work that is a bit like therapy to me.  It’s been months since a concept has grabbed a hold of me and begged to be made into some semblance of a body of work.  A visit to the American Museum of Natural History reminded me of what makes me tick artistically.   The displays at the museum are nothing short of art in and of themselves.  I really loved all of the fossilized bones in the paleontology wing.  I find myself looking at these collected specimens and wondering where people fit into the puzzle.  We are the cause of so much extinction and yet capable of such beauty as well.  This dichotomy is interesting and worth exploring through visual art.  I wondered why we are compelled to make art when so much of nature is so beautiful to look at already.  Like I said, deep deep stuff.  But good to ponder.  A bit existential maybe, but healthy over all I think.

Some early drawings….

I look forward to pouring over my photographs from AMNH and hitting the library for further inspiration.  As usual, the sketchbook is capturing whatever pours out.

Besides the museum, a trip to the Tompkins Square park was another fun venture which resulted in a few dog drawings.  It has been quite awhile since I have made a point to draw dogs.  I suppose there is just no one to draw quite like old Caskie.  But I need to get back into dog drawings.  They are tremendously good exercise.

All the while I doodled and pondered the trappings of the visual art world, Kim was hard at work in the studio writing and demo-ing, meeting with important people and doing a show.  It is interesting to me how much work goes into art.  All forms of art are so much more process laden than most people ever realize,  and music is no different.

One new song has a line in it, “What do I know?”  That’s a good question.  I am often so filled with questions about what’s around the bend, where to go from here, what next? etc. etc. etc.  But when I think about what I do know instead of what I don’t, or even can’t know, I find some comfort.

I know that I am incredibly grateful for what I have.  I know that I may love traveling but I also love coming home to my quiet little acre and the group of people that I love most.  I know that I love the work I do and that while it hasn’t paid much quite yet financially, it’s rewards have been priceless in the form of growth and experience.  I spend quite a chunk of my writing and thinking time contemplating the financial end of my work.  While in NYC, I met up with a fellow artist who is also straddling the lines between business and art and making a go at life as a working artist.  It’s an adventure ride for certain.  But we plug away at work we know is important.  This is all we can do.

A month of hard work

It’s been about a month since my last post as there has been a lot happening around here, not allowing too many blocks of time to sit down and update.  So I’ll catch things up here now, as best I can.  Early in November, my son Jack was in the pit orchestra for the School for Creative and Performing Arts’ performance of the musical Fame. (pardon the pixelated photo).  In this production there is a wonderful song, done in a series of rounds that talks about what “hard work” the arts are, each discipline convinced that theirs is the “hardest profession in the world”.  Our lives have been a lot like this song recently with music, dance and in our case, the visual arts, occupying much of our time and energy.  It’s been wonderful!  Jack’s weeks leading up to Fame meant long hours after school and tons of make up work for the days missed at school for tech-week.  But being part of the major musical at school has been something he’s wanted to do since he began school there.  I think it was worth the wait for him.

Another big event that came to fruition this month is the Mid-America Irish Dance Championships, the Oireachtas, (pron. or-rock-tus).  My daughter Maddie and her teammates at McGing Irish Dancers have worked for months to get to this and they were met with success.  One of her ceili teams (somewhat like Irish square dancing yet judged on precision of the steps of the team) placed third in the Midwest out of over 30 teams!  The girls were overjoyed at how months of hard work and time and effort paid off.  As a parent it was heartwarming to witness.

The kids’ activities have had us running around town quite a bit and it’s important to take a step back now and then and steal away for some quietude just the two of us.  So on Tony’s birthday, we did just that and played hookie for the day to head out for a paddle up the Licking River, one of the Ohio River tributaries.  It was a pretty cold day but once we were bundled into our boats it wasn’t bad.  Luckily we did not get wet, though we were prepared if necessary of course.  It was a wonderful day…

On Thanksgiving, on top of a house full for dinner, my 7 year old nephew decided that it would be fun to make a movie.  And he had it all worked out in his head as to how he wanted it to go.  And so, Indianapolis Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Turkey was born via the group artistic effort of most everyone available.  This might look like goofy non-sense to most folks, but when we showed the movie over pie that evening, we all laughed so hard we cried.  Even Tony tapped into his inner actor and played the evil “Mobile Commander” who was attempting to steal the crystal turkey (foam, packing tape, and rhinestones from the craft box).  I think it’s pretty cool that we can make a movie in a day nowadays.

These are just a few of the things keeping me in “busy” mode.  Often when I get in that mode, artfulness is more fleeting and I let the “busy-ness” take over.  But lately, that is not so much the case.  In spite of a hectic month, work is getting done (ok, so I didn’t blog for a month…but…).  Drawing Down the Vision, the visual communication class I have co-developed with my former student Adam will be unveiled at a home based pilot here on December 17.  We have asked a few friends of Adam’s and Tony’s from the corporate set, and my friend, fellow artist, writer and workshop facilitator Diane Debevec to join us so we can get used to presenting what we have gathered and in turn get some critical feedback before we attempt to offer this workshop in the real world.  It is tremendously exciting to be at this point.  Nerve-racking, but exciting.

My fall semester at the Art Academy of Cincinnati has come to an end.  I taught my six week sketchjournaling course to 10 students.  Among them were non-artists, artists and art teachers.  As usual, I learned so much from them and am already looking forward to next time.  Next semester will be a bit different.  I will be co-teaching with a book-maker named Cody Calhoun.  Together we’ll be offering a class where students will make a blank journal, and then learn how to fill it.  Details about our Make The Book/ Fill the Book class are available in the new Community Education 2010 course catalog which you can download via the link above.  You might recognize the featured faculty member on the cover as well as inside.  My sketchjournaling process is featured in this issue!

Work at the wax table has seen some growth spurts in the month of November, with new layers and processes developing.  I plan to spend the month of December preparing more work for a show at Pleasant Perk in January.  One exciting aspect of the upcoming show is that 20% of the sale proceeds will be donated to the Esme Kenney Sculpture Project.  This is an exciting project that I am involved in and it deserves it’s own post with photos and details to come soon, but I wanted to mention it here and give folks a chance to check it out. I will certainly keep you posted, most likely later this week…. but for now, a sneak peak at some new work.


There is a wonderful scene in the movie Finding Nemo where the little blue fish, Dori, helps Nemo’s dad overcome his anxiety about going into a great, dark chasm.  Her advice is to just keep swimming.  I subscribe to this philosophy myself on many levels, not just to stave off anxiety or depression.  Swimming, running, walking, hiking, biking, kayaking – any kind of movement…. are all great tools to get my brain to side step itself, leave the inner critic behind, and create.  I get my best ideas while on the move.  Recently my favorite activity has been kayaking where I am not only moving, but moving on water.  Balancing in a boat requires a different sense of the physical body and for me this translates into feeling quite far away from my daily self, and closer to the magical art realm within.

Recently, my hub Tony and I headed to Lake Erie with some friends to Kelley’s Island for a Poker Paddle.  The idea was to paddle around the island, pick up a hand of 5 playing cards at 5  different stops, then “play” the hand at the end of the journey for prizes.  Due to a pretty stiff breeze the night before the paddle, we stayed on one side of the island to get our cards and for two legs of the trip were faced with the biggest waves I had yet to encounter.  4-6 foot swells was how it was described to me by those in the know; fellow paddlers literally disappearing behind large waves.  It was a little scary at first but very exhilarating and I am thoroughly hooked!  So now I find myself watching youtube videos of sea kayaker Freya Hoffmeister teaching people how to roll (Greenland Style) in their kayaks and reading about her adventures circumnavigating Australia.  I find this all very fascinating.  My goal is to roll in my kayak, some point soon hopefully, but I’ll leave places like Australia to Freya.

Our trip to Northern Ohio was more than just kayaking.  We got to visit Marblehead Lighthouse on the mainland which struck me as a rather small lighthouse compared to the ones I have visited on the East Coast.  But it must do the trick for it has been working to keep mariners safe and informed along Lake Erie’s coastline since 1819.  There are a number of wonderfully charming homes to see on Kelley’s Island.  My favorite of all of these is this Steamboat Gothic style home still owned by a member of the Kelley family and built in 1861.  Lovely.

We did some hiking while on Kelley’s Island and I have loads of new images that I find inspiring for a series of encaustic paintings I am working on.  Here are some shots of world famous geological formations, The Glacial Grooves, found on the island… among other cool stuff.

Lake Erie is not the only place I have been collecting images to feed my paintings.  On subsequent more local kayak trips and even in my own back yard, I have spotted some beautiful mushrooms lately thanks to a juicy humidity that blanketed our area for days.

Along with researching textures and imagery for the wax work,  I continue to work in my sketchbook almost everyday.  While on our Kelley’s Island trip  we stopped in the post office to buy a stamp and get it canceled in our books, a great little souvenir of our time there.  I also did some drawing here and there when I wasn’t busy hiking or kayaking….

The sketchbook realm is feeling really active.  My class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, How to Keep a Sketchbook Journal – Getting Started will start up again mid-October.  I love teaching this class as it feeds me artistically and I always learn a lot from from students.  My project with my former student, now business partner Adam, Drawing Down the Vision, is nearing completion of stage 1 and ready for our initial pilot.  Adam and I recently attended a lecture by artist Someguy, Brian Singer, who is responsible for the highly successful journal based social experiment The 1000 Journals Project.  This project is a sign that the notion of keeping a journal or even participating in a group journaling experience is alive and well.  People are feeling the need to make their mark in the world.  I am thrilled by this and intend to get anyone interested out there picking up a sketchbook and taking note of their lives.  For me it’s a way to make sure time doesn’t slip by me too quickly and to take note of the little daily stuff that really adds up to the richness that is my life.

Now it’s time to go live it.

Absolute Class

One of the highlights of the summer time for at least part of our family is a week of Irish Music immersion in the form of an intensive camp with classes everyday and sessions and concerts and ceilis in the evenings.  This year we decided to try a change of scenery and headed south to Warren Wilson College, home of the Swannanoa Gathering.

The nice thing about the class schedule at Swannanoa is that we can take classes in multiple subjects.  I took whistle with Kathleen Conneely and flute classes with Kevin Crawford. Jack got to have Martin Hayes as his advanced fiddle teacher and Angelina Carberry for mandolin.  It was, as usual, exhausting, but – also as usual- we had so much fun.  The Irish have a sweet way of saying something is of quality.  “Absolute class”.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard that expression during Celtic Week.  Funny thing is, that pretty much sums up our experience at this camp.  Classy from every perspective.  Much of the food is grown at the campus farm and was generally delicious.  Every morning between classes, we were treated to coffee and muffins.  This is key during a week of very little sleep.

A highlight of the week was thursday night’s Old Farmer’s Ball, held on campus at the pavillion.  Dancers come from all over the local Asheville area and the band is made up of the instructors for the week.  Think Ceili Band Dream Team.  It was amazing…. Thank you to my son Jack who is not only a fabulous musician, but also a really great photographer.

In the evenings there were sessions to be had all over the place.  Often instructors were to be found playing right along with the more advanced students.  They love the music as much as we do which is why they travel so far to teach at these camps.

I could go on an on about the fun at “band camp”.  But I find that it really defies description to anyone who wasn’t there or who isn’t into the Irish Music.  For Jack and me it’s a shot in the arm musically, providing us with tunes and techniques to work on for the next year, until next time.  I think we will probably go back to Swannanoa again after the experience we had there.  We missed being in lovely Elkins, WV, home of the Augusta Heritage Center‘s Irish Week and we missed all of the friends we have made there.  But the pace at Swannanoa is a little less harried (even with the different class offerings).  There was much more digging into the history and tradition surrounding the music and a little less peacocking during sessions.  It was nice.

Once home, I had the opportunity to finish up a kayak course I began before camp.  I am a newcomer to this sport and have still more to learn but already I am hooked.  It is a wonderful way to see nature.  Last weekend Tony and I went to Cowan Lake to visit the American Lotus which grow there.  Below are some photos of these spectacular plants.

As I get more into the sport of kayaking, I am going to need to learn to “roll”, which means get myself back upright when I tip over.  It is not lost on me that I spent all of Irish Music camp trying to get a handle on rolls on the flute, only to come home and realize that I’ll be working on rolls in this realm as well.  Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me to roll with the punches or something.  Hmmm.

Anyway, I have a brand new watercolor set (Jack calls it the mac-daddy of all watercolor sets) and I am having fun drawing the forms from these lotus plants.  I’ll try to post some in the coming days.  But for now, I’m putting this blasted computer aside for a few and going to go practice some tunes.


These past few days have been filled with thoughts of Esme.  Last weekend my son Jack and I went up to Detroit with a group of fellow musicians to compete in the North American Midwest Regional Fleadh Cheoil. (and Irish Music Competition)  Unlike Jack, I was only there to compete in one small thing, and yet I was terrified.  I am not one who enjoys being on stage, let alone being judged.  But I go and participate because I like what leads up to it; the rehearsals and figuring out as a group what exactly we will play.  That part of it is fun.  The going on stage part is not.  Most of Jack’s schoolmates seem to take being on stage in stride and show no signs of stage fright or pre-show nerves.  This was not true for Esme.  Cut of the same stage-going cloth as I, she was always a bundle of nerves before a show, and a puddle of relief afterwards.  And yet she always performed just fine.  She’d get up there and do what needed to be done.  I thought of her a lot in the hours leading up to our little band competition and once up on stage, I took a deep breath, and did what I had to do.  It went fine.  We did our best, and I was happy I had made the effort.  We got 3rd out of 3, alas, but we got rave reviews from the crowd!  As a side note, my Jack won the mandolin and banjo competitions, but his best showing was in Fiddle.  A third place out of a huge field of talented kids.  He was thrilled!

Upon returning home from the Fleadh, we hit the ground running this week with concerts and graduation.  Esme was ever present at all of these events.  Many of them were her events where she should have been playing.  She was missed sorely by those of us in the audience, her classmates, and of course, her family.  In the midst of it all I have been embroidering a small quilt square that will go to my favorite local fabric store, St. Theresa’s Textile Trove, where it will join many others like it in a quilt for Esme’s family.  It is a huge labor of love and I can’t wait to see the finished product!  I am proud to be just a small part of it. My square is called Esme Early Bird.  She was always the first one up at our house when she visited.

At SCPA’s graduation performance, Esme’s spirit was with us all as we held a beautiful moment of silence before the ceremony, and quotes from her blog graced the speeches of some of the Seniors.  Tears have been close to the surface for me and even though I just got back from Detroit, I am hitting the road again tomorrow for Rochester to see Kristin before her baby arrives.  It will be wonderful to see her and spend some pre-baby time with her, but it will also be great to get a few hours of solitude in the car to gather my thoughts about things, maybe have a good cry, and simply be alone.  I am happy to know the need for balance and to seek it, without too much drama.

Kim’s song Days Like This was on a popular television show last night and so has been rolling around in my head.  The lyrics have a bit that goes “days like this, yeah, you think about the ones that went before you.”  I do think about them.  Knowing the people I have lost in recent years, only makes loving the ones still with me that much more poignant.  I am really missing lost loved ones, especially most recently Esme and my dear friend Mia.  But I am grateful for the gifts they continue to give in spirit.


This week has me filling my well quite a bit with some much needed solitude, new music to chew on and some time with friends and family.  Today I went for a rainy walk with Lisa and Anna in  Spring Grove Cemetery which has been a favorite walking place and source of inspiration of Lisa’s for years.  Spending time with friends who are also fellow artists is a nourishing way to jump start my own creativity, making space for productive alone time.

A couple of years ago a movie called Once came out and I heard about it from numerous folks, all who said I would love it.  I finally got around to watching it this week and, as predicted, it was right up my alley.  The music in it is just the sort of stuff I like to listen to when working in the studio, so naturally, I began to dig a little deeper into who the artists are who put the soundtrack together for the movie.  Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova wrote/co-wrote most of the tracks on the CD and they have a delightful musical chemistry which makes this album somewhat different from the work that Hansard does with his Dublin based band The Frames.

I read a number of articles about Irglova and The Frames, but it’s Hansard’s thoughts on making music that really resonate with me.  He is an artist’s artist….

“Basically all songs are residue. They’re just bits of muck, for me. They’re not craft. If you imagine a snail that leaves a residue then goes off and dies, and for years there’s a silver path of residue across the wall of your garden shed. It looks gorgeous, but [pauses] I always imagine that people who make art just live a life. It doesn’t matter if they lead a good or a bad life, but they leave behind these increments in time, little bits and clues as to what emotional landscape or emotional mapping was going on at the time.”

People who make art just live a life.  wow.  I think there is quite a bit of truth to this, though there is also the show-up-and-work part of things that needs to happen as well, at least for me.  But this notion of simply allowing the art to happen is refreshing and maybe something I need to consider.  I am guilty of a fair amount of over-thinking which I often side-step by involving myself in process laden work, where losing oneself is a positive by-product.

So now as I listen to the music of my new fave Glen Hansard (as well as the hypnotic sound of my leaky roof) I think I’ll go lose myself in a bit o’ beeswax….