Category Archives: TAOS

New Mexico Portals

You have traveled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come, to take you back.

 

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

 

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

 

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of color

That fostered the brightness of day.

 

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until it’s calmness can claim you.”

~John O’Donohue

 

My yearly pilgrimage to the Land of Enchantment began with a few days of solo travel, enabling my body and soul to sink back into this place.  The last year has been a challenging one in many ways, not without its bright spots as well, and I had been craving time and space to sit with the everything of all of it.  New Mexico has a way of giving us what we need.

I drove and drove, many long, mindless miles, embracing the quietude that comes with such spacious landscape.

Chaco Canyon is a vast and far-flung destination but worth the effort it takes to get there.  With a near full moon upon us, the regularly scheduled star gazing tour provided by the National Park Service, instead became an evening walk amongst the ghosts of this strange land.  Haunted and beautiful, indeed.

By the time I made my way to a charming little Super 8 in Bloomfield, NM that night, I had been up for 22 straight hours and slept, dreamless.

I found Chaco to be a mixed bag of ancient history, natural splendor and cognitive dissonance.  On the one hand, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit and experience this Unesco World Heritage site, and to the NPS for their careful and respectful stewardship.  And yet, more than one ranger remarked that native people in New Mexico and beyond have stated that these places are meant to fade back into the ground after they have served their purpose – all of their great mysteries, feats of architectural engineering and ghostly human stories lost to the sands of time.

I left Chaco a bit conflicted about it all yet enchanted all the same with wonderings about what sorts of people lived or worshipped here and what we might have in common.  It was so good to be out in the wide open spaces of New Mexico with the vistas both outward and inward it provides to a tired soul.  Grateful for my solitude and art supplies, I soaked it all up.

Then, just like that, it was time to head to O’Keeffe country….

I was fortunate enough to snag a ticket to a “Special Tour” of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio led by a personal caretaker of Georgia’s and her brother, who worked the gardens in her later years.  This tour worked magically into my schedule for traveling to Taos to teach the following week and so I invested in it.

There is such serenity to O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home.  Her aesthetic was modern yet earthy – timeless, really.  No photos were permitted of her indoor spaces but I was captivated by the light, the serene colors, and the fact that she too kept jade, aloe and other such plants that many of us keep in our own homes.  She collected stones and bones and other things she found beautiful and surrounded herself with them.  Knowing this about her and seeing these collections in her home and just outside felt very personal, artist to artist.

I was captivated by the sense of this place.

Eventually, upon arrival back home here in Ohio, I chuckled to see that my own hollyhocks had bloomed while I was away, and I was welcomed by my own ghostly skull….

I’ll admit to geeking out a bit while in the home and gardens of this iconic artist.  I stood in the very doorway Georgia herself had found compelling enough to paint again and again, exploring its shape and form and depth.

Photo of me, captured by a kind stranger and fellow tour goer.

It was like standing in a portal of history.  And I have always been a lover of doorways to other worlds.

These few days could have been ‘enough’ to fill this empty artist’s cup and set me to painting once again.  But alas, I had not come to New Mexico for the making of my own work.  I was here to teach.

Taos has become my home away from home in the years I have spent teaching there.  Much like Georgia O’Keeffe herself, the lure of New Mexico brings me back time and again, every summer, and each year I discover more captivating beauty and I continue to build community as well.  Mabel’s family has grown and changed with the newly employed and the newly born, yet Mabel herself is still in charge of the place and I was welcomed home with open arms.

photo credit – Christine Kuhr

I took to getting settled, washing the dust of the road off in my familiar claw foot tub in Tony’s bathroom upstairs, and unpacking all of my boxes of books and supplies – readying the classroom space for a week ahead of work and wonder.

By day I worked and by evening I caught up with dear friends.  It had been a year since my last visit and that is far too long.  I was caught up on the latest dog walking paths, and introduced to new dirt roads and rushing riverbeds. I held a new Little Bird and gleaned a small smile from her.  I was told with a wink and a smile that if we only found a little slice of land, that we too could build a small adobe space of our own near town, and that I’d have all the help I’d need for this handmade home.   I’ll admit I am tempted.

This is from our final night together, minus one who had to leave us early. The joy in this photo emanated from this amazing group of people from the moment they met one another.

Soon the beautiful people attending my workshop arrived, some new to me, others who’ve been before and return home to Mabel’s to renew their contract with what has become sacred work.  I no longer question this truth -that what I do in these workshops is indeed a sacred kind of work.

Journal page with a telling horoscope for the week’s work, by Rosemary Berwald

What started out, for me at least, as a way to get to know the world and to slow down and take it all in with the wonder that befits it, has become an intense practice of creative mindfulness.  On the one hand, I’m introducing and sprucing up the old lessons of composition and perspective, line quality and color theory.  And yet, on a much deeper, richer level of the soul, I am working with people to disengage their inner critic (just give her a cookie and a window to sit by, she’s been hard at work and deserves a break, don’t you think?), to tap into their birthright of creativity and the act of making something which makes a heart sing.

Journal page by Christine Kuhr. ‘Light in the darkness’ study and caricature of Mabel etc.
Sketch by Marty Regan of ‘The Pink House’ at Mabel’s place
Journal page of ‘Light in the Darkness’ study exercise and quotes from the workshop time by Jan Reyes.
A collection of ‘tinies’ by Connie Ware – in which we play with the scale of our drawings to get out of our own way. Connie was a self-described ‘beginner’ at the start of the workshop. Beautiful work!!!

Occasionally, we worked in our books from memory, such as when attending a sacred Corn Dance at the Pueblo and we must only capture images in our mind’s eye.  I will note here that all of the images below are now in the private sketchbooks of these artists, as records of the day’s experiences.  Very different than taking a photograph, which is prohibited on feast days.  We have a deep respect and regard for this notion.

A lovely page spread by Mary Lynn Munro, based on a visit to the Taos Pueblo.
Jo Diamantes created her very own book for this trip which now holds these wonderful studies of the corn dancers. Impressions in memory, evocative of the actual experience.
Barbara George (Our B.J.!) was the first to embark on corn dancer studies, even before we did a ‘how to draw people’ exercise. I think these are just lovely expressions of the colors and gestures we saw that day.

But mostly, we studied from what we had in front of us there and then.  The Mabel Dodge Luhan House has much to offer in the way of beauty and things to pull into our sketchbooks and so we did.

photo credit – Rosemary Berwald

Photo Credit – Christine Kuhr
We even took some time one morning to sketch miss Little Bird and her sweet toes.

We discussed how to capture that sense of ‘hither, thither and yon’ which beautiful landscapes provide us with.  Otherwise known as ‘atmospheric perspective’.

photo credit Christine Kuhr
We also discovered how to make a believable rendering of rusty surfaces. Perfect for the odd Taos truck or rusty, steel sculptures.

We worked and played each day, sometimes into the night.  I was a bit manic with the magic of it all to be honest.

Photo credit Sally Hickerson

But I love this work and the people who are drawn to it.  I had to milk the time there for all it gave to me!  I even found time to settle in to a tune or two with the local session players who welcome me every visit ever so graciously.  For this I am deeply grateful.

As the week went on we sketched and laughed and drew and painted and ate good food.  We were treated once more to a visit to my friend Harold’s herd of buffalo which everyone enjoyed.  There was a morning visit, and an evening time as well, as the buffalo are shy and do not accept great throngs of visitors.  Small groups met Harold at his ranch home where we caught up with him and the herd.  Grateful for the grace of these magnificent creatures and that of their farmer/steward.

We were fortunate to see a few baby buffalos on our visit!

photo credit Christine Kuhr
We are welcomed back by Harold and his family year after year with hugs and a catching up of the year passed.
What a gift this friendship has become to me and to the folks to come along to my workshop.

Too soon, as always happens, it was that time.

Photo by Mary Lynn Munro

Time to toast to a week of work well done.  With dinner created for us by chef Jeremiah Buchanan whom we collectively adored!

Photo by Ryobun McCormick (find him on instagram @dragonswisdom)

We shared our books around and traded addresses and gifts such as a wee concert by Marty Regan who is a musician by trade.

It was time to pack up the classroom and mail home my supplies.  I was grateful for the help and company of a few students who stayed around for an extra day to assimilate all we had learned together.

And it was time to visit a few more places before we had to leave this Land of Enchantment.  Like the breezy hillsides of the DH Lawrence ranch.

These guys really liked the vegetables we brought for them to eat.
I enjoy just sitting under this tree and watching the sunlight play and hearing the wind whisper through its branches.

I needed to take the time to sit by the river at the Pueblo and promise that I would come back.  To memorize the sound of its waters which have come to me in dreamtime at times.

Time to ponder moody skies which seemed to beckon “Come back and paint, quietly.”

On my final evening in town, with all of my company scattered to the Four Directions, the skies opened up with the great gift of a thunderstorm. This brief storm was filled with ethereal pink light that I longed to paint somehow.

A friend of mine asked me the other day during our very ‘middle-age-appropriate’ discussion of “What Are We Doing With Our Lives” if I didn’t think that being a good teacher might be Enough.  I had been filling her in on the Taos trip and what a deep success I felt it had been all around.  I was telling her how enriching it is to teach something successfully, but that I have been struggling to make the switch back over to being a maker-of-things.  More specifically, a painter and maker of pictured-stories for small humans.  I feel blocked creatively, as if in all of the beauty found in the creativity of others, my own quiet artist self has taken to the hills.  I am seeking to woo her back home to roost.  I love being a teacher.  And I am so excited that my spring trip to Guatemala next year is already sold out and that next year’s Taos trip already has some takers (and I haven’t even listed it yet!!).  But I long to paint.  And write.  And draw.  And I must trust this longing, even as I pursue my work in these amazing workshops.  And so, no.  I don’t think it is enough.

I think part of this perceived block is just my inner-processing of what was a stupendously amazing trip back to a place which I love dearly and work which excites and challenges me.  A painter friend of mine reminded me to be gentle with myself.  That teaching takes a lot out of an introvert.  That making the switch back to quietude takes time.  And so I have been being gentle.  I have been holding off making this post about it all because in some way, to write about Taos time is to shut a lid on it until next time.  Buttoning that space up so that I don’t lose track of it between now and next year.  I hope to get back for a visit between now and then if I can.   Perhaps even for a workshop with Solange Leboucher who is a practitioner of Polarity Therapy which I have come to lean on as a tool of the soul when I teach out there.

I don’t know.  I do know that if feels good to get back here on this old writing space and share some photos and to attempt to convey in some small way the gratitude that I have for the work that I do.  I marvel at the scope of it sometimes, even as I ask more of it.

Til, next time….. enjoy this summer’s travels no matter where you go.

ps.

I met Taos based poet and Rumi translator Daniel Ladinsky while out with the girls. This is on his business card, which I love. Because I believe it to be true.

pps.  And these words, from Millicent Rogers…..

“Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly, passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the Sun on my Surface and the rain.  I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon, under me, rivers ran.  And against me were the tides.  The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me.  And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural – that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of everyday and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone.  And all fear went out of me – with a great, good stillness and strength.”

Chip of a Star

This time last week, hard to believe, I was packing up boxes and cases, making last minute visits to loved ones in my home away from home, grasping hugs and goodbyes to new and old friends alike, with promises not to forget.

big sky at mabels

It’s easy to come back home to our day to day lives and forget the work we have done while in Taos.  The week out there being just one in a year full of so many work-a-day weeks.  Weeks when we might be tempted to forget the importance of our day to day creativity.  And how crucial that creativity and the belief in it are to a Life Well Lived.

Air BandB girls

Each year I marvel at how a little class focusing on keeping a daily visual journal can become such Big Work.  It IS Big Work.  And I mustn’t forget.

swag  For myself in my own practice of it, and for my students as well.  What once started as an art class with some sketching and gathering involved, has morphed into a week each summer where some like minded folks come together to open up to the world.

It’s really as simple as that.  And as complicated.

I’ll attempt here to share a little bit of what we accomplished this year in Taos.

First off, re: the little ditty at the very above.  I really miss my Taosñas.  Each is a beautiful Chip of a Star.  Every year whoever needs this class comes to it.  I panic a little as registrations come in (or don’t) and remind myself that this is not up to me.  My job is to put it out there and those who are supposed to be there, will be there.  This year was no different.  I had some repeat attendees whom I hope benefitted from new tricks, and some newbies whom I hope are affected forever by the power of the work.  I really, really miss them.  We somehow manage to pack a year in a day, everyday, day after day.  And every morning they’d show up at breakfast, exhausted, raw and ready for more, much like myself.

Pictures cannot do the week justice.  But I have a few snapshots to share, and a few more words as well.

mabel speaks 2

I arrived in Taos and the town was hopping, unlike usual.  The Mabel and Company show was making quite the splash down at the Harwood, and if you are in town, I recommend you see it.  This place has attracted artists and movers and shakers since before history.  The show at the Harwood gives us a snapshot of one such time in history when the attraction was especially compelling to the likes of Georgia Okeeffe, Ansel Adams, and DH Lawrence.

Georgias cross

On both the front and back ends of this trip personally, I opted to get out of town and visit the old Lawrence Ranch, now owned, operated and managed by the University Of New Mexico.  I was blown away by the sense of place I found there.
DHL rests

In particular, the famed Lawrence Tree captured my imagination and the interest of my pencil.  I truly enjoyed spending time with this tree.

to touch the lawrence tree

In my heart of hearts, I think each tree has a soul of sorts, but like people, some trees have a soul which shines brighter than most.  This is one such tree.  And Georgia O’Keeffe knew it herself.

 

It was an honor to spend some time with it.  Humbling as well.  Because, let’s face it, not all of us are Georgia’s.  We must all find our own way.

NM skies from the Morada

Meanwhile, folks arrived and gathered and we began the week with some exercises “where the tight are loosened, and the frightened are freed.”

loosening up Sallys contour drawing day 1 Day one loosens

I love the energy of these early drawings.  And wish I had gotten more images of all of the work done that morning.  Basically, we laid some locally found color down and then did some contour drawing over top.  But the end product was less about what was on the page and more about what remained in the heart of the artists themselves.  Suddenly, those who came to the table buttoned up with all kinds of amazing skills, found their work loosening and changing and growing.  And the beginners, well, they had these gorgeous instant drawings they didn’t know they were capable of creating!!  It was pure magic.

Later that afternoon, as luck would have it, the Pueblo had a dance to attend.  So we moved the afternoon class to the evening, and traveled en masse to witness the dancing.

I have taken to not posting much about what we witness at these dances at/in the Pueblo itself, as they are sacred, and really only to be witnessed first hand.  But overall, for Day 1 of an art workshop, this was kind of a spiritual ticket to the delicious underworld of it all.  Someone remarked that the energy in the classroom that evening was more like that of Day 4 than Day 1, and I credit that to the workings of the day at the Pueblo.

L'Engle truth

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As the week went on, day two into day three, all began to roll together.  I had structure laid down for the work each day, but into that structure, Magic came.  And the days, once again stretched and changed and became Other.

Creativity is really just the structuring of Magic. 

~Anne Rush

NM skies

Lani sketches

In the past we have had the great pleasure of visiting the buffalo herd of my now dear friend Harold Cordova.  In spite of some serious new responsibility on his shoulders we once again paid a visit to these amazing animals who were nursing some new members of their herd and shyly introduced us….

buffs 3buffs 2buffs in situ

As usual, these regal beasts wove their way into our hearts and into our sketchbooks.

buffs sketch Christinas buffs

And in the spirit of the endlessness of the days of this particular trip, I found time that evening to play some tunes with local Taos friends who have become dear to me over the years.  In spite of teaching all day.  In spite of a spiritual visit to some otherworldly animal friends.   Eventually, we did this twice during my time there this year.  Again, I marvel.  At the sheer deliciousness of it all.

taos tunes
photo credit to Linda Dietrich

Of course, all work and no play, make Amy an insufficient instructor, and so I did manage to get my feet up now and then, as per the instructions of the history of the house….

dennis hammock

I’m no Dennis Hopper, but I do know how to put my feet up .  Special shout out to my dear friend Jamison who set this bit of relaxation up for me there.  All in keeping with the spirit of the house.

hammock time

(yes, this hammock was in the same spot as Dennis’s hammock back in the day.  Amazing how the stories of old speak to us in this day and age, via something so simple as a hammock.)

Meanwhile, we worked and worked and worked….. (and I took a few  – but not many- pictures.)

anitas lani a la F Franckdrawing the pueblosketching cloudssallys mountainssketching tara

Sadly and soon, it was time for our annual end of workshop dinner….

beauty repeatingfinal tearfull dinner

The food at Mabel’s was, per the usual, show stopping.  They are true artists.  And we are grateful for the gorgeous, plated dinner to which we were treated that evening.  (not to mention, the breakfasts and lunches day to day!!!)  No dinner in Taos that evening could have compared to ours, I am certain of it.  The food and the people of my day-to-day in Taos are what I am missing the most, really.

the view to the loo

I am now back in Ohio.  I have lots of delicious plans for further travels with loved ones and into musical mires which themselves transcend time and space much like my time in Taos.  But these are different than Taos, and I am still missing my time there.  The me there.  The Us there.  There is a small bit of me that hangs onto it throughout the rest of the year.  A bit that only those Who Have Been There can really relate to.

My goal is not to forget.  Not to forget how crucial this work is in a crazy world so hell bent on crushing delicate creativity.  Not to forget how Big this work is when sometimes my day-to-day feels so very small.  Not to forget that lives have been and are being changed by the simple act of keeping a journal, or of making a little drawing of something beautiful each day.  This is important.  This, is work worth doing.

In the end, I think Lani Potts, a workshop participant this year and also an artist and a poet, put it most beautifully in this poem which found its way into her journal….

Lanis Poem

GO FORTH, AND DOODLE.

go forth and doodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here. Now.

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Awoke this morning to the call of magpies. A bit bleary eyed after a long day of travel but oh so grateful to be here.

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And so I wandered down for a cup of coffee and a stroll….

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All is quiet so far. No students to greet just yet. Few other guests at all really. I treasure these relatively rare quiet moments at Mabel’s.

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It’s so good to be back in a small town atmosphere.  So close to Big Nature, yet I can also hear summer ball practice being held over at the park and the local church chiming the time.

Upon arrival last night, I was just in time to catch the premier of a beautiful new documentary by my friend and film maker Jody McNicholas called Longshotsville. Its all about a group of local actors seeking their best art and truest selves through stage and film acting. So many local folks were there, people I count as friends now since I return once or twice a year. It was refreshing to have a good cry and root for the creative process these young artists are seeking.

This is Taos. A place that demands that you be here. Now. Which I mostly try to be at home as well. But in places like this, the connection to self, to the present moment as it stands, seems more accesible somehow.

More real.

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Enlightened

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It seemed like it would never stop raining.  This gorgeous, flower-filled spring time of ours has lingered on and on in its misty, fog-filled mornings and cold temperatures.  I actually really love cool temps and soft rain showers.  A part of myself could probably even live in a place like Ireland.  But here in Ohio, folks have done planted their tomatoes and are wonderin’, ‘when will we get some predictable sunshine and finally dry out???’

The past day or so we have had not only dryness, but sunshine.  Sunshine worthy of summer’s glory.  This sunshine has put me in mind for New Mexico, which for me and my intrepid sketch journalers, is just around the bend!  I am grateful to be warm (but not yet sweltering, thank heavens!), and grateful that travel season is only a matter of weeks away.  I am grateful for work that takes me to beautiful places to spend time with interesting people.  And I am grateful for friends, family and ‘faminals’ who welcome me home when that work is done.  Today, I am grateful for sunshine, a full day in the studio (with a couple hours off to paint some walls at our local art center) and the sense that the real work of summer is upon me.  Looking forward to getting back to Taos, drawing and painting all I can capture!

Be sure and follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in the coming months.  I’ll be sure to share lots of images, and will blog when I can!

Changing Tides

11202886_10155872437970048_5120591334540910967_nToday is my 46th birthday.  As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids.  Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town.  Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week.  Things are getting real.  They are embarking on a world of their own making….

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All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life.  But it is also the Way Of Things.  This is why we raise them.  So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own.  It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages.  I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony,  has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore.  It is an exciting time for all of us.

So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote.  As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February.  I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too!  And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality.  Do let me know if you have any questions!

Ah yes, the road.  How it beckons!!  Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.

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This was a week of complete bliss for me personally.  Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year.  We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide.  I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.

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They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with.  In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two.  It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had.  Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting!  Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously.  Getting out of our own way is half the battle.  I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving.  I intend to make it back to this week again next year.  There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….

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A song that captures the sense of a week at swannanoa is this

Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….

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Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer.  And we have much work to do!

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I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….

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…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean.  YUM!

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Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well.  I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.

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It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends.  Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere.  So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.

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Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year.  Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.

“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.”  ~Holly Black

Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses.  Winters are cold and long.  But I simply must spend more time there.

“When anxious, uneasy and  bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke

For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.

His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex.  They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint.  But not in my usual sketchy fashion.

I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now.  And I have painted.  Here and there.  I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit.   While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have.  They often feel too cautious to me.  I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making.  Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life.  And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam.  Clearly, I need some help.

So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs.   I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.

“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.”  ~Le Testament d’Orphee

Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well.  Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.

I believe in following the voice of one’s heart.  That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.

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I’m following that voice as much as I can these days.  My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places).    In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order.  Oh yeah, and music.  Always music.

Today is a day of musing.  Pondering my life’s path.  I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way!  This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now!  Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.

I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering.   I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter.  My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever.  I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.

Happy birthday to me.

….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels.  Let me know if you would like to own one!

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Tiny Offerings

 

I think there is nothing quite so nice as to get a little something in the mail.  And so I am a sender of mail myself.  I love to write cards and letters to friends far and wide.  tiny 1Most recently I took to making a slew of wee thank you gifts in the form of tiny, one of a kind paintings.  I am hoping they will be well received by those lucky enough to be on my list lately…  This exercise of making tiny paintings is something I do with my classes as a way to shift our thoughts on scale and the time it takes to make a work of art.  Unlike some miniaturists of late, these little paintings don’t take too very long at all.  And they capture the impression of a place quite quickly.  This series was clearly based on my recent weeks in Taos and I am keen to keep going with them.tiny 9 I gild each little painting in gold leaf and it becomes like a little jewel to don a card or perhaps dress up a page in my journal.  tiny 2 tiny 3 There is a small part of me that wonders if these would be something to sell at some point.  You may see them soon at the local art center gift shop perhaps…..tiny 7

Yes, those are polka dot pajamas peeking in at the bottom of this picture.  Yes, I work best in my pajamas.
Yes, those are polka dot pajamas peeking in at the bottom of this picture. Yes, I work best in my pajamas.

tiny 6 tiny 5Are you a fan of tiny art work? Send me a message and perhaps I can whip up a tiny painting for you!  I know Ginger Small will be happy to get some new works into her Tiny Gallerytiny 4

Workshop bliss

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It’s difficult for me to fathom that just over a month ago I traveled to Taos to teach my annual summer travel-journal workshop.  Has it really been a month?!  Was I really just there three weeks ago, mid-way through a fantastically perfect week filled with the company of the most amazing group of people?

If I look at the calendar, it would seem so.  And yet, I look at some of the snapshots of that week (captured by my trusty assistant for the week, Taos artist, Jan Haller) and it seems that the workshop never happened, or is happening right now, or perhaps, is just around the corner once again.  Taos has that relationship to time.

There was much laughter.  Belly-laughs as deeply rooted as the ancient cottonwood trees.

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And there were also plenty of precious moments of solitude and quiet.

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There were those moments of ‘aha!!’ when we learned a new trick with those wiley watercolors.

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There was a fair amount of demonstration done by yours truly, to show my approach to capturing the world in my own journal….

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…and yet we learned that there is no better way than one’s own way of working.  It was my goal for the week for each workshop participant to find their own visual voice.  Which they did.  In grand, beautiful fashion.

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At the end of this gorgeous week we celebrated our hard work and new friendships with a dinner at Mabel’s which fed not only our bodies but our souls as well, as meals at Mabel’s generally do.  There was more of that nourishing belly-laughter, and perhaps some equally delicious tears over deep conversations too.  This work is so much more than just drawing and painting in a book.  It’s about an approach to life that can sometimes be difficult to find in our day to day.  But we re-discover it at workshops like these.  We find it in these fellow artistic souls.  We are reminded that beauty and laughter, grace and joy, great food and fantastic, fierce friendships are crucial to a life well lived.  dinnerToday- just now – back in Ohio, it is (not surprisingly) raining buckets.  In my ears, on repeat while I work, is this which is the perfect blend of arty and trad.  Combine this music with the sound of rain and things can seem a little somber.  Especially when compared to the bright beauty of New Mexico.

worskhop 13But there is a lushness to this valley that is at once suffocating and yet deeply and beautifully compelling.  It is travel season, and I am torn between all of the amazing, soul-home places (yes, including Ohio!) and people I have the great fortune to know intimately.  Those who know me and love me best know that this very restlessness and yearning are what keep me moving artistically.  The need to be on the move was instilled early on in me by my ever-changing home life and I’m grateful for the ability to travel as much as I do now as an adult, especially in summer!

workshop 12Next up is my now annual trek to the North Carolina mountains where I will play music for a week with far-flung friends at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Celtic week.  I will be updating the blog a bit in coming weeks (between trips) with next year’s workshop offerings.  There’s a new one being offered in February 2016 about which I am very excited.  Much of the same sort of work, but deeper and richer.  So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted!

 

Signposts

mabels 3I have returned, truly just a matter of hours ago, to this luscious land of my rootedness.  There are many travels still to embark upon in coming weeks and I am attempting to float above it all to soak up my experiences in Taos, whilst engaging in things back in Ohio and preparing for more to come.  Attempting not to burn up on re-entry.  Attempting to make sense of a world a world away.

One of my crew of 16 workshop participants this past week wears daily the visage of a frog.  It’s a pretty little thing, made of silver and inlaid with some lovely stonework. I asked her about it one day and she said, ‘this represents the fact that I live in and of two worlds.’  She is a lovely woman who is a frequent visitor to Mabel’s and I immediately tuned what she was saying.  For her, the two worlds seem to represent a going between her ‘normal’ home life, and the rich artistic breeding ground to be found at Mabel’s and other hotbeds of creativity.  For myself, the above two worlds are also the same as I go from Mabel’s and, in a matter of weeks, to music camp.  But I have the added world-switch of going from 7000 ft above sea level to 700 ft. which frankly feels a bit like drowning.

Today I am drowning.

I came home to a clean home.  Coffee in the cupboard and milk to accompany it in the morning.  There was even wine for my frazzled travel nerves to sip upon.  My family knows how to buffer the re-entry from this trip each year, so full of magic.  So very full of hard, hard work.  I am grateful.  But I also came home to things that need to be done.  By me.  The home-steward.  Something I value, actually.  We have a new member of the pack, potentially indefinitely, in the form of a little dog that a family member may or may not be able to care for in the long haul.  First stop was the vet’s office today for that little friend.  Next stop was the market for some fresh food for tonight’s meal, and then a nap.  Between all that and a proper re-engagement online, the day is nearly over.  And still I float.

I have a gagillion photos to share of the workshop week itself, thoughtfully taken by my friend and co-facilitator, Jan Haller from Taos.  But for now I will share what I have here.

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First off, love.  And a whole lot of it.  This year was very different than year’s past.  My dear friend Julie who has in the past helped keep my nose pointed in the proper direction is now stewarding the very place itself so important to my work.  And while this is wonderful, and all as it needs to be, I’ll admit to being really lonely for much of the working side of this trip.  But perhaps, that too is as it should be.

As we grow older, kids move on.  There are no guarantees to how long our beloved partners will choose to accompany us.  Our parents will inevitably move along before us, if things flow as they ought to.  The only thing we have is our right work.  Perhaps I’ll live to be 103 and see the passing of most of those I love…. but I will still have my work, such that it is.  I will still be able to engage the arts on some level.  This may seem a little depressing, but it’s all true.  And for me, it makes me value my loved ones in the here and now, and to allow the work the space it needs at the same time.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old andtrembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

I am so fortunate to have folks in New Mexico now who hold a space for me to come ‘home’ to when I go to work there. Portal Keepers in Albuquerque – Ron and CC, who provide me a place to land, on the way in or out, any time, with a mountain view, a bit like that of Taos Mountain.  There is always a nourishing meal, laughter, artwork and a spot of wine or tea awaiting me there.  received_10206969471337528

I simply can’t thank them enough for their support and friendship.

There is also the crew at Mabel’s.  Arriving there is really like a homecoming.

mabels 2This inn sees hundreds of folks a year there.  To do workshops, experience the B&B end of things in Taos, to make a movie or to do research.  The staff at Mabel’s see and hear it all.  And somehow, most miraculously, I can walk in for my week there and be received like family.  (um, yes, that is a ‘Go Forth and Doodle’ sticker on a real live Taos truck!!!)

taos truck 1  Perhaps they treat everyone like this.  I’d not be surprised.  But I adore the people that run this place.  Their skeletal crew keeps this historic treasure running like clockwork, making it seem easy, which I know it certainly cannot be.  They even have their dogs on hand in the off hours for those of us visiting who might need a fix…

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Enzo tells me he is a football fan and may very well need a Bengals tee-shirt just his size.  I am already shopping.  This may be the first NFL item I have ever sought out.

Every trip to Taos yields a certain level of unexpected magic or synchronicity that may or may not send me down some unexpected rabbit hole.  I’ll share a couple of these with you here…

Firstly, this year is the 100’th anniversary of the founding of the Taos Society of Artists.  There is much to do in town about all this with art shows and articles.  One artist who’s work caught my eye amidst the to-do is Ralph Meyers.  Technically, he was not an ‘official’ TSA artist, which kind of makes me like him even more.  I enjoyed viewing some of his work at the Taos Art Museum  when I visited and the more I dig, the more I admire.  After the workshop ended, some of my participants (who are now dear friends, of course!!) remarked that they had seen a photo in town in a gallery of a young girl from back in the day that looked a bit like my youngest daughter.  Well, you know how it goes.  One takes these things with a grain of salt having grown up with an every-girl face like mine.  But then I walked by her…..

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I did a double take and decided to ask about her the following day.  Because, Sally was right.  This young woman is the spitting image of my own Madeleine.

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The photograph was of Ralph Meyers’ wife Rowena who hailed from Pennsylvania.  They met in Taos and the rest is history.  Their son, Ouray, is now himself a successful local artist in Taos and I highly recommend a visit into his lovely gallery for a peek at his paintings.

Things like this remind me, as my friend Harold says, that ‘we are all related.’  I’m keeping my ear to the ground regarding Ralph, as even his grave, situated right by Mabel herself, is intriguing in its simplicity and beauty.  I believe we should follow our noses regarding this sort of thing.  Perhaps a historical figure calls to you, maybe you too should follow the winding path and see what there is to discover….

IMG_0177The next turn down the proverbial rabbit hole came at the tail end of my trip…. (pun intended.)

glyph hareglyphs 1Before leaving New Mexico I spent a little (not enough, never enough New Mexico) exploring the Petroglyph National Monument per the advice of my Albuquerque based friends, Ron and CC.

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Amidst the basalt stone, if one looks closely and sticks to the path, there are literally hundreds of ancient images carved into the stone there….

glyphs basaltglyphs 12It was a quick trip, as I had a plane to catch, and it’s hard to leave good friends in a sacred-to-me land, but I am so glad I made the effort.

glyphs 11 glyphs 10glyphs 6I felt a true sense of guidance amongst these images.  They feel like signposts.  Sadly, one needs to ignore the occasional scratches of more modern day people who have felt the need to add their marks to the mix.  But I regularly ignore the stupidity of the modern day in my search for the magical things and once on the trail, it wasn’t so bad.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, getting as far off the beaten path as possible, leads, generally speaking, to fewer idiots.  Though this has it’s exceptions, and is not a scientifically proven fact.

glyphs 2glyphs 11Glyphs 8I have so much more to share with you as I gather photographs from the workshop itself.  The work done there this past week was the most focused yet compared to years past.  I believe part of the reason for this is the space I gave it.  I didn’t concentrate (at. all.) on my own art work.  I was there to be a steward to the work of the participants there for the week who ranged from beginners to professionals.  And this paid off in folks who worked hard on their books, their artful craft, their soaking up of New Mexico and Taos in particular.  One has even written a blog post already!! mabelsMore to come in due time.  But as you know, time is fluid in summer…..

 

 

 

Moving day

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My raven friends accompanied me on a run this morning.  In spite of altitude, I managed a brisk and energetic half hour on the paths, which will serve me well on this big day.

After two days of much running around, visiting, preparation, meetings, thinkings and plannings, it’s time to leave this little tree house of a place hidden down a magical lane….IMG_0141

…..and to move over to Mabel’s.  Closer to the mountain, closer to the classroom, where I finally get access today.

I stopped by Mabel’s grave after my run, to say hi, and to ask her blessing on my work here.  Taos always tests, and I always walk humbly here.

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Looking forward to being nearer the mountain in the coming days.  This morning she was shrouded in mists and mystery.  I feel a bit that way myself.

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As I ran the lanes and paths and roads I’m so fond of here, I pondered the teachers I have had in the past, in art, music and life in general.  My hope is to channel their love and enthusiasm into my own work this week.

I also welcome any hidden folk along the way who’d like to be helpful…

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Settling in…

IMG_0092After a long day of travel, peppered with delays, cancelations and many, many hours of knitting, snoozing and sketching, I found myself at long last, arrived in theLand of Enchantment.  Ginger Small was as annoyed with the delay as I was at the way our day of travel had gone…

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…and for the second leg of the journey, opted rather for a hot air balloon ride.

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Last I heard, she may have tracked down her cliff dwelling friends further down the mountain, but that is a tale for another post.

Meanwhile, I arrived, very much alone.  I was greeted by moody skies, a darkening landscape and storms.

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It was all quite lovely really and I just got into my little car and drove, intent to make the most of the last of daylight, intent to eventually arrive in Taos.

Thunderbirds guided me up the mountain.

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After a day off to soak at the hot spring and nap and visit, yesterday finally found me truly landed and ready to get to work.  There are many supply gathering sort of errands to be handled, and meetings with the team of folks here in town and at Mabel’s who make this workshop possible.  But I did take a couple of hours yesterday to hike a well loved desert path.

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I met many new friends, who were in full plummage due to recent rains.

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IMG_5028I was able to sit for a few minutes with my sketchbook and do a quick rendering of a bit of the Rio Grande Gorge before I had to head back up the path to get back to town.  It was wonderful to sit in the quiet and witness Raven riding the thermals, and to feel the sun on my shoulders, and the breeze on my cheek.  The noise of town and traffic well behind me.   I need more open space in this life.

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It feels so precious to be back in this strange land, so very different than my own homeland.  By experiencing, exploring and cataloging new landscapes, we are surely discovering and perhaps even altering our own inner landscapes.  Every visit here reminds me I have much to glean here.  From myself, and from the land.IMG_5025

 

The trip has only just begun, and there are already so many tales to tell and drawings to be made.  I am grateful for this quirky place and it’s rugged landscape and beautiful people who are fortunate enough to live here full time.

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