Category Archives: travel

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.

 

 

 

Passage

 

We are returned to Ohio.  Our journey to Ireland, at an end for the time being,  we sift through laundry, piles of post, lists of things we ought to be doing to return us to “real life” and “normality”.  Yet, these notions are unreal in themselves, for every journey changes us, and this one especially.  I will write of a lovely day spent by the sea admiring the magic of moving water and sky, and of meeting musical legends large and small along the way.  I will even write of the enchanting spell the west of County Kerry might cast.  For there is so much more to tell you…..

Eventually.

But for now, we are on the cusp of Samhain and the veil between life and death is thin.  Especially for our family.  You see, while we were away in Ireland, my mother-in-law passed away peacefully.  My husband had arrived with news that hospice services had been engaged for her and that her time was nigh, though no one knew just how long she might linger with us.  In the long run it was all sooner than we had expected, but isn’t that the way of things?  We are never ready, even if we have prepared for an age.  He had just seen her days before leaving to meet me, and I had visited her just days before leaving for Ireland myself a few weeks prior.  I am glad I made the time.

We were now so far from home, and there was some flurried discussion of shifting flight plans and making our way back to Ohio sooner than later.  We opted out of this change and chose to sit with all of it for our few remaining days of travel in Ireland.

Ireland is a place of great depth.  Depth in the beauty of its landscape.  Depth of history and story.  It is actually a rather appropriate place to consider the loss of a loved one.

One can’t move in Ireland for the archeological treasures to be found dotting the landscape.  We visited many in the coming days.  Newgrange being the first.  It is a “passage tomb”, thought to be a place of ritual and ceremony.

It contained the remains of ancient ones, known now only to the mists of time before written history.

Ancient people built these great structures to be in tune with the heavens.  They were at one with the seasons and the turning of the wheel of the year.  Newgrange is known for bringing the sun into the deepest part of the inner sanctum of the tomb at the winter solstice.  One can only imagine the level of engineering prowess this must have taken.

Their care in collection of materials from around the country, and the artful manipulation of stones and designs must have taken them generations.

Amidst the day to day tending to the feeding and sheltering of themselves, these people still took the time and effort to create these tombs honoring the passage of loved ones to another realm.  Death was important to them.

It is said that the Celtic peoples of old had great esteem for the concept of death as an inherent part of life.  That they honored this concept in how they thought about the cycles of the year, and their own place in it as mortal beings.

It is said that while the Celtic people of the ancient times must have certainly grieved the loss of their loved ones when they passed away,  for they were only human after all, it was all understood to be The Way Of Things.  The many passage tombs we were to encounter in subsequent days honors this idea and I found it all strangely comforting.

There is something about this time of year that offers us a chance to consider our own place in The Way Of Things and to remind us that we are only here but a short while in the vast depths of time.

 

It is crucial that we make the best of our time here.  To strive to be the best incarnation of spirit we can be, to offer that back to whatever great power put us here in the first place.  We cannot know the intentions of the cosmos.

Knowth, in the same general vicinity as Newgrange, was the next stop on the day we learned of Tony’s mom’s death.  Our eyes danced with dizziness at the spirals spied on so much stone and at the great vastness of scale the many passage tombs provided.

Stones were to be a constant theme in the days to come as we traversed the country and took in all we could in the days we had left.  I put the work of writing and painting aside and simply experienced it all with Tony, which felt like the right thing to do.

We left the east part of Ireland to head west toward the Burren, a place I was keen to see this time around.

It is a magical moonscape of sorts.  Many of the roads are mere cow tracks or bóthairín and I found myself holding my breath as we occasionally met another car traveling in the opposite direction.  We made our way to Poulnabrone Dolmen which is considered a “portal tomb”, which was also a means of honoring the dead.  The murky, misty weather intensified the mysterious feel of the place and we fell in love with it all immediately.  It was in keeping with the depth of how we felt about everything going on and seemed to be an appropriate way to spend some of our time in Ireland, considering the circumstances.

Barren though it all seemed at surface level, there was life everywhere in the cracks and crevices of stone.

On route to the Cliffs of Moher on this day, we spied the ruins of an old church.  Less ancient than the pre-historic sites we’d been visiting.  We parked for a look at the place.  It was no less enchanting for its relative modernity.

Once again we were struck with the connectivity of life to death in this place.  Graves upon graves, old and new, just next to a place where cows graze and birds flit about.  There is a peace to it all.

Later that evening we spent an enjoyable and delicious meal with dear friends in Ennis.  I read stories to the kids while the grown ups shared wine and cooked.  There was fresh baked bread which was divine.  There was time to laugh and converse and sing a bit together.  It was ultimately quite healing.

There is so much more to tell of our brief time together in Ireland, and I will weave that part of the tale into this broader story on another day.  I will tell of how we left Ennis far too quickly to catch the ferry back once more to my beloved County Kerry, and how we dodged raindrops to play amidst sea and sky along the Dingle peninsula where we could.  And how we eventually made our way back east once more again to fly home.

Once more through the mists….

And here we are, on a gray, autumnal Ohio day.  Sifting through old photos of Patricia Lynn Musick.  Pat is someone who had the strength of stone and steel in her very bones.  She raised my Tony and his brothers on her own with nerve that saw her through many trials in her lifetime.  By the time I came to the family, she had found her first love from teen years and had married him and cared for him through his life time of health problems.  She used to be a beautician and so would perm my hair for me when it was fashionable at the time, but way out of my budget.  She was fierce, whether playing cards or caring for her home or working the many jobs she held to keep things together.  She was proud and had a sarcastic sense of humor.  She loved her grandkids and they loved her.  We now have her last dog, Charlie, who needed a bit more care than Pat could give her as her own health further declined.  We took her often for visits which I think Pat appreciated.

I dedicate this post to the mother of my beloved.

Pat, go bhféadfainn Dia do bhealach a lasadh.  May God light your way.

Always quick to strike a pose for the camera.
Pat visited in Maine multiple times and loved visiting the seaside.


 

 

 

 

 

Bog Silence

Did you know, my middle name is Heather?

Today my Kerry companions and I head north on a little road trip to Ennis in Co. Clare, endlessly chasing the music.  There is a gig to attend by a friend who makes this music professionally and a session in the works up the road after the concert.  And so, this day will be a traveling day.

I know I am not painting “enough” in recent days but writing feels like the art this week.  Gathering imagery and words.  Following the threads of inspiration.  This is “enough”.  Whatever that means.

As I left this space in my last post, I was off to don wellies and wander up the road with my hosts here to visit a bit of bog land that has been a part of their family and culture for generations.   The bog road goes well off the Ballybunion road and so traffic, if any, is light, and consists of other walkers and wanderers seeking a bit of quiet time in Nature.

We dodge raindrops and keep an eye on the horizon for rainbows.  Of course there are rainbows.

The bog is quiet with only the sound of the breeze, the rain falling, bird song and a an occasional gentle mooing of a far off cow.

Bogs are natural wonderlands, filled with all kinds of flora and fauna for those with eyes to see.  Ferns and heather, native grasses and mosses.  It is a lovely place to behold.

The silence of the bog is infectious and exactly what I have been craving.  I find it interesting that this segment of Brain Pickings is about silence and it comes across my digital path this morning as I build a little blog post before hitting the winding road to Clare.

Turf is cut from the bog and stacked to dry for use. This is called “footing the turf” and the structures are like sculptures.

This bog is a working bog and local folks have utilized the turf to heat their homes and light their hearths for years.  This is all now up for discussion nowadays as bog turf holds a great deal of carbon.  My companions are gentle stewards of this patch of bog as well as of the land which holds their cottage and grows much of their food.  They know this place well and appreciate its limitations.   I for one hope that a least a bit of turf can be burned here and there in future as the smell is divine.

After the bog walk, we return to the cottage for a cup of tea and a game of fetch with Pancake, a lovely pup indeed.

I am treated to a bite to eat and evening descends upon us.  Tea turns to wine, conversation turns to tunes, just myself and Michael – flute and accordion – and I hear slides and marches which are new to my ears.  They are local to this place and I wish for them to be collected and played back home, to celebrate this beautiful quiet patch of Kerry.  Mike and I talk about how the old tunes are really the best tunes.  Flash and musical prowess are lovely to behold, but there is something so rich and lovely about a few solid tunes in the kitchen with a local farmer.  I am blessed beyond belief.

Later I return home, my head fairly swimming with music (*finally!*) and I am reminded of the date.  It is the anniversary of the death of one of my best and most influential friends of this life time – Mia.  If she could see where life has taken me, she would beam, I am sure.  When she was ever so ill, I had just begun on the whistle – awkward and shy about it.  But she insisted I play what I knew for her and so I did.  She laughed and clapped in delight and told me never to stop playing.  I haven’t.  I miss Mia on a regular basis and think that perhaps the magic of this special day, from pre-dawn beach time, to a bog-walk under a watery sun and into the evening with new tunes and dear friends may have just been a blessing from the beyond.  I am deeply grateful.

 

A ballybunion morning

Ballybunion is a bustling seaside town in the summer, but it quiets down quite a bit in the ‘off season’, as many of the best places do.  There is a sweet sign in the park which overlooks the ocean, reminding us not to take ourselves so seriously, something time spent at the beach can often do.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round, or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight, or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly, when you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day, it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower, hear the music before the song is over.

David L. Weatherford

There is nothing like the sea and time spent near it to calm the inner storms and frustrations which plague.  Yesterday my companions and I drove out to Ballybunion and braved a bit of rain and wind to take in the fresh sea air.  We were not disappointed.

 

After a lovely, misty wander up and down the beach, we walked back up to the village and warmed up by the fire with Guinness and Wine for some, tea for me.  I am quite proud that I can drive here in Ireland and have thus far done fairly well.

This morning I opted to steal away before dawn for a few more source photos and merely more time by the sea.  If I lived just 10 km down the road from this place, might be found there almost daily.

It rained nearly all the way from Listowel to Ballybunion but the clouds did eventually part and I was treated to a magnificent morning indeed.

As I walked and took pictures, I swept the beach for bits of plastic I might be able to pick up.  There was more than I’d hoped for, but all in all it is such a clean beach.  Still, we must do better.

There is such a sense of history layered upon history here in Ireland and there is no escaping it.  There is the Renaissance era Ballybunion castle ruins which are so iconic, and the old escape hatches sometimes found niched into the cliffs that some say may have predated the castle and began in the Iron Age as food storage cellars.  It’s fascinating!  And I realize, we are only temporary.

Nature will, eventually, take everything back.

There shall be more here, but for now I must find my woolen socks and ready my camera as I am due to be picked up for a visit to the bog with our hosts here in Listowel.  Taking in all I can, while I can.

ps, I am told that the way the woman in this video lives is very much like how my friends here grew up in the very cottage we stay in now, which has been updated with a few modern amenities…..

 

 

 

 

Practice

Yesterday was a day of travel.  My Buddhist friends say, about most everything, something to the effect of “and herein lies the practice.”  This is what I was saying to myself as I drove the Irish countryside, at once familiar and not so.   Though fraught with white knuckled nerves, my journey was uneventful – in spite of monsoon styled rains.  (It was overly rainy, even for Ireland!)  But I managed with the driving, getting used to being the pilot of a strangely-sided vehicle.  I must admit that being fully and constantly present in the moment is actually really exhausting when one actually does it for real.

We go through our lives on auto-pilot so much of the time.  There is nothing quite like driving in Ireland to remind me thus.

This morning, there is peat in the air.  I slept soundly and solidly for the first time since arriving and this has given me renewed purpose.  There may be a visit to the beach today.  Music has been elusive so I will just play on my own perhaps.  One cannot push the plan.   I hope to get the paints out as well, though I am disappointed with the medium I ordered to use as its drying time is a good deal longer than what I use at home.

It can take a few days to feel truly landed in a place.  I am not sure I have quite yet arrived, but I am close.

City Day

Today it rains and rains here in Blackrock, as Ireland is famous for doing, and I am grateful that yesterday was the day for touring.  My dear friend Simone had a work related function in Dublin and so we took the bus into town where we lunched then parted ways for the afternoon – she to her work life, and myself to take in some iconic touristy destinations.

Along my way I spy a couple of fevered protests.  The first is in front of the famed General Post Office where the Easter Rising was centered back in 1916.  Political protests have often happened at this site since that time, as it feels symbolic to the notion that perhaps change is possible.  This current protest is by Kurds  who find themselves here in Ireland.  Their speeches are fraught with desperation regarding the atrocities occurring in their homeland just now and as an American, I am deeply ashamed of the recent decisions by our current “leadership”.

Further down the street, Extinction Rebellion is also holding a peaceful protest near the bridge over the Liffey River.  If you haven’t heard of the Extinction Rebellion movement, you will.  They too are desperate with their message, which is about the fact that we are running out of time before climate change wreaks a havoc we cannot stem.

And it’s interesting to me to listen to the talk of my fellow tourists on the street about their opinions regarding this “movement”.  About how the folks participating in these events aren’t doing enough personally to make their message valid.  That they might only be doing this for “attention”.  Well, this is exactly what the powers that be want us to think.  To so wrap us up in the guilt surrounding our own daily lives that we lash out at those trying to cause some systemic shifts in large level corporate and governmental practice.  I think about how I flew in an airplane to get here to Ireland, and that I will fly some more in the coming months to do the work I do, and I do feel some guilt.  But I also know I am doing what I can, where I can.  Small shifts.  I’m opting out of consumerism where I can, shopping only second hand for most things.  That sort of thing.  But at the end of the day, I live in a system that is largely out of my control, and Big Change will only occur on a large scale.  Extinction Rebellion aims to force that change.  I say good on em.

Eventually, I make my way to Trinity College, Dublin.  The place is thronged with more and more tourists like myself.  But it is beautiful regardless.

There is a wedding happening in the midst of the collegiate and tourist atmosphere which is lovely.

Ivy grows on on walls old and new.

I make my way to the Trinity Library where the Book of Kells is housed.

Over the course of the next hour I read about this ancient tome and how it found its way from the monks of olden times to its climate controlled home at Trinity.  It is remarkable it survived.

It is almost too much to take in in such a short visit but I find the imagery to be evocative and inspiring.  The work of these monks inspired an old artist friend of mine, Cindy Matyi to make her Celtic inspired works and much of what I see at the library brings her to mind.

Eventually we leave the Book of Kells display and make our way up to the Long Room of the library at Trinity.

Even with the crowds, the Long Room is breathtaking and I wander and take photos as best I can.  I can only imagine what this place is like when the masses are gone and a real and genuine quiet descends once more.  Surely the ghosts of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker stop in now and again?

With another hour left in my solitary time, I head back toward the General Post Office to take their tour on the Easter Rising.  I think about what those rebels risked for what they believed in.  And how they eventually gave their lives.  I can’t help but think that some people may have thought they were crazy for doing what they did at the time (much like some think currently about Extinction Rebellion), and yet most scholars agree that it was the Easter Rising which set the course for the eventual forming of the Irish Republic.

This is all history that I barely know the surface of, but I am grateful for the stories told which get my mind buzzing and contemplating the state of our world now.  Countries still fighting over lands in other places of the world.  Border tensions even here in Ireland are set to have some potential issues with a hard brexit on the horizon.  The Troubles are never far from anyone’s mind here.  Peace and prosperity are tenuous at best.  We would all do best to remember that.

Our bus ride home is a rainy one.  We snooze a bit and chat about the day quietly.

I’ll admit to being rather exhausted after a day in town.  Today has been busy getting a few things sorted before I hit the road tomorrow to the West.  I’ll be hiring a car and driving it which I have not done this side of the Pond in a good many years.  But with a little parking lot practice today to jog the memory, I think I’ll be just fine.

The rain has finally stopped and so I am writing a bit here before we go gather dinner ingredients.  There is time for a walk to the sea for some fresh air.

Tomorrow travels resume.  I shall be in touch when and where I can, as my tech set up will get a bit wilder from here.  It is a delicate balance between soaking the travel experience in personally, catching up and spending time with loved ones, crafting material for this blog, all while attempting to make art and music along the way.

But I am keen to try to do it all.

ps. Here is the Brian Boru Harp, also housed in the Long Room at the library.  It is a thing of beauty….

Away from my desk

Miraculously, I make it through a full day yesterday with only the one quick nap, crashing to bed around 10 pm local time. (After a delicious dinner of curry and catching up with Ireland based dear ones, of course.)  Traveling eastwards across the Atlantic on a redeye flight wreaks havoc on one’s inner equilibrium with regard to time and so powering through this day is important.  The journey was uneventful, if not a bit bumpy and I am grateful for a safe arrival and a lift here to the village from the airport in Dublin.

Today is a brand new day and I manage to roust myself out of bed while it’s still morning.  The village of Blackrock in Co. Louth is seaside charm personified.  We walk for a cup of coffee at a place called Rocksalt, where the latte is artful divinity.   Out the window to the alleyway, we watch workers come and go, to and fro and admire an old Renault parked there.  I think I might like an old car such as this, if I lived in a place such as this….

Though the cafe is crowded with freelance workers as well as those there for breakfast and conversation, it is still quite subdued and quiet.  This is something I have noticed on other visits to this country, things are more quiet here.  I can hear myself think which is really nice.

After coffee we step outside for the wander home and I take a quick snapshot and a few seconds of video to show you how very lovely it is here. (note to self on video with phone in future –  turn the damned thing to the side!)

We have been greeted with a gorgeous day, complete with a bit of sunshine and a lovely cool breeze.  I am not sure what the rest of the day will bring my way.  For now, I am enjoying just settling in.  Listening to the quiet of this workaday seaside village, hearing the quiet of my own thinking which is a welcome change.

It is my hope in the coming weeks to keep in touch with you all on the blog here, with photos and updates.  I did, after all the hemming and hawing, opt to bring a few oil paints as well as my usual sketching supplies, so perhaps I’ll have something to show in that department as well.

Til then…..

ps, 2 months into this decade we call ‘the fifties’, and I am really liking it thus far.

San – G

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” 

~Irish saying that translates literally as “People live in each other’s shadows.”  (via @nualamusic)

Today is the 30th of September, and the facet of my heart that shines brightest in New Mexico sunlight beats in time with those of my soul family there as they celebrate the Feast of San Geronimo.

This celebration is sacred to my friends, and we don’t talk much about the meaning of it all.  Rather we bask in the company of one another, we celebrate a successful harvest with food and community and we encourage the Lady of the Mountain to don the golden colors of autumn.

There is talk of Shadows when the Koshares appear to wreak a bit of havoc, which adds to the festival atmosphere.

It is a day to sit in communion with the land and the mountains and the folks who live on and with it.  Today I send a lot of love out into the cosmos, especially to my beloved Land of Enchantment.

And just like that

SOLD!!!!!!!!

At the beginning of this month, I alerted a few eager early birds that I was about to embark on registration for the Taos 2020 Travel Sketch class at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s.  Then just last week I opened up registration to anyone interested.  After a flurry-filled week of inquiries and emails, text messages and notes back and forth with old and new participants alike, I am pleased to say, the workshop is sold out!!  This is the earliest this phenomenon has ever occurred and I am thrilled.  Thrilled that this work speaks to so many, thrilled to be heading back to Taos next summer with a full roster of fellow artists – both seasoned and newly learning their craft.

I am simply over the moon!!

This sketchbook volume is about to come to an end. It’s been widely traveled and greatly loved.

June 2020 is in some ways, quite far off, but it comes around faster than one might expect and I’ll be ready with exciting new things to try in our sketchbooks by then.  I am already looking forward.  If you missed the call for this workshop, you still have some options.  First, reach out to me and get on the waiting list.  Plans can sometimes change for people unexpectedly which occasionally might open up a slot for someone else.  I am contemplating adding a slot or two extra but need to contemplate this and talk it over with my trusted advisors and the team at Mabel’s.  Those on the wait list would be the first to know if anything opens up for any reason.

Mabel welcomes you!!

You can also join me in Guatemala in early spring.  Details on dates and costs can be found here.  I have limited space in each of the two weeks being offered there and I believe it is only a matter of time before this trip too is sold out.  Antigua, Guatemala is a gorgeous, quite cosmopolitan city which carries color and beauty and an ancient magic all its own.  It is the perfect way to warm up during the depths of winter!  So consider this option perhaps.

Other teaching outings are in the works for California next spring, generally the Bay Area and environs, so if you are local to there, reach out to me and I’ll put you on that mailing list.  Right now we are looking at the first weekend in May and possibly some other dates around that time and in that general vicinity to make it that much more worth a trip to the Left Coast.

And so now, I get back to the making of things.   Back to tending the craft that allows me to teach these workshops in the first place.  I can smell an autumnal journey on the winds about which I am very excited.  I’ll be sure and write from the road.

This little guy was created for the Gulf Coast Cruinniú, a musical weekend in Houston full of workshops and performances which should be a lot of fun for all!

As always, consider getting on the mailing list to get all of the latest news from here.  Social media can be a lot of fun but those pesky algorithms do keep us hustling to get the work into the world.

Till next time…..

 

 

A Word for Feeling

“It is the morning after the night before.”     ~Ciaran Carson (Last Night’s Fun)

I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast.  This is not a bad thing.  As I choose pie over cake any day.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With.  On paper I turned 50.  But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really.  Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere.  From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses.  They might give anything to be here.

Art by Christina Wald

“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood!  Time for an adventure.  Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)

Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….

“Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)

One of my oldest and dearest. While I find adventures at the end of a paint brush; she heads down the path of a Good Book. We all do what feeds us on vacation.

We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play.   I for one simply can never get enough of the sea.  In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible.  I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature.  I long to come home to that each visit.  These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?

photo credit Imran Nuri

“Swimming, One Day In August

It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”

~Mary Oliver  via @shippenverse on IG

photo credit: Imran Nuri

“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.”  And so it is.

“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”

~Anne Frank  via @annefrankcenter

Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile.  I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views.  But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events.  I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing  (even online) speaks volumes.  Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).

It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote.   “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”,  I was asked.

Yes, this is different.  No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking.  Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time.  The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.

It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance.  The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it.  The world is left wondering what the hell is going on.  I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand.  I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government.  At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another.  Not at the border, not at protest rallies.

And so where to from here?

So many stars, so little time (click here for the sound track to the writing of this post)

On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world.  Perhaps I have some wisdom after all.  I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world.  These will continue to be my focus and my center.  But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others.  I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world.  It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning.  The world needs more of us.

Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested.  I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first.  So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were.  I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination.  I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm.  Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough.  In other words I am tougher than I might seem.

Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space.  Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.

“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.”  ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)

And yet……..

There is love above all.  And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to.  The day might be long, the news might be dire.  But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”

–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran

(via the lovely work of Karla Sanders)

For me, to do my work, is to love the world.  Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life.  For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.

“You don’t have to move mountains.  Simply fall in love with life.  Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance.  You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”

~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book.  Her words make a world.)

So back again, to the breath and the work.  I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……

“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”

~John Constable, 1821

For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you.  To you quiet new ones, welcome.  It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing.  (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)

Happy birthday to me.  Here’s to many more years.

ps, the art work I share here is often for sale.  Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange.  I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.