Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Youthful Imagination

A number of years back, one of my dearest friends discovered a little light growing inside of her, someone we all were excited to meet.  Someone who at the time we called Orby –  for he embodied that ‘little orb of light’ that we,  especially his delighted parents, could feel among us as a presence already.   There were not only adults awaiting Orby’s arrival here in this world, but a number of young kids, who adored the parents-to-be and wanted to create something special to welcome their new little friend to this wild earthly existence.

So, as one does, we gathered everyone’s ideas.  We knew that monsters can be the bane of a young person’s existence, at least at first. This group of youngsters wanted Orby to feel safe and loved and to know that not all strange creatures were out to get ya.

As the artist in this particular community, I collected the children’s ideas of monsters in the form of drawings from them.  Some of the kids were older, some mere toddlers, so the monsters ranged in complexity.  But they all told a story, and they all had heart.

Some were bagpipes, which had been feared, but without reason.

Others, haunted the high hill tops and deep valleys of far-flung mountainous terrains.

And still others could be found deep at sea, or perhaps outer space.  Teaching us of worlds away from our own.  For what else are monsters for, if not to inform us of the unknown; worlds outside of our own imaginings?

Orby was born, given an earthly name of Elliot, which suits him beautifully.  And soon, he was drawing his own early doodles, as was his young sister Alice Willow just a few years later.

Their beautiful, crafty mama translated a number of their early drawings into little embroidered keepsakes to keep on the wall in their home and they are lovely in their sweetness and simplicity.

I asked her to snap these lovelies, as well as to take some updated snapshots of the Orby quilted flora and fauna in support of an up and coming embroidery class to be held again at my favorite fibery haunt these days, Fibergé.

The drawings of children are so telling – of what they are feeling, seeing, experiencing beyond the bounds of language which eludes the most adult among us, yes?  With most kids, if we are paying attention as parents or teachers or aunties or care-givers, there is that first magical drawing which actually has a name.  The one in which the child says, “that is the moon.”  or “that, is a pig.” or “that is a feather.” for the very first time.  These are magical moments when the drawn image is tied to an idea.  And if you are an educator or merely a parent fascinated by the stages of youthful development, you know the importance of this jump between what happens inside a young mind, and how that young mind ties it to the outside world through a drawing.

I was in Fibergé the other day picking up a new skirt I commissioned from her collection of AMAZING fabrics (more on that soon hopefully on the blog!!) and we were talking of what might make a nice theme for our next embroidery-class partnership.  I love teaching there and was keen to do so again.  We got to talking about Mother’s Day and how fun it might be to do something along those lines and we came up with the idea to follow the lead of the kids, much as I had done with the Orby quilt years ago.

As a busy working mama running her own business, Lysha of Fibergé-fame has amazing kids who take it in stride to spend time doodling or playing when mama is with a customer or a vendor.  And Lysha pays attention to the evidence of these times with the love only a working mama or papa can have.

I kidnapped a few of these sweet drawings (with permission, of course!) to interpret into samples for the upcoming class this May 6th.

I had a ball and they came together beautifully!

If you are local to the Cincinnati area, do consider joining us for this upcoming class.  Beginners are welcome as we will be covering the basics, of course.  As you can see by Kristin’s sweet hoops above, simple can be absolutely stunning with a simple chain stitch!  But I can also fill you in on how I approached the rest of the monsters in Orby’s quilt and send you home with some ideas for such.

Or perhaps you just want to come in to create a gift for mama, or grandmama (Dad’s? Don’t think you can’t wield a needle?  Do check out the work of Mr. Finch!).  Either way, consider joining us for a workshop at Fibergé on May 6.

I look forward to seeing you there!  In the meantime, stay tuned to this space.  travel season is beginning…….

 

Resist

Been hard to concentrate round here, what with ‘political whiplash’ as one friend put it.  But drawings get done in between staying informed and active.  Our friends in Hamstertown are ready to welcome new friends from away who have traveled far and long and have worked so hard to make the journey to a new life.

Meanwhile, this tweet gave me a chuckle, and is quite how I feel about working just now.  But I work anyway.

What comes next?

As I have mentioned, little snippets of Hamilton just seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to recent political events here in this divided country of  ours.

“…You were mine to subdue
Well, even despite our estrangement, I’ve got
A small query for you:

What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead
?

You’re on your own
Awesome. Wow
Do you have a clue what happens now?

Oceans rise
Empires fall

It’s much harder when it’s all your call….”

Yesterday here in this fair Queen City of Cincinnati, Ohio, we marched.  I must remind my more conservative readers (if you are even still with me here) that this river town is not an ‘elite coastal city’ which some claim are the only places in which  marching and peaceful protesting are happening.  We are an average blue city amidst the VERY red state of Ohio.  And like many cities around the world we marched en masse in the thousands.  It was remarkable and emboldening.

And here is why we marched.

(if anyone knows the source of this meme, please let me know so I can link to it. And if you are unfamiliar with what this image is referring to,  here’s a brief start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images)

We marched because this election was so much more than Democracy gone awry for our ‘side’.  Shear human decency was pulled through the proverbial ringer this past election season and we did not come out of it the better for our efforts.  Many were shocked.  But some of us saw it coming down the pike.  And now here we are.

It’s important to have water to drink at a march because it can go on for hours. This sticker was designed by my friend Kim Rae Taylor and you can get yours in t-shirt form here
From the Scottish TV pages. Sometimes the very best commentary comes from across the pond!

We are, it would seem, in a very strange ‘interactive virtual reality project’.  And so we marched.  On the shoulders of giants.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

– Maya Angelou

Protesters crafted clever signage to carry along the route.

Saw this version on Twitter, but many like it here in our own march
This sign was posted on Brene Brown’s Instagram feed and as a card carrying introvert who loathes crowd energy, I for one couldn’t agree more.
My step-mama Sue, an activist and extremely politically engaged at all times, is an inspiration to follow.
This amazing design has been doing the rounds and I saw it on a number of protest signs.  Far as I know, this is the source… http://ladieswhodesign.com/
I sincerely hope JK Rowling knows she has inspired a new generation of activists. Harry Potter is so relevant. It makes my heart happy.
And the other side of the Harry Potter inspired protest swag.
Even the little’s had something to say. The other side of this sign had this child’s scribbles in marker. Her parents translated her scribbles for all to read and understand.
My friend Julie Persons got Claudia involved too.  Will you look at that tiny hat!?  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/adventuresofclaudia

This day was billed as a day for ‘Women’s Marches’ all around the world.  But, as the protesters did chant, “Women’s rights are human rights.”  The day was more than just for or about women.  We were protesting everything the Trump administration stands for.  Black Lives Matter activists were present and marching in solidarity, as were those standing up for the rights of Muslims here in our community, and the rights of those with disabilities.  Those who are worried for the future of public education under the person nominated for Education Secretary were there as well with their concerns and signs. Entire families were present.  My own included three generations.  There were tiny babies and the elderly in wheel chairs or with canes.  We all helped each other along the cobblestones of Over The Rhine.  It was beautiful.

“The thing about “snowflakes” is this: They are beautiful and unique, but in large numbers become an unstoppable avalanche that will bury you.”

~George Takei

We marched this day to build one another up for what will be four years of chipping away at the rights of many, in favor of lining the pockets of those already too rich for normal people to even conceive.

A t-shirt design I did awhile back for the beautiful song above by my dear friend Kim Taylor. (yes, another brilliantly talented friend called Kim Taylor.  I adore them both!)

Just last night I attended a musical birthday celebration and in the wings we whispered about the success of the marches around the world, while simultaneously lamenting the changes already affecting those most vulnerable in our community.  One friend, a physician, works with many immigrants and desperately poor folks on the fringe who are frightened to even show identification to their medical caregivers under this new administration.  Her office is mostly federally funded.  They may not even be present to give care if the promised cuts come along.  Another friend, recipient of an FHA loan to purchase her home was emailed that very day of an increase in her mortgage of $150 per month.  With a swish of a pen stroke, Trump signed away Obama’s 1/2% tax break, meaning many families will have to scramble just to pay for their homes now.  $150 is a ton of money for a working family.  But what would Mr. Trump know of such troubles as a billionaire, eh?  Sadly, many folks who voted him into office will get a similar email.  I wonder if they can make ends meet.

Which leads me to my original question.  What comes next? Marches are all well and good and definitely were a shot of desperately needed hope for many of us who lean toward the progressive end of the spectrum.  But they are not enough.  We have a lot of work to do.  I will not say that marches don’t make change.  I believe they do.  And so does Rebecca Solnit.  I recently read her book Hope in the Dark and in it she makes a case for the fact that even the smallest acts of protest can go on to have lives of their own and spark other action elsewhere which we may never witness.  Yesterday’s protests may possibly not yield the large benefits we all envision until generations from now, but we mustn’t sit back and wait and see.  There are things we can do here and now – ways we can ride this wave of rebellion.

There are concrete things we can do to stay engaged in this protest and not lose steam. More info here

Local government is where seeds of change begin to unfurl and grow and so we can begin there.  We must also stay on our national and state level representatives to remind them we are watching their every political move.  Post cards, phone calls.  Conversations with our neighbors.  We must continue to rise up as one voice in defense of the defenseless.

“Rise up
When you’re living on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he’s got to rise up
Tell your sister that she’s got to rise up.”

~Lin Manuel Miranda

And through all of this, we artists must continue to find balance amidst this chaos in order to tend to our own quiet work, equally as powerful in making change as all the political actions.  In recent days, two of my past Taos Workshop participants told me that taking my sketch journaling class had literally changed their lives.  I don’t share this here to brag or even to market the class, but rather to marvel.  To remind myself how important the work is.  To remind myself, and you dear readers, how crucial our individual voices are in this tumultuous time.  Even if they feel small or quiet.

“I also wanted to write to let you know, ( months after the fact) how your workshop in Taos last summer transformed my life. At the risk of sounding corny, it lifted me out of the cocoon that I had been hiding in for so long. After coming back from Taos, my sense of adventure and joy was restored. I’ve got to tell you how major this is especially for a girl who struggles with depression and anxiety. You are making a difference. You certainly made a difference in mine. Your workshop is so reinvigorating and life giving to the soul. Friends and family have even taken notice of how I’ve taken flight after the workshop. It fed the starving creative in me which is who I am in my deep core. Fast forward four months, I finally quit the job I hated and decided to go back to school full time to pursue my dream of becoming a web designer and user experience guru. Butterfly effect much?”

~2016 Taos class participant.  <3  quote used here with permission.

So go forth and doodle.  go forth and write your poems of love and rage.  go forth and run for local office.  go forth and get to know that Trump loving neighbor or family member, and if they are open to it, (and you can stomach it) engage them in conversation.  go forth and build this great nation (who is still, “young scrappy and hungry” compared to most of the rest of the world) with liberty and justice for all.  

With Gratitude. In spite of many things

An old poem caught my eye as I did a big studio clean in recent days.  Poets have a way of shaping words around the world as we must face it.  For this, and many other things, I am deeply grateful.  Happy Christmas to all of you.  May your new year be merry and bright.

With love,

Amy

Thanks

Listen

with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water thanking it

standing by the windows looking out

in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the door

and the beatings on the stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks we are saying thank you

in the faces of the officials and the rich

and of all who will never change

we go on saying thank you

with the animals dying around us

taking our feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minures

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

thank you we are saying and waving

dark though it is

W.S. MERWIN

 

recalibrating

Brew a cup of tea kids, this may be a long one.  But I hope my thoughts below get you thinking and shifting as I have recently……

Things have looked a lot like this in recent weeks.

And this….

As stated in my last post, I was blindsided by a virus which left me breathless and hacking for what has turned out to be weeks on end.  It hasn’t been pretty to say the least.  I’ve missed out on many if not most of the earlier festivities of the season, but I just couldn’t muster the energy to ready myself, let alone be social.  And of course, I didn’t want anyone else to capture the same condition.  It’s been miserable.

Getting sick is never a picnic, but when it lingers like in my situation, or worse, becomes a long-term or is some form of chronic condition, it can really mess with one’s psyche.  I am personally prone to delving down into darkness at times and I have at my disposal all sorts of tricks and tools which help me to stay where there is light.  

Sadly, in recent months, due to a variety of unrelated reasons, these tools found themselves unavailable to me.  And the tricks, haven’t been able to keep up.  This past summer I broke a toe over the course of my kayaking adventure up north.   While it was painful, I figured it would heal in time, which it has (sort of), but not without a months-long break from my go to meditative behavior, running.  Add to this the stress of the election season, both the leading up to it all and the drastic and dreaded results.  And finally, this chest cold, which has kept me away from music and my art work for weeks as well.  Running and music and the arts.  Quietude and peace.  These are my go to, stay sane approaches to life in this crazy world in which we live.

With these tools falling away, combined with hours alone and prone, I’ll admit to the last few weeks having been a dark season of sorts.   That said, through this darkness, some deep thinking has been happening.  A seismic shifting in a sense.  With the allowance for rest in order to welcome and conjure wellness has come a stillness and quietude I haven’t experienced in months, if not, if I am to be quite honest, perhaps years.  I’ve been thinking about everything and my small place in it.

With all of this thinking and pondering, the Universe seems to be responding with little tidbits to follow toward a new way of operating.  Breadcrumbs for my consideration, if you will.   I share a few of them here because I sense a change in things to come, at least here in my world.  And if you follow this world of mine, and the work that I do and share via various platforms, you may sense the change as well.

The message above is the most lovely auto-response to an email I have ever received and it came from photographer Morgan Wade whose words so inspired me in a recent blog post.  Something about it spoke to my very soul.  I forwarded it to my husband, who is a sounding board for for me in all things business and asked how I could get to this point in my own work.  He replied, ‘well, you just set up an auto-response for your own email.’  Simple.  Except, it’s not simple, because I think what I was really asking was, ‘how do I get to a place in my life where I am so seldom checking in online that I might require such a lovely auto-response?’.

This was the crux of the matter.  I am desiring, nay desperate for, a break from the online world. As I lay ill, I didn’t have the inclination nor the desire to get online.  At.  All.  With my interweb activity falling away, my overall generalized anxiety seemed to let up a bit as well. (since about october or so, it had been through the roof!!)  This easing of anxiety can be a danger zone sign as often it can signal the onset of a depression, at least for me.  All of this is a cycle I am aware of and look out for.  But honestly I think it has been a bit of both things.  I am depressed, I’ll admit it.  And I will look to medical treatment if the usual tools do not work as I gain my health and energy back.  I promise.  But I am also less anxious due to not being online.  So here come the next few breadcrumbs….

I was on route to a proper doctor a couple of weeks ago and heard Diane Rehm talking about the digital world vs. the analog world.  It was a great show and got me further thinking about how pervasive the digital world has become, in spite of the fact that we are still physical beings living in an analog world.

Shortly after hearing that show, I came across this article in the New York Times about the somewhat rebellious notion of quitting social media.  I found this to be such a tempting and interesting idea that I went to the library and got the book by the author of the article and promptly devoured it.

The book itself is geared to business professionals, more specifically those in the realm of ‘knowledge worker’.  But I found much of what the author, Cal Newport, has to say applicable to anyone looking to dig a bit deeper into their own work.  (ps, my word for 2017 just happens to be “clarity”.  Like I said, I feel like the Universe has been sending me signs.)

Frankly, there is a part of me that is tempted to do as he suggests and quit social media completely even beyond the break I have been on since being sick.  I was discussing with my dear friend in Vermont about how our lives have changed in the years since these sites and technology have seemingly taken over.  We were rehashing how fake news essentially put Donald Trump into the White House.  She made a wonderful point; ‘if someone had said, 5-7 years ago, “Would you sign up for a technology that would fragment your attention, cause you mass amounts of generalized anxiety and use the notion of ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ to help you decide whether your current work is valid or worthy?”‘  Of course, the answer would be no!  Yet, this is essentially what we have signed up for, it has just happened glacially, without our awareness of it and we are now in the quagmire of the fallout of it all.

Both my friend and I have backgrounds in behavior modification, myself in the field of special education, and she in Applied Behavior Analysis.  We know for a fact that intermittent positive rewards are the crux of cementing behavior in most people.  This is psych 101!! The rules governing this idea are what drive the pointed, personal logarithmic systems presented to us on sites like facebook, twitter, instagram and the like.

Yet, we, like millions, find ourselves here.  We are in this world where so much of our communication with others happens online.  We are sold the idea that these communications are a necessary way to work and live in the modern world.  Perhaps there is some small truth to that in many styles of work.  But perhaps now that we have become familiar with the tricks of the online companies who vie for our attention, we can become more mindful about how and why we use these online platforms.

This is my intention.

At about the same time as Newport’s book found its way to me, another arrived in the mail.  This one, a gift from a dear friend who has championed my work in many ways for years now and with whom I’ve shared many of the struggles of being a gentle-minded artist in an often cruel world.  

 

Even at my healthiest, it is difficult to face the realities of this world without being sad.  Images in the news, in spite of my respite from social media, have haunted me recently, as I am sure they have everyone.  But many answers can be found in this delightful little tome from two modern spiritual masters…..

“Despair can come from deep grief, but it can also be a defense against the risks of bitter disappointment and shattering heartbreak.  Resignation and cynicism are easier, more self-soothing postures that do not require the raw vulnerability and tragic risk of hope.  To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.”

The fact that this book has reached my heart and I can hear what it has to say, means I am possibly not as deep into the darkness as I may have feared.  Which is a welcome thought.  But I do continue to ponder things.  To wonder what is holding me back in my work.  What keeps me from doing the Deep Work that Cal Newport speaks of?

I feel like there has been a somewhat of an upshot to recent events, both universally and personally.  Perhaps this is me grasping at a silver lining, but I like to think I have hope.  I like to think that people are, for the most part good.  In spite of the fact that the news reports only the bad.

We have a man coming to power in this great country who has encouraged and emboldened bigotry and misogyny in his followers.  The upshot here is that Saturday Night Live is practically writing itself and in spite of how terrifying a world our president elect presents to us, we have a weekly opportunity to laugh.  Another upshot is that we have uncovered a lot of hatred and ignorance in our fellow countrymen. Perhaps we can heal a bit of that somehow.  I don’t know.

Again with regard to the election, I’ve heard my thoughts above about our collective relationship with the online world echoed by many people I know.  I think we are all recalibrating our idea of what it means to connect with others, professionally and personally, especially via the internet.  This has to be a good thing.  I have also seen a rise in activism in folks who used to stay more quiet about politics in order to keep the peace (myself included).  We are not staying silent any longer.  I believe this to be a good thing as well.   Even if it means getting into an occasional heated discussion.

The arrival of this dreaded chest cold virus, it’s timing in coming along with the holidays has given me pause; caused me to somehow hit an inner reset button.  I truly feel a sea change has been set in motion and I have the inkling of a plan in place to follow as I feel better each day.

We’ve had some new electric lines installed in the bedroom I now use as a studio.  This means I can safely plug in a space heater for these single digit temperature days (we live in a drafty old place) and multiple lighting sources, and perhaps a printer!  The space is a tangled mess just now due to the construction and to my own fragmented state leading up to all of this recent upheaval in general.  I see this all as a good thing as well.  A shaking up of the status quo.  I now realize I have been running on a sort of auto-pilot.  Playing a whack-a-mole game with my work that had me running after every little idea in toddler fashion.  No wonder I fell ill.  No wonder, that along with the wildly fascinating election cycle, I found myself unable to tear away from the online candy/junk-food in my day to day.  It seemed the only quiet place I had was my day job where I would dig into a book on tape or a podcast.  I am ready to find depth in my studio work once again.  Diving into my sketch journal work and illustration with renewed vigor.  With kids home for the holidays, there will be some reorganization of what little storage space we have so that I can streamline my workspace by removing what isn’t currently in use.   And with this renewed, more spare set of goals and supplies, perhaps some deeper work will get done.

Clarity.  It is, indeed, my chosen word for 2017.  I am grateful that some of this much needed clarity is befalling me already, before the arrival of the New Year even.  I have many times felt the need to back away from life online as the noise became too much.  But I have never felt such a deep desire to really come to some balance of power with it all in such a way as these recent weeks and months have caused.  As I read Deep Work especially, I came to realize that in the grand scheme of things, I am not too badly ingrained in life online and I am capable of balance, in spite of how badly I needed a break.  I do allow for boredom on a routine basis, I do forget where I put my phone.  I write real letters and go out weekly to play music with real friends.  My dear friend Penny and I come together about quarterly for a meal out somewhere to catch up and sample fine food together.  If the phones come out, it is merely to share a photograph.  We don’t “check in” online when we do this.

All of this being said, I do need the online world in the work I do.  And I have gotten a LOT of good from the majority of my efforts there.  I love crafting these blog posts and disseminating them on the various platforms.  I love sharing my work and ideas and snapshots into my working life, which is, after all quite personal.  I have made true friends via my online presence.  (I’m looking at you, Lee, Angie, CC!!)  But there needs to be a shift.  I still plan to check in now and again online and post here and there.  Likely more so on instagram vs. Twitter or Facebook.  (If you are on Instagram, you can find me at ‘abeefrnd’.)  If these platforms are how you catch the odd post, then consider signing up to subscribe to my blog posts here so you can be sure to see them.  And if you have comments, bring them here as well!  I’d like to consolidate a bit.  That’s all.  My plan is to spend less time jumping around looking for connections and responses.  I cannot chase an audience through online tools which may or may not be sharing my posts with ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ depending upon the logarithm du jour.

As you can probably tell with how wordy this particular post has become, these things have been floating around in my mind for a while now.  And they provide a rather complicated flotsam and jetsam of approaches and opinions dependent upon each person and how they want to live their lives.  I just know myself.  I am distractible to begin with and have allowed myself to fall prey to the tantalizing online distractibility many of us have over the last few years, and especially in recent months due to the election.  But now my eyes are open.  I have renewed commitment to a mindfulness in the place these distractions hold in my life.  I value my own work and sense of peace enough to direct what comes into my internal sphere and when.   I’ll read news when I choose to, not when I see ‘click-bait’.  I will reach out to friends when I think of them. (I do this already, but don’t be surprised if instead now it’s via a postcard or a phone call to go for a walk.)

I’d love your thoughts on all of this.  How do you mitigate the effects of the online world to you personally?  I’d love to know.  What tools and tricks do you use?

Many blessings to you my dear readers, wherever this missive may find you this holiday season.  I wish you light and joy and togetherness and peace into the New Year.

feeling prickly

turkey-soup

In recent days I was caught unawares with a little virus that has kicked my proverbial backside with a hacking cough and periodic fevers that leave me achey and miserable.  I am thankful to have the flexibility to be able to stay home and keep this all to myself, though this meant  missing one of my favorite annual events, the Riley School of Irish Music’s Peace and Merriment concert.  But miss it I did, as I’d not wish this cough on anyone.

I am fortunate to have a live in love who makes a really nice soup and who puts up with my rather prickly attitude as a patient.

feeling-prickly

I’m also thankful for friends who live away who call to check in on me and remind me of my worth as an artist and a human being.  (this discussion having nothing to do with feeling sick, but only magnified by such).  And so little by little, I get my breath back.  Hoping tea and books and rest (and maybe a spot of whisky) will see me playing music again soon.  And rocking a more positive attitude.

For today though, I just feel prickly.

While we’re together (A very Oberlin wedding – illustrated)

sometimes, photos aren’t enough to convey the richness of a magical time with those we love.  sometimes, we need the drawn interpretations of a journal entry or a few sonic scrapbook snippets as lenses through which to taste this fleeting magic…….

battleground

(push play…. just below. enjoy the harmony, and perhaps, a guffaw or two…)

gods-2

handmade-finery

promisestoasts-and-teajigs-and-reelsdancing

eventually, as many magic times do, festivities melted into songs over cups of tea, and a few more sips of celebratory libation by those who were on that path….  here are a few more tracks of songs sung, littered with the sounds of toasts being made, more laughter, and some scratchy sketching here and there just near the recording device.  Best wishes Alex and Rae.  You are loved.

 

7 (and new lessons available!)

“The number 7 is the seeker, the thinker, the searcher of Truth (notice the capital “T”). The 7 doesn’t take anything at face value — it is always trying to understand the underlying, hidden truths. The 7 knows that nothing is exactly as it seems and that reality is often hidden behind illusions.”   ~From ‘numerology.com’ a la google

I’ve spent this morning updating the website a bit with details for next summer’s Taos-based Travel Journaling Workshop. Although I am still tweaking the cost (no huge changes or increases here, just the structure of lodging options), the dates are set.  And I am now accepting registrations for what will be my 7th summer teaching at Mabel’s.  This is incredible!

What started out as an off the cuff notion in a long ago blog post, a mere whisper of my soul’s deepest longing, has become work I engage in all year long.   Two weeks spent in what has become one of my soul’s dearest home-places (Taos, New Mexico) takes all year to prepare for; gathering registrants, marketing, planning travel, etc.  These past 6 years in which the workshop has grown, been shaped, changed and evolved, I have had my head somewhat down in full-speed-ahead mode as each year sped toward summer.  I was so terrified that if I looked up and considered things properly for even a moment, it might all burst and have been a dream-state all along.

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But next year’s workshop will be my 7th and this feels like terra firma.  While I never approach a trip to Taos Mountain with anything but humility and reverence, and I know nothing lasts forever, I have a sense of calm about things this season as I begin the work for next year.   I am deeply grateful for this change.

While I am not sure exactly why this next year already feels different, I have some ideas.  Much of my work has felt a seismic shift in the last year or so, mostly due to a workshop I took in Maine last September.  It is as if the painter in me broke out into the open and, while not without a little resistance here and there, she has managed to stay in the light and to keep painting.  This painting practice has made me a better teacher, which has given me more confidence, both as painter and as teacher.  A nourishing spiral indeed.

For a number of years, I taught sketch classes here in town and those morphed into what is now the Taos workshop.  Since that time, I have considered, and then ultimately declined a number of opportunities to teach in a classroom setting locally.  I loathe to turn down work, but I have come to find that I am best at teaching in a setting that has something of beauty to behold.  And so, while I have once again this fall, turned down teaching gigs from good people at good places, I have decided not to shut down local teaching completely.  I simply want to do it on my terms.

photo by Tom Spatig of Bat Cave Studios
photo by Tom Spatig of Bat Cave Studios

So, for those of you in the SW Ohio region who have been interested in working with me as a teacher, but have been unable to commit to the Taos workshop, I am offering small group and individual tutoring in basic sketching skills.  I’ll help you put together your supplies and then we can meet at fun, local sketching sites, which vary depending upon weather and what you’d like to learn, and go from there.

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Drawing and basic watercoloring are such a fun way to experience the world and a couple of sessions with me will get you on your way! Email me (abeefrnd@gmail.com) directly for more information on pricing.  I can work with you individually, or perhaps you and a friend or two might like to start your sketching adventure together!

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I hope to hear from a few of you locals who have been hounding me (in the sweetest way possible!) to offer some instruction options here in town.  These individualized sessions feel like the perfect answer to this call!

Thanks again to all who have been following and supporting this artful journey of mine over the years.  I am truly grateful.

“To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extra-ordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, and the finite as infinite. ”  ~Novalis

A very splendid day

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“We are as gods to beasts of the field. We order their birth and the time of their death. Between times, we have a duty.”    

~Terry Pratchett (via Granny Aching) The Wee, Free Men

Just over a week ago, a dear friend of mine took me on a field trip. Ohio in summer is not a favorite of mine and I was just home from a summer away – to northern climes and northern light and adventures blanketed by northern breezes.  Part of me was not keen on spending a day outside…..

But as luck would have it, we were gifted with a day back here that felt like northern climes and northern breezes; the first breath of early fall, which is always such a treasure in southern Ohio. With that, it already felt like a day touched with a special form of magic.

And so,  Penny and I headed east out of town, to Grassroots Farm, which, from where we normally stand, felt a bit like the edge of nowhere.

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We were visiting old friends of hers (now new friends of mine!) on their land of farmish dreaming.  We were treated to a welcome I have seldom experienced and that which I am still processing (and making art!)

Upon arrival, we were greeted at first by the front guard of working dogs who were greatly excited to see us, but who also know their manners.

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Soon we hopped into a four-wheeler adventure to tour some of the farm property and to get a sense of what Grassroots Farm philosophy is all about.

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My first impression of both Susan and Drausin, the husband and wife team who are Grassroots Farm, is that of a tremendous passion for the work they do.  Work with the land itself, with the animals, and with the food those animals and gardens become.  There is a sense upon arrival at Grassroots Farm of a strong sense of ‘Place’, something I feel is often lacking in Ohio, generally speaking.  I was reminded of the relationship my friends out in Taos on the Pueblo have with their animals, which is beautiful and not found in most places.

Drausin is mostly the farmer, and Susan, mostly the cook.  But it is clear that it’s a team effort.  I rode along and soaked in the imagery with my eyes and with my camera.  Imagery which would become sketches…..

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…and then eventually some ‘Art’ once back home with proper paints.

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I, like many folk I know, have a difficult relationship with meat as a food source.  But over the years, I have come to know the sources of meat which make me comfortable to be the omnivore my body feels meant to be.  I want to know where my food comes from.  Not just meat, but vegetables as well.  It’s become more and more important to me to develop a relationship with my grocer, my butcher, my farmer.  This may seem like a first world luxury.  Well, you know what?  It is.  And it’s a worthwhile place to put our first world resources.  Business follows where the money goes, and if this style of farming is where the money goes, ideally, this is the direction the farming will go.  This feels like a good direction.

The animals at Grassroots Farm are raised in traditional manners much  more sustainable than most of today’s more popular ways of raising meat.  Or even vegetables for that matter.  I was fascinated to hear the complex relationship the folks at Grassroots Farm have with their animals.

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I was introduced to many cows, some dairy and others meat cows, but all cared for with diligence.  There are dozens of varieties of grasses grown at Grassroots upon which the cows feed.  How many people do you know with digestive issues, food allergies, immuno-disorders related to food?  So much of these issues stem to the very food our meat is given.  Modern industry lacks the quality of feed, the time taken, to raise animals properly for processing.  I worry sometimes that in modernity, we are losing our ability to make food for ourselves in the future.  In this visit to Grassroots farm, I was, for once, hopeful for a sustainable future in food production.

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It’s not all beef and dairy at Grassroots, there were also sheep and pigs to visit.  All farmed with the same impeccable attention to detail as the cows.

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Drausin and Susan have committed a part of their land to being permitted to drift back into natural wetlands which is so good for everyone.  These bits of the property especially felt enriched with an otherworldly magic.

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While farming occupies the day to day for this couple, meanwhile, preparations are in full swing for a private family wedding for which Drausin has created an altar of stone.  During our farm tour, some tweaks were made on the stone work, displaying the attention to detail this family is made of.

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I’m certain those involved in the upcoming nuptials will be pleased.  It’s a fairytale setting indeed!

The wedding altar was not the only stone work to be found….

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Drausin builds beautiful tributes to his  family throughout the property,  as well as places to enjoy time together.  I was honored to visit a few of them.

One of these especially magic places has a fire pit and some seats around for enjoying after dinner time and sunsets.   I did a small painting of this space which has an old well-stone set in place.  The stories that stone might tell…..

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Soon the farm part of our adventure was over, but the fun was just beginning….

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We were to be treated to some of what the farm had to offer, through the culinary brilliance of Susan…

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Everything about this table spoke of love for this food and an artful sense of presentation.

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Most of the food was quite simple, actually.  But complexity was to be found in Susan’s mixes of herbs and other subtle flavorings.

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Her mussuka stew of zucchini and ground lamb was as divine a dish as I have had in recent years, topped off with a fresh yogurt concoction.

I am excited to visit Grassroots Farm’s farm stands in the coming weeks now that life is settling down, as Susan’s recipes are available for purchase.  To add a bit of her culinary magic to your day to day table would be a gift to yourself ( and the world at large I think! )

But alas, as all good things must end, our day was beginning to golden into evening…..

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We could smell September on the breezes at last.  And see it in the light of things…

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Old Nick, now retired, laid and listened to us chit-chat as the sun sank.

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We talked of food and land, and family and friendship.  Drausin left us to finish his farming for the day.  Penny and I did dishes and sang Susan’s praises for the dinner she had prepared and shared with us.

It all felt a little old fashioned.  A little timeless.  A lot beautiful.  Beauty-filled.

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As we pulled away from this magic place against the gloaming of the evening, we knew we had shared the gift of a magical day.  I knew I’d run home to make some paintings.  As that is what I do.  And I knew that Susan and Drausin would prepare for their oncoming farm tour (which was this past weekend – do sign up for next year!!) and their daughter’s wedding soon to come, and the general day to day that is, Working on a Farm.  I marvel at the work they do and appreciate that it is so close to home here.  If you are local to me in the Cincinnati region, Grassroots sells their meats as well as Susan’s frozen prepared foods at Hyde Park Farmer’s Market and Milford Farmer’s Market.   And be sure and stop over at their beautiful blog to see what they are up to between market days.

 

 

 

 

 

Behave the Bravest

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne

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We had a lot of gear, food and other supplies which we needed to fit into the boats. Miraculously, it all fit!

I am newly returned from the last of the Big  Trips that were slated for what has been an amazing summer.  My Hub, along with a few kayaking friends and myself went off grid and out of country last week to paddle a bit in Georgian Bay and to do some exploring and camping in the wilds of Franklin Island. This was to be my own very first ‘Expedition’ in the kayaking world where everything had to be planned and plotted, measured and made-to-fit.  It was a big endeavor for me personally and I felt as if I was ‘hangin’ with the big kids’ as I am somewhat of a reluctant paddler.

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We crossed into Canada where I opted to go offline to avoid the fees that come with staying connected in a foreign country.  And with that unplugging came lots of time to wander around the dusty halls of my own mind, a pleasure I don’t often have the time for in  my busy life.

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After a long but safe and uneventful drive north, we arrived just in time to gulp down some fish and chips and a well deserved beer at Payne’s Marina where the staff took our late arrival not only in stride, but with quintessential Canadian kindness and welcoming.

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We camped at a local provincial park and spent the next day or so readying for our adventure and monitoring the changeable water and skies of this place.

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The day we were to embark for Franklin Island, we had to lay out all of our food to distribute it amongst five boats.
The day before launching displayed terrifying 20-25 mph winds (with reported gusts up to 40mph!!)
The day before launching displayed terrifying 20-25 mph winds (with reported gusts up to 40mph!!)
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Drew this little silhouette of our bear cub siting a couple of days later in my journal. Memory is loose, and so is the drawing.

Soon it was time to load the boats and make the 2.3 mile trek across the water to our first campsite on Franklin Island.IMG_20160829_141537

We arrived safely to Henrietta Point where I learned how to pitch a tent on and with stones, something I had never done before being more of an Appalachian forest creature in my upbringing.

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Even in wind, this system with the stones holding the tent down, seems to work just fine!
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Our little protected harbor at Henrietta Point. A lovely place to land!
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A dry bag Christmas tree!

This place was perfect from many perspectives.  We had ample room for all of us to set up camp and there was an area somewhat out of the wind which allowed us to enjoy cooking together in our stony kitchen.

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And there were the marvelous ‘Thunder Boxes’ (i.e. outdoor loos) which were not only not smelly for an outdoor loo, they put many indoor situations I’ve visited over the years to shame!  I was pleasantly surprised.

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During the day I followed the shady places as much as possible to sketch and explore.

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And in the evenings, we would take our dinner plates to the windy shore and enjoy the sunset views which were stunning.  The company was pretty great as well!

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There was much hiking to do along the shore where we could sit and watch the water, or sketch new friends along the way….

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sketching mr. frog

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10 min pen drawing of a plucky little frog who did not seem afraid of me at all. I placed color on the drawing later, from memory

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so much moss, and so many varieties!!
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I am not certain whether it is algae which causes these red ‘wound’ like spots along the shore, but I found them fascinating and beautiful when I came upon them.

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quick 5 min watercolor sketch of the lads doing a chart study before heading out to paddle. I penned in the lines later. Amazing what you can do in just a few minutes!

While at Henrietta Point, I didn’t get back into my boat, and I might have been happy not to do so until it was time to leave for the mainland again at week’s end.  Much of the time, I watched the others go about their watery business on the waves, secure in my desire to remain on shore.  I am prone to sea sickness and don’t care for the waves they make in these inland seas, all confused and bouncing every which way.

This all being so, we’d heard the winds were slated to change, and that would mean our campsite would become a more exposed and less desirable place to be.  We discussed as a group and opted to pack up camp and see what else Franklin Island might have to offer.

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That day I joined our group and paddled the waves.  All went well.  I don’t mind the odd wavey day, provided said waves behave themselves, which they did.  It was a long day in our boats exploring and scouting camp sites and we gratefully arrived at our new place at Cunningham Bay.  No Thunder Box, but otherwise it was lovely.

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Notice that our tent was there along the water, and that all was calm and glassy.  We were in a protected bay away from the larger water to the west.  But over night the wind turned on us once more and suddenly there were waves lapping at our door and the wind whipped the tent fabric into a frenzy.  All in the middle of the night!

This all made for a very difficult night full of fear and anxiety on my part, the details of which I won’t go into.  Suffice it to say, the following morning we picked up our little home and moved it into the woods on shore a bit further which felt safer in many ways.

When the more paddle-y folks opted for an epic day on the water the following morning, I stayed home on shore to enjoy some alone time and to try to come to an even keel of the soul in my own little ways….

Off they go to paddle 15 or more miles!!
Off they go to paddle 15 or more miles!!
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a pretty great image of how one feels after an anxiety attack
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The stone formations were lovely at every turn. I spent a lot of that day merely drinking tea, enjoying the quiet (thankfully! especially compared to the wind the prior night!) and taking pictures.
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sweet sketching site. Complete with tea and no wind and art supplies.

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I even drew an impression of the stones I saw.
I even drew an impression of the stones I saw.
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Playing in the watercolors, looking to capture some of the myriad of colors my eyes were feasting upon.

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Eventually, I spotted my friends on the horizon and they came home exhausted.

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I whipped up some dinner which we all worked to fry up together.  Everything tastes better by the water, don’t you think?

eating well

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The very next day was already Friday, the day we were due back on the mainland.  We had camped and paddled and cooked and swam in our birthday suits on a daily basis.  We had prepared food together over camp stoves and enjoyed shooting stars and crackling fires in the evenings.

I for one spent a fair amount of time in a state of anxious agitation about whether I would have to paddle in sickening conditions, or whether the wind would blow so hard as to blow our tent down or whether our next camp site would have a thunder box or not.  Truth be told, I spend a fair amount of time in my ‘regular day-to-day’ life in a state of anxious agitation and going on this trip was a way to try and temper that.  (Perhaps every trip is a way to try and temper that!) Maybe if I behave the bravest, and test myself a bit along the way, I can get a little break from that day to day state.  In some ways, I think it works.  I think we must always be challenging ourselves.

Toward the end of the trip, my Hub Tony asked if I might take this sort of trip again.  I was not ready to answer.  Perhaps I am still not.  We were so fortunate to have great weather and that our little group got along so well. ( I have heard horror stories from other trips.)  I wanted to hold my own and I think I did, making wise choices as to when to be on the water and when not to be.  And I am better for the going on this particular trek.  For me, a homey, gentle soul, a lot about the idea of this adventure was daunting.  And in many ways, I was very brave to attempt it.  But I was also with friends whom I trusted not to put me in danger.  The only real danger was in my head and maybe in my so easily queasy stomach.

And so, what of this ‘Behave the Bravest’ business, you ask?  Well, while wandering the dusty hallways of my ever active mind while off the grid, I realized that I did not do a proper blog based announcement of my art work being featured on Nuala Kennedy’s gorgeous new album called, of course, Behave the Bravest.   The themes in the album are epic and watery in the most folky ways and I am proud to be the visual part of it, my art work being made to look even more fantastic by the design team at 16K Design Works who did a fantastic job with the raw work.  This album has been a soundtrack to my summer of sorts this year and many of the tunes were in my head as I navigated this recent expedition.

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Difficult adventures cause us to look inward and confront our most shadowy sides of self….

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And by plumbing those depths we can learn more about ourselves, enabling our best selves to come back to civilization and that version of reality to readily serve the world.

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I am not quite back to my best self.  I am still tired and sore, not feeling quite caught up.  But I am better for my time and experiences amidst these inland seas.  As always with a challenging time, I have learned something of myself and I am glad of it.

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