On Midwinter

Solstice dawns bright and beautiful.  I head outside with a hot cup of coffee and three eager dogs and marvel at the pink light on a lovely sycamore across the creek from us.  I snap a little photo with the ever present phone, as you do in this day and age.

Just after capturing the image, I hear crows calling and they fly into the frame with the same sycamore and I think that would have been a nice photo as well, but I merely stand and watch them fly and listen to a snippet of their airborne conversings amongst one another.

The dogs snuffle around on the ground, surely on the trail of deer, fox or coyote who wander in the night.

After a bit I am chilled (and so is my coffee) so we head inside.  I check the usual electra-outlets of things and am thankful for a well curated online sphere.  There will be news when I decide to take on the days’ burnings, but for this morning, which is Solstice, I opt to seek beauty for a bit.  To sift my intake through the lens of loveliness.

The Splendid Table did a piece a while ago on the country of Georgia and it’s culinary traditions.  They discussed which foods would be presented, and how they might be served (in lots of lovely small dishes), and that often, between courses, those at table might take to singing.  This morning I am once again reminded of Georgian singing via a post by a musical acquaintance.  And now, thanks to him, these lovely singers are in my ears as I ponder the still point in the turning of the world.  Somehow these minored harmonies are a fitting soundtrack to the day.

We must be so very careful what we feed ourselves just now.  There is so much work to be done in the world.   On some days, the prospect of shifting the huge paradigms which must be shifted if we are to survive, seems insurmountable.  Music, powerful art, the magic of poetry all serve to shore us up and supplement our souls during these dark days.  Nourishment.

I’m grateful for the gatherers of words who keep me nourished online.  Here are just a couple of examples…..

Shapechangers in Winter (excerpt)

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.
Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
The walls of the house fold themselves down,
and the house turns
itself inside out, as a tulip does
in its last full-blown moment, and our candle
flares up and goes out, and the only common
sense that remains to us is touch,
as it will be, later, some other
century, when we will seem to each other
even less what we were.
But that trick is just to hold on
through all appearances; and so we do,
and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than it is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.
—Margaret Atwood

via Shippenverse over on Instagram

and….

I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

A magical thing And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring Than we were in September,’

I heard a bird sing In the dark of December.

– Oliver Herford

via @FintryTrust over on Twitter

The second quote was shared on Twitter by a young naturalist I follow over in Ireland named Dara McAnulty.  Dara keeps a blog of his outdoor adventures and he is passionate about the world.  He and his siblings offer a glimmer hope for the future of humanity.

I am grateful for my fellow image makers who sprinkle their visual magic around like a healing fairy-dust of sorts.

In her tweet accompanying this gorgeous image, artist Rima Staines writes, “Merry Yule to you all! Here’s to the coming of the strange masked mummers through the snow-bound village, playing music to sing the light back up out of the dark belly of the world.” Indeed. Her work has kept many of her fans, myself included, spellbound for many a season. You can find more of her work at the Hedgespoken Shop.

This past year has been a tumultuous one for much of the world.  I find myself in somewhat of a dystopic frame of mind and have had to work quite hard to remain above the fray psychologically.  (thank you yoga and the well worn running paths of this here village.) 

I wonder, how can I better be of service?  How can things change, in part by the actions of small players like myself in the great theater of the world, when our leaders collectively seem hell bent on a path to destruction on the backs of the vulnerable? 

I find myself questioning the very systems I once believed undeniable.  (I’m looking at you Capitalism.)  How can we operate in this world more lightly, how can we exchange work and energy and our livelihoods in a more just way?  There are many forging a new path and I find myself becoming a part of that conversation.  I choose bartering when I can to the notion of cold hard cash.  I read and listen to the words of fellow artisans and writers asking the same hard questions such as Amanda Palmer, Eloïse Sentito, and Ayana Young.   All the while, holding on tight to the tail of my work, even when it can feel a bit senseless at times.

It is the season of Christmas parties.  At our local illustrators gathering, a few of us talked of how the very act of making books for children is a political one.   We tuck the seeds of kindness and compassion in-between the lines and in the imagery of work for children, be that picture books, traditional fairy tales or puppetry.   Crafting beauty for the next generation feels like a radical thing indeed these days.  Perhaps they will rise up and be the leaders we need.  Kind.  Compassionate.

My beloved day-job fellows at Carroll Concertinas gathered for dinner last night and talked of the past year’s work.  On average, we produce 24 handcrafted, high end concertinas each year.  We make all of the parts ourselves and piece them together into these amazing instruments.  Our boss and dear friend Wally commended us on our craftsmanship and acknowledged the many other gifts and skills we bring to the table collectively as artists and musicians and fellow human beings.  In a some small way, to do this kind of work, at this intimate level, is also a somewhat radical notion.  I do not take the gift of this lightly and am deeply grateful.  Would that everyone in the world has work which challenges them and makes them happy and compensates them deeply on many levels.  That is a world I can wrap my weary brain around.

These are my ponderings on this day, the Solstice, the very time when we catch our breath as the world turns back toward the light.  May this metaphor come to pass in the coming months.  May we all have the courage to follow the light home to ourselves and to each other.  May the mere act of following this light be seen for the very brave thing it is.

And one more musical nudge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mode of Magic Making

Life’s pendulum slowly begins to swing back to a quieter state.  Only a smattering of art-related events left to attend to and soon the art work will come home to roost once again where it belongs.  Well, most of it.  Some small things have sold and will be finding their way to forever homes which feels like an accomplishment of sorts.

Last night, upon returning home myself from an evening of sharing a few tunes with my musical mates, the headlamps of my car alight upon a great buck who has come to pay us a visit.  He is regal and quite stately, taking his time crossing the little bridge over our creek.

Today I look for evidence of his brief visit, as he is quite magical and a brain entranced by hours of music can often see things which are not of this world.

I find the evidence in what is left of our recent snow fall, a track across the bridge where my dogs stop to have a sniff of this wild creature’s path.

Playing around with ‘watercolor graphite’ I attempt to draw the buck.

In my drawing he is bulky and strange, but I find myself excited to use this medium which I purchased awhile back and have not yet used much.

Rustiness seems to be the name of the game lately as I have been presenting and exhibiting, showing and teaching, meeting and greeting.  A dear friend of mine remarked at my last opening that he could see why I am not a fan of art openings in general (even the fun ones!) because it’s as if ‘you were just getting swallowed by people’.  Which feels true.

I am eager to get back to the magic of making.

I have recommitted with a vengeance to the act of daily sketching and outings with our newly sanctioned Urban Sketchers of Cincinnati group are just the ticket to get the pen moving across the page once more.

Though it’s painfully crowded, I manage a warm up sketch at first.

And then a bit later, settle into a quieter place, with a more fantastical little structure to draw.

The rusty drawing skills begin to come to life and I feel the gears slowing down in my bones with pen to paper.  It is strangely familiar and I am grateful for years of practice which don’t ever truly leave me.

I finish the sketch at home later that evening with a bit of color.

Our Urban Sketchers group is open to anyone who wants to get out and draw so do join us if you are in the area.  I promise we are quite friendly and do not bite unless provoked.

This is a indeed a magical time of year.  With the Solstice nearly upon us, in theory we begin to witness a return of light, though the world seems very dark indeed just now.  To combat this darkness, we must make magic in our own way.

Over in the land of Twitter, writers Julia Bird and Robert MacFarlane have cooked up a plan for the internet to co-read the novel The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.  We begin December 20th, the very same day the story begins, and I am excited to be a part of it.  Reading a beautiful classic is a balm in these dire times.

I am inspired by dear friends who have been making magic in the world in very special ways.  The first, someone I hike and paddle with, has a job in the world of retail where she knows how to line up deals and coupons to make things quite affordable. She uses this super-power to purchase new coats for those in need to donate to the coat drive at a local charity.  This is especially wonderful for the rough and tumble little boys who are so very hard on their coats and therefore gently used coats are few and far-between.  I marvel at her spirit of generosity and urge others good at shopping in the world to consider doing something similar.

Another friend has been crafting and conjuring magic in his own way and a few of us closest to him have been presented with a wondrous gift indeed.

A wand.  I have other wands.  Those with paint-brush tips.  But this is a whole new animal indeed.  It is a branch of elm, sanded and shaped and bedecked with a gorgeous calligraphy nib for writing and drawing….

It makes lines like a dream.  At the other end of this wonderful wand is a little reminder of where my heart lies…

I am truly blessed to know people who play music, make art, walk ever so gently in this world.  I aim to be one of them.

Meanwhile, unbelievably (inconceivable?)

It has been 10 years of making magic here in this little online world of mine.

“Creativity is really the structuring of Magic.” 

~ anne kent rush

This anniversary time feels momentous.  Seismic in its shifting of my work and my thinking and life in general.  I look back on the woman who started this blog ten years ago and I know that I have grown and changed.

Around the same time as this blog was getting going, I got my very first tattoo.  A moth, rooted.  That tattoo has served me well for many years and the symbolism still resonates with me to this day.  That said, it had faded a bit and had grown a little tired.  When my daughter (now about to turn 21 which here in this country means one is a fully fledged adult) suggests we get tattoos together, I decide to use this opportunity to reinvest in the moth design.

Her idea is to get ferns, each in our own way, to our own liking.  Ferns are all about unfurling into one’s true majesty, which I think we both are doing just now as human beings.

She knew right away what she wanted and so, she goes first.

 

Simple, graphic, hipster.  Very her.  We both love it.

A few weeks on I come to the idea of reworking my moth and proceed to Flying Tiger Tattoo where my friend and fellow artist Megan Butler works.  She comes up with a way to reinvigorate my beloved luna moth, while incorporating the ferns.  She also nurtures the root ball of the design, adding in mushrooms to aid this forest inspired work of art, brightening and delineating the roots, giving them room to breathe.  I simply could not be happier with it.

It is earthy, bright and beautiful.  Colorful and confident.  No longer fading.  It is more cohesive than the original, more well thought out.  It may yet be added to.  It is a rich environment for new growth to occur. 

All of these things feel applicable to myself just now.  Which as I look back on this time last year, fills me with a relief I cherish.  This season finds me filled with so much less anxiety and depression, having worked exceptionally hard to shift back into a yoga routine, once again going back to eating vegetarian.  Self care and overall health are great gifts indeed.  They add to the magic making, at least around here.

And speaking of magic, here are a few more tidbits to share.

Magic in the littlest moments.  Noticing. Placing attention on these things….

One of my all time favorite characters in any book is Tiffany Aching.   She is a young witch, who is, among other things, “good with cheese.”  I like to think she’d be rather proud of my first foray into making cheese.  This time, a simple paneer.

And lastly, I leave you with my efforts from the month of October.  At the last minute, I opted to take part in “inktober”, putting together an alphabet of creatures as a way to get to know my new fountain pen.  It was great fun and I hope to have sets of post cards to share with you in time for the holidays.  Prints of individual animals are also available. 

*special thanks to my dear and wonderful friend who has allowed me to use her music in my videos over the years.  Kim Taylor, you are the very vision of friendship.  I love you.

 

This is Love

 

It is the day before the complex holiday we call Thanksgiving here in this country.  A holiday fraught with colonial baggage of things we must eventually confront as a nation if we are to move forward.  A holiday also fraught with the tradition of meal-time “discussions” in the realm of religion and politics, which if NPR is any indication, are to be dreaded.

That all said and acknowledged and considered, it is also one of my favorite days of the year.  Aside from a few years when we traveled with our daughter for Irish Dancing competitions, I have inherited the keeping of this day from my Grandma Kelley.  I even have the old roasting pan for the turkey.

We don’t make a huge fuss over things.  We here in our house cover the turkey, gravy, cookies and pies.  And the sides and sundries come from the rest of the family.  My niece Riley is bringing Thanksgiving bingo which warms my heart. (and some friends and foods as well!)

The kids are beginning their orbit home.  One has laundry going and is binge watching the Great British Bake Off.  We discuss the importance of a rue in a decent gravy….. (and yes, onions)

There is still enough dog hair floating around on the floor to knit up yet another dog and so there is still work to be done.  But we are on target.  It always has a way of coming together.

The pie crusts are resting, the whipped cream is crafted and the cookies are baked….

All of this is wrapped in love and gratitude.

We live in tumultuous times.  But we also are hopefully surrounded by people we love.  May this season bring gifts of gratitude and nourishment as we navigate the future.

Love and gratitude to you all.

This Is Love, by George Harrison….

Vicious words drift away from their meanings
And the sun melts the chill from our lives
Helping us all to remember what we came here for
This is love
This is la la la la love
This is love
This is la la la la love
Little things that will change you forever
May appear from out of the blue
Making fools of everybody who don’t understand
This is love
This is la la la la love
This is love
This is la la la la love
This is love, this is love
This is love, this is la la la la love
Since our problems have been our own creation
They also can be overcome
When we use the power provided free to everyone
This is love
This is la la la la love
This is love
This is la la la la love
This is love
This is la la la la love
This is love
This is la la la la love
Songwriters: George Harrison / Jeff Lynne
This Is Love lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

 

Icarus Tendencies

“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.”    ~D.W. Winnicott

It’s so tempting to run for the hills.  To hide.  To make the work, but never show it – feeling it to be not good enough, not ready enough, ever.  But this is not an option really.  And so we forge on.

“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in.  Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about at the right place to do something exciting.”                                                                                       ~David Bowie

After a time of being comfortably down the proverbial rabbit hole, alas, I must come up for air and here is the latest.  Like some sort of proverbial Icarus, I’ll admit to flying a bit close to the sun of late.  But needs must, and rest will come…..

On top of readying my own art work to present to the world, I have also been doing some writing on the work of others.  The September and October issues of the online publication Aeqai feature articles of my impressions on some really wonderful locally produced and curated work from lands far away.  It has been interesting to pull together art and writing in this way, as I usually write merely here on my blog or craft the odd artist’s statement now and again.  To write about the artwork of others and to ponder it through a lens of critique is to more fully grasp it in a sense.  Knowing I was to be writing about these shows made me a better viewer of them.  I hope to continue writing for Aeqai in future months, adding my voice to those of others shining light upon recent work they have seen.

And what about that work being presented to the world?  Well, the stars have aligned to see my work showing in three different venues in the coming weeks, and here they are.

Transience is the force of time that makes a ghost of every experience.”  ~John O’Donohue

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”  ~Simone Weil

First, Transience, a solo show at the Park National Bank Gallery at University of Cincinnati’s Clermont campus.  It’s a lovely space and I’m thrilled to have a number of older works dusted off from the archives and showing once again, right alongside some newer work as well.  (Yes, the ever so popular Animal Alphabet from Inktober is being displayed in full and the drawings look great all together!)  At the heart of the show is my process of gathering from the world and from my experiences to create art along the way in sketchbooks and finished studio work.

Years of sketchbooks showcasing travels and artistic process can be seen in these glass cases in the gallery. It’s gratifying to see them all together.

It is interesting to see threads of continuity in work through the years which I didn’t notice before.  For example, I’m once again showing my painting Selkie which is a bit of a self-portrait-meets-personal-mythology work.

You’ll notice that Selkie offers a rather raw heart to the viewer (my mom has always thought this painting is rather creepy but I rather like her).  What I didn’t realize is that I had created some of this same imagery in the three dimensional realm as well in the form of a hand stitched fiber heart, and a cast of my hand in plaster.

These objects were part of other work at other times and I hadn’t realized how they mirrored the Selkie imagery until I went to install this show.  My subconscious self clearly has some ideas and themes  working themselves out amidst its subterranean depths.  I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to this work once again, on a deeper level and to share it with the students at UC Clermont.

A second show to open with just one piece of mine in it is an artistic tribute to the writings of Neil Gaiman.

Poster by David Micheal Beck

I crafted an illustration of Nobody Owens from Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which I found so captivating.  I am excited to have my little painting alongside those of other illustrators from around town and am honored to be a part of the show!

An Intimate Portrait of Nobody Owens, Oil on Paper

This show opens this week on Thursday evening.  Stop by the Know Theatre if you are in town and say hello! (Be sure and get your tickets to Neverwhere as well!)

Last but not least, I am thrilled to once again have new work being shown at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.

My painting I Grew A Pair (Apples)  will be part of the Off The Wall installation and I have three other works submitted as well.  This group show features new work by members of the Kennedy Collective and is an annual treat for the local community.  That opening is November 18.  There will be cookies.  I can promise that.

By tomorrow I shall have all work delivered and by next week, all will be properly installed for viewing in their gallery spaces for the following few weeks.  While this all has taken a good amount of time and effort to pull off, I have been careful not to fall into the mindset of busy in the midst of pulling it all together.  And I believe I have been successful in that endeavor.  Sylvia Linsteadt of Tatterdemalion fame posted an article the other day about the notion of Resisting the Commodification of Time, with which I firmly agree on every level.  The article speaks to a level of mindfulness which I believe is desperately lacking in our world just now.  Everything so fast and furious, so new and shiny.  Mindfulness is at the very heart of my sketchbook practice and the workshops I teach.  Just the simple act of slowing down to draw something pulls us back into a better relationship with time, back into our bodies.  The world needs us to do this work.

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every Day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these—
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

And so we do.  If you google “urban sketching”, you will see that the practice of drawing in a little book has truly gone globally viral.  People all over the world are doing it.  Here in the Queen City of Cincinnati, we have joined the ‘official’ ranks of Urban Sketchers and are getting our drawings out there along with other artful places such as Manchester and Hong Kong.  If you are coming to town and are looking to sketch with us here, let us know!!  We can be found over in the wonderful online world of Twitter and we’d love to meet you!

And that is all for now.  I have ghostly beings creeping into my bedtime sketchbook lately who are begging to be fleshed out further into more oil paintings.  I have knitting projects sitting idle as well which could use some finishing up.  It’s a time of year for walking in the woods amidst the fallen leaves, brewing more and more tea, and gently, ever so gently, slowing down.

 

New Joy

The fox design I was playing with is not my own, but is the logo of a lovely coffee shop and cafe in Columbus where my daughter attends University. It is called Fox in the Snow and we enjoy visiting there when I am in town.  She even gave me a cup from there which I treasure and is a sturdy vehicle for my morning tea. 

I sat down this morning to play with a new little something I recently acquired, called Joy.  No, really, it’s a pen,  called the Lamy Joy.   Recently a former student of mine shared a link with me to the website and sketching work of Liz Steel down in the Land Down Under.  I love the look of her sketches which have so much life and color and bold line work.  She uses ink to draw and watercolors from there to bring things even further to life.  I often work in the same way but have always used permanent ink pens such as Microns, Sharpies and the like to create my lines – before and after painting.  I enjoy the look of a fountain pen line, but had never translated it to sketchbook work.  She recommended this pen and, with a name like Joy, how was I to resist?

Last fall I attended an inspiring series of lectures by a number of wonderful children’s book illustrators and writers.  One of whom, Sergio Ruzzier, works in pen and ink for the drawing, and then, like Liz Steel’s sketches, follows with watercolors later.  I love the look of these drawings and have been playing a bit since then with a variety of pens and some inks.  But these inks would ruin a proper fountain pen overnight.

These have been fun to experiment with in the studio but aren’t as friendly for on the go sketching.  I do have another Lamy fountain pen which I love, but the ink I use in it wasn’t at all water-resistant so unless I wanted to stay in the grayscale world, it too was not exactly sketch friendly.

Reading Liz’s posts on fountain pens inspired me to do a little more digging into that world (it’s an overwhelmingly big and enthusiastic world, the world of fountain pens!) and see if there was possibly an ink I might take on the go, in fountain pen form, but which might be a tad more welcoming to watercolor.   An ink that with proper precaution, wouldn’t ruin my new pen, but would allow some color.

Apparently, noodler’s black ink is the one.  You can read all about it anywhere on the interwebs and with many posts all around giving it a thumbs up, even in actual working fountain pens, I decided to give it a go.

Guess what!?  It seemed to work!

After just a few seconds of drying time, the little Fox in the Snow became a regular old orange fox and the lines did not run at all.  I was thrilled!  As much as I love the micron pens, I will admit that my stomach churns every time I go to discard a used up marker.  Perhaps there is a way to recycle them somehow, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

In this throwaway culture of ours, I look for even the smallest ways to not be such a consumer.  This feels like a small way to do that.  Maybe this pen, with it’s ink that can stand up to watercolors, and it’s variety in line weight options in just the one pen, can be a beginning.

I will need to draw a tad more often to keep that ink flowing, and make a point of cleaning out the ink more often than I do in my other pen.  Perhaps this notion will keep me more in practice.  I’ve been a bit out of practice since summer’s sketching and travel.  This usually happens.  But I am ready to dive back into daily sketching, and more and more painting and see where it all leads.

More soon!

 

The Tale of Two Apples

Across the arc of a number of seasons, we have had the difficult and expensive task of removing some trees who had lost the battle with time or the emerald ash borer and who might be a danger to our house if a brisk wind were to kick up.  I have been asking the land what it needs ever since.

This little patch of land carries on and begins the path to recovery via nature’s vigilant first responders, the fungi.  It is magnificent to see them crop up just where they are needed.  I merely observe.

One of the trees which seemed to be asking for a place here back in spring time was apple.  It all seemed like a grand experiment back then, which perhaps it was – for due to deer and other challenges to those early flowers and fruit we harvested a mere two apples.

This is the only tree that was left with any apples (damn deer!!) and it looked a bit like a fair-weather Charlie Brown tree.

I watched our little trees grow in spite of the challenges they faced, and wondered if what fruit they were yielding might yet be left riddled with worms as the gentlemen at the nursery were so keen to tell me.  It is a risk I’ve been willing to take.

One day the apples let me know they were ready to come inside by nearly tumbling into my hand when I checked on them.  And so I brought them in and pondered their beauty for a couple of days.

They were so beautiful and as their were only two, I decided to paint their portrait for posterity.  For who knew what would lie within.

‘I Grew A Pair (Apples)’. Oil on panel. Cheeky title, I know. I couldn’t resist!

I gently peeled and cored the apples, gathering every last juicy morsel from them.  I’ve never been so thankful for apples.

As luck would have it, they were nearly spotless!  And I felt a deep sense of pride in them.

I made a pie crust (mine is an all-butter sort, my favorite, though tricky to pull off if you lack any patience) and cooked up the apples with a combination of a number of recipe-like ideas.  Mostly simple – things like a bit of sugar, cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg.  And put the two together into some mini pies……

They baked up beautifully and are now awaiting our after dinner treat time.  We are not, generally speaking, dessert eaters.  But I think for tonight we may have to indulge.

I must figure out a different fencing situation for next season to further protect my young trees from the mindless suburban deer who seem to have nothing better to do than wreck ones gardening dreams.  But for now I am thrilled to have had even a small (intimate, really) harvest to bake into some delectable delights to savor.

Para los soñadores

Oh, just line-drying my doll’s clothes in the ‘back yard’ of the ‘cracky old house’ in Philly. Note the fence made of old doors!

Once upon a time, I was a traveling child, moving from place to place with my parents as work became available.  My younger years, before seismic events both collective and familial changed everything, were spent in a variety of interesting places and we knew interesting people.  We lived in a ‘cracky old house’ in a rough-ish part of Philadelphia for awhile, and way up north in Canada for a few years as well.  It was there I suffered from scarlet fever at one point and my friends Kelly and Roger both had to take medicines as well in case they too took ill.  It is told that the physician braved a snow storm to bring me treatment.

After Canada, a change of scenery took us to Guatemala City.  Here my ears heard a completely new and unfamiliar tongue and so I took to not speaking much until I could pick up Spanish and blend in as best as I could.  My mom says she would speak to me in English to try to keep it alive in me and I would in turn, answer in Spanish.  I lost English along the way.

I was just a little girl who wanted to play and make friends and to fit in where I could.  I’m not sure about the fitting in part, but I did make friends, and life was good.

As a toe-headed, blue-eyed child, I stuck out like a sore thumb amongst my compatriots, but they never seemed to mind. Especially when there was a piñata awaiting destruction.

Eventually, things fell apart in my family, as things often go and some of us found ourselves back in Ohio.  I was suddenly thrust back into a vaguely unfamiliar tongue which I needed to re-learn.  I would forever look at the world just a bit differently due to those early gypsy years.  Though in time, of course I assimilated and grew up.

And now, here we are.  I tell you this bit of my own back story to add a layer of understanding to my thoughts on this DACA situation we have going here in the US.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the  800,000 or so “Dreamers” as they are called, the folks under Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals executive order. Remembering my own childhood travels, I know what it is like to be taken by parents from place to place for whatever reason adults have to do so.  For my parents, it was to follow work.  We were ‘landed immigrants’ in Canada while there, and I am not sure what our status was in Guatemala, but it was legal.  But we weren’t fleeing war, or violence, like many illegal immigrants who have come to our country over time.  If we had been, my parents might have made the same desperate decisions for our family, just to try to keep us safe.

The situations we are born into in this lifetime are a luck of the draw really.  It is a complete crapshoot that makes one person born in say, a slum in a third world country, and another into royalty or even merely a life filled with basic comforts.  It is this fact that gives me such empathy for the Dreamers.  Much of life is what we make of it, through choices good or ill-informed.  But some of it we just get by luck of the draw or lack-there-of.  These Dreamers came to this country through no fault of their own.  They were just kids whose parents were doing the best they could for their families.  They speak English, pay taxes and contribute to our society in wonderful ways.  There are many things they aren’t able to take advantage of due to their status.  These are what they’ve given up in order to come out of the shadows created by the choices of their parents.

I do not understand, let alone condone the actions of our “president” on this issue. I wonder if it is merely in the name of cruelty that this decree has come, though I do not claim know the complexities of Washington policy making.  I only hope it spurs the Congress to put something more long-lasting into place for the Dreamers.  A path to citizenship in the only country many of them have ever known for one example.  I also hope that perhaps in the meantime we can re-gain a bit of old-fashioned empathy for our fellow human beans.  We in America are so filled with everyone’s Otherness just now, our leadership and the “alt-right” most especially.   I will also admit to feeling that Otherness in those who are perpetrating hate and bigotry and the policies which point in that direction.  Perhaps this makes me part of the problem.  I aim to remember the complexity of each person’s experiences and attempt compassion over judgement, even as I work in the ways of the quiet activist, making calls, engaging in conversation, crafting change at the grassroots level.

But for today, I seek the rainbows.  And wish their magic upon the haters.  And, of course onto the lovers, the dreamers, and me.

ps: Make your voice heard with your local senators and representatives:

https://5calls.org/issue/rec1JDCdyFCYYYFu9

Stone Whispers

“With my feet on the dash, the world doesn’t matter.”

The sun peeks through goldening September forest land as we take to country roads, optioning out of the city for the day and into the waiting arms of Appalachian foothills not so very far away.

Our destination is the mystical Serpent Mound, an internationally regarded effigy mound, crafted in the shape of a snake in a time before written history.

We arrive at the park amidst other touring travelers, motorcyclists out for a day’s drive, families of multiple generations exploring the museum and grounds.  There is much Native American trinketry to be had, little arrowhead reproductions to purchase, crystals and dreamcatchers, sage bundles, and many books.

Much has been written theorizing why the mound was built.  It is not a burial mound, as there are some of those dotting the grounds as well.

The sinewy curves do mark special times in the astrological wheeling of the year and so for all we don’t know about the folks who created Serpent Mound, we at least know they were likely wise and watchful and capable engineers at the least.

We have brought our sketchbooks but neither of us are feeling much like drawing.  We do scratch a rubbing from the granite sign which marks the beginning of the path around the serpent herself.

The mound is best seen from above, and there is a viewing platform for those courageous enough to risk a trek to the top.

We are.

I wonder about how the grass is kept so cleanly cut.  It seems like sacrilege to run a mower over these forms.  Visitors are kept to an asphalt path.

We wander and wonder around the length of the Serpent.  I have in my heart a similar uneasy sense about it all as to my visit to Chaco Canyon over the summer.

While in the museum, we take in the exhibit about the variety of artifacts found in the area over the years and what they mean.

I spy one which stops me in my tracks, as it is quite familiar to me.

The sign reads that these are ‘gorgets‘, like a pendant of sorts, worn at the throat.  The one which has caught my eye is a quadriconcave gorget crafted from slate and it is exactly like one I had in my hand just the other day…

You see my Uncle Jim passed away a number of weeks ago and this has us all in a familial circling of the wagons state of mind.  My mom and I going through old papers and pictures, visiting gravesites of ancestors long gone from this plane.

One of those ancestors, we think perhaps Joseph Kelley, a farmer, was ploughing the fields of his farm one day.

This is the old family farm. Much dilapidated now which we are sad to see when we drive by. But it still has it’s stories in the land.

His horse drawn plough hit something out of the ordinary and so he stopped to pick the object up and see what it might be.

The story goes that the plough took a small chink out of this strange stone in its unearthing.  The farmer might have dusted off the object and tucked it into his pocket to share with his family over supper that evening.  This would have been over a hundred years ago, and ever since that day, The Indian Rock has held pride of place in the home of whomever in the family happened to be in possession of it at the time.  The most recent steward of the stone was my Uncle Jim who had an affinity for local archeological finds and a knack for knowing where to look.  Apparently he had quite a collection of arrowheads and tools and such which he picked up on his countryside ramblings over the years.  But my mom had always treasured this one, and so now it resides with her.

When I spot the one in Serpent Mound Museum I know I must share it with her, as Now We Know what exactly our Indian Rock might possibly be.  We had guesses as to it being a tool of some sort, but never were quite sure.  What I wonder now is why does our stone lack holes in it?  When the original stone-crafter lost this particular piece, was it perhaps yet awaiting it’s drilling?  The style of our stone, the more looking around I do on the internet, seems to come from the Adena culture.  I have never heard of the word “gorget” until today…

I love this.  We all want to sparkle like a hummingbird, do we not?

I think about the original inhabitants of this land of ours, so very distant in the past, yet just as human as we are, with foibles and desires all their own and not so different from us after all.  Their stories and lifestyles are but whispers on the winds compared to the native cultures which have stood the tests of time, in spite of rampant colonization.  I wonder about who might have made our family’s gorget and whether they missed it when it was lost.  I read that these stones are often found in fields here in the midwest and into the southern states as well.  And they are indeed a lucky find and treasured by those who discover them.  Mom is excited to take her stone on a wee field trip to Serpent Mound and chat up the archeologists there to gain more insight on this family treasure of ours.

I continue to try to slow myself down into a more stoney sense of time.  A drive out to the foothills does this, for a bit at least.  On our way home we are treated with Krista Tippett’s timeless interview with John O’Donohue, whom I consider a spiritual teacher of mine as his writings speak to my soul.   It seems the world is coming at us reckless on most days.  This chaos is at the global scale, and the personal scale as well.  I do my best to merely keep above the fray, as best as possible, tucking in the magic wherever space allows, and sometimes even when it doesn’t.

How are you managing in these crazy times? I’d love to know.  In the meantime, I highly recommend a day’s drive out into the country to slow things down and give a bit of perspective.

til next time…..

 

 

Hear ye, hear ye!

It’s been a fair bit of effort in the doing, as I am not a person of numbers, but new prices are now officially set for next summer’s sketching workshop in Taos, New Mexico.  You can find them here:

Join us in Taos, June 2018!!

Why a change in price?  Well aside from a few costs which have risen in the 7 years I’ve offered this workshop, for the 2018 offering next summer, I am expanding the workshop to be a full 5 day offering. Usually we have a full 4 days, with departure on Friday morning of our week together to give folks a chance to head to the hills and practice all they have learned in four days of workshop exercises. But over the years, participants have been loathe to part and I have gained more and more to offer and so, I give another day to it all, which changes the pricing structure a bit as well.

I hope this new structure works for everyone.  I already have a handful of folk ready to join us in June.  Won’t you be one of them?  New Mexico is a spectacular place in which to tap into the language of an artful soul.

Send me an email if you need any more information about the workshop or what it entails.  If the class speaks to you but you feel you are ‘a beginner’ or ‘can’t draw’ or any of that other stuff, I assure you, I’ll help you sort all of that out in the doing of it.  Trust me.  You won’t be disappointed.

Creativity is our birthright.  More soon….

Cosmic Reverence

 

Today it is a delightful late-summer’s day here in the Ohio River Valley.  I have the windows thrown open for fresh air and the sun is shining brightly in an uncharacteristically blue sky.  (usually August is Smogust.)

I’ve taken this day to attend to a final few veterinary well-visits for our menagerie (weeks in the doing of it), as well as to attempt a bit of wordsmithery here on the blog.

In the midst of all of this normalcy, I am finding it difficult to put into words a most liminal day earlier in the week.  For on this past Monday, myself and a few fellow intrepid souls took to the backroads on a Quest for Totality.

We had heard that many folks would be traveling en masse to see the spectacle that was to be the Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017.  As our plans came together rather late, we opted for One Big Day of travel to and fro and knew we were in for an adventure.  I packed a picnic lunch and many jars of tea and set off in the wee hours of the morning to gather my friends for the day.

I’ll admit to experiencing some trepidation regarding the notion of standstill traffic….

We careened along carefully chosen backroads in Indiana and Kentucky, through national forest lands and in and out of mist-laden farm country.  The phrase ‘over the river and through the woods’ comes to mind.  And we found it beautiful.  There was to be no traffic, thankfully, at least on the way down.

The journey was quiet and filled with interesting stories and conversation.  We did not need the radio on, so satisfied with each others’ company were we.

The sun did rise eventually, and the miles did pass.  Each seemingly unaware of what was to come on this momentous day.

We had our star charts, and an idea of where we might need to be to witness a total eclipse of the sun in our region.  And so, we drove and drove, perhaps a bit farther than some as we opted for west, then south to avoid the crush of sun-seeking humanity.

Eventually, we arrived in a small town called Marion, Kentucky.

There were signs for a municipal park nearby and so we followed them and found ourselves in a delightful setting.  Enough fellow sky-watchers to feel a sense of human-camaraderie for the Big Event, and yet enough private green space to feel centered in the scope of what was to come, just by ourselves.  We had come prepared for reverence.

We ate our lunch together on some sporty bleachers and watched those with large telescopes prepare.  We celebrated the tail end of our meal with the most delicious brownies ever.

  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp oil (I used coconut)
  • Maybe around 1/4 c peanut butter (a nice blob in any case. This is optional though.)
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips for topping (optional- but…)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 f
  2. Add all ingredients into a blender (except for the chocolate chips). Blend it till all the beans are blasted apart. Batter will be a bit runny.
  3. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish and pour the batter inside.
  4. Top with chocolate chips or nuts
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean if you poke it
  6. Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. This is so it doesn’t fall apart when you cut it.

But I digress.

After lunch, it was TIME.  We heard it announced that It Was Starting.  And sure enough, when we glanced up at the Sun with our special glasses, part of it appeared to be missing.

This was a relatively slow process actually and so we took turns monitoring the Sun being shadowed by the moon and spent the in between time tending to our sense of the Divinity in it all.

There were crystals to charge, prayers of thanks to offer, bundles to smudge, bless and wrap for sending along to the nature spirits and the Otherworld.  We burned incense which had been given to Justin and Megan  by our dear departed friend Cindy, and we shared stories of her generosity and her most artful life.  (as for me, Cindy is who first lent me a flute to see if I might like to tackle this most difficult instrument.  I am forever grateful.)

We struggled to get our normal camera gear to cooperate in these difficult and potentially harmful conditions while we attempted to document the undocumentable.

I was so tickled to be with friends who are at once practical and spiritual in their endeavors.  I maintain that my Irish music friends are the deepest and smartest people I know in my lucky life.

Soon, it was clear that Totality was nigh.

this snapshot, used with permission, is by Natalie Coleman

And so it was.

I took a picture and then took my glasses off to merely witness.

As totality had approached, all of the things that were supposed to happen did so.  The light changed, the birds rested and dogs howled. As the darkness took hold, a cheer went up from our fellow sky-watchers.  The tree-frogs and crickets began to sing.  Street lamps turned on.  And, possibly because we were in Kentucky, gun-shots were heard off in the distance as well.  I suppose we all celebrate things in our own way.

There are times in our lives when the universe seems to hold its breath for a few moments.  If we are fortunate, and if perhaps we have taken the time and care to be paying proper attention, we can catch a little whiff of the Otherworld in these auspicious times.  

Still points in life are found in the usual, expected places – the moment a baby is born and draws it’s first breath, or at the bedside of a loved one in the process of a peaceful passing on.  I’ve witnessed a fair number of both of these scenarios and for a time immediately following these life changing moments, the world doesn’t seem quite it’s usual self.  There is a palpable divinity in everything somehow.  It is as if a veil is lifted for a time and we are Reminded.  In a more reverent and perfect world, perhaps we could feel this in the day-to-day, yes?

I find it difficult to express the Otherworldliness that this eclipse provided our merry band of sky-watchers.  The mere shift of the light was the very same I’d heard described (but never quite witnessed) in all the stories of Faerie-land.  Time stood still.  We marveled and wept at the cosmic beauty we had the great fortune to behold in this very moment.  Life itself is a miracle really and moments such as this remind us in a way that is nearly heart-breaking.  

I could go on and on.  But it is difficult to convey.  Perhaps Annie Dillard says it best in this quote from her article from 1982:

“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”

I have seen partial eclipses in my lifetime.  But this was an altogether different animal indeed.  I will go so far as to say there was before, and now there is after.  There is a sense of feeling one’s place in the cosmos.  My friends and I are already plotting the best situation for April 8, 2024.

When totality had passed, and we once again had to don our viewing goggles, there was an indescribable sense of glee in all of us.  We danced and cartwheeled and made music and laughed.

As if we were under some faerie-land intoxication.

Perhaps we were.

We continued to watch the sky for awhile after totality as the chunking out of the sun is truly miraculous to watch.

And after a while we settled in for a bit of a nap.  All of us feeling we were under some sort of spell.

This is where it came to me that we had witnessed one of those liminal moments.  Like a birth or a death, or the moment you know you’ve met your beloved – there had been a shift, a change, and none of us would ever be the same.

Eventually, the heat and the ants let us know it might be time to pack up our things and begin the journey toward home, which suddenly felt so very far away.  But we still had each-other, and this amazing shared experience.  And thankfully, a well-timed cup of coffee on route through Kentucky.

We did face some traffic on route home, which alas, gave me some comfort.  In this day and age of cynicism and sarcasm, reality tv and ‘fake news’, the path of red tail lights on the highway informed me that much of humanity still holds wonder for the Great Beyond.  We still wonder at that which we cannot altogether explain.  The astronomers give us the timing and the maps for witnessing, but our souls show us the way into the cosmos.

In the beginning was the dream…
In the eternal night where no dawn broke, the dream deepened.
Before anything ever was, it had to be dreamed…
If we take Nature as the great artist, then all presences in the
world have emerged from her mind and imagination.  We are
children of the earth’s dreaming.  It’s almost as if Nature is in
dream and we are her children who have broken through the
dawn into time and place.  Fashioned in the dreaming of the
clay, we are always somehow haunted by that; we are unable
ever finally to decide what is dream and what is reality.  Each
day we live in what we call reality, yet life seems to resemble
a dream. We rush through our days in such stress and intensity,
as if we were here to stay and the serious project of the world
depended on us.  We worry and grow anxious – we magnify
trivia until they become important enough to control our lives.
Yet all the time, we have forgotten that we are but temporary
sojourners on the surface of a strange planet spinning slowly
in the infinite night of the cosmos…
[…..]
There is no definitive dividing line between reality and dream.
What we consider real is often precariously dream-like.
Our grip on reality is tenuous…
Excerpt from Eternal Echoes
by John O’Donohue
May you take the time to journey toward cosmic wonders in your lifetime.  May you see these wonders in your day to day, even in the simple changes in the light of day….

 

 

 

 

part rabbit warren, part spin on art & life & etc. art, illustrations & workshops by amy bogard