The news is dark and darker, every day. The only occasional escape is to turn it all off for awhile now and then and creep into our imaginations. It is here where joy may be found in a jaunty tune, from lands far from this tame old river valley.
I put together some moving drawings to accompany this delightful music from Snowflake Trio and voilá!! I hope you enjoy watching and listening as much as we enjoyed making it.
It is also for ‘cute’, and maybe ‘cuddly’ (to look at maybe).
To John Joe Badger (and to me, his ‘c’reatrix) “C” stands especially for ‘community’, which is at the heart of this music. So many of the early days are spent in the woodshed, alone, learning our way around a new instrument. But in the end, the tunes are meant to bring us all together. The goal is to elevate a simple tune into a momentary, never-to-be-repeated magical thing that reminds us that we are all in this life collectively, come what may.
And what a May has come.
This week’s illustration (while, of course remembering that “C” does, indeed, stand for ‘cookie’) is dedicated to two other “C”‘s. Caitlin Warbelow and Chris Ranney, the brains and brilliance behind an amazing project called Tune Supply and who put together a concert featuring 45 artists from around the world this past weekend in celebration of Mother’s Day.
In the comments of the video from this virtual concert are a variety of links to support individual artists involved in this heartwarming project. Or one can just go here to donate to the project as a whole and the artists ‘c’ollectively, in ‘c’ommunity.
Give it all a listen. It’s wonderful. It’s hopeful.
Also in the interest of ‘c’ommunity, but a bit more close to home, I personally have been leading/moderating an online version of a session each week with the folks from the Riley School of Irish Music. It’s not sleek, and it’s imperfect, but we take turns leading tunes or sets of tunes and we play one musician at a time, knowing that somewhere in the world, our mates are playing along with us. We can see them, but not hear them as we play, and we all go unmuted then to chat in between sets. Mostly, we catch up with each other, just make sure we are all playing a bit week to week, and not spending too much time staring into the abyss of a global pandemic. While not an ideal situation, it beats a blank. And let’s face it, few people are in an ideal situation these days.
The same goes for monthly Urban Sketchers virtual outings, both locally here in Cincinnati, and all around the world. (pssst! There is one here this Saturday!! Come join us for a zoom throw-down!) It’s not about the drawings so much as it is about the ‘c’ommunity that can come together again eventually to draw as a group. For now we do our drawings from an online prompt on a mutual theme, then we “throw down” our drawings all together via a zoom call (noon this saturday). Not sleek, not perfect, but it keeps us ‘c’onnected.
These adjustments may need to be in place in some form for some time to be sure. But in the meantime, I am thankful for the virtual world to keep things at least ‘c’onnected. Send me a comment or a message if you are looking to join a virtual session or sketch group and I hope we can connect.
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the fairy power
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
Aren’t humans beautiful at their best?
It’s just another manic Friday, here in the time of the pandemic. Downstairs, the Hub finishes a social zoom call happy hour (not to be confused with the constant work related video calls he’s on by day) with his (our) kayak friends. I cobble a dinner together of spring vegetables and pasta thanks to our favorite local market.
It is a dance of sorts. This balancing of our inner and outer exertions. And this dance is different for each person, at each moment. All good dancing requires moment to moment shifts and decision making.
The garden has been covered with pots and jars and sheets and towels tonight. The frost is all over, at least as far as we are hearing from the forecasters. And so we prepare, best we can.
The news in recent days is harder and harsher. We as a country flounder under a most inept and under-equipped leadership. Not long ago there was a man at the helm who while perhaps imperfect, was at the very least, empathetic.
The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.
Listening lately to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming and watching the netflix documentary about her accompanying book tour, I have been brought to tears at where we have come to. From grace and hope for a new world, to a floundering shadow of a dream. I don’t know who we are any more.
I sit with the space of it all. Setting boundaries where necessary (zoom calls ad infinitum (nauseum?) if I opted for it.) and do the best I can. Yesterday I heard from my Auntie (my father’s sister), now in Virginia with her grand-daughter, and we had a lovely chat. I marveled at the balance of it all as we talked. Somewhere I have four “half” sisters whom I do not know, and who do not seem to care to know me. We discussed this, openly and honestly, and it was good. I revel in the family I do have. My own dear sister and brother and the “steps” along the way. We mix and match as best we can, over time. I love them all so much. Now perhaps now more than ever.
I am recently running the roads a lot, which brings me great solace. I realize this is a privilege as I read about not only communities on strict lockdown around the world, but of Aumaud Aubrey, who was murdered while running in a Georgia neighborhood on a sunny afternoon. Finally a public outcry leads to the arrest of his murderers. But I wonder, what took so long? I run with and for Aumaud of late. Praying step by step for his family. It is all too much to take in.
In the long run, I must admit though, this space, with all its heartbreak and uncertainty is for me, personally, and just now, an ok thing. I am breathing and resting, even amidst this crazy pandemic, which is an unexpected gift. I recalibrate at home, supporting the businesses and organizations I hope will still be present when this all passes eventually, supporting my family and friends along the way too. (Did I mention the wee red dragon, my ER nurse sister’s dog, Ari is back with us??) This is all I can do.
This too shall pass, and this I believe. But we will never go back to what was Before. Perhaps we shouldn’t. I have the gift of a great re-thinking here at home, the results of which I do not yet know the outcome (do we ever?) And so I read, and write letters, plant seeds and paint and play tunes. I walk and run and pray along the way as well, such that it is. It’s all very Jane Austen in some sense.
But I welcome this spaciousness such as it is, such how it comes….
“We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel, But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheels depends.
We turn clay to make vessel, But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house, And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.”
Do we collectively even know what we have here just now? In this time of crisis, can we even recognize the level of love possible? I hope so.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Keep well y’all. I love you.
Ps. Did I mention that Michelle Obama actually sent a tweet my way with well wishes for my sister who is a front line worker as an ER nurse!!? We were all thrilled, fan-girling big time all through the family via text and email. I hope Michelle Obama knows the bright torch she carries and the hope she holds for all of us. It must surely be a great burden to bear. I am in awe of her and her family and wish them all well.
In which John Joe Badger takes to the spring time forest in search of a snack. He discovers woodland based culinary treasures so fleeting this time of year. It is difficult to gather with loved ones just now and so, we take to the quiet end of the woodlands to gather food, and otherwise stick close to home in our hut or possibly out in the woodshed when it’s time for practicing music.
The tune in this little film was newly composed just for John Joe himself by Andrew Finn Magill. John Joe and I are deeply grateful for this beautiful gift.
It’s been a lovely wanderer of a rainy day. Storms rolling in and around. And, per the usual in recent weeks, we haven’t much we really need to do. Inspired by a recent post by a Welsh artist we follow over in the twitterverse called Sarah Evans, and with a few directions via this site *click*, we decided we might craft of flock of little birds from paper mache.
And so we did.
It was fun and we felt a bit like children.
The birds soon began to really come together. Tony following directions for some “bluebirds” and me going a bit more out on my own to make some local birds we see a lot around here.
Both of us were really content with the outcome of our efforts for the day.
I took mine for a proper photo shoot….
We have Goldfinch.
A cheeky little robin…..
And, I must say, my favorite of all of them, is my little wren. I rescued a little live wren once from the cat’s plans for him and was able to hold it in my hands for a minute while I checked to see if it was ok and to get it safely outside once again. I think that having gotten properly acquainted with that little wren, I was able to breathe a bit of life into my paper mache wren today.
Slowing down and observing are two things that might be considered upsides of keeping ourselves to ourselves just now in the age of Corona.
There are quiet gifts arriving daily here at our lowly little acre. A baby oak seedling I have been stewarding in the last year or so made it through the winter and has wee buds of life bursting forth. My good musical friend Emmanuel found this little tree in a setting that mightn’t have let it grow and asked if he might dig it up for me. I said yes and so the little seedling arrived and I have crafted for it a home here and the rest has been up to it. It seems happy. I am grateful for friends who see the world like I do.
Ferns are coming up. They are a bit like big-footed teenagers romping through the house. Taking up too much space, yet gorgeous in their unfurling. We have some to share if you would like them. They love shade, and spreading out. Much like human teenagers actually. Just send me a message if you would like some. we can have a socially distant digging party of sorts.
A number of weeks ago, eager for spring, I took a few cuttings from the willow tree we planted last year, which is thriving (don’t worry, I humbly asked permission first).
These spindly little cuttings quickly made roots and are now forming proper trees in various places in the yard. Getting trees to grow is a big goal of mine here, having lost so many in recent years. I look forward to helping these little trees become big trees in the coming years.
In the veggie garden, plans are afoot to attempt what’s called a “Hugelkultur” which is basically a little mounded garden space which increases ground space as well as makes way for the organic matter necessary to feed hungry plants.
My beloved hawthorn tree, which is thriving, has spring buds upon it. She seems really happy to be the mother hen of this new protected garden space and is relieved of the old armor we kept on her trunk to keep the destructive deer at bay. We are all breathing a bit easier now, in spite of a pandemic.
a few bits and bobs have gone into the ground and I visit a few times daily to see how we are faring.
But garden gifts aren’t the only ones quietly arriving day to day here at Chez Bogard. The post has been a blessing as well. Some of my more trusty penpals have taken to the postal waves to comfort one another in these strange times and thankfully, this has included me.
I’ve received belated birthday gifts, hand painted seed collections, long missives with the hopes and dreams of a pandemic age. I’ve sipped the gifts of exotic tea bags and read articles from far flung periodicals lovingly snipped and sent along. And just yesterday, party flags arrived to welcome the new deer boundary.
Firstly, my artist friend Michelle who is hunkering in Sheboygan WI sent me 50 snapshots of her view of Lake Michigan near her home. 50 snaps for 50 years of my own life. She is a talented gift giver. For my 40th, it was pebbles in a hand crocheted bag. I still treasure them. I’ll admit, these in their beautiful blueness took my breath away and made me a little weepy.
Gifts such as these make my heart soar.
Letters come, big and small, sometimes bearing other gifts beyond words within, like tea and seeds. But often the words are enough. The two above are from two separate pen friends. Both know I adore the natural world.
Other gifts will keep on giving long after arrival. These pumpkins will be tested on the Hugelkultur this year. I love the little drawing on their seed pack. One of a kind.
And the flags, well the flags were a request actually. I have had them in my living room and now I have a few sets for my garden – the new living-room as it were. They are part prayer-flag, part party-flag.
Joyfulness is a form of prayer. I adore them.
Joy in a time of sadness.
They are crafted by my soul-sister in Vermont, @complimentcoins who makes little bits of love and kindness to sow into the world like seeds.
Some of her little coins are on order to send to my beloved pen friends around the world. We could all use a bit of love and kindness just now, don’t you think?
There is much news that needs attention paying to it just now. But a big one for me is the notion that the federal postal service is in question here in our country right now. This is a long time coming as the service has been saddled with rules and restrictions that have caused their budget to be out of balance in recent decades. It’s a long and complicated thing which I don’t truly fully understand. But one thing I do understand is that the timing is crucial.
As we face this pandemic, we also stare down what is likely the most vital election our country has ever faced. Voting by mail simply must be an option this fall in the face of uncertainty at best, and a second wave of the virus at worst. And sure enough, those in power would like to defund the post office by October. Just in time for the election.
We must be diligent. And let our representatives know how we feel about this. Via post, ideally.
I for one, plan to vote by mail at the earliest opportunity. That was my original plan before all of this madness arrived as I hope to be in Ireland for October and a chunk of November this autumn. Time will tell if I get my residency after all, and honestly that is the least of my worries in a world of so many worries just now.
If this idea resonates with you, write a letter to your senators, write a letter to your loved ones far away, and even one to those just up the road. A hand written note or packaged gift can brighten these dark days in ways few other things can.
We small creatures must take to the postal waves and make our voices heard. It is the only way.
Go. Be the gift.
Ps: you are not alone in feeling a lack of concentration in these strange times. I really enjoyed this article about the Allostatic Load. We will get through this. (Charlie, this is for you.)
Occasionally, between tunes over in the woodshed and foraging for food in the forest, a day must be taken to clear the decks about the hut a bit. To sweep the dust from the floors, the winter’s grime from the windows, and send the spiders back outside where they belong. It is a time to craft piles of books, clothes and maybe ideas that could use a bit of shifting. Until we can be with our friends once again to play a merry tune, John Joe Badger mindfully considers what might be worth keeping, and what perhaps can be let go.
I think this is something perhaps many are doing, yes? And it’s not all about stuff either.
How has this slowing down changed your view on things in general? What will you keep from this time when it is just a memory? Being a badger, John Joe likes his solitude, and the slowness of this isolation; the pace of things and the nature of the day to day in general. But he does look forward to meeting his musical mates one day again soon.
I sit with the sadness this morning. Like so many of us in this time of so many griefs big and small. Not anything in particular really. I am fine actually, personally, just now. The sun is beginning to peek through the clouds and it looks to be a potentially nice day. I may get to see my sister today, from afar, and we will relinquish the little red dragon back into his normal life back home with her and her support team. He is welcome back here any time of course but I know he will bring her comfort between her shifts in the ER.
Here, comforts are bursting forth from the ground up. The long (long) awaited deer fencing is up so we can finally grow some proper food in a real garden bed.
A few things are in the ground of course already. The cold weather kind. And it looks nice to have some life amidst the structure of it all.
I have nothing against deer really. Like all of us they are just trying to make a living in the world. But they are decimators of plant life. And so, while most of our little acre is at their disposal to wander and chew, we’ve cordoned off just this little bit for ourselves. I’ve thought for a long time that growing some of our own food could be paramount. I always thought this notion might be a bit dramatic really. But now it all seems closer to home. Closer to reality.
“Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming”
~trad. Irish/Scottish folk song
I am grateful it is spring time. It is good to walk and watch the wild world come alive. A normal spring time here would see my work year ramping up into full gear. Today I was due to be waking up in California, ready to find the weekend’s sketching spots for the upcoming weekend. Well, we all know how that panned out.
And I would usually be chomping at the bit to get back to the Land of Enchantment for a taste of big skies and grand ideas and the feeling that anything is possible. That is Taos for me. But, alas.
A thousand tiny griefs.
It is a difficult balance in this strange new era of corona to make space for all the grief. We as a culture are so quick to categorize the griefs and the joys as big or small, important or trivial – at any given time. And here’s the thing, we don’t know what one thing or another might mean to any other person but our own true selves. The joy of a new sunrise to one person might be equal to the birth of a child to another. Circumstances differ. We must make space for what that sunrise means to that one person on that very day.
I think the same holds for grief. There is so much of it just now. But it does us no good to hold one grief up against another for comparison. Better to just allow. and honor. All of it. It’s hard to do. I’ve been heartbroken this last week or so with the cancellation of not only my Taos work, but the magical week of Swannanoa as well. I had a good long snot cry over each of these in the bath, I’ll be honest. I’m doing my best to honor these losses, to give them space, even while I read the headlines of the death toll mounting, and hear stories of the front line from my sister and her co-workers.
All of it is heart breaking. We must make space.
And we must compost this grief and cultivate joy in this space.
It can feel a bit like a roller coaster of emotions of late. I was saying to a friend the other day that if this time teaches us nothing else, it is giving us lessons in the notion of being as fully present as possible in each and every moment. We don’t know if the things to which we look forward will actually come to fruition. It is a new horizon in tech as we all try to connect real time with our beloved communities and families. I can say for the record that the incorrect connecting device for one’s computer might actually drive one to tears (again) and another lost connection is added to the list of a thousand griefs.
And so how to navigate?
“Look at how a candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
I am fortunate to know many who somehow manage to exist above the fray. I look to them for inspiration. The other day Nuala Kennedy took to the airwaves to do a little concert. It was inspiring and honest and beautiful. Much like Nuala herself.
A couple of far flung artist friends of mine are offering up their teaching online in beautiful ways as well. Erin Lee Gafill of Nepenthe in Big Sur, California has a lovely community built over on facebook if you look for “Awaken The Artist Within”, and her tutorials are over on YouTube. Here’s a sample.
Erin is lovely and calm and brilliant in her scope of experience. She brings a soothing presence to the canvas and to her teaching. Getting into the paints is on my list of joyful things to do in these pandemic times….
Fabian Hernandez is an artist I met down in Antigua and he too is offering some video tutorials for free over on Facebook. I know Facebook is the devil in so many ways, but it is an easy platform in a difficult time. I find myself finding community there (as well as frustration on occasion too) more than usual. This is to be expected and forgiven.
And so, here we are. In need of a bang trim, trying our best.
My friend Rosemary says “I can get used to just about anything, if you just give me a minute or so to adjust.” And I agree. (My metaphor for this same idea is that ” I am not a tug boat in the harbor, more like an ocean liner, and it takes me a bit of time to turn course.” But you get the picture.)
We are here for a while it would seem and every day brings new challenges. Like everyone I am learning to sit with it all. Learning to get my head up in the clouds when needed to get a 30,000 ft view over it all for some perspective. As the weather improves the garden will go on, giving me focus. I can get out into the back room (currently under construction) to play some music perhaps. I’m being more mindful in the last week or so as to what I say yes to. This to give space to the grief that is and the grief that is to come. And the joy.
I am trying to see all of this as the space I have been craving for awhile now. But I do miss my friends. Especially the musical ones.
*small disclaimer: I write this from a place of deep privilege which is not lost on me. I am deeply aware of the bigger broader world, this is just my artful snippet of it. Don’t forget to vote. wherever you are.
These are hard days indeed. Even the most solitary creatures miss their dearest friends more than words can say. Each day a new ‘cup of disappointment’ is served on large and small scale. No one is spared. And so, like many, John Joe Badger must occasionally recalibrate and reset. He makes his lists, some to get him through a day, this day, the now day. And other lists for the hopeful some day. Which will come.
He ponders what will stay and what will go when this strange era has passed. He seems already to have it fair figured out. Music, tea, plenty of rest, always. Then eventually, in a better time, tunes with friends once more.