It all began with a request, from my first born, to create a special gift for his long time university level private-lesson teacher/ coach / mentor, Paul Patterson. If anyone could understand our complex and multifaceted young musician, and light a path ahead for him through the throes of life in a conservatory setting, Paul has been that person. He enabled Jack to see that there was no need to choose one musical path over any others – that to study jazz music was not to abandon the classical tradition. This forked path is not for every musician, and it takes a great deal of extra work, but over the years, with the help of some other amazing instructors as well, Paul has quietly given our Jack many tools to follow his musical nose down whichever path that may lead.
Words simply cannot convey how grateful we are to Paul for his patience, his belief in this kid, and for truly shaping a young life in a way none of us thought possible. Maybe in some ways, he even saved that young life and placed it on a more hopeful and focused path when he needed it most.
I had in mind perhaps a painting, of a master and his young student. Or perhaps a handmade book. In typical fashion I thought and thought but was dragging my proverbial heels, artistically speaking, as Jack’s end-of-conservatory recital drew nearer.
Finally, Jack came up with a brilliant, though rather lofty, idea for a gift. The kind of gift which might suit a teacher who has everything he may want or need. What if I were to create a small puppet-styled doll, in the shape of Stravinsky’s famed Petrushka ballet?
And so I sourced some scrap wood from a carver friend, and set to experimenting.
This red cedar is incredibly beautiful, but difficult to carve in the time scope we had (and with my ever-so-rusty carving skills!). So I fell back on some basswood I had up in our attic space which is softer to work with.
After a number of practice runs and false starts, I finally had a serviceable head with which to build Petrushka’s figure and so I set to work on the rest of the body.
I carved and carved.
Shaping things out of little blocks of wood and slowly bringing character and a bit of life to them.
I’ve worked with puppets in the past, most notably with the brilliant Frisch Marionette Company. But my work there mostly centered on the performance aspect of puppetry, not necessarily the building of them.
And so my goal with this particular work was not a proper puppet necessarily, poised and balanced for nuance of movement, but rather a doll, with puppet tendencies, to be presented as an artful gift.
Soon I had pieces of this puppet-doll put together and able to move hither and thither in his own way.
To me, a representation of anything, be it animal, person, or puppet character, doesn’t really come to life (two-dimensionally or three) until the eyes have been gifted the spark of personality.
Creepy as this may look to those averse to clown-styled imagery, it was upon painting this Petrushka’s face that the personality of this tragic ballet-theater character truly fell into being.
Soon I was crafting a little outfit for him, all handmade, as proper gifts often are.
After awhile he was complete, except for the semblance of strings to give him the feel of a proper puppet, if not necessarily the movement of one.
This Petrushka is full of quirky personality, much like our Jack, and much like his amazing mentor, Paul himself.
It’s been a great joy to put time and energy into this project, even if it meant getting behind in and left behind by a few others.
This Petrushka’s workings are a tad on the clumsy side…
But he is a lovely sculptural gift for some one who loves music. Someone who has himself, done much to sculpt the abilities, thinking and sensibilities of our young musician. Things we as parents can’t always do.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I firmly believe in the truth of this and I take pride in the other adults we’ve invited into our lives over the years to help us in raising ours. We are deeply indebted to all of them, and this trend continues into the young adulthood of both of our kids. All that said, Paul Patterson is exceptionally close to our hearts for all the hours he has spent shaping and carving out the musical life of Jack. We often ran into him at gigs Jack had, even outside of University life. He always had much to report on all of the hard work Jack was putting into his music, and how we might best support him in our own, non-musical ways. We can’t thank him enough!
Paul, this one is for you. With love and gratitude.
It seems many things in our little acre of land are bell shaped just now, fairly ringing with the bodacious arrival of a proper spring time. Daytime warmth coaxes and whispers to the plants to grow and the evenings, cool again for resting before another day of more and more growing.
If one listens quietly enough, for long enough, the chiming of these little bells might be heard all around. Small ones, tinkling near the ground, nestled and tucked under larger, louder plantings.
Other bells chime deeper, perhaps with the promise of a new backyard food source.
Some have a note so high and so sweet, only the most careful listeners might hear them.
And still others have a chime so light and ephemeral, one can’t really know if they sing the song of the mists or the breezes. But if one listens…..
I’ve been listening. With my trowel, moving plants around and tucking in new gifts from friends in trade. Planting seeds and pondering plots and plans, all while these little bells ring and chime and sing all around me.
I’ve been listening with my pencil and paint brush and ink, to capture a bit of this ephemerality, and pin it’s simulacrum to my paper as best I can.
This is good practice as tomorrow I must leave my little plot of land here for a few days to lead two days of sketching with a very speical group in California. We will visit a lovely garden and some wonderous trees as well, whose names I am eager to learn. I am so lucky to do this work I do, encouraging folks to find the paths of their own ink lines, pencil marks and paint puddles. It’s teaching season once again and I am glad for it.
But always I will come back home, to this little place, which is feeling really magical just now with the gardens bursting forth and the beauty of the bells in my ears.
“I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to make it do things for us.” ~Frances Hodgson Burnett
(thank you Cathryn Worrell for this gem of a quote. You can see her Unicorn here.)
I’ll be back in a few days with tales of a land far west from here, but where friends await my arrival. For now, I leave you with some more magic for your ears….
Connotes a yearning for place that is lost or may not exist, a feeling of longing to be ‘at home’ in the sense of achieving a sense of belonging, of finding your paradise.
~from Rising Ground, A Search For The Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden
It is summer and we are firmly ensconced in our paradise. Early last week we drove and drove and drove, many hundreds of miles, to escape the city where we live and work. To escape the stifling heat and humidity that quantifies summer in southwestern Ohio. This is vacation time in Vacationland for our family. A yearly trek to this place we once called home and to reconnect with friends we consider family.
As our friend Tom over at Bat Cave Studios so aptly put it, every visit back to this place makes it that much harder to leave it again.
I’ll share just a few of the adventures of the trip thus far, in between which we have enjoyed much visiting and laughing, cooking, eating and drinking with great joy, game playing and swimming, hiking and paddling. We are thoroughly enjoying the company of our loved ones here. But beyond that, there is the sheer lure of this place so far from home and yet so much like home.
I for one spend a great deal of time pondering the deep sense of place I feel here.
Having lived and worked here so very long ago, we know life isn’t perfect in Maine, or anywhere for that matter. But we love this place and are deeply grateful for what time we do get to spend here.
There are the great gifts of the sea to be had of course and our time in Maine began with these.
“I love oysters. Its like kissing the sea on the lips.” ~Leon-Paul Fargue
“It was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” ~Jonathan Swift
Not only do we love a quiet lobster dinner on the back deck at our home away from home, but we also like to get out into town sometimes, at least when ‘town’ is by the sea. This year we sampled the beautiful food and drink at Eventide restaurant in Portland. It was divine!
But of course dinner in town is not why we came to Maine. This year we were fortunate to score some tickets to a special farm-to-table dinner event out on an island…..
The food at this dinner was beyond spectacular. Every course made with the complexity of island simplicity if that makes any sense. I am no foodie so I will leave that to another blogger, but I do know that these culinary gifts shared with great love and intention were well received and we couldn’t have had a lovelier time.
We were ferried home on the good ship Equinox amidst a breathtaking sunset and cleansing ocean air.
But all has not been food and drink and more of same however. Our timing for this year’s visit afforded us the opportunity to see in person some original artwork by one of my all time favorite illustrators, Barbara Cooney. The show was at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and featured works for three of Cooney’s most prized books.
“When I grow up,”I tell her, “I too will go to faraway places and come
home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing
you must do.”
“What is that?” I ask.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right, ” I say. ~Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius
And now we find ourselves lake side. In recent days we’ve had visitors from home and from our life back in our Maine time and from since then as well. It’s been a lovely mix and match of loved ones from near and far. But for today it is just the few of us. The loons are calling and the boats buzz past on occasion. I’m able to catch up here and perhaps a bit in my sketchbook as well. Up to now it’s really only been color studies.
We swim these waters and treasure the sunsets.
We walk the paths and explore the vistas.
Meeting new friends along the way…
All of this experience deepening the sense of place we have here in our treasured summer oasis.
Who knows where the future will take us. But regardless of the path ahead, a good chunk of my soul resides here in this beautiful place called Maine.
“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.
I am returned, once again, from the magical world of the Swannanoa Gathering, which this year celebrates it’s 25th anniversary. And once again, it was quite the week of music and mayhem, tunes and tricks, laughter and love, friendship and food, beverages and beauty.
There are many ideas floating around in my head for drawings and illustrations seeded by this past week which I shall soon share here of course. Art begets art and by spending the week with so many talented and creative folks, I am fairly swimming in artful thought-glitter!!
But in spite of dark times and a world awash with so much hatred and violence, we came together, once again. A dear friend of mine from Swannanoa overheard someone say one night at a ceili where everyone dancing seemed to have a smile on their shining faces, “Why can’t we be like this all the time? All of us?” I don’t think he meant just us at the gathering, but maybe more the world at large.
So hard not to smile in the midst of this music. Heartfelt, Joy-filled….
And in the midst of all of the fun, we were there to learn. Everyday, we went to the classes available to us to soak up all the tunes and tips we could from our multi-talented instructors. For me, this was Nuala Kennedy in the morning, and Kevin Crawford in the afternoons.
The rapport and sense of play these two bring to teaching and playing and performing is simply infectious and I find them both incredibly inspirational in my own teaching work as well as of course, the music itself.
Neither one of them lets us get away with anything but our very best work and so on the edge of our seats, we huffed away on our flutes and learned so very much. My mind is still quite thick with all of the information we gained over the week!
The week was not all classes though….
There were concerts, lectures, opportunities to play more slowly on a new instrument. There were sessions till all hours of the night. And of course lots of laughter and community with friends. Here is a small sampling…..
(side note: during the storm, a huge lighting strike occurred on campus. it hit a tree and out went the power. it was captured in this amazing sound byte by my friend Mary….. listen for at least 40 seconds…..)
There is so much more in the world of sweet snapshots I could share with you here. Special thanks to my flute friends Kate, Bob and Colin who generously shared their pictures for this post. And I could leave the update here and that might be the end of it. But while we were at camp, the world was continuing on its crazed path of recent self destruction. News was leaking in. The music we were making took on a whole new gravity.
As is often the case, the ‘Flutilla’ was planning some mischief for the end of week student showcase. In years past we had made fun with the ‘rivalry’ between Nuala and Kevin, as our allegiance to them both made them often wonder, ‘hmmmm, who do the flute kids like best?’ But of course we love them both equally and we get something different from each. So this year, we took on the fiddles. Which seemed a fun direction to go, based on the hijinks at the concert the other night. And so I drew up a little drawing, and we made a plan for take over in the form of wearable art…..
Update!!!: Due to the high level of interest in this design, I have created a tidied up version of it to put on products such as totes, shirts and the like which you can order from the link below. Proceeds will go toward a scholarship to Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering. Viva la Flutilla!!!!
But then we awoke the next morning to read the dreadful news of Nice and beyond and we approached the day more somberly. I had the feeling that my blog post from before leaving for camp was even MORE important and we all talked about how important and actually ‘serious’ the ‘fun’ we were having at camp truly is.
My dear friend Joe Bly wrote a gorgeous poem, in true mythical epic poem format that had begun with the ‘let’s take down the fiddles’ sort of approach and idea. But as he wrote it, it changed. Into something bigger and better than all of that. With his poem, the ‘tyranny’ we speak of became all that is evil in the world at large. All the violence and negativity. The work and fun we embarked upon at the Swannanoa Gathering is the rejection of all of that. The folks I know from the gathering go back to their real lives as doctors, teachers, paramedics, therapists, healers, parents, lawyers and beyond. They are bright and active in their communities and keenly aware of the news. And into that work in the outside world, they bring the laughter and creativity that a week of music camp can ignite. I simply marvel.
Cloaked in the mists of Tír na nÓg, the Otherworld of Swannanoa, Where three hundred days pass as three, Rival Clans of the Blackwood vied in feats of strength and skill, Lost in the Loop of myths and legends.
Come! Ye Fianna of the Flute! Daughters of Méabh, Sons of Cúchulainn! Come forth from the mists and meet in the ford of the river that divides us, For now is the time to cast arms beneath the waves And in Friendship and Honor Unite.
We are reborn as warriors anew as we march forth into the shining day.
For are we not free? For do we not face the shadow of a common foe, Hearts and eyes open wide?
For we shall not grovel in fear of the Darkness But serve the light of the clear morning.
We cradle the sacred rite passed down through the mists of legends, And it is our sworn honor to push together against the night, With our strength and our weapons of music and laughter.
Now, more than ever.
I do believe that Joe may have channeled something divine in this poem. He read it aloud at the showcase before the flutes came together as one and played a jig together in unification.
The evening wore on and there were so many gorgeous tunes and songs put on by everyone…. We soaked up and steeped in the final evening together.
As the week came to an end, we all talked much of not only the music we had experienced, but also of the wisdom we were given by those who light this musical path.
A highlight of the week for me was a ‘potluck’ lecture-talk put on by Martin Hayes who is a great fiddler, not only in the traditional sense but also as one who is constantly pushing the boundaries of the music itself. He spoke of being truly present in our music and that to do that we must be present with ourselves. This notion of presence really struck me.
When I play music, or make art, I am most truly present. And the doing of these things over the years has enriched my life and caused me to be more present in all aspects of my life. Presence. It’s crucial. Presence in ourselves. Presence with each other. This alone could help heal a lot in this world, I do believe.
some notes jotted down from martin…
“…raw beauty of a melody.”
“simple music, heartfelt.”
“connective tissue between musician, instrument, and player”
“anything that further releases inner expression is valid”
“trying is an obstacle” (yoda?? is that you???)
“leave the safety zone behind”
“trust the unknown.”
“create a spell.”
Last week at Swannanoa was more than just music. It felt a lot like activism. Pursuing creativity and kindness, music and beauty in a world so hell bent on the opposite seems like an insurmountable challenge at times. But I accept this challenge. As best as I know how to. I share my approach to art work in the form of teaching and I’ve been told it has changed lives for the better. Much in the way my instructors at Swannanoa and beyond have changed mine.
I am deeply grateful to be on this beautiful planet at the same time as these people. These musicians and friends of mine. The world needs their beauty. My beauty. and Yours.
“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.
I love moths. Not so much the ones who like to eat up our woolens when we aren’t looking, but rather the more showy ones.
A number of years ago I embroidered the luna moth above. She remains still one of my favorites. Although the model for the above moth hailed from West Virginia, all sorts of varieties of marvelous moths can be found in this Ohio River Valley, including the Luna, as we are situated along the very edges of Appalachia where loads of wonderful creatures reside.
I am excited for summer’s warmth to come to us (though not our late-summer heatwaves!) and along with it, perhaps a few more interesting moths to observe in the local woods. The One-Eyed Sphinx Moth, though not tremendously common, might be found on occasion in our Ohio woods. Today, however, I found one in my thread basket….
Well, really she came from my mind’s eye, with the help of a guide book and some source photos, with the eventual plan of being worn as a talisman. Much like the recent mushrooms growing in the same said basket!
It’s still quite chilly out of doors, so it is no surprise I found her curled up amidst the chaos of my embroidery.
And as I was home today awaiting some puppy meds for our Iris, I decided to follow this moth’s lead, and see where she might lead me.
Eventually she came together into a tiny, mothlike facsimile with which I am fairly pleased.
The art of embroidery is a slow and steady conjuring, consisting of the magical ingredients of time, patience, a bit of thread, and perhaps, a dash or two of binge-able Netflix.
As this work is so tiny, it will be installed into a wearable frame, looking much like a little embroidery hoop. I shall post it on my instagram feed when it is ready. Should this lovely moth strike your fancy, let me know. I’d love her to go to a wonderful home…..
ps… here is the necklace this little sphinx found herself into. I think it turned out nicely!
I have heard it said that in 7 years, a person’s whole body – every bit of it, down to the cellular (and perhaps beyond) level – is replaced in that time by a new set of cells, ready to take on the task of the day to day life of being human. But what of the soul?
I’ve returned from some magical travels to a more equatorial part of the world with my beloved, and have landed amidst the mud and mire of early spring back home. Normally a joyful season for most folk, what with the coming of green things and the promise of new fawns in the bulging bellies of the local mama deer, early spring has, in fact, proved challenging for us over the years. This year marks the 7th anniversary of Esme’s death which was a sea change in the lives of both of my children, in our own lives as parents, and in the collective life of an entire close-knit community. Not to mention, her dear family. Everything is now measured against this tragic event. And in March, we are called back to the season to take stock, re-visit ourselves and our losses and re-calibrate our lives to a certain extent.
And so we did.
Es’s weeping cherry tree in Spring Grove Cemetery is thriving. Under the now formidable presence of the tree, little offerings of love and memory are present….
We were glad to see them.
Madeleine and I drove around the cemetery just to take in the beauty and the years of memorials present there. It’s breathtaking, the number of stories held by this place. Just the names and birthdates alone get you thinking, ‘ Why did this person die so young?’ Or maybe even, ‘wow, that guy sure lived a long and hearty life for the time!’. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to any of it.
There really doesn’t.
It was strange that M. was home for Esme’s anniversary as it was only to mark the passing of another family friend, the loving mama of a dance friend of her’s. Lucinda, a wonderfully witty, thoroughly engaging fellow dance mom I’d known over the years, passed away from cancer, leaving behind a kid just a year younger than my own, amongst many others she loved and whom cherished her.
We are all heartbroken.
And so from memories of one to memorializing another, March seems to be funeral season. We are all glad we have each other.
Amidst all of this funeriality, I was called upon to play some music with friends at the wake of someone dear to them. And so we did.
It was fascinating to me to see the effect of the presence live music has in the environment of grief. Music, especially live music, seems to punctuate the moments of celebration of a long life well lived, while simultaneously allowing for the pauses for tearful acknowledgement of great loss to a tune perhaps more in the minor key, or slowed down enough to capture the depth of that loss. I was honored to play a small part in all of it.
And today, M and I attended Lucinda’s funeral. And then made our way back up to Columbus to plant her back at school where she belongs.
Like I said, it’s been a heavy season.
But every edge has two sides. Alongside the grief in recent days, was a fair amount of hope-full worry in our family, which has thankfully come to a bright and beautiful homecoming.
Our nephew, wee Frank came to us on Monday, just over a week ago. He arrived early, amidst some worry as to The State Of Things regarding how he was faring. Sure enough he had a bit of a struggle for a number of days as he caught his breath from his early oncoming. Eventually, thanks to the tremendously brave parenting and caregiving he was fortunate to receive, Frank went home to get to know his siblings. Things, for perhaps just one wild moment, seemed completely right with the world…. (though in this shot, Big Brother Harry might not be so sure. I’ve heard he’s come ’round in the mean time. )
This is the crazy balance of it all. Walking the knife’s edge of life’s beauty and heartbreak. Making time for all of this Big Life Stuff, while trying to fit the work of Making a Living, or perhaps even Getting a Little Art Made, into the grooves of life’s floorboards.
Even though I didn’t feel quite up to it with these recent heavy days, I met up with some fellow sketchers to challenge the blustery breeze of Esme’s day with some drawing downtown. Christina had invited a few of us to join her while WCET filmed her segment for a show on her work. I can’t wait to see it, and of course share it with you, as her work is fabulous. Sketching is a strong part of her work and we all enjoy sketching together. In spite of the chill, we all managed a sketch of Music Hall, as well as some lively conversation…
Why is it always a lesson? That making the time and effort for some music and some art, are the things that make sense of a difficult season? Perhaps because I am only human and by that I mean, I have still much to learn. This is the development of the Soul.
It is March. I have many hours to make up at the Shop and many, many more hours to make up to my own solitude and writing and sketching of new ideas. In times like these when life comes at us reckless, I wonder, how do they do it? The successful ones. Those produced, published, and promoted.
Perhaps they just stomp the work into the floorboards of life, between the moments of birth and grief. I have heard that music happens between the notes. Perhaps I am onto something…
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!
It’s difficult for me to fathom that just over a month ago I traveled to Taos to teach my annual summer travel-journal workshop. Has it really been a month?! Was I really just there three weeks ago, mid-way through a fantastically perfect week filled with the company of the most amazing group of people?
If I look at the calendar, it would seem so. And yet, I look at some of the snapshots of that week (captured by my trusty assistant for the week, Taos artist, Jan Haller) and it seems that the workshop never happened, or is happening right now, or perhaps, is just around the corner once again. Taos has that relationship to time.
There was much laughter. Belly-laughs as deeply rooted as the ancient cottonwood trees.
And there were also plenty of precious moments of solitude and quiet.
There were those moments of ‘aha!!’ when we learned a new trick with those wiley watercolors.
There was a fair amount of demonstration done by yours truly, to show my approach to capturing the world in my own journal….
…and yet we learned that there is no better way than one’s own way of working. It was my goal for the week for each workshop participant to find their own visual voice. Which they did. In grand, beautiful fashion.
At the end of this gorgeous week we celebrated our hard work and new friendships with a dinner at Mabel’s which fed not only our bodies but our souls as well, as meals at Mabel’s generally do. There was more of that nourishing belly-laughter, and perhaps some equally delicious tears over deep conversations too. This work is so much more than just drawing and painting in a book. It’s about an approach to life that can sometimes be difficult to find in our day to day. But we re-discover it at workshops like these. We find it in these fellow artistic souls. We are reminded that beauty and laughter, grace and joy, great food and fantastic, fierce friendships are crucial to a life well lived. Today- just now – back in Ohio, it is (not surprisingly) raining buckets. In my ears, on repeat while I work, is thiswhich is the perfect blend of arty and trad. Combine this music with the sound of rain and things can seem a little somber. Especially when compared to the bright beauty of New Mexico.
But there is a lushness to this valley that is at once suffocating and yet deeply and beautifully compelling. It is travel season, and I am torn between all of the amazing, soul-home places (yes, including Ohio!) and people I have the great fortune to know intimately. Those who know me and love me best know that this very restlessness and yearning are what keep me moving artistically. The need to be on the move was instilled early on in me by my ever-changing home life and I’m grateful for the ability to travel as much as I do now as an adult, especially in summer!
Next up is my now annual trek to the North Carolina mountains where I will play music for a week with far-flung friends at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Celtic week. I will be updating the blog a bit in coming weeks (between trips) with next year’s workshop offerings. There’s a new one being offered in February 2016 about which I am very excited. Much of the same sort of work, but deeper and richer. So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted!
I have returned, truly just a matter of hours ago, to this luscious land of my rootedness. There are many travels still to embark upon in coming weeks and I am attempting to float above it all to soak up my experiences in Taos, whilst engaging in things back in Ohio and preparing for more to come. Attempting not to burn up on re-entry. Attempting to make sense of a world a world away.
One of my crew of 16 workshop participants this past week wears daily the visage of a frog. It’s a pretty little thing, made of silver and inlaid with some lovely stonework. I asked her about it one day and she said, ‘this represents the fact that I live in and of two worlds.’ She is a lovely woman who is a frequent visitor to Mabel’s and I immediately tuned what she was saying. For her, the two worlds seem to represent a going between her ‘normal’ home life, and the rich artistic breeding ground to be found at Mabel’s and other hotbeds of creativity. For myself, the above two worlds are also the same as I go from Mabel’s and, in a matter of weeks, to music camp. But I have the added world-switch of going from 7000 ft above sea level to 700 ft. which frankly feels a bit like drowning.
Today I am drowning.
I came home to a clean home. Coffee in the cupboard and milk to accompany it in the morning. There was even wine for my frazzled travel nerves to sip upon. My family knows how to buffer the re-entry from this trip each year, so full of magic. So very full of hard, hard work. I am grateful. But I also came home to things that need to be done. By me. The home-steward. Something I value, actually. We have a new member of the pack, potentially indefinitely, in the form of a little dog that a family member may or may not be able to care for in the long haul. First stop was the vet’s office today for that little friend. Next stop was the market for some fresh food for tonight’s meal, and then a nap. Between all that and a proper re-engagement online, the day is nearly over. And still I float.
I have a gagillion photos to share of the workshop week itself, thoughtfully taken by my friend and co-facilitator, Jan Haller from Taos. But for now I will share what I have here.
First off, love. And a whole lot of it. This year was very different than year’s past. My dear friend Julie who has in the past helped keep my nose pointed in the proper direction is now stewarding the very place itself so important to my work. And while this is wonderful, and all as it needs to be, I’ll admit to being really lonely for much of the working side of this trip. But perhaps, that too is as it should be.
As we grow older, kids move on. There are no guarantees to how long our beloved partners will choose to accompany us. Our parents will inevitably move along before us, if things flow as they ought to. The only thing we have is our right work. Perhaps I’ll live to be 103 and see the passing of most of those I love…. but I will still have my work, such that it is. I will still be able to engage the arts on some level. This may seem a little depressing, but it’s all true. And for me, it makes me value my loved ones in the here and now, and to allow the work the space it needs at the same time.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old andtrembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I am so fortunate to have folks in New Mexico now who hold a space for me to come ‘home’ to when I go to work there. Portal Keepers in Albuquerque – Ron and CC, who provide me a place to land, on the way in or out, any time, with a mountain view, a bit like that of Taos Mountain. There is always a nourishing meal, laughter, artwork and a spot of wine or tea awaiting me there.
I simply can’t thank them enough for their support and friendship.
There is also the crew at Mabel’s. Arriving there is really like a homecoming.
This inn sees hundreds of folks a year there. To do workshops, experience the B&B end of things in Taos, to make a movie or to do research. The staff at Mabel’s see and hear it all. And somehow, most miraculously, I can walk in for my week there and be received like family. (um, yes, that is a ‘Go Forth and Doodle’ sticker on a real live Taos truck!!!)
Perhaps they treat everyone like this. I’d not be surprised. But I adore the people that run this place. Their skeletal crew keeps this historic treasure running like clockwork, making it seem easy, which I know it certainly cannot be. They even have their dogs on hand in the off hours for those of us visiting who might need a fix…
Enzo tells me he is a football fan and may very well need a Bengals tee-shirt just his size. I am already shopping. This may be the first NFL item I have ever sought out.
Every trip to Taos yields a certain level of unexpected magic or synchronicity that may or may not send me down some unexpected rabbit hole. I’ll share a couple of these with you here…
Firstly, this year is the 100’th anniversary of the founding of the Taos Society of Artists. There is much to do in town about all this with art shows and articles. One artist who’s work caught my eye amidst the to-do is Ralph Meyers. Technically, he was not an ‘official’ TSA artist, which kind of makes me like him even more. I enjoyed viewing some of his work at the Taos Art Museum when I visited and the more I dig, the more I admire. After the workshop ended, some of my participants (who are now dear friends, of course!!) remarked that they had seen a photo in town in a gallery of a young girl from back in the day that looked a bit like my youngest daughter. Well, you know how it goes. One takes these things with a grain of salt having grown up with an every-girl face like mine. But then I walked by her…..
I did a double take and decided to ask about her the following day. Because, Sally was right. This young woman is the spitting image of my own Madeleine.
The photograph was of Ralph Meyers’ wife Rowena who hailed from Pennsylvania. They met in Taos and the rest is history. Their son, Ouray, is now himself a successful local artist in Taos and I highly recommend a visit into his lovely gallery for a peek at his paintings.
Things like this remind me, as my friend Harold says, that ‘we are all related.’ I’m keeping my ear to the ground regarding Ralph, as even his grave, situated right by Mabel herself, is intriguing in its simplicity and beauty. I believe we should follow our noses regarding this sort of thing. Perhaps a historical figure calls to you, maybe you too should follow the winding path and see what there is to discover….
The next turn down the proverbial rabbit hole came at the tail end of my trip…. (pun intended.)
Before leaving New Mexico I spent a little (not enough, never enough New Mexico) exploring the Petroglyph National Monument per the advice of my Albuquerque based friends, Ron and CC.
Amidst the basalt stone, if one looks closely and sticks to the path, there are literally hundreds of ancient images carved into the stone there….
It was a quick trip, as I had a plane to catch, and it’s hard to leave good friends in a sacred-to-me land, but I am so glad I made the effort.
I felt a true sense of guidance amongst these images. They feel like signposts. Sadly, one needs to ignore the occasional scratches of more modern day people who have felt the need to add their marks to the mix. But I regularly ignore the stupidity of the modern day in my search for the magical things and once on the trail, it wasn’t so bad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, getting as far off the beaten path as possible, leads, generally speaking, to fewer idiots. Though this has it’s exceptions, and is not a scientifically proven fact.
I have so much more to share with you as I gather photographs from the workshop itself. The work done there this past week was the most focused yet compared to years past. I believe part of the reason for this is the space I gave it. I didn’t concentrate (at. all.) on my own art work. I was there to be a steward to the work of the participants there for the week who ranged from beginners to professionals. And this paid off in folks who worked hard on their books, their artful craft, their soaking up of New Mexico and Taos in particular. One has even written a blog post already!! More to come in due time. But as you know, time is fluid in summer…..
After a long day of travel, peppered with delays, cancelations and many, many hours of knitting, snoozing and sketching, I found myself at long last, arrived in theLand of Enchantment. Ginger Small was as annoyed with the delay as I was at the way our day of travel had gone…
…and for the second leg of the journey, opted rather for a hot air balloon ride.
Last I heard, she may have tracked down her cliff dwelling friends further down the mountain, but that is a tale for another post.
Meanwhile, I arrived, very much alone. I was greeted by moody skies, a darkening landscape and storms.
It was all quite lovely really and I just got into my little car and drove, intent to make the most of the last of daylight, intent to eventually arrive in Taos.
Thunderbirds guided me up the mountain.
After a day off to soak at the hot spring and nap and visit, yesterday finally found me truly landed and ready to get to work. There are many supply gathering sort of errands to be handled, and meetings with the team of folks here in town and at Mabel’s who make this workshop possible. But I did take a couple of hours yesterday to hike a well loved desert path.
I met many new friends, who were in full plummage due to recent rains.
I was able to sit for a few minutes with my sketchbook and do a quick rendering of a bit of the Rio Grande Gorge before I had to head back up the path to get back to town. It was wonderful to sit in the quiet and witness Raven riding the thermals, and to feel the sun on my shoulders, and the breeze on my cheek. The noise of town and traffic well behind me. I need more open space in this life.
It feels so precious to be back in this strange land, so very different than my own homeland. By experiencing, exploring and cataloging new landscapes, we are surely discovering and perhaps even altering our own inner landscapes. Every visit here reminds me I have much to glean here. From myself, and from the land.
The trip has only just begun, and there are already so many tales to tell and drawings to be made. I am grateful for this quirky place and it’s rugged landscape and beautiful people who are fortunate enough to live here full time.