Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
Perhaps it is the bright face of the full moon which pours into my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning. Or maybe it’s that I have traveled far and wide just recently, with more journeys awaiting me in the wings of weeks to come. I do not know. But I have been doing a fair amount of vivid dreaming while visiting the landscape of my sleep-time each night.
Generally a deep and dark sleeper, I seldom remember my dreams, but occasionally I get a conscious-time glimpse into that other-world beyond and it’s tremendously exciting and inviting and I do not want it to end. Thankfully, this has been occurring more and more and more.
Once, much like in the poem above from Antonio Machado, I dreamed that bees had crafted a hive in the walls of my home. This dream-time home was different than my home here in waking-time. Yet it was my home none-the-less, as it often goes in dream-translation. It was a quaint little house, nestled in quiet country.
Painted blue, it had lace curtains which blew gently in the breezes. Outside there was washing on the line, bleach-drying in the golden sunshine. Inside, the bees had been so busy in the inner walls of this sweet home of mine that honey –rich, golden honey – began to seep from the very walls themselves. And from the ceilings. Drip, drip, dripping from every corner. Oozing a golden coating on to all. My waking self has a bit of an aversion to being sticky. Give me the mess-making of mud-pies and the following-flowing of dust-bunnies, but stickiness can set my teeth on edge. But my dream self saw and felt this honey coating everything as a great gift from the bees. A sign of the richness in my day to day. Seeping out of the very walls.
I come back often to this dream and the sensations it delivers upon the heart of my remembering, as I am “abeefrnd” after all. I love all things bees. The wax, the honey, the magic of their pollination which in essence keeps us alive as well as surrounded by beauty. Just the other day I was captivated by a podcast featuring a Bee Priestess called Ariella Daly and was once again reminded of the honeyed home awaiting me in my dreamscape.
This morning I awoke from another powerful dream which I took to paper and pen first thing (well, after I’d given the dogs a chance to wee and poured myself the requisite first cup of coffee).
“Intense, wee-hours-of-the-morning dream. Skyscape and seascape were one. I could swim-fly underwater, beneath floating purple and darkened-green continents of mosses. Under-over there, all was turned around – up was down and sideways and back again.
Some feared if I swam-flew in this place, I might never return to above the mosses.
Before this swim-fly time, I was on a beach, with a public beach-house. It was winter and access to the sea was limited. The life-guard then said it was time and everyone cheered and pulled their pick-up trucks on to the beach to sell their market wares.
It was crowded.
This is when I began to swim-fly. This place was not crowded. It was wild and lonesome. I dove in and once under came the turning around of the world. As I dove down, I also flew up. Direction didn’t seem to matter. I could easily breathe this air-water. I was of two worlds. Maybe more. The worlds of Up, Down, Over, Under, Back and Forth.
The masses of mosses had watery, puddled areas in them, like bog-land. Puddled portals of a sort. These puddles led to below-above where anything is possible.”
I could go on an on about the venturing I’ve been up to amidst the murky depths of my own dreaming, but we all know how difficult these images and sensations can be to convey in conscious conversation. So I will simply share with you a few endeavors from waking-time, and in-between times which seem to be contributing to these dreamscapations. (That may be a new word of my own making, though I am not sure.)
The rough little drawings dotting this post are from a small book I keep at my bedside nowadays, along with a pencil. Most evenings, just before sleeping, I scribble a bit into this book. Nothing in front of my eyes to capture. Merely the musings of my own mind and my own imaginings. Occasionally I am surprised at the results. Often, they are simple and rather mundane. But still I doodle.
I began this practice a few weeks ago, inspired by my friend, fellow illustrator, and fab yoga instructor, Stacey Maney who has been doing the same practice herself a good while now and has amassed a number of bedtime drawings. Though we each approach this practice in our own way, we both find it helps to feed the inner muse. This muse is our bread and butter after all and needs to be coaxed and tempted with attentions and praise from our daily habits.
This all differs greatly from my usual sketching practice of the world around me, about which I write here often and much. The deep mind-full-ness my sketchbook work brings has been a richly rewarding gift over the years, a gift I now offer to others through my classes and workshops. And yet, I still want to go deeper. Sketching is not enough. Writing is not enough. In the attempt to bring my own practice to a deeper, soul-entrenched level, I’ve been seeking a nameless thing. I haven’t been sure if that thing is in the form of yet another book or a deeper yoga practice to delve into, or a new teacher, or new habits and pathways of my own intention. In the past I have even been known to run toward (and away from) this Nameless Longing by training for and running marathons. I did 7 of them before deciding they were finally through with what they had to teach me.
In the end, I’ve come to find it is all of these things along the way and always more, ever changing. And so recently, I have been following this nameless need for something, down it’s soft, darkened path. I can almost smell this path, blanketed as it is by pine needles and leaf litter.
It feels so good to be able to smell the earth once more as spring has come upon us. To celebrate this awakening, I have signed up for a class via One Willow Apothecaries called Intuitive Plant Medicine. The ideas promised in this class are exactly what I have been looking for as pathways to enrich my own personal practice as an artist, a writer, a teacher. I firmly believe that to be a good teacher, one must always be learning right alongside our students. Maintaining an openness and the vulnerability of a learner, a beginner, is crucial to meeting students who find their way to us right where they need us to be. And so I am always digging. Always searching for ways to stretch.
I have no intention of becoming an herbalist or plant shaman really, except to suit my own curiosities and affinity for the magical world of plants. But I know in my gut that this seemingly un-related study of the soul-life of plants, and how they can enrich our own lives at soul-level, is exactly the spirit-food I need to stay grounded and growing in my own work in the world.
And so it goes. The seasons are shifting into sunshine and growth. Workshops are happening in the coming weeks and I am busily tending to the earthly details which make them run smoothly. My offspring are both jumping headlong into their adult working lives. Madeleine off to Africa to work with a linguist and some medical doctors to collect health-care stories (a process called Verbal Autopsies). Jack, gearing up for next week’s senior recital over at CCM. How the time is flying. And like between season lettuces tucked in under the other vegetables and flowers, I plant idea seeds in every fertile corner I can find. Hoping something grows and blooms amidst all of this rich life-compost.
note: I haven’t a clue what any of these drawings mean. but they seem to have a feel to them that reaches one into the next. I am interested to get to know the little faces peering out at me from the pages of my little bedtime book and perhaps learn their story.
It is my favorite sort of day. One which began inspired and meditative, flowing along at my own pace, following my nose in an artful way, with no lists or have-tos clouding my inner compass.
Today I have been graced with the following….
Meditation at the very tip of my pencils.
Green chili stew on my stove top. (I don’t eat much meat, but this stew’s protein came from my friends over at Grassroots Farm. I am so very grateful for their work.)
Many (many) mugs full of tea. It’s fuel.
Ghosts at my doorstep. It is a liminal time of year, is it not?
Cool autumnal breezes in the tree tops. We have been afforded a most beautiful fall season. This doesn’t happen every year. It is a gift.
The warm glow of candlelight on my studio window. (The gorgeous candle is by my favorite honey and wax peddlers, Bee Haven to be found locally here in Cincinnati at Findlay Market on week ends.
A four legged friend who is up for adventure and doesn’t talk that much.
and finally, some paint on my paint brush. I’ve been coaxing a little painting along lately who is not so keen to tell me all of her secrets. She is to be wooed slowly it would seem. I am giving her time and space to tell me what she knows. We will go from there. But this much I do know…..
she knows of the power in the flutter of a moth’s wing. she knows she must always have a basket handy for carrying the gatherings, (though what is in her basket, I do not yet know). she spends a great deal of time outside as it tends to keep her thoughts clear.
Ever wondered where intrepid hamsters head off to when they escape? I think I may know…. Ginger Small seems to be in the mood to head to New Mexico again for some tea and piñon in the high mountain desert, and perhaps a little mystery as well…. I shall be joining her to teach my Illuminated Sketchbook workshop of course. But I hope to follow Ginger’s desert adventures here and there as well, if she permits it. I’ve heard there has been a lot of rain there this season, and things are exceptionally green, for the desert.
The partial story below was recently discovered and I hope to uncover more of it very soon. It’s rough writing… think of it more as a sketch….
A while ago, years perhaps, (or was it just last week?) I was curled up under some fresh shavings, about to enjoy a long awaited and delicately saved blueberry yoghurt treat when suddenly, a soft glow began to emanate from somewhere not too very far outside of my habitat. This was no normal glow. It was neither warm, nor cool. It was just… green. In the way newly grown ferns are in the springtime, just prior to unfurling. This green spoke of freshness and strangeness. I had a sense this light was for me. I do not know how I knew this. Somethings, I guess we just know. And so I quietly shuffled out from under the shavings to take a peek.
One might wonder why I did not stay hidden beneath my shavings. I was, after all, quite sleepy, and I was so looking forward to my yoghurt treat. It may have been simpler to remain hidden. But I have found that often, the best adventures come on the heels of the moment we trust the small intuitive voice which tells us, though this may be a strange green light, it seems friendly enough.
And besides, I smelled tea. And desert sage. And, could it be?…. a hint of burning piñon? !
I decided to undertake dire action, and climbed out of my habitat to greet whatever – whomever – might be shining this light in my direction.
The instant I made this decision, to shed the boundaries of my normal habitat, things got very interesting.
I was suddenly surrounded by colors I’d never encountered and vistas which made my heart sing. I was not sure where I was heading, but I had a feeling, it was going to be a wild ride….
Til next time,
…And that was about all I could find of this particular adventure, though Ginger has hinted there is more to the story.
Some while back, I received a gift in the form of a little book on a necklace from a dear friend who knows I love the allure of a blank book. Knowing this book would be near to my heart for years to come, I opted to fill it with some of my favorite quotes and a few doodles as well. The result is this tiny book of truths. I find it to be even more fetching now, filled with words and images I have chosen.
This is the case with all blank books – journals, sketchbooks and the like. They really come alive when we put ourselves into them. I suggest we fill all of those old blank books we might have lying around with quotes and drawings, musings and the day to day magic that makes us individuals. When you do so, do check back and share what you’ve made. Every person’s journal, no matter how big or small is a one of a kind. Just like you!
Years upon years ago I spent a fair amount of time training for and running in marathons. These races and my relationships with those with whom I trained kept me quasi-sane through the early years of motherhood, which like many, I often found challenging and quite lonely. In the long run, so to speak, I ran 7 of these races which afforded me the opportunity to travel now and then, and fund raise a bit, keep healthy and even do some soul searching along the way. At that time, it was the right kind of slow therapy I needed. Those miles led me to the more real version of me, they helped me find the courage to let my artist-self shine and eventually, I gave up the long distances to walk more in the woods, spend more time sketching, and somehow earn an art degree.
Recently, at the suggestion of a long-time and dear friend, I have dipped my toe back into the idea of running-to-race by committing to a local half-marathon. This means that I needed to go beyond my jogs ’round the neighborhood and do some longer runs on the weekend. These runs would train us up for the big day and give us a few hours every weekend to chat, laugh and catch up with each other, something we hadn’t found time to do in ages. The extra miles have been taxing on my legs but by throwing into the mix some kayaking and cycling through the week to ‘cross-train’, somehow I’ve managed. This past week we successfully ran 11 miles together and that is the last of the Big Long Runs before the race. Hoorah for ‘tapering!’
It’s been lovely to run the streets of our fair Queen City and see the mornings come alive as we tick off the miles. At the tail end of yesterday’s Big Run, we were passing a local church and this lovely scene caught my artist-eye and I nearly stopped in my tracks.
Here was a statue of Saint Mary, nestled into the side wall of the building in a wee niche (my mom would call her Mary on the Half-Shell), and seated at her feet was a lovely woman in a crisp white sari, trimmed in blue. Something about this scene captured my imagination. But as we were running, we couldn’t very well stop for an artful photograph, let alone a sketch! And so, this drawing is one from my mind’s eye, the details perhaps not quite right.
The woman in the sari was readying to answer her mobile phone which was ringing out a lovely Indian sounding ring-tone. She may have been waiting for Mass to begin, or perhaps she was resting in the niche with Mary for a spell while she waited for the metro-bus. Regardless of her story, just the glimpse of the two of them there in that brief moment was a lovely sight to see. And so this morning, I visited that space again, in the land of my imaginings, and made a little drawing. This is a small painting, only 5″x7″. It is indeed for sale if it speaks to you.
Speaking of selling little drawings, check back here in the next week or so. I’ll be offering some things for sale to help fund my writer-in-residence post in Taos this upcoming winter. These will be sketches and Ginger post-card options, and maybe even an ethereal bunny or two…. I’ll keep you posted!
In the mean time, while we all seem to be running through our lives be it to Fit It All In, or to train for the Next Big Race, let’s take the time to note and perhaps record the sacred in the mundane should we be fortunate enough to come across it. I’d love to see what you come up with!
[draw] drawn, draw·ing, noun, verb (used with object)
1.to cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; drag (often followed by along, away, in,out, or off ).
As you probably know by now from reading this blog over the years, the one steady thing that has been a constant throughout all of my adventures as an artist, a world traveler, and a musician is the fact that I carry around a sketchbook with me. Pretty much wherever I go, I have a book in my bag, a small set of watercolors and a pen or pencil to write, draw, collect what I see and hear in the world. This practice began years and years ago, when my kids were really small. Say what you want about the beauty of motherhood. It IS beautiful. But it’s also really, really hard. Among the few things that kept me somewhat centered during the early years of parenthood (such as a great husband and many many many marathoning miles), the act of drawing in a little book became a habit that was like my anchor in the storm. Those early drawings are clumsy and poorly rendered. The really early ones didn’t even include any watercolors!! And yet, I have them (somewhere around here). They include tales of camping trips interrupted by pasta ravaging raccoons and over-the-top Halloween costumes made to order for my kids (One year Jack wanted to be a peacock. And his little sister? Yes, a Princess Peacock. I swear if I come across those journal entries/ photos I will totally share them).
Slowly, over many years, through many slumps and the crossing of proverbial seas, I began to realize what I had in this seemingly simple practice of sitting and drawing and writing a bit about my life. I began to do it with a bit more consciousness. I began to find others, people who called themselves Artists, who did a similar thing and seemed to even be making books and teaching classes. People around me, beyond my awesome family who always thought I could draw anything, began to notice. I even went to art school. But not for drawing. Majoring in sculpture, I was still noted for my copious collecting skills in the form of my sketchbook. Post art school, I made some Art, but it has been the sketching and journaling that has time and again come to the fore. This is mainly because, as a mom, it’s the one art form that’s portable (that and embroidery, but that’s for another post, another time.) All of this time and the many filled books, eventually led to my teaching this process to others wanting to learn it. Without even realizing it, I had developed a very individual and distinct way of doing this sketch-journal thing.
So fast forward to nowadays. I teach Keeping an Illuminated Journal in both individual classes and at the local community arts centers. I co-developed a business centered journaling process with a former student. (That project is tabled right now as we both pursue our individual work, me here in Cincinnati, and Adam in NYC.). With the support of the Art Academy, I began taking students afield to document the travel experience in a sketchbook. Through these trips to Taos it was even clearer to me that what I am teaching is more than simple life documentation, or learning to draw things that come across one’s path in life. This process has a power to draw a person toward their center. Keeping a journal, and more importantly an illuminated journal (one with drawings or paintings) is an act of meditation which leads to a deeper thinking about life in general. As a young mama, battling depression and anxiety, I was not only capturing precious bits of my kids’ fleeting childhood, I was actually healing myself. Keeping these books has been a slow-cooker style of self-guided therapy that has, over the years, taught me much. I’m much healthier in the head and heart these days and I attribute some of that to merely growing into myself. Growing into myself has happened in the pages of my sketchbook. It is there that I can jot down quotes that speak to me at the time, I can mull over the mundane and the difficult, I can draw a dog or a backyard bird and feel calmer for doing so. It’s like magic really. And I love sharing this magic.
This summer when I head to Taos with yet another amazing group of students, I will also be filming my segment of the Eco Chic Retreat DVD project slated to be completed this fall. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Often, the spiritual side of the classes I teach winds up being an added, unexpected bonus to the fun process of writing and drawing in a journal. But Eco-Chic’s retreat climate is all about centering oneself in the storm of life through a time of guided nutrition, yoga, painting, meditation and more and of course, keeping a journal. I’m tremendously excited to talk about how the simple act of making a drawing, writing a haiku poem, or taking note of the day can seriously alter a life. I don’t make the claim lightly. I was my first student and I am, finally after all these years, a firm believer in the power of this process.
What drove me to go into writer mode on today’s blog post is the photo below of some of the Eco-Chic family. This was shared electronically to those of us on the team who couldn’t be there for this particular gathering and when I saw it, my heart just swelled. These women are doing amazing work in the world. Each of them is a healer in her own way. I am humbled to be a part of this project. But I too am a healer. And I look forward to sharing my take on the ‘simple’ act of keeping a sketchbook in the hopes that it will bring healing your way too.
L-R: Ana Easter, Lourdes Paredes, Jan Haller, Jody McNicholas and Louise Lowry
I’ve been encouraging my students to attempt to draw every day, even if it’s just simple exercises like blind contour drawings (which tend to result in funky little drawings that don’t look much like their source imagery!) In just 23 days I will head to Taos and my students will be right behind me. We all need to be ready to draw what we find enchanting out there, and there will be plenty to draw in such a new and different environment. So I am challenging myself to make a drawing of some sort everyday focusing on the process of pen and color to paper, not on the finished drawing. Here is today’s. A blind contour drawing, done in pencil first, colored with some watercolor and pen to finish. It’s my favorite chair.
For now, I am off to work at the concertina shop. Finishing up a case today for an instrument heading to Ireland for a woman named Claire. So exciting! Oh, and by the way, I’ll be going to Ireland in August after all. More on that later!!!!
Yesterday I went to the zoo. I used to go all of the time with my kids when they were younger and before that I worked there as a teen and young adult. I love the zoo. It is the perfect place to go practice my drawing skills. In the interest of practicing what I preach more by getting out and drawing more, I got myself a pass and plan to go as often as I can. My friend Dan and I drew a number of animals during our visit. His capacity for drawing far exceeds my own. I consider my drawings “mere” sketches.
There are meerkats now in the cat house and they watch as the people stroll by. They have great seriousness of purpose in their watchfulness.
Many animals, such as the snow leopard and the monitor lizard, could be found sleeping which makes them easier to draw. But it is also fun to try and capture them awake and moving, like this Sumatran rhinoceros. He had a mud bath, ate some leaves, and took a walk around his environment. He is still a baby to a certain extent and I think it shows in his demeanor.
So for what it’s worth, here are a few sketches from yesterday’s zoo trip. Bear in mind, they are mere sketches. I’ll post more as they gather in my sketchbook. practice, practice, practice.
Everybody needs a job or at least to feel some purpose in their lives. This true for people, (both children and adults) as well as for dogs. Some dogs I know, my own included, seem to be happy casing the neighborhood a couple times a day on a walk and ridding the yard of rodential vermin. We used to have a Labrador whose soul purpose (pun intended) in life was to fetch a saliva slimed tennis ball. He could do this for hours.
I have been thinking a lot lately about dogs with jobs other than just as pets. One of my favorites of these “working breeds” is the blue heeler, a form of Australian cattle dog known for its herding abilities. Next week I am going to pay a visit to a farm down in Kentucky that employs a couple of these dogs. My goal is to take tons of pictures and some video footage of them in action. And then make drawings.
There is something about these dogs that appeals to my dog-drawing side and I am feeling the need to follow that thread these days, along with all the other stuff going on in the studio. I have had the idea for years that it might be fun to produce a picture book. So we’ll see where it leads. My “job” as artist is one I enjoy, even with its rather winding path.
Below are some sketches of heelers…
It is my belief that anyone can draw. Like most languages, some people are naturally better at the language of drawing than others. But we are all capable of doing it. It just takes the right outlook and some practice.
One of the most exciting things for me as an artist is to spark some inspiration in someone who is just discovering their own artistic nature. Below is a Daily Dog drawing by my friend Olivia who is in the 2nd grade (I think that’s right…) She shares with me a love of all creatures and, from the looks of it, is already developing her own style of drawing.
I went to a music workshop once and the featured guitarist, John Doyle, made a wonderful point about the development of style in playing music, which I think applies beautifully to drawing or art-making in general. He said that it is not what you can do that makes up your personal style, it’s what you can’t do, and how you get over that hurdle, that really creates your signature sound.
So whether or not you consider yourself an image maker, drawing is really just a wonderful way to meditate on something or someone you find interesting. (For me, that is often the nearest dog.) If there is something you think you can’t draw, try anyway. Through this practice, you might very well begin developing your own artistic style. Just like Olivia.