Tag Archives: garden

Allies

It’s the time of year when everything feels a bit frenetic.  The garden is growing by leaps and bounds.  I’m finding it hard to decide where to place my efforts – weed out more of those plants choking out their neighbors? Thin the greens under my new apple trees?  It’s truly a game of whack-a-mole in many ways.  And the garden isn’t the only place.

There is simply So Much Going On.  But I am reminded that this is how spring goes around here.  I have many details to attend to with regard to the Taos trip which is mere weeks away.  And always I find myself feeling behind there.  That sense of not enough time to get it all tended to.  I have one kid just recently graduated from University and about to spend the summer at a music fellowship out of state.  His worldly possessions must get from his place to ours somehow in the coming weeks. The other kid is over seas in Africa working this month (you can read about her adventures here.)  So there is the quiet noise of worry in the back of my mind.  But if I am to be honest, it’s not as great as one might think.  No more worry really than when she is just up the road at school.  This is good.

There does come a time when they outgrow the nest and must forge their own paths.  I am grateful for it.

In spite of all the goings on, with my art work, the family, our green space, I opted again this spring to take one more thing on board.  Last year at this time it was a 6 week oil painting class focusing on portraiture.  Because painting faces is scary and I wanted to learn about it and challenge myself.  I wanted to be the beginner, the non-expert, uncomfortable, making bad art – before I go out to Taos and challenge my own students to do the same.

I remember last spring feeling much the same during the arc of that painting course as I do now.  That I had taken on too much.  That I wasn’t very good at all this.  That I wasn’t enough.  It is good for the ego to sit with these feelings every so often, just so we don’t get to feeling too smug.  And so I keep tackling new challenges where I can. This spring’s challenge has come in the form of a class called Intuitive Plant Medicine.  I am only a week and a half in and already feeling overwhelmed by all of the new things to learn and consider.

I know just enough to be dangerous in the garden.  I have a green thumb by nature, actually talk to plants, believe in fairies – the works.  But I am no herbalist.  I am not a scientist prone to the Latin naming of things.  I appreciate a good metaphor and enjoy delving into the edges and hedges of things.  And lately, the edges have been those found here on our little green space.  And so I took this class, knowing I’d be flying a little close to the sun with it butting directly up to my time in Taos.

As a class we gather virtually in a wonderful online community forum, rich with beauty, and so lovingly stewarded and curated by our instructor, Asia Suler, of One Willow Apothecaries.  I find such comfort in the vulnerability and openness of my fellow classmates.  Some of them are already quite knowledgeable in the realm of plants and medicines and the like.  While others of us are new to this side of things.  For a few of us, the gorgeous onslaught of so much information has been a bit overwhelming, as written in this lovely blog post by a fellow plant intuitive.  We are learning not only the ‘woo’ side of plants, but also a lot of the nuts and bolts of basic botany.  We are being guided to find plant allies which both physically and metaphorically may have a thing or two to teach us.

For me, I had one before the class even began.  I had read Mary Reynolds’ lovely book Garden Awakening over the winter and had been spending a fair amount of time outside – really listening to what our space wants and needs.  We’ve downed a number of trees due to the ravages of the emerald ash borer beetle and age, and I could sense that we needed to pay attention.  I had been wondering, Oak? Or Maple?  I knew Willow would be placed out front by the creek.  But what about the yard?

And then, one day, I got an unexpected answer.  Apple.

Unexpected because I have never grown a fruit tree.  Aren’t they notoriously troublesome? Don’t the deer ravage their young trunks and eat all the fruit?  The idea came out of nowhere.

But I had my marching orders and I began thinking about apples.  A few weeks later, at a local seed swap, I spied what I believed were apple trees across the room and went to introduce myself.  I learned I would need more than one apple tree to promote proper pollination.  Eventually I looked all around town at expensive and chemically raised apples and was beginning to feel a bit down hearted but finally came back to the same folks I had met at the seed swap.  I bought two young trees to put in the ground and plan to raise them chemical free, which I hear is possible, unless you talk to the guys at the local garden center.  We shall see how it goes.

I’ve shielded the trees from the deer with little individual fences.  And I will keep an eye out for signs of problems.  But so far they seem really well adjusted and even have some young fruit growing.

The other ally I have from this process is an Iris down near the creek.  We have a fair number of these which grow there, blooming golden and lovely each spring.

In spite of stormy weather, which brings a force of water through our creek bed at times, these plants continue to grow and bloom, letting the rushing water wash over them and go right on by.  I feel a bit like these Irises just now.  The rush of life going by so fast, and me, just trying to root down and hold my ground in the midst of it all.

And so I dig in the dirt, literally and figuratively, as my yearly offering in Taos draws nigh.  My workshop began, years and years ago, as a little evening class here in town where I shared how I take a blank book and fill it with life’s little details.  Everything from to-do lists to ta-da! (voilá!) lists, sketches and skepticism, weather reports and vacations recalled and catalogued through drawn and painted imagery.  I marvel at how far this work has come and what gifts it has bestowed upon me.  In recent years, it’s become so clear to me that this process is so much bigger than merely keeping an active sketchbook.  It is a practice in mindful meditation on what makes our hearts sing.  These books of ours are a compass of sorts.  As Frederick Franck puts it so eloquently:

” SEEING/DRAWING as a way of meditation, a way of getting into intimate touch with the visible world around us, and through it… with ourselves.  “

In class I encourage students to trust their own visual voices, to trust that the marks they make with their paints and pencils and pens are important in developing those voices.  That to be the beginner is their only job.  In the intuitive plant medicine class, I am remembering what it is like to be that beginner again as well.  I am reminded that we are enough, right where we are just now.  There is real magic in that knowing.

See me sparkle….

And a quick p.s. on the notion of Allies and Weathering the Storm:

The other night I spoke in front of our village council in favor of a new resolution which would call for specific non-discrimination language to be adopted by our village.  Vital language and a cultural tone which states, all are welcome here.  That hatred and vitriol will not be tolerated.  That this is village is filled with allies to the marginalized.  Some may be thinking that I have backed off of politics here on this virtual space of mine. And perhaps on the surface, I have.  But I am quietly paying attention.  And just as quietly, and subversively, I continue to #resist all that the White House and #45 Himself stand for.  I am planting a garden which will feed us here and there – without chemicals.  I am forging a path of beauty in the world with fellow creatives.  I am attentive to the goings on of my local government where change really begins. These are subversive acts of politics.  I believe we as a country can do better than the likes of who we’ve placed into power at the very top of things.  I’m beginning with my own back yard. 

 

Bells of Springtime

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….

 

 

Where your name is spoken

Looking Westward, a drawing of mine from a few years ago…. Raven is a bird close to my heart.

What a winter we are weathering.  Not for the normal reasons which might lead to a bout of winter weariness such as darkness or the ice and snow (we’ve had little of either, though we do suffer our fair share of a seemingly endless milky-gray pearlescence, which is a nice, wordy way of saying ‘day to day dismal’.)

Instead, there seems to be a general sense of malaise in all corners, at least to my winter-wearied eyes.  The political climate of late is one I am deeply committed to keeping track of, though how to do so and still nurture my rich inner world is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  (I am up to the challenge.)  All told, through this winter’s darkness, both literal and metaphorical, I’ll admit to having had to dig quite deeply to find any light lately within my heart- physically, creatively.  Some days I have felt quite extinguished indeed.  It’s been a hard time, ‘I don’t mind tellin’ you.’  

But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and all is not lost, fear not!  I am back to running the local village paths once again more routinely, just in recent days, no matter the weather! This morning I awoke with the clearest head I have had in months, the cobwebs having been cleared from my seratonin-deprived brain by just a few short, but successful hard runs around my neighborhood.  I could nearly weep with joy for the returning of this source of bliss and emotional sustenance in my life.

While running has not been available to me, walking still has.  Our dogs enjoy a wee trot outside each day, provided the roads aren’t too salty for their exposed paws.  I delight in a rhythmic jaunt where I can get lost in my thoughts.

A few days ago, the sun did shine for a day. (read: a brighter milky-pearlescence).  My hub and I went to the local nature center for some sketching time.  There are all sorts of very still, very dead, yet somehow quite animated taxidermy-style animals there and we took some time to draw them.

There was woodsmoke in the air there that day, and a sweetness as well, signaling maple sugaring season.  We enjoyed learning about how our native forebears likely processed, consumed and traded the sweet, valuable maple syrup and crystalline sugar using handmade tools they gathered from the earth and adapted to their needs.  I did not take a picture.

We discussed that day of how sad things have been (how sad I’ve been) and we talked also of how mood-changing a song might be when it catches our ears just so.  My Hub found one such song called I Don’t Recall done up so very beautifully by Lavender Diamond. They have a new video….

We were intrigued by the biography of this project to be found on Spotify…..

“The folk delight that is Lavender Diamond originally came to life in Bird Songs of the Bauharoque,  a punk operetta inspired by the work of American painter/architect Paul Laffoley.  Vocalist Becky Stark wrote and created the piece with a friend while living in Providence, RI, and starred as Lavender herself, a winsome part bird/part human who wants peace on earth.”

Hub wondered at which point in the song she was human and which bit might find her in bird form – to which I argued, why can’t she be both?  Both, at the same time.  animal.  woman.

I’ve been pondering a great bit lately this whole notion of polarity.  Political polarity, yes of course.  But also the light vs. the shadow sides of ourselves.  The Masculine and Feminine bits too, always in a dance, yes?  And even to how we react to times of great strain.   I am intrigued (and often infuriated) by the discussion of a perceived necessity to choose one thing over another.  Why can’t we be Both.  I am both Woman and Animal.  I am Light as well as Shadow.  I enjoy tapping into both the (traditionally regarded) Masculine AND Feminine within my whole self.  When I allow this, I am more wholly alive as a total human being.  Perhaps like Lavender herself.

Music has indeed been a balm and an inspiration when Mother Nature is resting and doesn’t give us much to go on in the way of sketchable stuff.

Though if one pays close attention…..

One of my favorite flute teachers shared a song the other day which caught my ear, as songs of old often do.

It put me in mind of leggy hares to be found across the pond.  so different from our own bulky little bunnies.  so I sketched one up.

As I continue to climb out of the dark hole of my recent state, I am grateful for things which catch my ear.  The music often being the first and foremost quality of a song shared.  If I get a tune rolling round in my head, words or no, that can be a good thing.  It can, indeed, change the tone of an entire day for someone sitting rather on the edges of things emotionally speaking.

But sometimes, what catches my ear is deeper still than just a catchy tune.  Sometimes, as I listen to a newly found thing, often on obsessive repeat, (yes it’s true, and part of my charm, I like to think) the words partnering with the music to enchant the heart can act like will-o-the-wisp.  Lights in the darkness, taking me down an enchanted lane to other worlds….

This morning the lovely Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame?) shared the music of one Ali Dineen in the form of this song in particular, which much like the Lavender Diamond song above, has a happy feel to it.  (and, turns out, Lin was one of Ali’s 7th grade teachers.  Can you imagine?)

This song led me down the proverbial musical rabbit hole of her music in general and I was not to be disappointed.  (Thank you Lin!) Little lyrical snippets pulled at my heart strings as I jogged the paths here amidst this gray, cold village here in Ohio.

“Somewhere else there were
miracles, carnivals, and a space in the air
only your bones could fill.”

Just weeks away, I am reminded by this tune, is a trip south to Antigua, Guatemala where I will sink into constant art-making for a solid week.  This makes me happy beyond imagining.  And reminds me that winter will pass.  In spite of how hard things can seem just now, personally, nationally,  globally.

“Spring it brought madness and chaos and song
the wind growing warm, the days growing long
I watched the world blow through your mind
we stooped low to pick up what it left behind
Scattered stories of our country’s childhood,
though we’re deaf to their sounds
We’re trying to stand up straight
but we don’t know what’s weighing us down.”

“go when your feet are restless
go when you hear a faraway song
heed what your bones are saying
don’t wait for your saint to come….”

“go where your name is spoken
stay when you feel like standing still
no one can guide your footsteps
so walk where you will “

So, yes, later this spring, I will travel to Guatemala, where once upon a time, my name was spoken.  I have been trying to tap into that little gypsy girl who lived everywhere and nowhere.  The me who spoke Spanish “like a native” (my mom’s words) and who seemed to feel at home anywhere.  I seem to have lost track of her over the years but I am keen to get reacquainted.  I’ve been taking a formal Spanish course locally and it’s been more difficult that I had expected.

We conjugate a good bit, which I will admit, I don’t know how to do adequately in English, in spite of my ability to speak the language here.  I am banking on a small faith that this class will warm me up to hear my name spoken on the warm volcanic breezes in the Highlands of Guatemala.  I’m told I went there as a girl when my Nana Campbell came to town.  I do not remember.

But I do remember what calls to my soul:

Music.

Art.

Stories.

Other Artists.

(we are all artists)

Thank you for reading…..

~a

ps.  do go toss a few coins into the hats of any or all of these amazing artists.  they deserve it.

 

 

 

 

In the Garden 7/1/2012

Ok, so it’s not Tuesday, my slated day for the ITG blog posts I’m trying to keep up with here, but it is a day when I have a few minutes to share, so I’ll take it.  Travel has a way of knocking one’s calendar all outta whack anyway.  Lately I haven’t a clue what day of the week it is.  I’m ok with that!!

It’s been a blistering past couple of weeks.  Thankfully, my fam kept our garden patch up at Amberley Green nice and watered while I was in NM, and I came home to the beginnings of the harvesting season…

I’m wondering if my cucumbers need to be kept up off the ground… I can build another tri-pod for them if needed.  They seem to currently like meandering along at low levels.

Basil has been the star of the show here in the early part of summer.  I’ve already made salads with it.

And yesterday I made a batch of ‘pistou’ from a recipe i found here.  Pistou is just pesto without the pine nuts.  Much of my extended family is allergic to pine nuts, so this is a great alternative.  And the jars of pesto at the grocery are about $5 each.  I’m planning to stock my freezer up with this summer delicacy to enjoy all winter long….

 What’s growing in your garden???

In the Garden (and beyond)

Things are rolling along at the Amberley Green Garden.  We are down to simple watering and weeding chores which is nice.  I finished up any mulching that needed to be done this weekend.  The leaf mulch around the plants and then the more wood-chip mulch material in places to create paths (more like stepping stones) so I’ll have a place to stand when the plants mature.  Already we are reaping a plentiful harvest….

We’ve already begun to see a few results.  A few of my fellow gardeners have planted a 3 sisters garden that I plan to help out with as it grows.  3 sisters is basically a garden of corn, beans and squash .  These plants will support each other through out the season.  But for now….

Thankfully (or should I say tankfully…) we had a few days with rain in the last week and so our water tanks are back to being fullish.

At home, I’ve managed to grow a flower in my ‘living stone’ plant.  I love this.  So far, no deer has eaten it.

It’s not all been work in the garden.  It’s summer so we have had ice-cream.

And each week the Taos trip draws nearer…. Thanks to Julie who has been snapping some of the prepping process for the class.  Students are getting to know their watercolor sets.

And they are collaging and transforming blank books into vessels that will capture their travel experiences.

We are all getting to know one another as well…

as we prepare to head west next week (next week!!)

And Taos.  Oh sweet Taos.  In one short visit a few years ago I fell in love with the place and it’s had a magnetic pull on my soul ever since.  There’s always been Maine.  And Ireland… those moist and gray and green places that seem to help me grow roots to my very self.  But Taos is a different animal.  Instead of roots, it’s gift to me seems to be wings.  Every visit there I discover more about, and have more opportunity to further, my work.  This never ceases to amaze me.

This year’s delightful surprise is the chance to be a part of the Eco-Chic Retreat team.  A group of women, artists, healers, makers – who are coming together to share their work in a DVD project created by filmmaker Jody McNicholas.  Just as I was putting together today’s blog-post, an email arrived with Eco-Chic’s film trailer and a chance to support the making of the film on the indiegogo fundraising site.  

I hope you’ll take a peek at what we are up to and consider supporting the making of this film…

Til next time.

 

 

 

 

Spring has sprung!

Thankfully with the coming of spring, things have settled down (if only just a little) and I have had some time to enjoy my garden which is bursting this time of year with flowers mostly and a few greens I had popped in the ground earlier.  Here are some sketches and snapshots…

The weather is still cool enough to be enjoying greens straight from the garden!  Thankfully the deer seem to have had enough to eat elsewhere as they have left this bed pretty much alone for now.  Last fall we built a couple of raised beds in which we’ll grow basic veggies come summer.  My grandfather always warned never to plant veggies until the first full moon after mother’s day and so these beds lie in wait with only some garlic peeking out of the soil.

Much of what’s going on in my yard I inherited from the former owners of this house and I am just trying to keep it well tended as I learn how to be a gardener.  We have a wealth of flowering trees that bloom one after the other for about a solid month.  Redbud, azalea, magnolia, lilac, wisteria.  All really lovely to witness.

Last week my girl friends and I took a few hours to go to the local flower show where we saw all sorts of lovely things to draw and dream of putting into our own yards.  I could have walked around and drawn flowers all day!  I did get a few sketches into my book…

It feels really good to sink my toes back into my own turf and get back into the swing of things here at home.  Tina and I are finished with the Convention Center project and it was installed late last week.  I will post pictures of it in situ as soon as I can get them so stay tuned!  With that work completed, Adam and I are throwing renewed energy toward Drawing Down the Vision through continuous improvement on the website and the addition of a blog on that site about the benefits of drawing for everyone who may want to give it a try.  So pay the site a visit if you have a few minutes.  It is my hope that this work, albeit in a whole other world, will provide another avenue through which to share my love of keeping a vibrant sketchbook.

Speaking of sketchbooks, the Make the Book/ Fill the Book class had it’s final session a few weeks ago.  I so enjoyed meeting our students and working with Cody.  We already have ideas for changes and improvements for the next offering of the class which will hopefully be next fall.  The Art Academy has announced that in May 2011 I will be taking a group to Taos, New Mexico for a travel sketchbook course.  (download the class brochure and you’ll find the details in the catelog!)  This should prove to be a wonderful adventure for anyone who would like to travel and learn to keep an illuminated journal of the trip.  My best sketchbook pages always happen when I am traveling and seeing the world through fresh eyes.  You don’t have to be from Cincinnati to go on this trip by the way so if you care to join us, I will certainly keep you posted on the details as they firm up.

Well it looks like it has stopped raining for the time being so I am going to go for a run.   Happy spring!

Digging Deep

Art as Work is an interesting phenomenon.  Try as one might to work under the constructs of a “normal” work life, sometimes it’s impossible.  I took an emotional plunge in recent weeks, on the heels of vacation season, as the kids were starting school, in the midst of domestic chaos.  I simply could not handle being in my studio, or my house even for that matter.  I have made no paintings.  I have not sketched.  I have just wanted to be outside.

With all of the construction still going on, or perhaps a better description would be that it is not going on, I just have not wanted to be inside where I could see it.  We should have counters installed next week.  Our concrete floors have had to be repaired for a second time since this all began and we are off of them again for another week.  (Kudos to our concrete company for standing by their products… but we are really ready to be done.)

There is really only one thing that has saved me over the past two weeks and that is digging in the dirt.  Tony and I removed some old evergreen bushes that were really blocking and dating the front of the house.  I put in some end of season perennials and we ordered a boulder from a local landscaping company.  It has felt good to begin something and complete it all in a reasonable amount of time.  This project was something we could do ourselves and that we have had control over.  It felt creative.

This is where my art is right now.  In the dirt.  I realized I didn’t feel like being on the computer lately and that has been ok.  In fact, it is one of the things I love about vacation.  So I have unplugged quite a bit these last weeks.  And I plan to continue to do so.  I also enjoy blogging and plan to continue to do that as well.  But for now, the pressure’s off.  I am just going with the flow, trying to keep things as sane as humanly possible around here.

I’ll keep you posted… when inspiration strikes…

Spring has sprung

azaleadeer.jpg

The azaleas around my studio windows are in full bloom and things are green again here in the Ohio River Valley. Although it has been a rough spring for those who suffer from allergies to pollen, due to all of our rain (for weeks and weeks and weeks….) we have finally been delighted with all that the traditional spring time has to offer – lots of blooming flowers and trees and a number of days in a row of sunshine and mild temperatures. This afforded me the opportunity to get out into the garden and get rid of some weeds, plant a few tomatoes and flowers and lay some mulch down.

columbine.jpg

In the studio, time spent in the garden is paying off with good energy being found at the wax table and I am exploring some nature themed (sort-of) art that may or may not find its way into the public eye at some point. This is all good and feels like a quiet center in spite of the chaos from the continued renovation process.

lilac.jpg

The kids and I are off to Detroit, Michigan this coming weekend to compete in the Midwest Regional Fleadh Cheoil (that’s Irish for music competition). Jack, ever the musical over achiever is participating in 7 competitions playing almost as many instruments. He never ceases to amaze me with his abilities as a musical chameleon! Maddie and I each are reluctantly playing in ceili bands. She is the “boom-chick” (read : piano playing rhythmic anchor) for the age 15-18 band. I will be humbly playing the whistle in the “senior” age group (18 and up… I am not quite to AARP status). Of the two of us, she is obviously the most talented. At 11 she is a crucial element to the Riley School Kids Ceili band made up of mostly teenagers. I am proud of her poise and courage in this situation. As much as I despise being on stage and being judged, being part of the adult ceili band has given me the opportunity to practice more often and be with friends I care about. At the end of it all, this is what is most valuable to me. I’ll be sure post pictures and results of the Fleadh next week.

Meanwhile, for the next couple of days, I will continue to gratefully marvel at the miracles happening just outside my door….

robinbabies.jpg