Tag Archives: Journal

Genius Home

It seems an age ago that were in Maine.  Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.

We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.

We always know when we have returned firmly to Ohio…..

As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care.  This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home.  And so we do.

A bit of harvesting.

And a few things still growing along nicely.

I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think.  And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter.  Beauty in dark times.

This begonia has been through the wars. Originally a cutting gift from my friend Vanessa, it was eaten by deer one year, but eventually bounced back and needed a new pot this year.

I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year.  The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up.  Keeping the deer at bay.

I am grateful.

The dahlias have put on a show this year.  Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully.  Surprisingly.

They are a constant delight.

My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine.  She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really.  When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents.  Life has a way of marching on.

Note the dates. My grans, married for 64 years, died within just 3 days of one another. My grandmother, who married at age 16, used to quip about my grandfather, “Why Herbie? Well, he practically raised me.” I can still hear her say it in her quintessential Butler County drawl.

Last week I added another digit to my age line.  It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends.  It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.

My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years.  When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks.  But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc.  Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.

Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.

I already have lists going, and some quotes.  Tunes I must work on……

This is my new half-set of uilleann pipes being crafted by Mickey Dunne in Limerick, Ireland. I think they are a thing of beauty indeed. Though honestly I am not sure quite what I have gotten myself into!  As Louise Mulcahy said in a presentation she did yesterday hosted by Southern California Pipers Club, perhaps it’s just the “medicinal sound of the drones.”  I’ll be sure to post here when I receive my beautiful new instrument!

“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”

~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)

Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him.  He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.

We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only  the one aged dog along for the ride.  (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)

Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.

It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak.  My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons.  I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being.   In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own.  My travel journal business  was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home.  For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill.  Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.

I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit.  With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now.  It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime.  There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy.  Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.

It’s time.  Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home.  Of this I am sure.  To seek beauty in a dark world is important work.  Sometimes, that starts at home.

And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print.  We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things.  We do the best we can.  Being gentle with ourselves and each other.  Following our noses as to how best to proceed.

How are you all doing? I’d love to know…..

The Tiny Book of Truths

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!

Retreat to Taos

Any of you lovely readers who follow this lowly little blog know that one of the highlights of my working year is a now annual Travel Sketch Journal Trip to Taos, New Mexico.  Over the past few years I have partnered with the Art Academy of Cincinnati to create a unique, outside-of-classroom art experience for creative adults looking to hone their observation and basic drawing (and beyond!) skills thru the vessel of a simple blank book.  Plans are already in full swing for 2013.

If you are local to Cincinnati, there is an information night next Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Art Academy where folks will have a chance to meet me, ask questions and see a few slides of what a week in Taos looks like and some of the work we have done in years past.  I hope you will join us.  That said, one huge goal of mine this year is to include participants in the class who are not from the local Cincinnati area.  We already have someone from San Diego, a potential from Austin, TX…. If you have been eyeing this class from afar, this is your year to join us!  And please bring a friend!  Email me  directly if you need more information.

A really cool thing about going back each year to a sweet place like Taos is that I get to discover new things about it each year.  I have made friends in Taos whom I visit upon arrival each year.  And this year things got even richer.  I was approached last winter by film maker Jody McNicholas about being part of a DVD project that would provide a retreat experience for people who might not necessarily be able to/ desire to travel to a far flung place but wanted to try some of what happens at a retreat.  I officially became a part of the Eco Chic Retreat last summer, filming a short segment introducing the idea of keeping an illuminated journal.  The DVD is now finished and the Eco Chic team is diligently working to get the word out about this amazing project.  For just $50 you can give yourself or a loved one the gift of self care in this 3 day retreat experience.  There’s cooking, art, meditation, yoga and more!!  It’s a beautiful film and I am so proud to be a part of another something that helps people feel creative and well.

Most of the Eco Chic team is fairly far flung in the world and we filmed our segments separately with Jody at the helm.  Over time, we have all gotten to know one another virtually by connecting via email and facebook and such.  But we all desired to meet personally, as we agreed this project has taken on a life of it’s own. So last week, my hub Tony and I cashed in some hotel points, and airline miles and headed to Taos to meet as many of my fellow Eco Chic facilitators as could make the trip.

This trip happened to fall over the Spanish holiday tradition of el Dia de los Muertes, the Day of the Dead which is an exciting time to be in New Mexico.  Below are a few pics of our time out there and some sketches we made along the way.  I’m hoping it will whet your whistle to come along next summer when we go for the sketch trip….

One of my favorite things about getting into Taos is having to cross over (or drive down into) the Rio Grande Gorge.  It’s an amazing place.  Deep and full of mystery and shadow and the sweet green river running quietly down below.  It’s a great place to draw and get a sense of how to use light to create space in a drawing.

Over time, Tony has done quite a bit of sketching in his book inspired by the work I’ve done.  Here’s a beautiful drawing he made of his time at the gorge…

Often when I am teaching in Taos, I don’t get out into the countryside enough, so on this trip that was a priority.  We were up before dawn a couple of different days to experience all the mountains had to offer.  One morning we were treated to the sight of a herd of female elk.  I spotted them across a wide valley and just at the bottom of the tree line.  They blended so beautifully that only their slight movement gave them away.  The camera could not capture them.

Only fields and mountains stayed still enough to make drawings….

Dawn above Angel Fire NM was reputed to have cloudy wings of fire.  We just had to see this for ourselves…

I love windy roads/ drives which head into the hills.  I have often thought it would be lovely to have access to a little place just around the bend down one of these remote driveways where I can escape and find quiet when needed.  Funny thing is, this was not that far from Taos town.  It gets remote out there fairly quickly.

As I wrote earlier, each trip to Taos seems to result in a new friend or two.  This trip was no exception.   I met Leslie, a puppeteer/puppet maker living in Taos and she introduced me to some of her lovely hand-made hand puppets.  I couldn’t make it to her show as we had an Eco Chic dinner scheduled, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and her puppets.  I have a feeling we will meet again!

We joined my friend Kate for tea one afternoon at a delightful little ‘Apothecary’ tucked back away off the main road near some gallery spaces in the bosom of Taos Mountain.

April, the proprietess at this lovely shop, created amazing warm drinks for us from magical combinations I have never tried before.  They were delicious and good for the body as well as the soul.  Taos being the small town that it is, it turns out that April has created a special tea blend just for Eco Chic Retreat!!!

I love sitting at tea shops and coffee shops sketching and discussing art, politics (and aliens too!!!) when I’m in Taos.  Folks there are not as tied to the clock nor as in a hurry as we are back east.  Going at this pace actually seems to open time up for me and I get a lot more drawing done that when I am in a hurry… Go figure…

Of course, meeting my fellow Eco Chic facilitators was the purpose and highlight of this trip.  One afternoon we gathered to take a painting class led by Jan Haller at Magic Brush Studios.  We painted in response to the colors with no plan or attachment to outcome.  It was very freeing and fun!!!!

On another day we visited with Louise Lowry, chef in the ECR at her rented house just outside of town.  This is a magical place with charm and eccentricity around every corner!!

There was a tree house.

And guest rooms in the former chicken coop.

And quirk around every corner.

Of course I felt right at home.  And we had some tea and cookies.

We left Lou to do her shopping for that night’s dinner party and went to see some art in the afternoon at the famed Harwood Museum.  There was much to see both new and old.  What stuck with me was the work of Maye Torres who lives outside of Taos and makes amazing mixed media sculptures and paintings.  Her work is haunting.

Our final evening in Taos was spent convening with the Eco Chic team.  It’s simply amazing to meet a group of people with whom you feel immediately connected.  Strangely, we all felt as if we had known each other for years.  Conversation was easy and comfortable.  The food, thanks in large part to Louise (and Jan’s desserts!!) was out of this world.  We had a fabulous time.

It is with an ever heavier heart that I leave Taos each time I travel there.  This time it was so wonderful to take Tony and give him a taste of what a trip it is to get to this amazing place.  Aside from Eco Chic work, I was free to be more of a tourist, which will make me an even better prepared instructor for next summer’s Sketch Journal trip.

We rounded out the trip with a stop in Chimayo to see some sweet old adobe church structures.  We also had some tacos at the BEST taco truck EVER (in Santa Fe, kitty corner across from Trader Joe’s on the main drag to Taos).

All along the way, in typical Taos fashion, I was reminded that this is a soul place for me.  It feels a lot like home….

 

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