Tag Archives: mabel dodge luhan

Awakening, gradually

A word from Mabel…..

“One could really learn only by being, by awakening gradually to more and more consciousness, and consciousness is born and bred and developed in the whole body and not only the mind, where ideas about life isolate themselves and leave the heart and soul to lapse inert and fade away.  Yet never to cease watching was imperative also; to be aware, to notice and observe, and to realize the form and color of all, the action and result of action, letting the substance create the picture out of abstract consciousness, being always oneself the actor and at the same time the observer, without whom no picture can exist.”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

And from Mary:

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
~Mary Oliver

Upon flying away from Guatemala City, Volcán del Fuego poofed a breathy goodbye there in the distance. I’ll admit it had me a bit misty eyed.

Just a couple of days ago, I weathered a 20 hour (door to door) day of travel from Antigua, Guatemala back home here to Ohio to begin re-entry into my “real” life and to prepare for summer workshop season.  This latest trip to Antigua has gotten it all started in fine fashion.  Two weeks of facilitation and friendship; a welcoming of the Lenten season – even for the least religious among us;  and a passport to spring.

Now home, I weather the chain saws and leaf blowers which mark the fair weather season in these parts and I wonder what could be made different in this world.  I let these ponderings simmer on the back burner of my mind as I revisit what was, yet again, a life changing visit to a magical other-world.

Last I left you here I had arrived at the Posada a little heart-weary after a visit to my childhood home in Guatemala City.  I am still sifting through that heavy luggage, but not without curiosity and joy that I have as much information and inclination as I do with regard to it all.   It was, after all, a lifetime ago.  What does it even matter?  The words “make a book” keep coming around, though I have no idea how to go about it.  So many great memoirs exist in the world.  How does one even begin to make a semblance of a memoir with so few memories?  But I continue to investigate.  Perhaps living memories through the lens of a vivid imagination is enough.  Guatemala is worth exploring, I do believe.

But first, THE WORK.

I crafted this sketch-journal trip to be one framed in intimacy and quietude. No big groups here.  The goal being to come to a beautiful place, make some art, work at making it the best we can make it here and now – nothing more than that really.  Beyond that goal, the rest was travel gravy.  Each week there were 6 of us, (next year I’ll allow no more than 8 total – 6 participants at most) to allow for ease of movement about town as a group, ease of meal taking and decision making, to encourage a sense of deep work and seriousness of purpose.  This approach worked beautifully and set such a lovely tone all around for both weeks.  I marveled.

Volcano Medicine

my people

were fed by volcanoes

that fire milk

piercing the surface

like spirit

unrelenting

pierces our facade

to get in

and feed our souls

~Lisa Fazio


By morning we would admire the volcanoes, if they were up for viewing, and then we’d wander through town to breakfast….

One could spend the entire week with this series of arches on route to breakfast alone and not get bored with sketching.

The rooftop at Bella Vista Coffee Company is one of the best places to begin the day, and it has some of the best coffee the world has to offer.

We are greeted as friends, always.

The staff at Bella Vista was so excited to see what were up to in our books

Each day would see us tackling a new-to-us ruin in this gorgeous city, sketching and taking it all in along the way.

Sketch from San Francisco church ruins, Rosemary Berwald
Sketch from Conventa De Las Capuchinas, Joan Youngberg
Sketch of San Francisco church ruins, Connie Ware
sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Astrid Otey-Mast

 

sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Amy Bogard

By afternoon we would work back at Posada San Sebastián, tidying up sketches we’d begun in the morning…

A “throwdown” of sketches from week one. So much great work!!
Cindy touches up her sketch from the Capuchinas ruins
Sketching in the breezeway

and perhaps capturing a bit of our home-away-from-home at the Posada as it’s filled with all sorts of sketchable fare……

 

Cow and Donkey in a Candy Dish by Rosemary Berwald
Using blind and semi-blind contour drawing techniques to capture the wonky child’s chairs at the Posada.
I think laundry drying on a line is a beautiful theme. Ever changing yet always the same. It speaks of home.

I hope to make some proper paintings of the shifting light in the laundry area.

Sketch of Volcán de Agua by rosemary
so many blue kettles. so little time!!!

There was so much to see and take in and draw from and speak to and listen to and experience.  Each day was filled to the brim with a special kind of magic only found in this amazing Unesco World Heritage city of Antigua, Guatemala.

Vanessa utilized her excellent Spanish skills to get to know this fella who’s vessel on back there is for carrying water.
Richard spent a fine morning here in this shaded doorway tackling a difficult scene at Capuchinas.
Later he came home to sketch a “Cucurucho”, one of the Lenten flavored purple-costumed guys who populate the town and the Procesións this time of year.  Richard had purchased a little candle  representation of a Cucurucho which made us all laugh a bit, and so he drew it in his book!
Shade is hot territory on a sunny day.
Kudos to Connie who kept her focus in spite of many young onlookers as she drew the San Francisco ruins. We all remarked later that day on how polite and genuinely enthusiastic these kids were about what we were up to.
sketching at the Tanque. (Connie and Astrid)

A Sacred Season.

This year’s workshop abutted a very Holy Season indeed.  That of Lent.  In fact, at the end of the trip, Rosemary and I stole away in the wee hours of the morning of Palm Sunday.  Otherwise there might have been no escape.  For Lent is a busy time in Antigua.

Some days the incense was near stifling.  Reminiscent of growing up old-school Catholic, it was at once, unsettling and nostalgic.

Carrying Mary. It’s heavy work to bear the feminine through a distinctly male-dominated culture. But Mary prevails. As does the strength of the women of Guatemala.

A guardian of the Procesión.

The locals weren’t the only ones feeling a sense of the season. …

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
~Mary Oliver

Irish Music is my sanity and it was my great fortune to have Doug and Astrid along for a tune now and again.

“I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.”     ~Mary Oliver

Next year we hope not to be quite so close to Easter. (Stay tuned.  I am announcing the dates for 2020 to those who’ve been on the trip up to now and who’ve expressed interest even before that….. I’ll open it further soon to others but I expect it all to fill quite quickly if this year was any indication.)

Though I’ll admit it is thrilling to be near this level of faith.

This is Joseph Barry. Named so because as a Santo, he is Saint Joseph, but because he is from the Posada, he reminds me of the Bee Gees. He came home with me as a gift from our loved ones at San Sebastián and as a reminder to keep to the work at hand. And to have faith.

And so, here we are now, at the height of spring in Ohio, making lists and travel plans for my California Trip in May (contact me for details if you are interested) and the Taos based workshop in June (now full!), which is my flagship class and holds a truly special place in my heart.

This time of year always has me feeling a bit tossed about in the world.  I am not a speedboat in this modern world, but more of an old fashioned ocean liner of sorts.  It takes me some time to shift gears and change course of direction.  But I manage to get there in the end.

If you are curious to see more of my own work from our time in Antigua, head over to my Instagram.  There is plenty there.  I aim to keep working from source photos as well.  Sketching my way through misty memories of a tumultuous time and of course from more recent times as well, a tad less tumultous.

Seems the best way.

Vantigua!! At the ruins of San Francisco
Vantigua!! the art vans were dragged up to San Cristobal to get a view of Antigua from above. it was a delicious adventure!
The presence of Agua
Cupolas!
Color and Line. What more could an artist ask for???
The dangling flowers at Canela Bakery.
Fruit vendor. Sights. Smells.
evenings are gentle at the posada
Candles. always.
cupolas for the queue.
Dinner at Angie Angie. Sundays are two for one pizza night. Just fyi
“No bread please. Just cheese. Or meat.  Sauce is ok. If it’s on cheese or meat”     Sweetness, the street dog.
Back home with a handful of cut flowers for a garden themed show coming in May. Need to make more. and get a frame….. (One mustn’t bring true flowers into the country, but surely hand painted paper ones are ok, yes?)
Always important to have a map to find your way home……

PS.  There is a gorgeous telling of week one over on the blog-space of artist, printmaker, photographer and no-longer-practicing bear biologist (she has amazing stories fit for a proper campfire) of Vanessa Sorensen of Nessy Designs.  I adore her work, words and over all being really.  Thank you Vanessa for this lovely post:  http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2019/04/guatemala-sketchbook-workshop-2019.html

Do go visit her website and blog.  It’s a treasure to behold.

 

 

Here. Now.

IMG_20160610_070657

Awoke this morning to the call of magpies. A bit bleary eyed after a long day of travel but oh so grateful to be here.

IMG_20160610_070802

And so I wandered down for a cup of coffee and a stroll….

IMG_20160610_070943

All is quiet so far. No students to greet just yet. Few other guests at all really. I treasure these relatively rare quiet moments at Mabel’s.

IMG_20160610_070832

It’s so good to be back in a small town atmosphere.  So close to Big Nature, yet I can also hear summer ball practice being held over at the park and the local church chiming the time.

Upon arrival last night, I was just in time to catch the premier of a beautiful new documentary by my friend and film maker Jody McNicholas called Longshotsville. Its all about a group of local actors seeking their best art and truest selves through stage and film acting. So many local folks were there, people I count as friends now since I return once or twice a year. It was refreshing to have a good cry and root for the creative process these young artists are seeking.

This is Taos. A place that demands that you be here. Now. Which I mostly try to be at home as well. But in places like this, the connection to self, to the present moment as it stands, seems more accesible somehow.

More real.

IMG_20160610_070503

 

A Winter opportunity amidst Summer’s sultry steaminess

If you have followed this blog in recent months, you’ll know that I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in Taos this past January to work on a couple of kid-book projects long in coming.  Those projects are swimming along nicely and I’ll be shopping them around this fall.  But time in Taos is always colored by the work I do there in the summer, which is to teach the art of keeping a visual diary.  And so, while there in January, I began to wonder, what would it be like to teach a winter-time class at Mabel’s?  The season would call for more work indoors.  Winter is a time of looking inward to our own interior spaces and pondering things in a very different way than we do in summer.  It is a time of withdrawing.

And so, I have decided to offer a workshop this coming winter to do just that.  The class we be held at Mabel’s, as in summer, but we will focus on the interior spaces of this beloved, historic home.  We will find the hidden corners of the house and of our own hearts, and sit with them while we draw and paint.  The act of drawing and painting a scene is one I find extremely meditative, and that will be something we discuss and work toward – finding that state of stillness in the making of art.  I’ll be combing my own library in the next few months for readings and poems to point us in the right direction in this class.  Taos, New Mexico, and more specifically, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House itself, is a hotbed of creativity and has historically been a place where the creme-de-la-creme of the arts go to recharge their creative batteries.  I look forward to this new offering and hope you’ll consider joining us this year for what I hope may be an annual journey.

Do get in touch if you have any further questions.

 

 

Withdrawing into mabels 993314_10155060669370048_645646455994482058_n

Signposts

mabels 3I 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.

mabels 6 copy

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.  received_10206969471337528

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.

mabels 2This 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!!!)

taos truck 1  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…

mabels 5

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…..

IMG_0178

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.

FullSizeRender-3

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….

IMG_0177The next turn down the proverbial rabbit hole came at the tail end of my trip…. (pun intended.)

glyph hareglyphs 1Before 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.

IMG_20150622_132259IMG_20150622_132010

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….

glyphs basaltglyphs 12It 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.

glyphs 11 glyphs 10glyphs 6I 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.

glyphs 2glyphs 11Glyphs 8I 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!! mabelsMore to come in due time.  But as you know, time is fluid in summer…..

 

 

 

Moving day

IMG_0137

My raven friends accompanied me on a run this morning.  In spite of altitude, I managed a brisk and energetic half hour on the paths, which will serve me well on this big day.

After two days of much running around, visiting, preparation, meetings, thinkings and plannings, it’s time to leave this little tree house of a place hidden down a magical lane….IMG_0141

…..and to move over to Mabel’s.  Closer to the mountain, closer to the classroom, where I finally get access today.

I stopped by Mabel’s grave after my run, to say hi, and to ask her blessing on my work here.  Taos always tests, and I always walk humbly here.

IMG_0140

Looking forward to being nearer the mountain in the coming days.  This morning she was shrouded in mists and mystery.  I feel a bit that way myself.

IMG_0139

As I ran the lanes and paths and roads I’m so fond of here, I pondered the teachers I have had in the past, in art, music and life in general.  My hope is to channel their love and enthusiasm into my own work this week.

I also welcome any hidden folk along the way who’d like to be helpful…

IMG_0138

Between

“What is needed is more, more and always more consciousness, both in art and in life.” ~Mabel Dodge Luhan

Travel is a funny thing.  It takes us out of what we find to be the norm, and if we are lucky, we are thrust into new worlds that ask of us to question everything.  What’s up or down, or True North.  (I was deliriously disoriented under the night skies in New Zealand, for example)  In New Mexico, Taos in particular, this sense of otherworldliness is exceptional and I still find myself not here, not there, but somewhere interdimensional, on route.  DH Lawrence is said to have said that “Time runs differently” in New Mexico and I believe he was right.

It’s natural to linger over time spent in a beloved place.  In my mind’s eye I wander the halls of Mabel’s, studying the paintings her beloved Tony did on some of the walls on the second floor…

photo-4

I am fascinated by this couple who created the place I turn to for workshops and other creative work and marvel at all they had to grapple with to do it.  If you have not read Edge of Taos Desert by Mabel Dodge Luhan, I highly recommend it.  It begins to scratch the surface of the allure of the people and the place that is TAOS.

Edge of Taos Desert

“The power of this place gives you the power back of who you are each time you come here.” ~Blue Spruce Standing Deer  (Tony Luhan’s Grandson)

Tomorrow I head back toward the day to day in a more concrete way.  I’ll be out of the studio and into the Day Job for a taste of that work.  I am grateful for the work.  Grateful for a couple of days to sit quietly with my books and pens and paints and to run my local roads and reacquaint myself with the air here.  I’ll admit to being quite homesick for the Taos I have come to know through time at Mabel’s.  It’s a magical place where things happen that don’t make sense – they don’t need to.  And with that, I can know that while I am here, I can, at the same time, be there.  That it’s all kind of the same thing.  This all may sound quantum-like and New Agey and I’m ok with that.  I only share the sense I get while there. It doesn’t need to make sense.

While running today a song came round whose words I adore and seem timely,  so I’ll share them (and the song) here.  It kind of sums up my sense of time right now….

Tuesday my heart is brimming
I’m a child in the wild wind
dead leaves and daylight dimming
no beginning and no end
inside a candle of defiance
moonlight
a river of pearls

Cause we’re going to need more
than money and science
to see us through this world

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today

Shut all the windows
lock all the doors
we’re keeping it all out of sight
we’re keeping it all
it’s tearing us apart
you don’t know your good
from your bad from your black
from your blood from your wrong
from your right
so you camouflage your heart

I don’t want no other distractions
there’s too much here to see
faint hearts or jaded reactions
contraptions of history

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today

Shut all the windows
lock all the doors
I’m keeping it all out of sight
I’m keeping it all
it’s mine and mine alone
corrosion collision
I need a vision
to tear off the cloak of the night
and shatter eyes of stone

You say it can’t be done
you’d rather die of fun
get out of the way
for me for you for everyone
forever is tomorrow is today
forever is tomorrow is today
forever is tomorrow is today