Tag Archives: maine

view from the point

“We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own”

~ David Whyte*

                                                                    *came across this quote via @lachanterie

We find ourselves in Maine, where once upon a long time ago, many many lifetimes ago actually, we came as newly fledged adults to begin finding our way in the world.  Much like recently hatched ducklings, we imprinted on this land then and have returned year after year in pilgrimage to this place which so shaped us in those early days.  The smells, sounds, color and light here are different from all else and they speak in a soul-full tongue indeed.  We are grateful to be here.

As it is a “workaday” sort of day for many of us here, I crept away to a local point to give my paint brushes a little spin, they having collected a bit of dust during my time down other, more musical pathways recently.

I found a perfect spot under a shade tree, at the end of a lane one can find only by foot.  There were welcoming spots in the form of benches and water accessible paths.  I opted for a space at a picnic table and set about to sketch a bit.  It was clear that other artful efforts had occurred in this very space as there was evidence.

So I began with the watercolors, of course.

Eventually moving over to oils…..

…..which are not without their frustrations, but I mixed and painted and observed and corrected and painted some more.  And got the bones of a painting down which I can perhaps work with later in the week once we are settled at camp.

note the stripe up the right side, this is due to the little carrying rack I built (which works a treat actually!) and I will fix it at a later time.

All in all, it was lovely exercise on this, my first day back here in Maine where we are settled in for awhile, nestled by the sea.

 

Hireath

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‘Hiraeth’ – (Welsh)

Connotes a yearning for place that is lost or may not exist, a feeling of longing to be ‘at home’ in the sense of achieving a sense of belonging, of finding your paradise.

~from Rising Ground, A Search For The Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden

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It is summer and we are firmly ensconced in our paradise. Early last week we drove and drove and drove,  many hundreds of miles, to escape the city where we live and work.  To escape the stifling heat and humidity that quantifies summer in southwestern Ohio.  This is vacation time in Vacationland for our family. A yearly trek to this place we once called home and to reconnect with friends we consider family.

As our friend Tom over at Bat Cave Studios so aptly put it, every visit back to this place makes it that much harder to leave it again.

I’ll share just a few of the adventures of the trip thus far, in between which we have enjoyed much visiting and laughing, cooking, eating and drinking with great joy, game playing and swimming, hiking and paddling. We are thoroughly enjoying the company of our loved ones here. But beyond that, there is the sheer lure of this place so far from home and yet so much like home.

I for one spend a great deal of time pondering the deep sense of place I feel here.

Boathouse ponderings
Boathouse ponderings (thanks to my hub, Tony for this one.)

Having lived and worked here so very long ago, we know life isn’t perfect in Maine, or anywhere for that matter. But we love this place and are deeply grateful for what time we do get to spend here.

There are the great gifts of the sea to be had of course and our time in Maine began with these.

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Oysters!! From just up the road in Damariscotta, Maine

“I love oysters. Its like kissing the sea on the lips.” ~Leon-Paul Fargue

“It was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”  ~Jonathan Swift

Not only do we love a quiet lobster dinner on the back deck at our home away from home, but we also like to get out into town sometimes, at least when ‘town’ is by the sea. This year we sampled the beautiful food and drink at Eventide restaurant in Portland. It was divine!

But of course dinner in town is not why we came to Maine.   This year we were fortunate to score some tickets to a special farm-to-table dinner event out on an island…..

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We headed toward a distant bank of fog.
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Thicker and thicker the fog grew.
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There were ghost ships on the horizon.

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Eventually we made it through the mists into another world where all was clear and bright.
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And we were taken up the road to beautiful Turner Farm.
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All of our food this evening was to come from this special place …
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The cheeses were spectacular!!! Thank you girls!

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The stunning table was set with mismatched dishes and linens. Perfect for a barn supper
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We wandered and wondered at how amazing it all was
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Eventually the farm manager and chef gave us the low down on the meal
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Many cheerful and hard-working islanders made it all possible.
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We were happy and well fed. Nourished by amazing food and fascinating company.

The food at this dinner was beyond spectacular. Every course made with the complexity of island simplicity if that makes any sense. I am no foodie so I will leave that to another blogger, but I do know that these culinary gifts shared with great love and intention were well received and we couldn’t have had a lovelier time.

We were ferried home on the good ship Equinox amidst a breathtaking sunset and cleansing ocean air.

But all has not been food and drink and more of  same however. Our timing for this year’s visit afforded us the opportunity to see in person some original artwork by one of my all time favorite illustrators, Barbara Cooney.  The show was at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and featured works for three of Cooney’s most prized books.

Miss Rumphius, one of the first books to call to me as an artist and say "perhaps you might like to make a book of your own one day...."
Miss Rumphius, one of the first books to call to me as an artist and say “perhaps you might like to make a book of your own one day….”
To see some of Cooney's original sketches make her books seem more real to me
To see some of Cooney’s original sketches make her books seem more real to me
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Sketches for Eleanor

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"You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures, said the wild waves." ~ from Hattie and The Wild Waves
“You will make beautiful, beautiful pictures, said the wild waves.” ~ from Hattie and The Wild Waves

“When I grow up,”I tell her, “I too will go to faraway places and come
home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing
you must do.”
“What is that?” I ask.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right, ” I say.  ~Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius

And now we find ourselves lake side. In recent days we’ve  had visitors from home and from our life back in our Maine time and from since then as well. It’s been a lovely mix and match of loved ones from near and far.   But for today it is just the few of us. The loons are calling and the boats buzz past on occasion.  I’m able to catch up here and perhaps a bit in my sketchbook as well. Up to now it’s really only been color studies.

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Photo by Tom Spatig
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Photo by Tom Spatig

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We swim these waters and treasure the sunsets.

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We walk the paths and explore the vistas.

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Meeting new friends along the way…

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All of this experience deepening the sense of place we have here in our treasured summer oasis.

Who knows where the future will take us. But regardless of the path ahead, a good chunk of my soul resides here in this beautiful place called Maine.

A mystical island tale, a lakeside sojourn, a journey’s end and home again.

Last I left you here I was to spend a week in a place much like the land of Brigadoon of lore at the Swannanoa Gathering.  And gather we did.  It felt like coming home to a family I only ever see once a year (twice if I am truly fortunate).  I took no pictures.  I made no drawings.  I played tunes which only live on in the hearts and memories of those of us who were there for the week.  It was indeed a week like no other.  There was a wedding! Yes, a REAL wedding!! And we wore dresses and popped champagne, cried tears of joy over poems read at the ceremony.  The experience was one of time outside of time.  I have designs for an artful gift to make up for the Bride and Groom and will share that with you here later, along with maybe some photos of the blessed event.  Suffice it to say, it was an honor to be a part of it all. And it was over far too soon for my liking….

Yet we simply had to leave.  The Gathering was to turn itself around for another group of folks who have an equal love for something equally obscure, each week being precious and different.  Jack and I were home for about 36 hours, to do laundry, rethink the contents of our knapsacks and to remind our poor dogs that we hadn’t completely abandoned them.  (While we were in Maine, they were in extremely capable hands of a friend who loves them and our home almost as much as we do!)

We were off to Maine.

Perhaps more than any other residence of my soul’s True Self, Maine is where I come home to roost.  The smell of the pine trees and the sea, the expansive green-ness of it all.  It’s captivating.  And it causes a churning and questioning each year about ‘what are we doing, living in Ohio of all places? When we could have this….’  But in spite of this churning, we must return there, having once lived there long enough to be hooked for life.

We stopped in Freeport to pick up our loved ones, and headed en masse to Monhegan Island, the magical, mystical spit of land about 15 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

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It was gray and rainy, and not a particularly pleasant day for a near 2 hour ferry ride.  (a number of us suffer from wave sickness when conditions are Just So, and we were a tad on the worried side…)

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Yet in spite of the occasional rains, the breeze was nice and so was the ferry ride itself.  I felt lulled into trance by the hum of the motor of our dear Balmy Days II.  Soon, through the mists, we could spy Monhegan herself.  ‘The Island’.

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She came closer and closer.  And the rain clouds dried their tears for us, little by little.

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And just like that, upon our arrival, the sun was out to welcome us. It was to be a beautiful 2 days of island exploration.

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Monhegan has an old tale to tell, older than most places in this fledgling country of ours.  The Native Americans who first spied the curious “canoes with wings” (European sailboats) had fished around Monhegan since time before history.  But of written history, there are about 400 years of stories which add up to a place steeped in the narrative of a strong and hearty ilk who have fished, farmed (a bit) and made a life (as well as some art!) on this tiny iconic rock of a place.

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We love to add our stories, even just a day’s tale or so, to the Book of Monhegan.  This island has a way of getting under a soul’s skin.  And if away for long enough, one finds one’s heart fairly longing for a glimpse of it, a chance to walk it’s paths and stack its stones once again.  I myself already can’t wait to return.

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Many ships have wrecked on or near Monhegan over the centuries.  This one below is the wreck of the DT Sheridan.  It’s a lovely old iron vessel that has rusted to a gorgeous oxide color and is still substantial enough to climb upon and explore.

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Some of the locals even use it as a nesting place…..

 

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We all love to comb the coast for stones that call to us.  I for one appreciate stones cast by Mother Nature into the shape of a heart.  I hadn’t seen any of these since Taos.  I was delighted to find many of them here on this island.

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As is the case with many water bourne places, down every lane of this island and tucked in every hidden, protected cove lie boats of all shapes and sizes and utilities.  I never tired of seeing them anywhere.

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And yet the ocean is not the only Great Being inhabiting this island.  There are many acres of protected woodland space and folks like to take found natural objects and detritus and create little fairy huts which haunt and taunt the hiking paths.  So many of them, in every shadowed space! We delighted in spotting them.  And of course in building one of our own as well!

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On this day, I did manage to make a sketch in my journal…

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…and Jack, managed to have a tune, and to find a friend with whom to play it.

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Soon, after a bite to eat and some time to rest our weary feet, the breeze shifted.  As we glanced up, we noticed that the light had begun to change…

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Much like my beloved Taos-land, Monhegan Island has drawn artists from around the world and throughout time with That Perfect Light that people speak of in a hushed and awed whisper.  This is the haunting hour of the day that painters long for.

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I pined for my oil paints, which in deference to space in our old wagon, I left behind in my studio at home.

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But I vowed that next we have the opportunity to return for longer than one glimpse of an overnight, I would make a point to bring them along with me and attempt in some small way to Capture the Light.  In this day and age of Contemporary Art, much of which I am thrilled by, there is some discussion of painting, especially painting plein air or landscape painting of any sort, being a waste of a modern artist’s time and effort.  I firmly disagree.  I believe that to even begin to capture the light of a beloved scene, or the spirit of familiar place is in some way to have touched the divine.  Much in the way some folks may go to church, not to become God, but rather to touch God for a moment through prayer or contemplation.  To me, this is why drawing and painting in a specific place at a specific time (versus maybe from a photo later) holds such magic.  I am fortunate to know many artists who feel the same and do not seem to feel the need to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’, so to speak, with regard to Old v. New in the Land of Art Making.

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The little old houses light up with the breath of the sunset.  Pinks, yellows, limes and golds….

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We laughed and danced in celebration of the sunset.

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And we were treated to a spectacle that most people don’t often get to witness.

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I love a good sunset.  And we do have them back here in the midwest.  But there is nothing like an island sunset.  The photos simply cannot do it justice…..

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[more boats!] 

The following day we were to leave our beloved island, to continue our journey, this time to lake country…..

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We were loathe to leave her behind, but know we will be back….

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And just like that, we were nestled in the Kennebec Highlands, at a lakeside cottage which has become familiar to us and we enjoy returning to…

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We were greeted with moody, changeable skies which rained and threatened rain a lot of many days.  But we were not to be put off that easily.  There was sailing to be had on the new arrival in the boathouse….

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…and rolls to be practiced in the kayaks we had brought with us from 1000 miles away….

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Almost as if we had willed it into place, the light did return to warm us with some sunshine and sunsets.  Though to be honest, so long as it’s not a total wash out, I am a fan of misty, gray days.

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One early morning I awoke to the sense that all was strange and modified in some way.  And so it was.  We had been socked in with fog! I arose to capture an image, and promptly went back to sleep.  It was vacation after all!

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So long as it wasn’t raining firmly, which it didn’t do much, we found ourselves on or near the water.

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Even Ginger Small got in on the sailing fun that week!!

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The sunshine did make an appearance here and there on all but one of our days at the lake, so we were happy campers.  Simply being all together, cooking meals, sharing cocktails and laughter and games was enough for us.

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It is hard to believe how grown up these cousins-of-soul have become.  Each year we wonder if it will be the last of the four of them together at Camp, as Life and Work may yet intervene.  But so far, so good.

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They are, the four of them showing serious signs of Growing Up…..

 

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On the other hand, growing up is highly overrated.  The lake brings out the kid in all of us.

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After a lovely reunion back in town with some old pals from our days in the Navy, it was time to saddle up and head home.  The New England sun rise beckoned us, ‘please don’t go…’.  We drove and drove and drove.

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Soon we were welcomed home by an iconic billboard just north of our fair Queen City which we look to as a bit of a ‘you’re almost there’ beacon, for all its doom, gloom, hell-fire and brimstone.  We do live in Ohio after all, which is not without its quirks.

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And home, while not without its quirks, is also not without its gifts.  I arrived home to find a lovely package from a cousin.  She sent to me some old art supplies belonging to her mom, a great auntie of mine, one of which was an engraved paint box!  I am very thankful for this unexpected gift and must yet make a proper thank you card to send….

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One thing that has unexpectedly pinned me here back here in Ohio is my musical community, which I look to upon returns from amazing travels to keep me from ‘burning up on reentry’ like some traveling Space Shuttle coming home at the wrong speed and at the wrong angle.

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These folks, and the music we share together each week at the local session, have been, are, and likely will continue to be, one of my greatest gifts in this life as I know it.  We gladly occupy our space in Harp Jail for a time every week.  When I am not fully landed from travels, and my soul aches to be elsewhere, these people and this music guide me back to center time and time again.  I am so thankful for it.

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Music is why I have the Day Job that I have; a place that I happily go to many days a month (even on my birthday!) because I love my work and I love the people I work with….

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and they seem to like me as well.  Birthday cupcakes are wonderful… birthday cupcakes with a butterfly ring are just over the top!!

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I like for celebrations to last and so this week my birthday drones on and on in the best way possible.  I am 45 now (in sheep-count-speak that would be ‘two pebbles in my pocket and a yan, tan, tether, mether, pip on my tongue.’)

My mamas (yet another reason to come home to Ohio!) treated me to lunch yesterday at a rather fancy place which I had never been to. We shared amazing food, delightful conversation, cake (!)…

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and even a champagne toast!!

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I was gifted with a small chalice which is just right for a little spot of red wine at the end of the day…..

I couldn’t be more happy with my birthday celebration thus far.  And it isn’t over yet!!

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One reason I like to extend the length of birthdays, and all good things really, is if you imprison your event into one calendar day, potentially other happenings on that very day could taint the taste of your special day, making it not so nice after all.  On the calendar date of my birthday I received a rejection letter from a local arts organization who’s been trying to find some work for me (we will find the right project eventually, I have faith!) and I was quite saddened not to be chosen by their partner on this most recent project because it had seemed so fitting.  Rejections are part of the work of being an artist in this world but they are still a stinging thing, especially on your birthday!!

Also on my birthday came the news of Robin Williams’ untimely and sad passing due to complications of depression.  I was deeply moved and saddened by this news, especially as I have battled depression at various times in my life in varying degrees of severity.  I have tools which work much of the time to keep me healthy, but I am acutely aware of how close the darkness lies.  And of how tenuous my own relationship to lightness truly is.

At the end of a season of travel there is always a time of adjustment, a time that generally holds with it some heaviness of spirit.  But I know through playing music, finding magic and mystery and whimsy in the out of doors (see this guy below??)….

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…I can potentially keep myself from the true depths of darkness.

I can seek the beautiful in this world and catalog it, allowing the ugly news of the world in when I choose to do so  and on my own terms.  Being informed in this age of instant news at all times is tricky business.  It is important to be well read, up to date, ready to vote and be an active part of society.  And yet...  This world needs poets.  And artists.  And pinks so pink they match the shoe laces on my running shoes.  This world needs monks who pray on mountain tops, even when the world seeks to destroy itself while they do so….

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I am home.  I am rested, yet restless.  I am out of practice and in desperate need to get back to the drawing board.  And so I will.  Today I started with a visit to the zoo, where I sketched some lions….

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You will find my virtual self checking in here at the blog, lurking now and then over on Twitter, and eventually back on Facebook*, where I will seek to find some new terms for my relationship with that platform.   Meanwhile, I’ll be seeking beauty….

*{for the time being I am taking a break from facebook, as it has become a place which seems to contribute to my heaviness of spirit.  That said, the day of my birthday was made more lovely by many wishes from friends far and wide and I am so grateful for this!  I shall return to that virtual space after a time for in the long run, there is often great value and connection there for me.} 

 

 

A tale of summer’s travels (part 2)

In which we leave the desert behind and venture to the sea….. monhegan fog

Our summer is not complete without a visit to the coast.  And so, we drove many miles to Maine where we scooped up god-children we see only once a year and whisked them out to sea for a few days on mystical, magical Monhegan Island.  We drew boats and coast lines and hiked miles of trails.

 

 

 

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We seemed to blend in well with the others who were drawing and observing on the island.

 

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Sometimes artists stand on the rocks for so long that they become like stone themselves.

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But not all of Monhegan is wild…

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We stayed quite comfortably in an inn called the Monhegan House.

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As was the case on my last visit to the island, the veil between here and there is quite thin.  It was necessary to pay our regards.

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But there is always time for more sketching in the sketchbook.  Because that is what I do.  In the desert.  And at the sea.

DTSheridan

brilliant artist

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After partaking of oceanside adventure and cuisine for a number of days, we were called inland to the Land of the Lakes.

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The rolling hills of the Kennebec highlands are home to a relaxed pace and sweet berry-pie-laden atmosphere and so we settled in for a week of catching up with our far-flung soul family members.

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I spent much time observing the lake.

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And Drawing.

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Watching the skies.

 

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And Drawing.

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long pond value studies

And watching the skies.

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Sadly, it was eventually time to return even further inland.  Back to Ohio where the kids, ever growing, had their more modern, fast-paced lives to attend to.  Maddie is back to her third year of high school, busy with AP classes and digging through the thigh-high pile of collegiate options she is faced with in the coming year.  And college, that is where Jack is.  Across town but a world away, living his life and pursuing his dream of making a life in music.  If this past weekend’s performance of Verdi’s opera Don Carlos is any indication, he has found his place.

And I fill my well where I can, such as sneaking off with my Hub to our own land-locked inland seas for our annual trip to Kelley’s Island on Lake Erie.  There was much kayaking to be had with perfect conditions all around.  And of course, I also sat and drew as much as I could.

 

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All of this time around big water has only strengthened my fascination with the folklore surrounding the seas.

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selchie pup

Specifically, the legend of the Selkie.  And so, once back at  my drawing table at home, I set about creating a watery world for a Golden Child of the seas…..

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“I think of mythology as a function of biology, a statement of the impulse system of the body and the organs. Not something that’s made up in the head. What’s made up in the head is a fiction. What comes out of the heart is a myth.”  

Joseph Campbell The Hero’s Journey

In this painting, our selchie heads to her sea cave, far beneath the surface above.  There are wonders to behold in the depths, if we but seek them.  I’ve thought a lot about myths and stories lately and how traveling into ‘the depths’ can challenge us to discover our very own story in this world, while also seeing how our story sits among the other stories.  It’s the weaving together of story, both personal and folkloric, that create the culture we lean upon as human beings.

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Some of us are lucky to have friends who will accompany us when we dive deep, and make sure we come back up for air.

selchie

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And what might a sea cave sound like, you ask?

We have come to the end of my summer’s travels.  I was inspired by the duality of my desert/sea experiences and created these little paintings for a small works show called Small Glimpse, now showing at Red Tree Gallery.  I am fortunate to be able to find myself so far flung in the summer months with my heart’s work each June for the Illuminated Travel Journaling Course and then family time in Maine with music in between for the rest of the time.  All of this beauty brings a magic to my day to day back here at home in Ohio for which I am deeply grateful.

children of the desert children of the sea