Tag Archives: robert macfarlane

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“So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear. But autumn was waning fast; slowly the golden light faded to pale silver, and the lingering leaves fell from the naked trees.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

A week’s time into the hiatus from the more time consuming of social media platforms.  It is surprising to me how little I miss them.  The season of gratitude and a shared meal around the home table is past and we are thrust into the highlight of the capitalist calendar.

We resist.  

We walk in the woods.  We play music and sketch.

a recent Irish Music session, also attended by the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers
Music at my flute maker‘s home. Their dog, Ruby, occupies the best seat in the house as we play and she dreams.
In which the written musical page appears, as happens when our Jack is home for a few days.

We maintain gratitude for the littlest of things.

We tend to them with care and full presence.

Still we grieve.  Also with care and full presence.

Notice how River’s name on the “tower of love” happens to find itself situated beneath that of a Shitty Cat.  I wonder of the story there….

Most of all, we rest.

As promised to myself, I practice the art of slowing down, of diving into deep time.  Knitting, reading, drinking tea.  A gentle but firm pressure on the reset button.  It is good.

“The times are urgent.  Let us slow down.”  ~Bayo Akomalofe

(via Sharon Blackie)

There is still *busy-ness*, as there is in life.  Appointments to be kept, jobs and presentations to attend to.  But it is all a bit less noisy and for that I am deeply grateful.

Here are a few of the delightful things occupying my mind, eyes, ears and heart of late….

This book:

And this one:

I look forward to a catalyst for dreaming due out in the coming months by Jackie Morris.  Even the updates on the process of its creation are delicious.  Consider supporting The Unwinding. (click the link, there is a beautiful video.)

A friend of my daughter’s turned her ears to a podcast….

“Reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it.”  ~Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I’ll admit to a bit of back and forth between the lovely depth and gentility of this wonderful consideration a favorite series of mine, and the live news coverage of impeachment hearings going on in my own country.  Somehow, the magical world of Harry Potter seems to make more sense than the one here in the not-so-United States, especially when viewed through a blind republican lens.

Via email, I receive updates from another podcaster, Jocelyn K. Glei.  Her show Hurry Slowly began as a mindful methodology toward higher productivity, but has become a meditation on transformation of spirit, so sorely needed in the world right now.  In her newsletters, she collects and shares lovely links which create a rabbit warren of inspiration.  Much like I do here.

Since logging off of social media, I’ll admit that the sensation of “writing for the proverbial no one” is a bit more pronounced.  But I have no fear of missing out as it were.   Instead, I am wondering how I might be able to do these longer breaks more often.  I am glad of the gift of time.

Have you opted for some time off on the social media channels?  How do you balance your online time?  Are there blogs or newsletters to which you subscribe which bring you joy outside of the soundbyte realm?  I’d love to know.

PS, for Mary Oliver…..  coffee and rainy days indeed!!  <3

 

Let us keep courage

Fine Folk grace the pages of my sketchbook, along with wise words from the wisdom keepers I trust.  I look to these wisdom keepers as beacons, following their light,  as will-o-the-wisp….. into the darkness.

One such beacon, writer Robert Macfarlane, was featured in an interview with Krista Tippett of the program On Being.  They discuss a recent book of his called Underland which is a gorgeous, lengthy tome; an exploration of the world beneath our feet as seen and sensed from a variety of angles.  It’s the kind of book that deserves to be by one’s bedside to fill the mind with juicy and delicious language as a doorway into dreaming.  This book apparently took Macfarlane 6 years to complete.  He dipped into other projects along the way of course, but this one crept along, under everything else it would seem.  It was worth the wait.

Underland explores a concept of Deep Time, one that is beyond human, but which can be tapped into by those of us with the proper notions to do so.  If you have been reading my ideas here over the years, you know this is something I hold dear, this time-bending.  I believe it is at the heart of the things we treasure as human beings.  Good art, rich poetry, the ability to go beyond the day to day.  To send our cultural tap roots down into the flow of All Things and perhaps channel something up.  All of this of course takes time and practice.  And there are no guarantees.

“CAESURA”

‘In verse, a pause in the rhythm of a line after a phrase; in choral work, a moment where singers might catch their breath.’

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

I really admire the depth of the work of writers such as Macfarlane, and I look to them for clues as to how to dig deeper into my own work.  Art as well as writing.  Even on social media channels, he and others like him make places like twitter and instagram into arenas of culture and idea-weaving.  I aim to do the same, having curbed my own use of such channels into avenues of art and music.  It’s a tricky balance in a world filled with instant sound-bytes and the next great and funny thing.  Last week Macfarlane announced he will be off of twitter for a while with the word caesura and its definition.

I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that.’

The idea of taking a break from social media is by no means a new one, by myself or anyone else for that matter.  There are books on digital detoxing which I have looked to when desperate for a break from it all.  Lately, thankfully, I have not felt desperate to leave the online arenas of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  I have them fairly well and carefully “curated” in order to see things which inspire me.  New books to read, artists to research and learn something from, science to pique my curiosity and better my stewardship of my little part of the world.   I choose when and how to get my “news” as that can be fraught with peril in this day and age.  We must be careful what we feed ourselves, body and mind.

And yet, although not desperate to leave per se, I could use a break.  What keeps me tethered to the usual channels is the business end of things.  Usually, I am in marketing mode this time of year.  Selling my classes to Taos and Guatemala.  Hustling to show the world that yes, we go to beautiful places, have an amazing time together and make a bunch of gorgeous work.  (WE DO!!!!! )  And this is all part of my job.  But this year, I have been given a great gift…..  My classes for 2020 are mostly sold out (there are two slots left in the second week of the Antigua offering. That’s it!)  For once, I can relax a little bit.  And so I am considering a break over the holidays.

If this idea comes to fruition, I’ll be off of twitter, facebook and instagram from Nov 29 – Jan 1.

I wonder sometimes, if I make something, or write something, but I don’t shout it into the void of the social media platforms, have I really created anything?  This is the culture we are sold in this modern age.  I would like to confront this culture, especially in my own mind.  I’d like to follow some breadcrumbs of my own making just to see where they may lead.  Without the pressure to report.

This will be an interesting experiment.  I just began a weekly story idea which will continue to grow here, but folks will have to come find it, or wait until the New Year when I get back into the swing of things of sharing.  Soon, I’ll be packing for Guatemala and sharing via instagram sun-kissed, color-washed images of our time in Antigua.  It is in this way I beckon to future students to step into the sunshine with me and come on along!!  But with the classes filled to brimming, and a lovely waitlist padded out for Taos, I feel I can take the social media break I’ve been craving for years, without having to crash and burn mentally to get it.  It’s a good place to find myself.

So we shall see.  It is always a balance.  I may yet shift this plan into something less stringent.  But I am always leaning toward trying a new tactic with regard to my presence in the online world.  And for once I have the space to do so.

In other news…….

With Riley School out for break,  I am back to sketching along with my mates in the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers.  Last week we had a “boUrban sketchers” outing where we tasted bourbon at New Riff distillery.  It was great fun!!  Come along with us sometime!

I have a few paintings up at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s winter Collective show, EMERGE.  This one below was the belle of the ball.  I received many complements and offers to buy it.  But alas, it was snatched up by a private collector just days before the show.  I think the theme is one I’d like to explore further.  The quietude of this piece seemed to speak to a number of people.

The other work on which I received a good bit of feedback is this little lovely, Bonny Hills,  whose skies are filled with subtle color.  This is a second theme I hope to explore further in more paintings in the new year.  This one has not yet sold….  One of my fellow collective members said to me, I get the sense you were meant to be in Ireland.  How right she is.

In the music arena, the Riley School of Irish music will present its annual holiday program Peace and Merriment,  at 2 pm December 14.  Our address is 2221 Slane Avenue in Cincinnati.  Hope to see you there!  We also play a weekly session out in town: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays we can be found at Ludlow Garage in Clifton, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays , Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  Stop in and say hi!

 

Awakening

I’ve made up a pot of stew, and put the kettle on as well, as this is one of those long and winding posts to share with you a few notions of what’s on my mind, in my heart in recent days.  Welcome, and enjoy!

Remember that warning in my last post regarding the poor plants eager to strut their stuff so early in the season?  Alas, the last gasp of winter (one hopes) has been blowing across the eastern half of the country and sure enough, those antevernals have taken quite a hit.  Many of our flowering trees will have to wait until next year to flower once again, as they are already burned by the brutal cold.  It’s sad, but it’s life in a way. Time in the way of trees. Though to be fair, it’s been a strange season in many ways – as if winter got lost along the way and arrived late and possibly drunk to it’s own party.

This probably seems especially true further out east where recovery from the blizzard is just beginning.  As for us back here in the hollers of south-western Ohio, we had a bit of snow the other day, some serious cold and wind in the meantime, but all in all -unless one is a spring time flowering plant –  we find ourselves relatively unscathed.

(I did manage to rescue a few of the daffodillies before things got too crazy.  And for that I am grateful.)

It’s been a time lately of a restless longing which I can’t seem to name.  And naming it seems important.  As if by naming this vague sense, I could perhaps grab it by the tail and reel it in a bit to get to know it better.  Is it the annual hushed call to be outside, barefooted and full of wonder, after the long months of winter’s hibernation?  Perhaps.  But I sense it is also a desire to delve even further into work I do from the heart.  This art/writing/teaching practice of mine seems to be doing some shifting and deepening on it’s own over these last months (maybe even years).  Whispers of this seismic activity have been in the darker cornered spaces for a time now, but I am beginning to pick up words of meaning hither and thither, as if I am possibly (finally) learning the language of my own heart.

“How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite.  and what is the Infinite?  It is the silent, small force.  It isn’t the outer physical contact.  No, it isn’t that.  The infinite is not confined to the visible world.  It is not in the earthquake, the wind or the fire.  It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies.”

~George Washington Carver (former slave, plant genius)

In the deep desire to learn this language, I have been following bread crumbs down many darkened paths.  In my ears as I draw and paint or do the delicate handwork at the concertina shop day job, have been podcasts and stories from near and far.  By early morning I gobble up books and other publications crafted by such writers as Sharon Blackie, Robert MacFarlane, Sylvia Linsteadt and Mary Reynolds whose words and images evoke lands quite far from here but which sound so very familiar to the ears of my soul.

In the book If Women Rose Rooted Sharon Blackie writes:

“Once, we were native to our own places; once we belonged.  There is a Gaelic word for it and coming from a language which rises out of a deeply connected animistic world view, it is not easily translated to English.  These are the languages of root and leaf, of field and stone, of seaweed and salt.  These are the words whispered in our ears by the land as if by a lover; the languages which tell us that we and the land are one.  In Irish the word is dúchas; in Scottish Gaelic, dùthchás.  It expresses a sense of belonging to place, to a certain area of land; it expresses a sense of rootedness, by ancient lineage and ancestry, in the community which has responsibility for that place.  In the Welsh, the word cynefin has a similar meaning. This is the way our ancestors lived.”

It is this belonging I seek.  It is this belonging we all seek really, if we but take time to listen to the whispers of our own longing.  For me, much of this sense of belonging has come by learning the languages of art and music.  These are languages of pure magic.

Through the language of creativity and the visual arts my true inner self was awoken, around the same time as my children were born.  Birthing and motherhood were for me the creative sea-change which unleashed my inner artist.  The kids and I have artfully come of age together in some ways.

Robert MacFarlane tweeted this quote the other day:

“”With words at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see”

~Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer

I’d go a step further and say one sees even more clearly through the act of sitting still and quiet and drawing.  The notion of learning to pay attention in this bold and beautiful world is at the heart of what I teach in my workshops.  To open up to beauty in small ways as we go about our travels or our day-to-day is to open up our lives to beauty in general.  Like attracts like.  The more we hone in on that which makes our hearts sing, the more we draw these things to us.   Drawing is powerful, critical magic.  When I started my journaling classes, I saw them as simply a way to make some art, to share the notion of being more creative in our lives.  But it’s become so much more!  What I teach is a life-altering practice.  And it’s wonderful to awaken to this and shout it to the skies!

And then there is the music.  It’s the Season, after all…..

This bright beautiful music for which I am grateful every day of the year, not just on St. Patrick’s Day.  The learning of any music making is a gift of being human in general, but to find that specific type of music which sings to one’s soul – which opens up the notions of community and friendship and travel in new ways – well, that is a true bronntanas an chroí, a gift of the heart.

Like so many Americans, mine is a hodgepodge heritage of mixed ancestry.  I know bits and bobs of where I come from, genetically speaking, and lord knows I’ve grown up a child of the world at large – moving from place to place, often country to country in the early years, traveling always and mostly saying, “I could live here.”  My family teases me about this, that I seem to be at home most anywhere, especially if there is beauty to behold and capture in my sketches.  And it is true, to an extent.  I tend to bloom where I am planted, with only shallowed roots.  Yet I am always pining for that ‘perfect place’ to call home, while knowing there is no such thing really.

A number of years ago I traveled over to Cavan, Co. Ireland for ten days of the annual Fleadh Cheoil (“Festival of Music”) with my son and a few other close musician friends.  I had been to Ireland once before to run a marathon.  That had been a memorable trip, full of laughter and tourism and many, many miles with my friends from DC where we lived at the time.  A quick in, quick out weekend really.  And we didn’t even get far out of Dublin as there was simply no time.  But this more recent trip to County Cavan was far different.  In the years since my last visit, I had learned so much about Ireland beyond the touristy stuff.  I had taken some big bites of the music and had begun to make it my own in my heart.  I was so much more wide awake this time around.  And the land itself spoke a good deal louder there in the Cavan countryside, away from the traffic and the noise of a road-race, circus-like atmosphere.  Each day as we walked the village roads into town from our little house, I felt a sense of home that, if I am to be completely honest, scared me.  It’s trite in some ways to admit to that sense of home in Ireland.  Especially at this time of year.  It is not my place to claim.  I live in Ohio.  And yet, I have not been able to shake it off in the years since.

I purchased a tiny landscape painting by local Cavan artist Imelda Bradley on the street one day when the sun was actually shining.  This moody image of the misty, lake-strewn land of 365 lakes (one for every day of the year!) hangs by my bedside now and informs my dreaming.  I look to it to inform my sense of home back here at this home, where I live now.  Because this is where I am for now.

I am seeking to deepen that sense of belonging right here, right now. For now is all we are ever promised.  Just now.  Just this moment.  In all of my recent reading and research, I am seeking to find that sense of dúchas in this place in which I currently find myself.    I’ve been reading quite a bit of Wendell Berry’s work, as he lives just down the way in rural Kentucky.  And funny thing is, apparently so is Robert MacFarlane across The Pond who tweeted this out recently:

“….to defend what we love, we need a particularising language, for we love what we particularly know.”

~Wendell Berry (agrarian, writer)

I am finding the language I seek through a mycelium-styled network of like-minded artists, writers and thinkers, many of whom live far away but whose word-ways feel familiar to me.  Sometimes they lead me back around nearer to where I live now which is nice.  While I read the latest book by Irish garden designer, Mary Reynolds,  I also will sign up for an up-coming plant-magic sort of class with Asia Suler of One willow Apothecaries, just south there in the Appalachian mountains, a bit closer to home.  I find both of these gardeners carry a similar take on the magic to be found just below our feet and the messages it all may have for us.  I also plan to seek out the four stands of old-growth trees right here in my own city (yes, it’s true!!!) as written about by local naturalist John Tallmage in a book I am still devouring called The Cincinnati Arch, Learning from Nature in the City.   

I am learning so many new languages.  Layers upon layers of expression to bridge the gap between myself and the world.  The Spanish language, which I will re-visit and practice once again in Guatemala in just over a week.  The language of Irish music, which I’ll play so much of the day tomorrow on the Feast of St. Patrick.  The language of trees, which I hope to learn on many levels.  Having taken down a number of trees recently, I am wholeheartedly asking our little patch of land what it wants in the way of new trees to replace those which have passed.  I hope to have the ears to listen.

I am eager for the language of story as well.  So many of the stories to which I am drawn are from far away places.  The local stories, at least the older ones, are proving difficult to dig up.  But I shall seek them out, even as I enjoy the others, for if a story calls to your heart, then surely there is something there to be learned from it, yes?.  Here in Cincinnati, we live on land much like The Chalk, described by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld books, the Tiffany Aching series in particular.  This Land Under Wave is as good a place to dig in for now.  This place from which to explore the rest of this wide and wonderful world, this place to come home to.