Tag Archives: sharon blackie

A Word for Feeling

“It is the morning after the night before.”     ~Ciaran Carson (Last Night’s Fun)

I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast.  This is not a bad thing.  As I choose pie over cake any day.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With.  On paper I turned 50.  But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really.  Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere.  From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses.  They might give anything to be here.

Art by Christina Wald

“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood!  Time for an adventure.  Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)

Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….

“Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)

One of my oldest and dearest. While I find adventures at the end of a paint brush; she heads down the path of a Good Book. We all do what feeds us on vacation.

We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play.   I for one simply can never get enough of the sea.  In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible.  I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature.  I long to come home to that each visit.  These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?

photo credit Imran Nuri

“Swimming, One Day In August

It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”

~Mary Oliver  via @shippenverse on IG

photo credit: Imran Nuri

“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.”  And so it is.

“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”

~Anne Frank  via @annefrankcenter

Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile.  I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views.  But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events.  I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing  (even online) speaks volumes.  Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).

It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote.   “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”,  I was asked.

Yes, this is different.  No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking.  Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time.  The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.

It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance.  The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it.  The world is left wondering what the hell is going on.  I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand.  I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government.  At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another.  Not at the border, not at protest rallies.

And so where to from here?

So many stars, so little time (click here for the sound track to the writing of this post)

On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world.  Perhaps I have some wisdom after all.  I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world.  These will continue to be my focus and my center.  But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others.  I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world.  It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning.  The world needs more of us.

Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested.  I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first.  So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were.  I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination.  I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm.  Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough.  In other words I am tougher than I might seem.

Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space.  Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.

“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.”  ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)

And yet……..

There is love above all.  And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to.  The day might be long, the news might be dire.  But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting to with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”

–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran

(via the lovely work of Karla Sanders)

For me, to do my work, is to love the world.  Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life.  For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.

“You don’t have to move mountains.  Simply fall in love with life.  Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance.  You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”

~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book.  Her words make a world.)

So back again, to the breath and the work.  I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……

“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”

~John Constable, 1821

For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you.  To you quiet new ones, welcome.  It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing.  (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)

Happy birthday to me.  Here’s to many more years.

ps, the art work I share here is often for sale.  Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange.  I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.

 

 

 

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.