I find myself unexpectedly weary today after a day of art making and eating and not much else. It was great fun to dive fully into book work but it is work. And work I love dearly. I feel a bit more up to snuff in my sketchbook after today’s efforts so I’ll share a few more Antigua adventures with you here.
I’ve been really enjoying meeting the other artists here in Antigua and beyond. Rosemary has made many connections over the years between service trips for her speech pathology work and textile tours. Yesterday we had the pleasure of stopping in to see Lidia López who is a talented weaver among many other wonderful things (I’m keen to learn how to make Pepian sauce from her!).
Lidia was pregnant with her son and visiting friends in Panajachel, and I was a 7 year old kid living in Guatemala City when in 1976 tragedy struck this region in the form of an earthquake. Thousands of lives were lost and it was indeed something one never forgets. But time passes, and as Lidia says, it was not our time then. We had more work to do. And so we did.
It was lovely to chat with Lidia about the work she does and life in general. She patiently let us practice our Spanish on her, although her English is amazing. We talked to her about visiting again when we come for the travel sketch workshop next year which I hope comes to frution.
Our visit was over far too soon and I hope to stop in to say goodbye and share with her some of the work we have been up to in the mean time. Including a drawing I made of Lidia herself.
Later in the afternoon we went to sketch and photograph a lovely ruin…..
I was very happy to have my fancy camera this day as the structures and light at play in this old convent make for beautiful imagery.
But time was ticking and the ruins close fairly early to visitors. We knew we had to get to work if we were to get a sketch in.
As the kids do often put it,
Seems kids have been the same since time began….
We had 40 minutes to do a quick study and we opted for a fairly complicated stairwell.
While this is not a scaled architectural study, it’s not a bad painting to my eye. Coming back to this drawing in my sketchbook in years to come, I’ll remember the light in this stairwell, and church bells on the wind and quiet drawing time with a good friend. The gifts of a well fed travel journal.
Today was a slower paced day in the way of touring. We had meals out of course but mostly we stayed home and caught up in our books. Little things here and there….
…like this creepy antique wooden baby Jesus spotted at a collectibles and antiques owned by a nice fella called Axel.
I also did a page spread in my book to try and learn a bit more about the weaving tradition here in this country.
Although it took me the better part of the day, I’m happy with the results.
I wanted to try to capture the beauty and variety of the indigo dyed corte or cuts of cloth we encountered the other day at the market in Panajachel. Each piece different, punctuated with the colorful seam stitching called randas.
The textiles in Guatemala are not something I can try to adequately comprehend in one go, but it’s been great fun to get a weaving 101 from Rosemary, Mari and Lidia.
Tomorrow there will be more and more drawing. And I hear tell of some hot chocolate which contains chili powder in it. Two days left in this captivating country. For this visit at least.
I’ve technically been here in Antigua Guatemala for a day. Just shy of 24 hours. And in that time I’ve seen a city of history alive and laughing. I’ve heard many tongues being spoken upon the breeze. One conversation between a lovely, crackling fireworks display to end a raucous saturday evening in town and the volcano in the distance which answered with its own beautiful breath of fire and light in the distance.
Life happens amongst the rooftops and streets here. Creature comforts being the first order of business for this weary traveler, we had a snack before bed late last night up the street and coffee and a hearty breakfast on a local rooftop this morning. The volcano was still whispering its thoughts on the breeze. After breakfast we followed rumors of a procesión happening a number of blocks away. A celebration of the Lenten season.
Temporary carpets were being delicately installed along the streets where the procession would return them to dust.
It was hot, diligent work. The carpets (alfombras) were crafted of tinted saw dust, raffia, flowers and vegetables.
Some had a way of looking at us.
Soon we reached the center of all the activity, Santa Ana Church.
Here, hundreds (thousands?) of faithful folk gathered to watch the spectacle. I am told this happens every Sunday leading up to Easter Holy Week when things are happening every day by then. But all in all, we were lucky to witness what we did.
After the crush of humanity it was great to get lunch and head back to our hotel, Posada San Sebastián which is a wonderland really. And a feast for the senses for anyone with a whimsical bent.
This special place contains many collected items set around in groupings. Such as chairs.
And my personal favorite, a cabinet chock full of baby Jesus.
Yes it’s true.
One might think that with barely a day here, all of this activity might have had us so busy as to forget our art making. But I did manage a page in between times. And after some rest, tomorrow will bring more. Sometimes it’s important just to fully soak up what’s in front of you in the moment .
Good night watercolor set. Goodnight baby Jesus. Goodnight chatty neighbor.
For days, it seemed as if it would never stop raining.
We hunkered in our homes, all of us (including the Faeries, I do believe!) watching the gardens begin to awaken between raindrops and the rollercoaster weather patterns for which our region is known.
We tended our indoor plants as well, hungry to touch something green once again. We are all of us ready to go outside once more.
As the rain poured down, our normally babbling brooks not only rushed but eventually even did a fair amount of flooding. Up and over our little bridge and the drive. Thankfully, the flood waters only lapped up to the door, with nary a trickle actually making it indoors. We were lucky.
Eventually, the sun has shown here and there. And things are beginning to bud and bloom. Risky behavior for these intrepid plants, as warm days are still fleeting.
But bloom, they do.
While the streams rushed outside our doors, and the Ohio River and its tributaries raged closer to town, another far sweeter and gentler River has begun flowing…..
A new album of folk-styled music has been taking shape out in Seattle where my young friend Alex Sturbaum now lives. You may remember Alex from my post about his amazingly hand-crafted wedding a few months back. Recently Alex created a Kickstarter campaign for his River Run Wide project and it has been successfully funded (though there is always room for more)!! I was thrilled when he gave me a call and asked me if I might be able to produce some art work to contribute to the design of the CD and it’s wee booklet.
There are so many tales to be told and behold through Alex’s music -both via traditional songs he’s interpreted for this solo album as well as his charming original works. Narratives rich in visual detailing and a sense of nostalgia for something just out of reach. You can practically smell the salt air of a ship’s passage in his maritime songs….
You can feel the pull of a mighty river and maybe hear the voices of those working it just over the lapping of the river waves on shore…..
There is a longing for home that music such as this evokes. It may very well be a sense of home which can never be quenched.
Congratulations to Alex, and his talented band of merry, music-making friends, with whom I’ve shared a number of late night sing-alongs. May this album head into the world and encourage more singing, more gathering and telling of old tales, more joy in the making of music.
What a winter we are weathering. Not for the normal reasons which might lead to a bout of winter weariness such as darkness or the ice and snow (we’ve had little of either, though we do suffer our fair share of a seemingly endless milky-gray pearlescence, which is a nice, wordy way of saying ‘day to day dismal’.)
Instead, there seems to be a general sense of malaise in all corners, at least to my winter-wearied eyes. The political climate of late is one I am deeply committed to keeping track of, though how to do so and still nurture my rich inner world is proving to be a bit of a challenge. (I am up to the challenge.) All told, through this winter’s darkness, both literal and metaphorical, I’ll admit to having had to dig quite deeply to find any light lately within my heart- physically, creatively. Some days I have felt quite extinguished indeed. It’s been a hard time, ‘I don’t mind tellin’ you.’
But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and all is not lost, fear not! I am back to running the local village paths once again more routinely, just in recent days, no matter the weather! This morning I awoke with the clearest head I have had in months, the cobwebs having been cleared from my seratonin-deprived brain by just a few short, but successful hard runs around my neighborhood. I could nearly weep with joy for the returning of this source of bliss and emotional sustenance in my life.
While running has not been available to me, walking still has. Our dogs enjoy a wee trot outside each day, provided the roads aren’t too salty for their exposed paws. I delight in a rhythmic jaunt where I can get lost in my thoughts.
A few days ago, the sun did shine for a day. (read: a brighter milky-pearlescence). My hub and I went to the local nature center for some sketching time. There are all sorts of very still, very dead, yet somehow quite animated taxidermy-style animals there and we took some time to draw them.
There was woodsmoke in the air there that day, and a sweetness as well, signaling maple sugaring season. We enjoyed learning about how our native forebears likely processed, consumed and traded the sweet, valuable maple syrup and crystalline sugar using handmade tools they gathered from the earth and adapted to their needs. I did not take a picture.
We discussed that day of how sad things have been (how sad I’ve been) and we talked also of how mood-changing a song might be when it catches our ears just so. My Hub found one such song called I Don’t Recall done up so very beautifully by Lavender Diamond. They have a new video….
We were intrigued by the biography of this project to be found on Spotify…..
“The folk delight that is Lavender Diamond originally came to life in Bird Songs of the Bauharoque, a punk operetta inspired by the work of American painter/architect Paul Laffoley. Vocalist Becky Stark wrote and created the piece with a friend while living in Providence, RI, and starred as Lavender herself, a winsome part bird/part human who wants peace on earth.”
Hub wondered at which point in the song she was human and which bit might find her in bird form – to which I argued, why can’t she be both? Both, at the same time. animal. woman.
I’ve been pondering a great bit lately this whole notion of polarity. Political polarity, yes of course. But also the light vs. the shadow sides of ourselves. The Masculine and Feminine bits too, always in a dance, yes? And even to how we react to times of great strain. I am intrigued (and often infuriated) by the discussion of a perceived necessity to choose one thing over another. Why can’t we be Both. I am both Woman and Animal. I am Light as well as Shadow. I enjoy tapping into both the (traditionally regarded) Masculine AND Feminine within my whole self. When I allow this, I am more wholly alive as a total human being. Perhaps like Lavender herself.
Music has indeed been a balm and an inspiration when Mother Nature is resting and doesn’t give us much to go on in the way of sketchable stuff.
Though if one pays close attention…..
One of my favorite flute teachers shared a song the other day which caught my ear, as songs of old often do.
It put me in mind of leggy hares to be found across the pond. so different from our own bulky little bunnies. so I sketched one up.
As I continue to climb out of the dark hole of my recent state, I am grateful for things which catch my ear. The music often being the first and foremost quality of a song shared. If I get a tune rolling round in my head, words or no, that can be a good thing. It can, indeed, change the tone of an entire day for someone sitting rather on the edges of things emotionally speaking.
But sometimes, what catches my ear is deeper still than just a catchy tune. Sometimes, as I listen to a newly found thing, often on obsessive repeat, (yes it’s true, and part of my charm, I like to think) the words partnering with the music to enchant the heart can act like will-o-the-wisp. Lights in the darkness, taking me down an enchanted lane to other worlds….
This morning the lovely Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame?) shared the music of one Ali Dineen in the form of this song in particular, which much like the Lavender Diamond song above, has a happy feel to it. (and, turns out, Lin was one of Ali’s 7th grade teachers. Can you imagine?)
This song led me down the proverbial musical rabbit hole of her music in general and I was not to be disappointed. (Thank you Lin!) Little lyrical snippets pulled at my heart strings as I jogged the paths here amidst this gray, cold village here in Ohio.
“Somewhere else there were
miracles, carnivals, and a space in the air
only your bones could fill.”
Just weeks away, I am reminded by this tune, is a trip south to Antigua, Guatemala where I will sink into constant art-making for a solid week. This makes me happy beyond imagining. And reminds me that winter will pass. In spite of how hard things can seem just now, personally, nationally, globally.
“Spring it brought madness and chaos and song
the wind growing warm, the days growing long
I watched the world blow through your mind
we stooped low to pick up what it left behind
Scattered stories of our country’s childhood,
though we’re deaf to their sounds
We’re trying to stand up straight
but we don’t know what’s weighing us down.”
“go when your feet are restless
go when you hear a faraway song
heed what your bones are saying
don’t wait for your saint to come….”
“go where your name is spoken
stay when you feel like standing still
no one can guide your footsteps
so walk where you will “
So, yes, later this spring, I will travel to Guatemala, where once upon a time, my name was spoken. I have been trying to tap into that little gypsy girl who lived everywhere and nowhere. The me who spoke Spanish “like a native” (my mom’s words) and who seemed to feel at home anywhere. I seem to have lost track of her over the years but I am keen to get reacquainted. I’ve been taking a formal Spanish course locally and it’s been more difficult that I had expected.
We conjugate a good bit, which I will admit, I don’t know how to do adequately in English, in spite of my ability to speak the language here. I am banking on a small faith that this class will warm me up to hear my name spoken on the warm volcanic breezes in the Highlands of Guatemala. I’m told I went there as a girl when my Nana Campbell came to town. I do not remember.
But I do remember what calls to my soul:
(we are all artists)
Thank you for reading…..
ps. do go toss a few coins into the hats of any or all of these amazing artists. they deserve it.
I have heard it said that in 7 years, a person’s whole body – every bit of it, down to the cellular (and perhaps beyond) level – is replaced in that time by a new set of cells, ready to take on the task of the day to day life of being human. But what of the soul?
I’ve returned from some magical travels to a more equatorial part of the world with my beloved, and have landed amidst the mud and mire of early spring back home. Normally a joyful season for most folk, what with the coming of green things and the promise of new fawns in the bulging bellies of the local mama deer, early spring has, in fact, proved challenging for us over the years. This year marks the 7th anniversary of Esme’s death which was a sea change in the lives of both of my children, in our own lives as parents, and in the collective life of an entire close-knit community. Not to mention, her dear family. Everything is now measured against this tragic event. And in March, we are called back to the season to take stock, re-visit ourselves and our losses and re-calibrate our lives to a certain extent.
And so we did.
Es’s weeping cherry tree in Spring Grove Cemetery is thriving. Under the now formidable presence of the tree, little offerings of love and memory are present….
We were glad to see them.
Madeleine and I drove around the cemetery just to take in the beauty and the years of memorials present there. It’s breathtaking, the number of stories held by this place. Just the names and birthdates alone get you thinking, ‘ Why did this person die so young?’ Or maybe even, ‘wow, that guy sure lived a long and hearty life for the time!’. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to any of it.
There really doesn’t.
It was strange that M. was home for Esme’s anniversary as it was only to mark the passing of another family friend, the loving mama of a dance friend of her’s. Lucinda, a wonderfully witty, thoroughly engaging fellow dance mom I’d known over the years, passed away from cancer, leaving behind a kid just a year younger than my own, amongst many others she loved and whom cherished her.
We are all heartbroken.
And so from memories of one to memorializing another, March seems to be funeral season. We are all glad we have each other.
Amidst all of this funeriality, I was called upon to play some music with friends at the wake of someone dear to them. And so we did.
It was fascinating to me to see the effect of the presence live music has in the environment of grief. Music, especially live music, seems to punctuate the moments of celebration of a long life well lived, while simultaneously allowing for the pauses for tearful acknowledgement of great loss to a tune perhaps more in the minor key, or slowed down enough to capture the depth of that loss. I was honored to play a small part in all of it.
And today, M and I attended Lucinda’s funeral. And then made our way back up to Columbus to plant her back at school where she belongs.
Like I said, it’s been a heavy season.
But every edge has two sides. Alongside the grief in recent days, was a fair amount of hope-full worry in our family, which has thankfully come to a bright and beautiful homecoming.
Our nephew, wee Frank came to us on Monday, just over a week ago. He arrived early, amidst some worry as to The State Of Things regarding how he was faring. Sure enough he had a bit of a struggle for a number of days as he caught his breath from his early oncoming. Eventually, thanks to the tremendously brave parenting and caregiving he was fortunate to receive, Frank went home to get to know his siblings. Things, for perhaps just one wild moment, seemed completely right with the world…. (though in this shot, Big Brother Harry might not be so sure. I’ve heard he’s come ’round in the mean time. )
This is the crazy balance of it all. Walking the knife’s edge of life’s beauty and heartbreak. Making time for all of this Big Life Stuff, while trying to fit the work of Making a Living, or perhaps even Getting a Little Art Made, into the grooves of life’s floorboards.
Even though I didn’t feel quite up to it with these recent heavy days, I met up with some fellow sketchers to challenge the blustery breeze of Esme’s day with some drawing downtown. Christina had invited a few of us to join her while WCET filmed her segment for a show on her work. I can’t wait to see it, and of course share it with you, as her work is fabulous. Sketching is a strong part of her work and we all enjoy sketching together. In spite of the chill, we all managed a sketch of Music Hall, as well as some lively conversation…
Why is it always a lesson? That making the time and effort for some music and some art, are the things that make sense of a difficult season? Perhaps because I am only human and by that I mean, I have still much to learn. This is the development of the Soul.
It is March. I have many hours to make up at the Shop and many, many more hours to make up to my own solitude and writing and sketching of new ideas. In times like these when life comes at us reckless, I wonder, how do they do it? The successful ones. Those produced, published, and promoted.
Perhaps they just stomp the work into the floorboards of life, between the moments of birth and grief. I have heard that music happens between the notes. Perhaps I am onto something…
It’s fascinating to me how much like my own domesticated cat and dogs these wilder versions are. We spent much time drawing and observing the lions especially. There are three adorable lion cubs who were hanging out with mom, ‘Imani’ and dad ‘John’ fairly close to the viewing area.
While we drew them, they slept.
And mama kept her eyes on us.
John did a fair amount of pacing early in our visit, but eventually settled down with his family to enjoy the cool breezes. He is absolutely beautiful.
Just down the lane from the lions are a pack of African Painted Dogs. They were not quite as regal and subdued as the lions were that morning. There was much posturing and wrestling amongst the 10 puppies.
I did not draw these guys as much but just observed their antics. So very dog like in their behavior; carrying sticks, stealing said sticks, chasing and playing. So much like my own dogs. Their markings are lovely – truly ‘painted’ with whippy white tails. I think we will be back to see more of these creatures as they grow and change.
Years upon years ago I spent a fair amount of time training for and running in marathons. These races and my relationships with those with whom I trained kept me quasi-sane through the early years of motherhood, which like many, I often found challenging and quite lonely. In the long run, so to speak, I ran 7 of these races which afforded me the opportunity to travel now and then, and fund raise a bit, keep healthy and even do some soul searching along the way. At that time, it was the right kind of slow therapy I needed. Those miles led me to the more real version of me, they helped me find the courage to let my artist-self shine and eventually, I gave up the long distances to walk more in the woods, spend more time sketching, and somehow earn an art degree.
Recently, at the suggestion of a long-time and dear friend, I have dipped my toe back into the idea of running-to-race by committing to a local half-marathon. This means that I needed to go beyond my jogs ’round the neighborhood and do some longer runs on the weekend. These runs would train us up for the big day and give us a few hours every weekend to chat, laugh and catch up with each other, something we hadn’t found time to do in ages. The extra miles have been taxing on my legs but by throwing into the mix some kayaking and cycling through the week to ‘cross-train’, somehow I’ve managed. This past week we successfully ran 11 miles together and that is the last of the Big Long Runs before the race. Hoorah for ‘tapering!’
It’s been lovely to run the streets of our fair Queen City and see the mornings come alive as we tick off the miles. At the tail end of yesterday’s Big Run, we were passing a local church and this lovely scene caught my artist-eye and I nearly stopped in my tracks.
Here was a statue of Saint Mary, nestled into the side wall of the building in a wee niche (my mom would call her Mary on the Half-Shell), and seated at her feet was a lovely woman in a crisp white sari, trimmed in blue. Something about this scene captured my imagination. But as we were running, we couldn’t very well stop for an artful photograph, let alone a sketch! And so, this drawing is one from my mind’s eye, the details perhaps not quite right.
The woman in the sari was readying to answer her mobile phone which was ringing out a lovely Indian sounding ring-tone. She may have been waiting for Mass to begin, or perhaps she was resting in the niche with Mary for a spell while she waited for the metro-bus. Regardless of her story, just the glimpse of the two of them there in that brief moment was a lovely sight to see. And so this morning, I visited that space again, in the land of my imaginings, and made a little drawing. This is a small painting, only 5″x7″. It is indeed for sale if it speaks to you.
Speaking of selling little drawings, check back here in the next week or so. I’ll be offering some things for sale to help fund my writer-in-residence post in Taos this upcoming winter. These will be sketches and Ginger post-card options, and maybe even an ethereal bunny or two…. I’ll keep you posted!
In the mean time, while we all seem to be running through our lives be it to Fit It All In, or to train for the Next Big Race, let’s take the time to note and perhaps record the sacred in the mundane should we be fortunate enough to come across it. I’d love to see what you come up with!
It’s a juicy drippy dribbly sort of day here in the 1 acre wood. I love it. It’s my favorite kind of weather actually, this cool, misted rain. (Reminds me of Ireland.) And it’s the perfect Ohio Valley send off for this girl about to spend 2 weeks in the desert. I’ve been spending time in the last couple of days hunkered down here, deeply aware that I will miss the creatures that share this place I call home. My Hub, the Smalls, the Dogs and Chickens, Cat and Fish too.
I’m soaking up the green. Memorizing it, knowing it will come as a shock to the system upon my return.
I’ve managed to spin up the roving I wrote about last week or so into a clumsy but luscious few skeins of yarn and so will toss them into the back pack along with a crochet hook. Good to keep the hands moving while traveling, yes?
But of course, this trip to Taos, NM is all about keeping a travel journal. As I am down to the final few pages in my last book, I have outfitted a new one…
I call it the Travelogue of Curiosities.
I love to think of all of the summer adventures that will fill it in the coming months.
Adventures both along my travels, and of course, in the world of my imagination.
(I recently listened to Anne of Green Gables on archive.org. Highly recommend!)
I’m rather excited about the travel season officially beginning for me. I’m fortunate to have crafted a summer filled with comings and goings, some work, some play. As much of a homebody as I like to be with my creature comforts and comforting creatures, I do feel the gypsy pull of the road when I am too long at home. I suppose beginning my life moving around much and traveling even more as a child set me on a path that necessitates a regular dose of new sights and sounds, new impressions of familiar places, and a chance for deep quiet. I am deeply grateful for work that allows me to follow this path. And for the best Day Job ever that gives room for this work (and later in the summer, play!) to happen at all.
And so, I’m feeling the pull. If possible, I will use the fancy new tablet to post some picture laden blog posts and share with you here what’s happening on the road. This latest group of Illuminated Journalers seem like a lovely group of artists. I can’t wait to share Taos and surrounds with them.
It’s about the last day of school for most kids around here, give or take some final exams (which are nothing compared to the AP’s of a few weeks ago!) My Madeleine is now officially a senior in high school. We head to Montreal next week to finish up a slew of college visits with her that have given us an idea of what she might be interested in pursuing for university studies. All of this, combined with my travel plans for the summer are providing an orbital feel to life in general. It is not lost on my that time is flying. It isn’t lost on me that these times are precious either. Part of me is so ready to get to teaching in Taos, and the other part of me pines to capture the beauty we have outside right now in the form of the late spring garden. So I do capture it, as best I can.
A dear friend of mine has been down the rabbit hole of various meditation retreats of late and I am fascinated by her journey. We have talked at length about what makes up a meditation practice, and what we hope to get out of meditating. And I think it’s just the sense of being fully present in our lives. Making sure that we aren’t so busy looking forward to the future, or pondering the past, that we forget to really be here now. Occasionally I will let myself see the seemingly flawless practices of my more centered acquaintances and begin to compare my own messy monkey mind to them and see it in an unkind light. But in chatting with my friend on her journey, she was quick to remind me that not all practices look the same. That what we do in our sketchbooks is a form of meditation. She’s so right. (and, that said, so is running a few miles every day!)
In this book, on most days, I ponder the beautiful, cast out mental lists that might be driving me crazy, get them down on paper and off of my mind. I note what’s important. Noteworthy. Quotable. But mostly I just draw. And for a little bit each day, that act of drawing removes me from the pool of time and I am outside of it. It’s just me and that peony, which will never again be the peony it was this afternoon. I note that my 17 year old kid will be a day older tomorrow. We will put our visit to McGill in Montreal in the sketchbook. Maybe she will even grace the pages of my book with a drawing of her own like she did when she was little. We will mark a small moment in time. Bottle it in a sense.
Somehow, we are part of the plan here. I’m not sure exactly what that plan is, or what part I play in it. But marking the here and the now, day to day, is one way to pin down the impermanent. At least for the time being.
I am just a few weeks away from the beginning of my summer travels, with much work in store between now and then. Fun to doodle in my sketchbook all of the essentials I will be bringing to Taos. The joyful anticipation of a fabulous trip away is half the fun I think!