It seems many things in our little acre of land are bell shaped just now, fairly ringing with the bodacious arrival of a proper spring time. Daytime warmth coaxes and whispers to the plants to grow and the evenings, cool again for resting before another day of more and more growing.
If one listens quietly enough, for long enough, the chiming of these little bells might be heard all around. Small ones, tinkling near the ground, nestled and tucked under larger, louder plantings.
Other bells chime deeper, perhaps with the promise of a new backyard food source.
Some have a note so high and so sweet, only the most careful listeners might hear them.
And still others have a chime so light and ephemeral, one can’t really know if they sing the song of the mists or the breezes. But if one listens…..
I’ve been listening. With my trowel, moving plants around and tucking in new gifts from friends in trade. Planting seeds and pondering plots and plans, all while these little bells ring and chime and sing all around me.
I’ve been listening with my pencil and paint brush and ink, to capture a bit of this ephemerality, and pin it’s simulacrum to my paper as best I can.
This is good practice as tomorrow I must leave my little plot of land here for a few days to lead two days of sketching with a very speical group in California. We will visit a lovely garden and some wonderous trees as well, whose names I am eager to learn. I am so lucky to do this work I do, encouraging folks to find the paths of their own ink lines, pencil marks and paint puddles. It’s teaching season once again and I am glad for it.
But always I will come back home, to this little place, which is feeling really magical just now with the gardens bursting forth and the beauty of the bells in my ears.
“I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to make it do things for us.” ~Frances Hodgson Burnett
(thank you Cathryn Worrell for this gem of a quote. You can see her Unicorn here.)
I’ll be back in a few days with tales of a land far west from here, but where friends await my arrival. For now, I leave you with some more magic for your ears….
Today I have taken yet another day to do things slowly, to allow a plethora of new medicinals to take hold of this winter’s cold symptoms. I stumbled upon a Keith Haring quote on the instagram page of Sketchbook Crafts which I know to be true and which I jotted into my own book, even as I chased the colors around my own sketchbook, doodling my magical canine beings.
Of late, I have pondered the notion of activism. What can we do in the times ahead which are shaping up to be very different indeed. There are those who will march together on the day following the Inauguration of the vile new leader of the free world. (Alas, I am signed up to take an art class, but my heart is with the marchers here in my town, and in DC.)
And there are those who use their fame and cultural influence for good (unlike some.)
The mere act of making some art feels like activism to me. As does teaching it to people who may think art is not theirs for the doing. Open up one’s heart to their own making and there is no telling the sea changes which can occur. In the coming weeks I am taking some remedial Spanish classes to re-learn a language I once spoke as a child. This too feels like activism. The class is in preparation for another trek down to Guatemala to do some sketching and exploring for future workshops there (stay tuned!!). But I also would like to do more volunteer work in my community with folks who might not know English yet. Small things, yes. But perhaps they can stem the tide of where the election seems to be taking us.
So today, I do what I can do. Everyday the light returns, as does my vim and vigor, and with that, some hope for better days.
Finally, after some flirtatious hints in previous weeks, the goddess of Spring has bestowed upon us warm breezes in which to bask, a carpet of greening with which to readjust our vision of the out-of-doors, and the fleeting gift of spring-blooming flowers, strung up like so many lines of fairy lights amongst the trees and tucked into the base of the forest itself.
I sit here today at this writing machine, feeling an urge to catch you all up on things ’round here with a juicy blog post. So if you have a little while to spare, brew a cup of tea, tuck yourself into the coziest chair and I shall fill you in.
In spite of the coming of Spring in our river valley, we extended our journey into Winterland for a number of days as we headed northward to the great city of Montreal…
Our friends in the North were waging their own battle with the tail end of winter and we were graced with brisk but beautiful days to tour the city, as well as a rather dramatic snowfall one morning.
Why Montreal, you may wonder? Well, our youngest, Madeleine, was part of a team competing in the World Championships of Irish Dance being held in this fair city. This was to be our last trek to a ‘major’ and so we opted to make a real trip of it and spend a few days in what I believe to be one of the most charming cities in North America.
Around every corner, there were little bits of Other World. It truly has a feeling of a city much older than the rest of civilization available on this side of the pond.
As a woodsy girl, I am not one to bask in cities in general. But the Spirits of Montreal are present if one simply seeks to view them.
I managed to find the local Irish music session there on our first night and was welcomed by a charming, talented bunch of musicians who not only play Irish tunes, but also tunes from their area in the Quebecois and Cape Breton styles. It was a highlight of the trip for me personally and set the tone for the rest of our time there.
While M and her friends practiced, shopped and explored the city in their own way, we met up with far flung northern friends we seldom see. We walked and ate and visited, not really caring what we did to occupy ourselves beyond the simple bliss of merely being together.
Though to be honest, I just wanted to stare at Baby Alice’s sweet toes. And so I did a bit. Amazing to think that our little dancer, about to graduate into the Big Real World, once had toes as tiny and juicy as these.
Soon, touring and visiting were over. The competition was at hand and the McGing Pirates danced a perfect rendition of their well-practiced routine. In fact, all 9 teams competing danced a perfect rendition of their clearly well-practiced routines. When the dust settled, our girls had placed a respectable 4th in the world, good enough to medal. They were thrilled! It was a beautiful note upon which to end Maddie’s dance career. She will likely never truly stop dancing when she hears a proper tune, but this season of competitions and stage-worthy costuming is over. We couldn’t be more proud of her.
And I, for one, was ready to leave the built environment of the city, as nice as our trip had been…
“…most of us get used to living a hectic life that even the present moment, with its vast spiritual resonance, is unavailable to us. This is less true of the solitary, quiet workers whose company I have treasured; they seem to be living in a different psychic space from other people on the evening news. I do not mean farmers alone, but my grandfather in his carpentry shop, or Robin, when he comes home from a day of tuning pianos (which is how he makes his living). Such people may not know that their daily experience – contemplatively charged as it is – is different from other people’s. When something, like a trip to the mall, brings the disjunction to their awareness, they may fault themselves for being ‘out of it’. A day in the city looking for a couple of shirts can fry the brain of a normal country person.” ~from The Barn at the End of the World, by Mary Rose O’Reilley
….ready to come back to my blissfully quiet and mostly contemplative life at home. We catapulted across miles and seasons, once again coming upon the greening of more southerly climes.
This spring time is filled with many special occasions for us as a family, as we hold space for and make witness of the many endings-to-beginnings sort of happenings for Madeleine. One of these events was the Senior Prom. The kids looked stunning in their fineries, perched on the cusp of adulthood. It is such a blessing to behold all of this promise. Knowing my own young-adult children as well as their friends, I have a great hope for Times to Come as they venture into the world to make their own way of things.
With ‘World’s’ and ‘Prom’ successfully behind us, we took advantage of the beautiful weather to head outside. One lovely place to spend the day outdoors locally here is the Cincinnati Nature Center where not only is Spring on grand display all along the woodland trails, but there was music to listen to one day over the weekend. We sketched and enjoyed the breezes in the outdoor pavilion space as we listened….
The songs were mostly in French, providing an outside-of-time-and-space feel to things, which is precisely where I like to be, generally speaking. After the show, we hiked for awhile, pleased to see so many signs of life here, there and everywhere.
We came across tadpoles, newts and turtles in the reservoir ponds on the property of the nature center and of course stopped to observe them and enjoy.
“Is it possible to grow a worthy cosmology by attending closely to our encounters with other creatures, and with the elemental textures and contours of our locale? We are by now so accustomed to the cult of expertise that the very notion of honoring and paying heed to our directly felt experience of things – of insects and wooden floors, of broken-down cars and bird-pecked apples and the scents rising from the soil – seems odd and somewhat misguided as a way to find out what’s worth knowing.” ~from Becoming Animal by David Abram
The Cincinnati Nature Center is a treasure in this metropolis. Where else can even a trip in to the loo turn up so much to look at??
Back here at home, we have had to have a number of dead trees removed from our property. This changes the look and feel of things quite a bit. Despite the promise of perhaps enough sun for a small vegetable patch at long last, I mourn the downing of these beings who have brought such shade and shelter to this place for so many years. The majority of these trees are Ash trees and victims of the emerald ash borer, a non-native and clearly invasive beetle wreaking havoc on the trees here.
Yesterday evening my hub and I donned our wellies and walked the creek out front to collect downed limbs in order to keep them from building up and causing water to back up and flood when the storms come. As we did so, I was hit with a supremely nostalgic smell from my childhood. David Abram says it best…
“…there’s a new texture to the air, a moistness: water suspended in the medium, unseen, though you can feel its presence as the air washes against your face in waves. And riding those waves, vaguely enticing at first, then too pleasureful to resist: smells! Dark, stygian smells gliding over the rippled glass of the lake to mingle with the aromatic dank of the soil underfoot and the high-pitched scent of the green needles… the darkly laughing scent of cool water lapping up against the shore (infused with the chemistry of tadpoles and trout and the tannin of drowned leaves), and a host of other whiffs sometimes merged and sometimes distinct, all sparkling like wine in some part of your brain that had earlier been rocked to sleep by the soporific dazzle of sunbeams, but has now been startled into attentive life by this more full-blooded magic, as though your mammalian intelligence has abruptly dropped anchor and suddenly found itself really here, bodily afoot in these damp woods.” ~from Becoming Animal by David Abram
As a kid I spent countless hours barefoot, walking the local creeks, turning over stones to look for ‘crawdads’. The smell of being down in our own little creek for a bit last night brought back those timeless hours spent exploring. I decided to see if there was anything to spy just yet under the stones in our little waterway.
“This land is in my bones. Land under Wave.” ~from Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Success! I found one and I am sure there were others. I shall visit them when the sun returns, as today we are graced with the cooler side of Spring. Such a temperamental lady, our spring. Yet I am glad she seems here to stay for now.
Spring being firmly footed must mean that summer is on her heals. I am beginning to feel the pull toward a summer spent mostly on the road….
My annual trek to teach in Taos is less than two months away, with workshop participants arriving exactly two months from today. Like some sort of nesting bird, I am busily collecting supplies and ideas to bring to the workshop. Just the other day I hand printed some little canvas bags into which will go some basic necessities. I didn’t need to print anything on the swag-bags, but I really wanted to. So I did.
That rather sums up my state-of-mind of late. I’m following my nose as much as possible. Sure there’s loads that needs to be accomplished. And I manage to get to most of it. But sometimes it’s fun to climb aboard that ‘cross-town bus’ and see just where it takes me. It is there that ideas spring up out of the newly tilled soil of the soul. I hope to share with you soon where some of these ideas are taking me. They are shaping my approach to my kid-books projects. And that is a good thing. These projects will shift their shape over time, I am certain. I have already received my first official ‘rejection’ letter from a company to which I submitted some of my work. Along with the small smidge of sadness that my ego wanted to strap to its back came a much brighter sense of really doing this. I am in the game. Doing what needs to be done, a bit each week, moving forward. Someday, with some persistence and enough caring and constructive critique to keep the work improving, it will be ‘good enough’ to be birthed into the world as books with stories in them that began in my mind’s eye and in the heart of my creative soul. This all feels really, really good. As does spring.
And so, we come to the end of this rather lengthy tome of a post. I don’t post often, but when I do….
What’s happening in your world? I’d love to know. Blessings on your new season, wherever it may find you.
It’s a gloriously frosty morning down here in this Springvalley of ours.
The cold seems to have settled in for the season and it all feels a bit early, though I suppose it is November. This week I dug out the heated waterer for the girls so they have access to unfrozen water, and we are back to our morning ‘oatmealworm’ breakfasts to keep them warm, fed and with enough salt in their little systems. This time of year always puts me in a bit of a hibernatory place, in spite of our culture’s Countdown to Christmas mentality. I find myself drawn to slower pursuits and am inspired by others seeking the same in their worlds. Since it has been a little while since I have checked in here at my online home, I figured I’d share a a few things I’ve come across which consider a slower world-view, as well as a couple of updates in studio news.
Brew a cup of tea, or pour a wee dram of something else to warm you…..
The title for this particular post came from a quote from the above video. “What we have is a need for slowness.” I couldn’t agree more. This couple and their enchanting caravan lifestyle came across my path via the interweb-wanderings and sharings from a couple of artist/writer/performer types upon whom I have recently been keeping a close watch.
Rima Staines and Tom Hirons have crafted a world full of magic and old-world style mystery with their art work, poetry, puppetry and beyond and they are fixin’ to take it on the road. To live a simpler life in general and to share their artful wares and wonders with folks farther afield than their current home in Devon, England.
Tom and Rima created their crowdfunding video with the help of their uber-creative community of fellow artists. Their project harkens to a world just outside of the reach of modernity, at the edges of our imagination and land of dreaming. Hence, their new collaboration has the perfect title, Hedgespoken. I have made it a point to share their project here and there on my own tendrils of social media because I really believe in what they are doing. I grew up on the move myself (which is a story for another time and a longer burning fire) and have vivid and beautiful memories of time spent in my grans’ airstream trailer each summer. Nothing fancy or romantic really, but for me, it was life shaping.
People like Tom and Rima are quietly rebelling against the things that rush our world into the Land of Too Much (be it stuff, to-do lists, etc.) Their theater and home on wheels could possibly slow things down a bit for just a few people along their path, and remind us of the magic to be found in all things, if we but take the time to listen and look more closely. Hedgespoken is in it’s home stretch of fundraising and I wish them a firm breeze at their backs as they sail on home to port with it. If you believe in this particular brand of magic, head on over and toss a few coins into their hat. You’ll be glad you did, as their blogs (here, here, and here) are chock full of fascinating and shadowy paths down the proverbial rabbit hole.
Another delightful bit of sweetness that has come across my path this last week is an interview of a quiet gardener in Ireland named Eimear Moran. I found her thoughts on finding beauty and synchronicity and yes, the Divine in her own humble back yard to be truly inspiring. She is another quiet rebel walking the path of slowing down and waking up to things that are in our reach in the day to day. If, again, we but take the time to listen.
Eimear’s book is nearly available and I look forward to getting my hands on it. In the meantime, you can keep up with her daily garden thoughts and meanderings at her page on the Book of Faces (I have Rima to thank for coining that lovely phrase.)
With all of these beauty-full beacons to light my own path, I am truly sinking into the season here myself. My own small crowd-funding project to shore up my residency plans this January in Taos, NM is going well. I too have a few more weeks to get to my goal and am so grateful for all the support thus far. Ginger Small and her adventures have gotten the bulk of the attention lately as she is really the sparkly one of the bunch. But there are also sheep and rabbits coming along with me on this trip.
Cards are being made of a number of these images, should you be interested in counting a few sheep….
Or channeling your inner rabbit….
I am having great fun with all of them with thanks especially to my friend Vanessa Sorensen at Nessy Designs. She recently gave me a few pointers in photoshop which has helped me turn some of the mere sketches in my journal into things I can work with in print. Vanessa and I get together occasionally to sketch and sometimes even to collaborate on a craft project. The most recent of which is this little wonder of fashion…..
Part of this notion of slowing down in my life includes activities like knitting, embroidery, printing my own clothes. Vanessa’s cicada print, my years old skirt and a bit of embroidery to bug out the eyes makes for a wonderful one-of-a-kind fun thing to wear. And to top it all off, it meant an afternoon spent with a fellow artist, sipping tea and sharing bits of things that had set our minds to wander and our hearts to sing lately. That is the true gift. Time Well Spent.
Speaking of bits of embroidery…..
Leviathan will be on display at the Kennedy Heights Art Center’s upcoming show Imagine, featuring members of the KHAC’s Artist’s Collective. The show opens November 22. If you are local here in the Ohio River Valley, do stop by and see us. Some of my recent skull studies will also be up for grabs…..
What do you do to stem the flow of time? How do you bring a desired slowness to your everyday? I’d love your thoughts and links to others who might be in this same camp of Time outside of Time.
It is a blustery and quite rain-drenched day here in the Ohio Valley. Indoors, Ginger Small and I are carefully weaving together our plan for the work that will be done in just a few month’s time back in our home-away-from home in Taos.
But we need your help in turning this plan into a successful reality.
As I have mentioned before, I have the honor and opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in Taos as the Writer-in-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. I go there this upcoming January with a number of ideas and characters adrift in the watery depths of my imagination, two of which are almost firm enough to touch. I have Ginger Small’s adventures in pictures, collected over the years, which could use some corralling into story. And there is a nearly finished picture-book manuscript which needs it’s pictures to come to life. This is a sleepy-time book about counting sheep, and the shepherdess is a young rabbit named Edith. I won’t give away much more, as I am sure Edith’s story will change and grow, much like Ginger’s has.
Edith and Ginger need my undivided attention and care to come to life in this world; to take shape enough that they may knock on the doors of publishers and printers. This residency offers me this chance to tighten up these stories and get them out into the world.
How can you help?
I am aiming to raise $2500 between now and mid December which will assist with the following costs:
In exchange for your donation to this project, I will be offering some rewards:
$15 level – hand-printed, single color, lino-style thank you card sent to you in the mail
$25 level – A copy of the Eco-Chic Retreat DVD set (I am proud to be a part of this amazing film project. This reward was kindly donated by film-maker Jody McNicholas of Walk-in Productions. Only 1 available!) (Update – this reward has been claimed and is no longer available! Thanks!!)
$40 level – set of 3 Ginger Small note cards featuring a variety of images from Ginger’s best known adventures. OR sheep/rabbit images, your choice!
$75 level – A postcard from Taos! New Taos Themed Ginger Small images will be happening for this trip. We will have them professionally reproduced and then send you a handwritten greeting from our little cottage at Mabel’s. (approx. 5″x7″, these will be sent as a post card, through the USPS and so will have the look and feel of the original postcards that started us on this adventure in the first place.)
$150 level – All of the above!!!!
$500 level – Your choice of a one of a kind felted Edith (similar to 3dG and approximately the same size, about 4″ tall) OR an original sheep-themed watercolor, 8″x10″
Most of these rewards will be received by you, with my gratitude, during the month of January 2015. The Taos postcards will be posted from Taos- to you while I’m at my residency Jan 5-19. Felted Edith and original watercolors will be slightly longer in coming as they will be made to order.
Many thanks to you in advance for any support you have to lend. Financial support is of course wonderful, but do not discount how meaningful it is to receive comments on the blog here and over on my facebook page as well. I picture all of you in the stands waving colorful flags, and tossing handfuls of glitter and confetti into the breeze to keep things whimsical. The world needs whimsy, and imaginary animals who go on the adventures we dream up. Thanks so much for your help and encouragement!
~AHB (and GS & EE, too!!)
(Click this image or the one just like it over in the sidebar to the right to get started! Thanks!!!!)
*A note on crowd~funding: As this is, in the grand scheme, a small scale fund raising project, I opted to keep it grassroots. It is small enough for me to manage here and I decided not to engage Kickstarter or Indiegogo, as I might very well need to go that route to get these stories published into physical books one day soon. But we shall cross that bridge when we come to it. I plan to shop them around in old-school style a bit before opting to self-publish. Thanks again for your support!