It is generally held that piping can be thought of as a relatively solo pursuit. Especially at the very beginning when no sane individual (even a true fan of the music) wants to be within a mile of one new to the uillean piping tradition and practice….
But there is one day a year when all the practicing adds up to getting out to play. That day is St. Patrick’s Day. Now, John Joe Badger is definitely not ready for public prime time on the pipes (ahem, neither am I, dear reader, and so we stick to the flute for now when playing in public!!) but as he learns his tunes in lonesome fashion, he never knows who might be listening and taking note that more and more recognizable notes are being strung together for all of his solitary efforts.
It’s a sad St. Patrick’s Day this year, what with gigs canceled and missing my mates who make this time of year a real favorite of mine. But though we may feel alone in these uncertain times, we are not.
We must make our merry music still and know we are never alone.
There are plans in Ireland for everyone to sing together at noon in musical and cultural solidarity.
Inspired by Italians singing together whilst in quarantine, I look forward to seeing the results later today online. As for myself, and of course, good ol’ John Joe Badger, we will spend part of today playing music. I will keep drawing and painting as it all brings me such solace.
I do so from a place of deep gratitude for the ability to place my energy in these pursuits. I am safe and healthy while self-isolated. But there is much fear and uncertainty in the world just now. And for that, we must take courage and lead from a place of love. Always.
When the light around lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside,
When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen,
When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,
Steady yourself and see
That it is your own thinking
That darkens your world.
Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,
Know that you are not alone,
And that this darkness has purpose;
Gradually it will school your eyes,
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.
Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.
Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.
A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!
“I don’t want realism. I want magic.” ~Tennessee Williams
There is much coming and going of late. Hither and thither we work and play. I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops. Antigua beckons…..
Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West. When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.
pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise. I was captivated by the murky depths. And miraculously I did not get sea sick.
Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner. Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum. Though to be fair, rum has its place.
If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold. And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..
We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.
There is magic around every turn there.
Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio. But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.
My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test. He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark. With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.
Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world. Music as well. This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.
Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks. This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue. It’s one of our favorite places to play. Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel. Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail. Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?
I am so grateful for the music.
And this music as well….
Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night. It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed. There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.
All is not angelic and ethereal round here however. As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala. This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong. I embark on that journey later this month.
But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work. That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.
I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.
All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge. This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.
My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.
Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.
Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough. And this is good.
And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues. While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this. We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.
I say this as a reminder to myself really. Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh – o – o …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes) This is all part of the process. I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.
Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in, always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work. I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts. I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.
To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc. I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day. And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.
But I do keep trying. And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……
I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October. We are thrilled!!!!
We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.
I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans. But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.
So much rich stuff ahead. And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well. I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. – This is not an easy task. But I aim to try, as I have for years now. To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change. It’s what the artists I most admire do best.
Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us. It’s terrifying really. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and we all know the level of crazy this can mean about town, and frankly, the whole world. I was up before dawn to accompany my young dancer to a ‘Kegs and Eggs’ event at one local Irish establishment where she and some fellow McGing Irish Dancers stomped their steps in front of a packed house as well as the local news crew. Then it was off to the school day for her and a couple hours in the studio for me. She heads back out to dance the bar circuit later today and I will join my musical friends for a couple of gigs ourselves. It’s High Holy Season for Irish musicians. And we love it!
Before I head out and get lost in the tunes and the mayhem, I figured I would engage in a little paint play, exploring the many facets of the lovely color of the season.
It’s a greening time of year, so the green theme is appropriate I suppose. Traditionally though, I have heard that St. Patrick actually wore the color blue…..
I am grateful for this day, the one day when Irish music is sought after by the unwashed masses, and we get to play, play, play the day away. It’s really a gift. If you are local, a few of us are playing at the Brazenhead Pub in Mason, Ohio between 4-5.
After that gig, we will meet up with a few others at a favorite venue of ours, The B-List bar in Bellevue, Ky.
Do stop in and give us a wave hello as we do our thing. This crazy thing called Irish music. Here’s a taste:
Recent weeks have seen a distinct greening on many levels. There are signs of spring in the warmer nooks of the city, indicated with a few daffodils sprinkled about and some trees gingerly allowing their buds out to play in the warm breezes. However….
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens (I came across this quote on this lovely blog!)
Yes, we have been fortunate to have some mild days, but in true Cincinnati style, I hear snow is forecast for tomorrow. sigh. It will be in the 90’s and humid in no time, so I’ll settle into what this wild season has to offer which is a see-saw of unpredictability.
Grass is not the only green showcased this time of year. March also brings us the ‘High Holy Season of Irish Music’, the days and weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s day. Suddenly, if one can play a few jigs and reels, one is pressed into service to play the many gigs around town, serving up the annual dose of Irish music to folks who normally don’t pay it a whole lot of mind. As musicians of varying levels of skills and reputations, we split ourselves up into groups and hit the town to play and play and play, which is what we do any way! St. Patrick’s Day itself was a whirlwind of venues and friends and tunes…. Here are some of the highlights:
A few of us from our beloved Riley School of Irish Music gathered to ring in the day at the Claddagh Pub in Mason. Ohio with a few tunes together. We played for about 2 hours.
The next place I headed to that day was a little bar called the B-list, located in Bellevue, Kentucky. Of all the places to play, the B-list ranks as a favorite among those of us fortunate enough to play there. The owner of the bar is an old friend of my harp-goddess friend Jeni and we are warmly welcomed as family. I love it there. But alas, the show must go on….
My friend Patrick organized a little gig at the Claddagh in Newport, which is where we like to have our weekly evening sessions. They too treat us kindly with an occasional pint and access to our favorite corner in which to play. We were joined here by young James who is turning into quite a fiddle player!!
As the day wore on, things got more chaotic.
The more recognized bands were brought into play at this time with large sound systems (when they could get them to work!) and it was time for the rest of us to go and watch the pros at work….
I doubt the drunken masses had any idea the level of musicianship they were witnessing. They didn’t seem to care. But the musicians in the audience did. The flute player here is John Skelton with whom I am fortunate to study each week. He is a world class Irish Flute player among many other things. Dan and Bev of Liam’s Fancy are used to dealing with the chaotic late night bar scene, so they had this wild St. Pat’s crown under their spell in no time. I simply don’t know how they do it. In spite of the green-clad crazies, a good day was had by me and all of my fellow Irish music admirers. My husband asked me at one point if there is such a thing as total saturation of Irish Music (read: “Don’t you ever get tired of playing tunes?”). The answer is, of course, no! Never! Sure we might get physically exhausted by the rigors of pressing and plucking strings, creating a (somewhat) tuned in embouchure, keeping a proper beat, but our souls never really tire of the feeling that a well played tune can bring. For a good bit of the time on St. Pat’s, I was able to transcend any fear of playing in public, making mistakes, etc and simply play, with my flute or whistle as an extension of myself. This, I have to tell you, is bliss. As good as it gets.
And so we have been steeped in green. Interestingly enough, the green does not stop there. I have also been getting paychecks (two in one week after months without one!!) and have begun work at my new ‘day job’ at Carroll Concertinas. For now I am outfitting concertina cases with velvet encased foam which involves a bit of precision and lots of spray adhesive. It’s fun and I am already learning a lot. You simply cannot imagine all that goes into creating a well made concertina. For me, this allows me to breathe a little easier as I go about my fine art work and the work I am doing with the study of creativity and arts-based learning in business. Someday, sooner than later I think, these pursuits will begin to pay in the form of actual paychecks that can be relied upon to feed us and help with college costs (this notion is bearing down upon is rather quickly I am afraid). But until they do, it is wonderful to have the structure of a day job. Especially one where there is creativity and ingenuity bouncing off the walls every day. Maybe I will even learn a tune or two on the concertina. I have heard this is something that is expected over time and it makes me happy. One can never learn enough new things.
One last note before I sign off here. I have timidly put my foot into the strange pool that is Twitter in recent weeks and have begun ‘following’ folks who are doing similar work to mine or whom I find interesting. This has paid off with connections and opportunities that I couldn’t have seen coming. Mary Gordon at Creative Voyage has a brilliant blog about the ins and outs of living and working creatively. She does not shy away about the green elephant in every artist’s room – money – and her blog has plenty of uplifting and useful advice for anyone pursuing an artful life, part time or full time. I had the opportunity to be a part of her ongoing series of interviews with artists who have had experience with the series of books called the Artist’s Way. You can read my interview here. It was great to ponder these questions about my own creative journey which has been so rich and relatively quick in coming forth.
Although I do not spend too much time online with everything I have going on, I do attempt to keep up with artists and writers I find inspiring. I also try to stumble upon a new one or two each week. Discovering these fellow artistic spirits in the virtual-ether-inter-world is enriching and creates a feeling of community in a sometimes lonely profession. For this I am grateful. I encourage you to seek out other artists who inspire you. But don’t forget to spend some time with the one most worth getting to know….. you.
*a note about the pictures. I have been playing around with filters and actions and such in photoshop. the current craze in i-phone hipstamatic options inspired me to find some ways to do this on the computer. I love how the photos look a bit like my dads old photographs looked when I was just a little gypsy child in the jungles of Guatemala…..