Tag Archives: Terry Pratchett

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.

 

 

‘Full-Blooded Magic’

spring canopy CNC

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…

winter still up north

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.

Montreal snow

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.

fairy land

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.

Architecutral spirit

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.

amy and kris amy and kris and alicerue st paul

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.

Sweet Alices toes

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.

prom 2

prom 1

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….

ericRobFrench Axe

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.

snap shot

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

CNC tadpoles

newts CNC 2 newts CNC 1 newts cnc 3

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??

CNC indoors 3 CNC indoors 1 CNC indoors 2

 

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.

crawdad search 2

crawdad search 3

crawdad search 1

creek fossils

“This land is in my bones. Land under Wave.” ~from Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

 

crawdad found 1

crawdad found 2

crawdad found 3

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.

swag bag prints taos

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.