It is winter in Ohio. Today, at least, we have some sunshine and some not so bitter temperatures. I will go outside with a dog in a bit to attempt to shake some of the doldrums nipping at my heels just now. A heaviness borne of annoyances mostly. Demands of the season and the length of daily darkness have ground me down in recent weeks. I know this will pass. I look forward to Solstice next week and keep my soul facing the light as best I can, while making friends with the dark as needed.
Gifts are being crafted, alighting to celebrate the return of longer days. Although it will be a good many weeks before we see the changes and shifts properly, our hearts know – and sometimes that is enough to lighten the spirit.
Last weekend there was a concert – a sharing of musical gifts in the form of our annual Peace and Merriment concert at the Riley School. Our hearts were lightened by an afternoon of tunes and a few stories by our Master of Ceremonies, who is also my flute instructor, John.
All things seasonal are underway….
Sharing light with the world,
I have lists made of gifts to gather for the kids in my life, most of whom like books, even the older ones. Perhaps we can be like Icelandic revelers and lie around reading all day on Christmas! As for the adults, we all seem to feel a distinct pulling away from the “stuff” of it all, opting more for subscriptions, memberships, classes – “things” which aren’t things and which brighten the experience of simply being human.
Perhaps you know someone close to you who feels similarly. Perhaps this someone is feeling the darkness of winter, (which even on the brightest of winter days has a muted spectrum of color). Perhaps, they might like to look forward to more light and color in the not-so-distant future.
Registration for my travel journal workshops in Taos, New Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala are officially open and Taos is nearing capacity (yay!). Antigua, being international and a newer offering, still has a few spaces left in each of the two weeks available (click the link for details!)
I can’t say enough about what a dose of vivid color and warm air can do for one’s soul and body after a long winter and I find myself looking very forward indeed to the spring trip to Antigua in particular.
And the coffee. You simply wouldn’t believe the coffee…
Our classroom is in the form of where ever we find ourselves each day, from rooftops to ruins.
We immerse in culture through some shopping and exchange of language.
Through it all we gather it all into a travel journal.
While I encourage the use of cameras and smart-phones to capture “source photos” for later work, there is simply no better way to really soak into a place than through the lens of a travel journal. Merely taking the time to draw something, perhaps even multiple times, creates a broader understanding of place. A broader understanding of our place in the All of Everything. This can be difficult to pin down in our hectic world. By cataloguing a travel experience in a little book, our travels are enhanced and brought to life in a new and richer way.
We notice the little things…..
….while standing in awe of the bigger things as well.
We immerse in the day to day of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which holds beauty, color and light at every turn.
There are a million different yellows….
Pinks as well.
Blues and greens are well represented.
Our palette here is bright and beautiful and I help you figure out how to recreate these vibrant hues on the pages of your journal with a simple set of watercolors.
As the end of the year draws nigh, with one major gift giving holiday behind us (gosh Hanukkah was early this year!!) and another too close for comfort, consider the gift of one of my workshops. This might be a gift for a loved one or friend, or simply, and perhaps most importantly, to yourself, setting the tone for 2019 to be filled with close attention paid to beauty, light and color.
We are met in Guatemala City by our trusty driver Pablo and are whisked away from the big city to Antigua where Posada San Sebastian awaits us as our home away from home. We stash our things and wander for a cup of coffee (first of many) as our lodging isn’t quite ready for our weary heads. We wander the quiet town as it awakens to an average work day- shops opening, my favorite coffee place too, Bella Vista, and we some how make it until our room is ready and we can nap .
The Posada is bustling but calm and we sleep soundly until well after lunch hour. This is the price we pay for an overnight flight. With more awake minds and bodies we spend some time with our sketchbooks . I’m well over due for it and feeling rusty but I manage.
After a while we are famished for a late lunch/early dinner so we head out to town for some local fare.
It’s delicious and there is even a strolling minstrel who sings to the diners. It is a magical meal. One of many to be sure .
We wander a bit more, acclimating, looking into the shops, greeting the greeters outside of all of the establishments .
Upon our return, the sun is setting with much fanfare.
We are delighted by this, and even Fuego itself gives us a small (non-catostrophic) belching light show of lava in the distance .
Though We are weary, we eagerly await the arrival of our fellow travelers with whom we will share the coming days .
More soon, provided we have continued connectivity.
“I travel a lot. I hate having my life disrupted by routine.” ~Caskie Stinnett
A temptuous siren’s call beckons from the open road. Once again, I comb maps of places yet to be explored, finalizing flight paths, formulating rail patterns and charting the wheeled paths where travels may take me this season. It’s once again workshop season.
Second only to sitting absorbed in my own book and box of colors while on the road is my love of teaching the Art of Keeping An Illuminated Travel Journal to students who range from intrepid beginners to like-minded artists already brimming with their own artistic tricks of the trade. There is truly no wrong way to capture one’s travel adventures. For some folks, merely snapping a photo with a cell phone or even a proper camera might be enough of a record of time and experience. But for many many others, a new trend of mindful travel is all the fashion these days.
Our world spins madly on at hyper speed. Many of us look for ways to slow it all down. To step off of this merry-go-round – to hit the reset button and come back once again into our physical bodies. Travel is one way to do this of course, but if we are not careful, we may find ourselves careening through our travel experiences at the same breakneck speed we do the rest of our lives. A travel journal is one such way to ever-so-gently pull the reins back a bit on time itself.
As an artist, I have dwelled in the world with a sketchbook of some sort or other tucked under my arm or in my knapsack since before I can remember. But one doesn’t need to self-identify as an artist to experience the magic of a little book and a box of watercolors. While spring drags its heels here in the midwest, travel season must surely be on its way eventually, yes? As we plot and dream of summerly adventurings, my friend and fellow creative spirit Margot Madison, Empress Queen Bee of Creative Juice asked if I might have a few suggestions related to the art of keeping a travel sketch journal. Not able to contain this amazing practice, I opted to put together a blog post here which might give folks a taste of what I do and teach along with heaps of links and ideas to get you started.
What you need:
Not much really. A book, something to draw with and a little set of watercolors. For the book, opt for something not too cumbersome. Stillman And Birn have lovely books in all shapes and sizes. The Alpha Series features good paper which can take a watercolor sketch without falling apart. Moleskin books are also classically wonderful to work in, just make certain to obtain one with watercolor paper.
For drawing, I like both pens and pencils, depending on how I am working. Nothing fancy necessary in the pencil department, though mechanical pencils are nice to have on hand. Recently I have taken to using fountain pens for ink drawing as I was tired of the waste of an empty marker heading to the landfill. Artist Liz Steel has some lovely ideas and suggestions on which pens and inks to try, but my current favorites are the Eco-pen with Noodler’s Bulletproof inks.
Next you’ll want to choose a watercolor set. Over the years, I have steered students toward the Winsor and Newton field sketching sets and they have held up over time. There are countless options out there to be had from the world renowned Schmincke brand to handcrafted ones from Greenleaf and Blueberry out of Colorado.
Tuck all of these new found treasures into a comfortable little bag or backpack along with a container of water, a cloth for blotting and you are ready to Go Forth And Doodle! If you are to be out in the sun, consider a sunhat and glasses, and maybe a little portable chair if need be. (Though I find that most beautiful places tend to have a bench or two.)
But “I can’t draw a straight line”, you say. Well, first off, straight lines are overrated. Drawing and painting is more about learning how to really see than anything else. A wonderful, playful way to settle into a new place and to get your eyes seeing in vivid color, without the pressure of ‘making something’ is to make little color swatches.
This is a wonderful way to get to know your watercolors, and learn about mixing colors to capture what you see. The first place I saw this exercise is in the lovely work of Sara Midda. Her book South of France, A Sketchbook’, is a favorite of mine and serves as a lovely example of how some simple colors can really give one a sense of place.
You’ll find that every place has it’s own distinct and sometimes quite subtle color palette. Simply beginning with swatches will get you working into a blank page.
Mapping out a Place.
I adore maps of all kinds. You can paste a small map of a place in your book, or perhaps create one of your own which speaks to where you’ve been along your own route.
They Draw and Travel has wonderful examples of playful ways to map a new place as well as creative usage of text to light up a journal page. Below is a page from a student of mine. Notice how she painted the letter ‘T’ which really highlights her drawing from Taos New Mexico!
Another creative way to incorporate text into your capture of a place is to stop into the local post office for a postal stamp. Often state and national parks will have site specific stamps on hand to play with as well.
But wait, I’m still not drawing anything!
No worries! You’ve already begun to ‘mess up’ your journal with these beginning exercises. And this is key to sidestepping one’s inner critic who is so hasty to make commentary on your efforts. Besides maps and swatches and stamps, keep an eye out for ephemera from your journey. Ticket stubs and business cards can be pasted into your journal as a reminder of where you’ve been and what you saw along the way. Perhaps you might begin to tuck in a quick sketch in and around these found objects….
There is a veritable feast of resources both locally and online that can get you actually drawing. Artists like Danny Gregory and his Sketch Skool project, Dan Price’s little tome How to Make a Journal of Your Life, and the local chapter of Urban Sketchers are all great places to pick up ideas about drawing or even take a workshop. That said, there is no greater way to learn to draw than to just sit and draw. That may sound tremendously daunting. But every drawing you make, “bad” or “good”, you will learn something which you will then apply to the next drawing. Drawing is exercise. Drawing is mindfulness. When we sit down and really see something for what it is, in this place, at this very moment, we are in communion with that thing, in this place, at this time.
One great exercise is that of the ‘blind contour’ drawing. Sit in front of what you would like to doodle, look at it for a few moments. Allow your eyes to look at the lines that make up what is in front of you. Now, place your pen or pencil to paper and without looking at the paper, run the pencil around the contours of what you are drawing.
This process is good to utilize, even if you are ‘looking’ at your drawing because it tends to keep drawings loose and scribbly.
In the end, whether your travels are taking your far a field this season, or perhaps merely exploring your own back yard, or watching the kids splash about at the local watering hole, a travel journal is a wonderful way to catalog and capture these fleeting moments.
This week I am off to California to guide a new group of sketchers onto this mindful path of gathering experience. Shortly after that I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship class in Taos. If you are interested in joining me for a workshop, consider Antigua, Guatemala next April (I’ll be offering 2 separate weeks back to back!) or perhaps Taos next June. Or just dredge up the courage to join your local Urban Sketchers. I can promise you they are a wonderful, welcoming group of people and you’ll learn a lot just by doing!
Difficult to believe that at this time just last week, we found ourselves in the magical, mist-ical lands of coastal California -my hub just barely cracking through his shell of over-work, only to have to dive straight back in again. But it was good to see a glimpse of himself to be sure. I am hopeful he could be coaxed back to this real life once again soon.
It is always a strange thing to return back to our regular doings back here at home in Ohio. For me, the mark of Good Travel is that it makes for a yearning and a churning of the soul, a fire in the mind, which keeps us asking questions of ourselves about how we are living this One Wild and Precious Lifeof ours. While we balance chores and responsibilities, work and dreams of what can be, time marches on ever faster. We must make sure we are on the right track. Travel and all the soul-nudging it brings with it, is one sure way to track our proper path isn’t it?
Yesterday my daughter sent along a new song to add to a running playlist I get going each year which tends to set the tone for the up and coming Taos sketch trip. This annual trek to the high desert is a flagship workshop for me as an instructor/facilitator. And the yearly playlist often carries a loose theme through the songs which happens strangely and organically. One year it was about light, especially Golden light, as I found myself craving the sparkling quality of light that is found in places such as northern New Mexico. Yet another year the loose theme seemed to be aboutthe heart of the matter – on finding ones heart beating below the surface of all that is thrust upon us in the drudgery of the day to day.
On a whim, I sent along this new song to a dear musical friend of mine, also the parent of a young adult daughter, knowing the both of them might appreciate it. He asked how I found myself relating to this new song and it got me thinking about my playlists in general and how I use and relate to them. About why I gather songs and how they capture a moment in time. Like the old mix-tapes we might have traded around in our teens, these playlists relay a certain kind of longing. Today’s longing is a more complex, multifaceted thing than my middle school obsessions. Now, I find myself pining for wilder places versus people, be it a sea of salt-water or a sea of sage. I suppose my yearly playlists are a listing of love songs to landscapes that are out of reach to me in my daily life.
“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” ~Terry Tempest Williams
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a scientist. I love all animals and could spend hours upon hours in observance and wonder of them. Alas, I do not have the mind of a proper scientist which remembers long and (to me) complicated names and specific facts and figures, and so my observance skills took a different path to that of artist. Now, my very favorite thing is to go to a wild place and watch, and draw, and wonder. Just a different kind of scientist really.
We had the great fortune to obtain access to a beach near Santa Cruz which the majestic elephant seals come home to for a season each year to go about the Business of Life. Here they mate, struggle for territory and status, give birth, nurture and nurse, grow and learn, rest and recuperate. We were fortunate to have a patient guide on our tour who allowed us to tarry a bit longer than other groups so as to take it all in properly.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” ~Aristotle
And amidst all of this marvelous wildness, we had also the comfort of dear friends who welcome us to this wild land with open arms. In the evenings there was a warm fire in the hearth and plenty of tea and long over-due conversation.
The ocean and it’s splendor was a indeed big player in our whirlwind trip west. I had a run on the beach one morning and we sketched the waves. I was captivated by the variety of dogs to be found having their daily walks along the shore.
We also took part of a day to meander down the coast and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we watched, entranced, the displays of Jellyfish and other watery wonders.
“Jellyfish: The sea offers up flowers of glass like thick light. They are transparent landscapes.” ~Raquel Jodorowsky
I was reminded of some old work of mine with the jellies, and vowed to come home and make more.
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” ~Loren Eiseley
“…the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.” ~Jacques-Yves Cousteau
But the trip was not all ocean all the time. I was invited to an Irish music session at a local home of a friend of a friend of a friend, which is how it works in musical circles, and was welcomed with open arms to share a few tunes.
Welcomed with open arms is also how we felt in the Redwoods just minutes inland from the sea.
To walk and wander in a forest of these trees is to experience the notion of Cathedral. We found ourselves whispering in hushed tones out of respect. Even the local wildlife is quiet. With the trees comprised of naturally inherent tannins, they are insect-repellant, and therefore even the chatter of birds is kept to a minimum.
We sat and sketched a giant for a good long while. It was cold and quite humid.
All in all, it was a wonderful getaway. January in Ohio is not for the feint of heart. A friend of mine, also from the world of Irish music, was saying last night that while she has lived in places with reputations for the harshest weather winter can throw at us (i.e. Alaska, Montana) she has found that winter here in SW Ohio/ N. Kentucky is particularly draining for it’s gray heaviness. Difficult to convey to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, we here in this river valley trudge through the winter months as best we can, thankful for the opportunity to get out of town when we can.
I left the Hub in California to do his work and I to come home to do mine. The temperatures were in single digits upon my arrival which was shocking to the system to say the least, considering I had had my toes in the pacific ocean just days before. But, I made some little woolen boots for my smallest dog, brewed a lot of tea, and carried on.
“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire?”
“Have you seen the girl with the heart as big as the sea?”
I am not the only one with a big heart and a mind on fire, yearning and churning for a bit of change. The world at large is calling for it as well, at least women and those who love and respect them.
This past weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the Women’s March and we did it again. While the news didn’t make much of it, the numbers appeared to be as large if not larger this year. I was at our march here in Cincinnati and while the palpable shock of the election of a vile predator-in-chief was not as present this year, a continuing sense of outrage was.
The energy was palpable.
These strange times seem to have unleashed a free for all on many levels. On the one hand, the highest levels of power, especially in this country, are seemingly above all scrutiny. Politicians who once would have run a president out on a rail for the kinds of shenanigans ours pulls off, merely turn a blind eye and shrug off the behaviors of the current administration. I marvel. But the flip side of this coin is the notion that really, anything is possible. And I find a bit of hope in this.
I find that there is a fire in my own mind of late. The travel bug is turned on full-force by this most recent trek to the fair state of California. Guatemala is right on it’s heels, a mere 37 days away for me, with workshop participants arriving shortly there after. And there are more adventures to follow. Traveling shifts perspectives and asks us to consider hard questions. Questions such as, should we give up this little track of land, with is gardens and trees and lovely, soul-nourishing green space and quietude, for a condominium with less upkeep? Could doing so free up even more time and money for travel? Or would we regret giving up this amazing space? Do we want to even stay in Cincinnati? For me the draw of my family and friends (this includes my art and music family) is a big one. But part of me feels my studio practice could really use a daily walk in the wild, versus the familiar suburban paths here in Ohio. These are all the questions burning just now. And likely they will continue to do so for a while.
One could go a little off the rails with these ponderings, but the work will always bring me back to center. Sitting down to write a bit here settles my bones. From across the room, the paints call to be mixed up to craft some new paintings. Who knows where they will lead. Story ideas come and go, flitting and floating in clouds of doubt and fear. Rays of light amidst the dust particles. Today on this day of endless gray, I’ll follow the words, follow the paintbrush, follow the breath to whatever comes next.
We awake at 230 am, Antigua local time, to brew a quick cup of coffee, double check that we’ve packed every last little thing we brought with us and picked up along the way. It is dark, quiet and cool. Hugo, one of our beloved innkeepers, sees us off with hugs and sleepy eyes and makes sure our driver arrives. Which he does, only a few minutes late due to road closures set up for the weekend’s Procesións.
Careening through the wee hours and the volcanic hill sides to arrive in Guatemala City where lights, sounds, people and the airport are to be found, we begin our trek back into modernity one small step at a time.
The day awakens with a pink dawning. I part ways with my friends, knowing we will be drawing and painting and laughing together in just a few week’s time for a smaller workshop out in the San Jose area. And so there are no tears, which is a relief. I am sad to be leaving this 3rd world, but I look forward to my home comforts and creatures.
Airport life is strange and timeless, full of noise and people rushing about, and lots of concrete and hard surfaces. I do not care for it. I am fortunate on both ends of this trip to have familiar faces to greet me along the way. This sweet dog is called Enya. She works with my dear friend Danielle in customs making sure no inappropriate or potentially dangerous things come along in peoples’ baggage. I have such high regard for dogs with jobs and it is lovely to make her acquaintance. Though clearly Enya is on the job and only has eyes for Danielle.
Eventually, I make it home to the Ohio River Valley, which is carpeted green with spring and there is even a bit of sunlight.
I settle in, and unpack a bit, catching up here at home, which feels really good.
Just like that, it’s my first day back home. Coffee in hand (in my new hand painted mug from Guatemala), I walk outside with the dogs for our usual routine. Almost like the last week never was.
And yet, it was.
I left for Antigua just over a week ago with a head full of the spin-cycle of modern life, but return now with a handful of worry dolls to carry those little things instead, and a heart filled with color, beauty, simplicity and love. Along with a huge dose of gratitude, which is a great gift indeed. If you don’t shake stuff up now and again, all the good stuff sinks to the bottom. We can’t have that.
Life in Antigua is quite easy and simple for tourists, or those residing there with money. However, I believe that for the average citizen, life is probably a bit rough around the edges. Yet people seem to get by for the most part.
Ever so creatively.
Shopping and laundry get done.
Money gets made, which can be a family affair.
Life goes on. In some ways so very different than life here, and yet, mostly, pretty much the same. To me, this was one of the take-aways from this trip. I was reminded how very much alike we are as people. Human beans are so keen to draw lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, when really, we are all just us. My modern life, white skin and heaps of built in privilege are just the luck of the cosmic draw, really. This is something to consider when we walk in the world.
I’m taking today to launder some well worn travel clothes, bathe my smelly dog, and enjoy a little quiet after the trip. Perhaps a run and a bit of time in the garden as well if the weather holds. I am enjoying the liminal, post-travel version of myself. This mellow feeling that anything is possible and life is good. Because it is.
I am thankful for the ways I have of connecting back to my travels in my heart of hearts, even as my life back home slides back into place.
Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago, the Hub and I attended a concert with some dear friends of ours (miraculously, they are still dear friends after all these years!). This concert was held at the State Theater in Portland, Maine. And the Big Show of the night was a band called The Bodeans. I am certain they played the song linked in the video above. I was very pregnant with our first born, Jack. He danced and swayed and moved and hiccuped right along with the music. I have often wondered if this loud concert experience in utero may have influenced his decision to pursue music as his life’s work, which, of course, he has done.
This song (above) has been rolling around in my head in the past couple of days as we have been doing quite an assortment of packing and planning, cleaning and organizing for various trips and travels and changes on the agenda for all of us.
Of course the moves to college are to be expected at this stage. Jack is into a new house with his fellow musicians and they are running hither and thither, moving their stuff into the new digs and getting settled before school starts back up for them.
Meanwhile, Madeleine and I are attempting to make some semblance of order of her worldly possessions to figure out what stays and what goes when she takes off this week for Columbus.
It feels like complete chaos. And really, it is. We have a new dog in our family (for now at least) who has some wonderful new energy due to changes in food and exercise routines. This means she’s energetically barking at odd hours (read, 4 and 5 am.) which makes for broken sleep for the humans…. Good thing she’s cute. But this is something we need to work out. Yes, chaos.In the midst of all of this chaos, Tony (aka, the Hub, my Anchor, you get the idea) and I are smelling a little waft of freedom on the air. We know we can go on an adventure and not leave the other parent in a lurch (small barking dogs, not withstanding, of course). And so, there are travel plans being made.
While Mads is off in less than a week to college, he is off on an expedition to Lake Superior shortly there after. Food must be weighed and planned. Everything very specific, as it must be carried in the boat….
As for me, not only am I looking forward to having the house to myself and the dogs for a few days, I too am scheming to hit the road and nurture the need to runaway.
As I wrote in my last post, I am going back to my beloved state of Maine to paint in September. I am cataloguing art supplies and getting what I need and counting the days to this trip. It may be a bit of a runaway, but it feels like a healthy one.
And now, just today, I have made plans with my dear friend Tina to head to Taos for a feast day at the end of September. I will get to touch base with my work out there, show a good friend the awesomeness that is New Mexico and just breathe in the ocean of sage to be had there.
In between these two artful sojourns, I’ll be attending the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s convention in Cleveland to shop around some of my Ginger book ideas and get a little feedback. This is all a bit of a whirlwind! And yes, I suppose a bit of a runaway, avoidance behavior toward all of the changes happening here at home. Watching the last of the smalls leave the nest is indeed a momentous and emotional thing. We keep stopping in our tracks and saying to the other, ‘so, this is happening!! she’s moving out!!’ Change in truly in the air.
For this fall, for now at least, we are meeting this change with travel and a bit of adventure. Perhaps it will all slow down (or perhaps, maybe not, who knows?) eventually. We continue to follow our noses. To nurture ourselves as the kids follow their own dreams.
I think there are few wrong ways to ride this wave of seeing these adult children onto their lives ahead. The trick being that we all do the best we can to do the best we can.
I have returned, truly just a matter of hours ago, to this luscious land of my rootedness. There are many travels still to embark upon in coming weeks and I am attempting to float above it all to soak up my experiences in Taos, whilst engaging in things back in Ohio and preparing for more to come. Attempting not to burn up on re-entry. Attempting to make sense of a world a world away.
One of my crew of 16 workshop participants this past week wears daily the visage of a frog. It’s a pretty little thing, made of silver and inlaid with some lovely stonework. I asked her about it one day and she said, ‘this represents the fact that I live in and of two worlds.’ She is a lovely woman who is a frequent visitor to Mabel’s and I immediately tuned what she was saying. For her, the two worlds seem to represent a going between her ‘normal’ home life, and the rich artistic breeding ground to be found at Mabel’s and other hotbeds of creativity. For myself, the above two worlds are also the same as I go from Mabel’s and, in a matter of weeks, to music camp. But I have the added world-switch of going from 7000 ft above sea level to 700 ft. which frankly feels a bit like drowning.
Today I am drowning.
I came home to a clean home. Coffee in the cupboard and milk to accompany it in the morning. There was even wine for my frazzled travel nerves to sip upon. My family knows how to buffer the re-entry from this trip each year, so full of magic. So very full of hard, hard work. I am grateful. But I also came home to things that need to be done. By me. The home-steward. Something I value, actually. We have a new member of the pack, potentially indefinitely, in the form of a little dog that a family member may or may not be able to care for in the long haul. First stop was the vet’s office today for that little friend. Next stop was the market for some fresh food for tonight’s meal, and then a nap. Between all that and a proper re-engagement online, the day is nearly over. And still I float.
I have a gagillion photos to share of the workshop week itself, thoughtfully taken by my friend and co-facilitator, Jan Haller from Taos. But for now I will share what I have here.
First off, love. And a whole lot of it. This year was very different than year’s past. My dear friend Julie who has in the past helped keep my nose pointed in the proper direction is now stewarding the very place itself so important to my work. And while this is wonderful, and all as it needs to be, I’ll admit to being really lonely for much of the working side of this trip. But perhaps, that too is as it should be.
As we grow older, kids move on. There are no guarantees to how long our beloved partners will choose to accompany us. Our parents will inevitably move along before us, if things flow as they ought to. The only thing we have is our right work. Perhaps I’ll live to be 103 and see the passing of most of those I love…. but I will still have my work, such that it is. I will still be able to engage the arts on some level. This may seem a little depressing, but it’s all true. And for me, it makes me value my loved ones in the here and now, and to allow the work the space it needs at the same time.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old andtrembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I am so fortunate to have folks in New Mexico now who hold a space for me to come ‘home’ to when I go to work there. Portal Keepers in Albuquerque – Ron and CC, who provide me a place to land, on the way in or out, any time, with a mountain view, a bit like that of Taos Mountain. There is always a nourishing meal, laughter, artwork and a spot of wine or tea awaiting me there.
I simply can’t thank them enough for their support and friendship.
There is also the crew at Mabel’s. Arriving there is really like a homecoming.
This inn sees hundreds of folks a year there. To do workshops, experience the B&B end of things in Taos, to make a movie or to do research. The staff at Mabel’s see and hear it all. And somehow, most miraculously, I can walk in for my week there and be received like family. (um, yes, that is a ‘Go Forth and Doodle’ sticker on a real live Taos truck!!!)
Perhaps they treat everyone like this. I’d not be surprised. But I adore the people that run this place. Their skeletal crew keeps this historic treasure running like clockwork, making it seem easy, which I know it certainly cannot be. They even have their dogs on hand in the off hours for those of us visiting who might need a fix…
Enzo tells me he is a football fan and may very well need a Bengals tee-shirt just his size. I am already shopping. This may be the first NFL item I have ever sought out.
Every trip to Taos yields a certain level of unexpected magic or synchronicity that may or may not send me down some unexpected rabbit hole. I’ll share a couple of these with you here…
Firstly, this year is the 100’th anniversary of the founding of the Taos Society of Artists. There is much to do in town about all this with art shows and articles. One artist who’s work caught my eye amidst the to-do is Ralph Meyers. Technically, he was not an ‘official’ TSA artist, which kind of makes me like him even more. I enjoyed viewing some of his work at the Taos Art Museum when I visited and the more I dig, the more I admire. After the workshop ended, some of my participants (who are now dear friends, of course!!) remarked that they had seen a photo in town in a gallery of a young girl from back in the day that looked a bit like my youngest daughter. Well, you know how it goes. One takes these things with a grain of salt having grown up with an every-girl face like mine. But then I walked by her…..
I did a double take and decided to ask about her the following day. Because, Sally was right. This young woman is the spitting image of my own Madeleine.
The photograph was of Ralph Meyers’ wife Rowena who hailed from Pennsylvania. They met in Taos and the rest is history. Their son, Ouray, is now himself a successful local artist in Taos and I highly recommend a visit into his lovely gallery for a peek at his paintings.
Things like this remind me, as my friend Harold says, that ‘we are all related.’ I’m keeping my ear to the ground regarding Ralph, as even his grave, situated right by Mabel herself, is intriguing in its simplicity and beauty. I believe we should follow our noses regarding this sort of thing. Perhaps a historical figure calls to you, maybe you too should follow the winding path and see what there is to discover….
The next turn down the proverbial rabbit hole came at the tail end of my trip…. (pun intended.)
Before leaving New Mexico I spent a little (not enough, never enough New Mexico) exploring the Petroglyph National Monument per the advice of my Albuquerque based friends, Ron and CC.
Amidst the basalt stone, if one looks closely and sticks to the path, there are literally hundreds of ancient images carved into the stone there….
It was a quick trip, as I had a plane to catch, and it’s hard to leave good friends in a sacred-to-me land, but I am so glad I made the effort.
I felt a true sense of guidance amongst these images. They feel like signposts. Sadly, one needs to ignore the occasional scratches of more modern day people who have felt the need to add their marks to the mix. But I regularly ignore the stupidity of the modern day in my search for the magical things and once on the trail, it wasn’t so bad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, getting as far off the beaten path as possible, leads, generally speaking, to fewer idiots. Though this has it’s exceptions, and is not a scientifically proven fact.
I have so much more to share with you as I gather photographs from the workshop itself. The work done there this past week was the most focused yet compared to years past. I believe part of the reason for this is the space I gave it. I didn’t concentrate (at. all.) on my own art work. I was there to be a steward to the work of the participants there for the week who ranged from beginners to professionals. And this paid off in folks who worked hard on their books, their artful craft, their soaking up of New Mexico and Taos in particular. One has even written a blog post already!! More to come in due time. But as you know, time is fluid in summer…..
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.
…then clothing and all that other stuff. I am off to Taos NM this friday morning to prepare for the arrival of 13 amazing students for the first (annual!) Keeping a Travel Sketch-Journal trip. While there I am sure to take a million pictures and finally have the time to spend making a few more thoughtful drawings, instead of the tell tale scribbles of a too busy artist-mama.
Recent weeks have seen us doing what my friend Jeni calls the Urban Iditarod, running from play practice to concert rehearsals, late to dance classes and our weekly Riley School classes, finally attending some of the best performances my kids have had to offer in their young lives.
The above program was to Jack’s concert at SCPA. It simply defies description but leads me to believe that the various majors will be collaborating again soon. Congratulations to all who participated!!
Then there was Walnut High School’s Jr. High performance of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. I told Maddie that I completely forgot about the rest of the world for the couple of hours that we watched this show. She says this is known as “the suspension of disbelief”. I am now a believer in these amazingly talented young actors.
On the home front, I seem to have entered into a new realm with the combined effects of a new job and my children’s spring performance schedules. I am on the go much more than I am at home, and much more than I’d like, to be quite honest. That said, I know these years of busy-ness are simply the culmination of childhood. I know that the day of my kids flying the nest draws near. My own mama knows the wildness that is this era of life and got me a present. Under the guise of wanting to pay me for some sewing I did for her and also as an early birthday gift, she got me a sparkly new i-phone. Bear with me here as I explore all that the hipstamatic camera app. has to offer…. Yes, I am an i-phone newbie but I am warming to it’s conveniences.
If you follow this blog, you will notice that when I travel, I don’t blog much. Something about lugging around a dang lap-top takes away from the sheer spontaneity that I like to take with me on the road. So what you as a reader get is more of a synopsis upon my return from Great and Lofty Travels. But what of the day to day during my travels? Perhaps you would like to share a bit of this with me. If you are one of those “status-update” types, or someone who “Tweets”, consider keeping track of my wanderings in the ether-worlds of Facebook or Twitter. I will be updating these pages periodically with photos, links to where we will be visiting, and general impressions of everything I see and do on the road. These electronic diary entries, combined with the rich tapestry of my sketchbook and camera will be what I mine for the blog trip-synopsis.
In the coming months I hope to update my blog and website a bit to have these things available and clickable and all that to keep things updated and current. But this takes time. And I have a trip to prepare for…
When I am set to leave for a climate that is potentially very different from my own, I spend the days prior to departure memorizing everything that is my juicy river valley home. Here are some snaps…. with the hipstamatic app thingey of course. Yes, I am a bit of a nerd. It’s part of my charm…..
I’ll be missing those who look at me like that here at home, and they will more than likely be missing me as well. But the road calls….
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
This weekend I went to Nashville, Tennessee with my mom and sis for our annual girls getaway. I’ve been to Nashville before and have found it to be an eclectic, friendly, interesting place to be. This time, we stayed primarily downtown where most of the country music flavored culture is to be found. Here’s a list of some things I saw:
Cowboy Hats (zillions) Boots (even more of these, and got a pair myself) Boobs (come on girls, can’t we leave SOMETHING to the imagination?) Homeless folks (this is a large problem in Nashville but there seem to be advocacy groups there doing research and talking to people about how best to help) Guitars (everywhere! Lots of rising stars running from gig to gig with them on their backs) Legendary likenesses (tons of Country Music lore and the images are everywhere) Dogs (on horseback, on leashes, in stores, busking for change) Music (talent was oozing from this place. I’m not a fan of country music but there was not one wrong note anywhere near this town!)
All in all I enjoyed Nashville in spite of my distaste for and ignorance of most things relating to country music (I do love the roots of it, however). We topped off our visit with what has to be the best breakfast and cup of coffee in town at Fido’s Coffehouse.