Tag Archives: winter

Where your name is spoken

Looking Westward, a drawing of mine from a few years ago…. Raven is a bird close to my heart.

What a winter we are weathering.  Not for the normal reasons which might lead to a bout of winter weariness such as darkness or the ice and snow (we’ve had little of either, though we do suffer our fair share of a seemingly endless milky-gray pearlescence, which is a nice, wordy way of saying ‘day to day dismal’.)

Instead, there seems to be a general sense of malaise in all corners, at least to my winter-wearied eyes.  The political climate of late is one I am deeply committed to keeping track of, though how to do so and still nurture my rich inner world is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  (I am up to the challenge.)  All told, through this winter’s darkness, both literal and metaphorical, I’ll admit to having had to dig quite deeply to find any light lately within my heart- physically, creatively.  Some days I have felt quite extinguished indeed.  It’s been a hard time, ‘I don’t mind tellin’ you.’  

But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and all is not lost, fear not!  I am back to running the local village paths once again more routinely, just in recent days, no matter the weather! This morning I awoke with the clearest head I have had in months, the cobwebs having been cleared from my seratonin-deprived brain by just a few short, but successful hard runs around my neighborhood.  I could nearly weep with joy for the returning of this source of bliss and emotional sustenance in my life.

While running has not been available to me, walking still has.  Our dogs enjoy a wee trot outside each day, provided the roads aren’t too salty for their exposed paws.  I delight in a rhythmic jaunt where I can get lost in my thoughts.

A few days ago, the sun did shine for a day. (read: a brighter milky-pearlescence).  My hub and I went to the local nature center for some sketching time.  There are all sorts of very still, very dead, yet somehow quite animated taxidermy-style animals there and we took some time to draw them.

There was woodsmoke in the air there that day, and a sweetness as well, signaling maple sugaring season.  We enjoyed learning about how our native forebears likely processed, consumed and traded the sweet, valuable maple syrup and crystalline sugar using handmade tools they gathered from the earth and adapted to their needs.  I did not take a picture.

We discussed that day of how sad things have been (how sad I’ve been) and we talked also of how mood-changing a song might be when it catches our ears just so.  My Hub found one such song called I Don’t Recall done up so very beautifully by Lavender Diamond. They have a new video….

We were intrigued by the biography of this project to be found on Spotify…..

“The folk delight that is Lavender Diamond originally came to life in Bird Songs of the Bauharoque,  a punk operetta inspired by the work of American painter/architect Paul Laffoley.  Vocalist Becky Stark wrote and created the piece with a friend while living in Providence, RI, and starred as Lavender herself, a winsome part bird/part human who wants peace on earth.”

Hub wondered at which point in the song she was human and which bit might find her in bird form – to which I argued, why can’t she be both?  Both, at the same time.  animal.  woman.

I’ve been pondering a great bit lately this whole notion of polarity.  Political polarity, yes of course.  But also the light vs. the shadow sides of ourselves.  The Masculine and Feminine bits too, always in a dance, yes?  And even to how we react to times of great strain.   I am intrigued (and often infuriated) by the discussion of a perceived necessity to choose one thing over another.  Why can’t we be Both.  I am both Woman and Animal.  I am Light as well as Shadow.  I enjoy tapping into both the (traditionally regarded) Masculine AND Feminine within my whole self.  When I allow this, I am more wholly alive as a total human being.  Perhaps like Lavender herself.

Music has indeed been a balm and an inspiration when Mother Nature is resting and doesn’t give us much to go on in the way of sketchable stuff.

Though if one pays close attention…..

One of my favorite flute teachers shared a song the other day which caught my ear, as songs of old often do.

It put me in mind of leggy hares to be found across the pond.  so different from our own bulky little bunnies.  so I sketched one up.

As I continue to climb out of the dark hole of my recent state, I am grateful for things which catch my ear.  The music often being the first and foremost quality of a song shared.  If I get a tune rolling round in my head, words or no, that can be a good thing.  It can, indeed, change the tone of an entire day for someone sitting rather on the edges of things emotionally speaking.

But sometimes, what catches my ear is deeper still than just a catchy tune.  Sometimes, as I listen to a newly found thing, often on obsessive repeat, (yes it’s true, and part of my charm, I like to think) the words partnering with the music to enchant the heart can act like will-o-the-wisp.  Lights in the darkness, taking me down an enchanted lane to other worlds….

This morning the lovely Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame?) shared the music of one Ali Dineen in the form of this song in particular, which much like the Lavender Diamond song above, has a happy feel to it.  (and, turns out, Lin was one of Ali’s 7th grade teachers.  Can you imagine?)

This song led me down the proverbial musical rabbit hole of her music in general and I was not to be disappointed.  (Thank you Lin!) Little lyrical snippets pulled at my heart strings as I jogged the paths here amidst this gray, cold village here in Ohio.

“Somewhere else there were
miracles, carnivals, and a space in the air
only your bones could fill.”

Just weeks away, I am reminded by this tune, is a trip south to Antigua, Guatemala where I will sink into constant art-making for a solid week.  This makes me happy beyond imagining.  And reminds me that winter will pass.  In spite of how hard things can seem just now, personally, nationally,  globally.

“Spring it brought madness and chaos and song
the wind growing warm, the days growing long
I watched the world blow through your mind
we stooped low to pick up what it left behind
Scattered stories of our country’s childhood,
though we’re deaf to their sounds
We’re trying to stand up straight
but we don’t know what’s weighing us down.”

“go when your feet are restless
go when you hear a faraway song
heed what your bones are saying
don’t wait for your saint to come….”

“go where your name is spoken
stay when you feel like standing still
no one can guide your footsteps
so walk where you will “

So, yes, later this spring, I will travel to Guatemala, where once upon a time, my name was spoken.  I have been trying to tap into that little gypsy girl who lived everywhere and nowhere.  The me who spoke Spanish “like a native” (my mom’s words) and who seemed to feel at home anywhere.  I seem to have lost track of her over the years but I am keen to get reacquainted.  I’ve been taking a formal Spanish course locally and it’s been more difficult that I had expected.

We conjugate a good bit, which I will admit, I don’t know how to do adequately in English, in spite of my ability to speak the language here.  I am banking on a small faith that this class will warm me up to hear my name spoken on the warm volcanic breezes in the Highlands of Guatemala.  I’m told I went there as a girl when my Nana Campbell came to town.  I do not remember.

But I do remember what calls to my soul:

Music.

Art.

Stories.

Other Artists.

(we are all artists)

Thank you for reading…..

~a

ps.  do go toss a few coins into the hats of any or all of these amazing artists.  they deserve it.

 

 

 

 

A Winter opportunity amidst Summer’s sultry steaminess

If you have followed this blog in recent months, you’ll know that I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in Taos this past January to work on a couple of kid-book projects long in coming.  Those projects are swimming along nicely and I’ll be shopping them around this fall.  But time in Taos is always colored by the work I do there in the summer, which is to teach the art of keeping a visual diary.  And so, while there in January, I began to wonder, what would it be like to teach a winter-time class at Mabel’s?  The season would call for more work indoors.  Winter is a time of looking inward to our own interior spaces and pondering things in a very different way than we do in summer.  It is a time of withdrawing.

And so, I have decided to offer a workshop this coming winter to do just that.  The class we be held at Mabel’s, as in summer, but we will focus on the interior spaces of this beloved, historic home.  We will find the hidden corners of the house and of our own hearts, and sit with them while we draw and paint.  The act of drawing and painting a scene is one I find extremely meditative, and that will be something we discuss and work toward – finding that state of stillness in the making of art.  I’ll be combing my own library in the next few months for readings and poems to point us in the right direction in this class.  Taos, New Mexico, and more specifically, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House itself, is a hotbed of creativity and has historically been a place where the creme-de-la-creme of the arts go to recharge their creative batteries.  I look forward to this new offering and hope you’ll consider joining us this year for what I hope may be an annual journey.

Do get in touch if you have any further questions.

 

 

Withdrawing into mabels 993314_10155060669370048_645646455994482058_n

Deep Winter

 

photo-1
I hear there is a movie out called 50 shades of Gray or some such. Perhaps it is about wintertime in the midwest.

It is the dead of winter.  Finally our Ohio Valley is enjoying a proper snowstorm, as I am of the opinion that if it must be cold, at least the snow is nice to look at.  And it is cold.  10 degrees with a cutting wind that makes it feel even colder which is pretty brisk for this area.  The snowflakes aren’t really flakes, so much as tiny biting ice crystals.  My chickens came out to look around this morning when I went to open their coop and feed them.  I haven’t seen them out of doors since, which means they aren’t as dumb as folks might think they are and they are enjoying the day inside looking outside, much as we are here in the house.  I imagine them knitting….

I’ve been back home from Taos for a number of weeks now and have a number of Ginger story drafts going which feels really good.  It hasn’t been full time art and story though. Lots of catching up to do at the shop and around the homestead.  My oldest kidling, a sophomore in college, left to study abroad in Brazil so there was all of that to attend to. (passport, visa, packing, laundry, organizing what’s left behind, vaccinations, etc. etc…) With him off on his Big Adventure, I was at least able to re-claim my studio space which he had occupied since leaving school before the holidays.

Meanwhile, the younger has been in the throes of firming up her own collegiate plans. She is a scientist at heart. An explorer with a heart full of creative curiosity.

 

science rocks
Long ago we traveled to a far away land where the landscape was still forming and ferns looked like something from the age of dinosaurs. If you’ve not been to New Zealand, I highly recommend it. And yes, the sulphuric smell in the hot pools was pretty intense.

Thankfully, to begin her university studies, she won’t have to venture too far from home as she’s opted to attend The Ohio State University in the fall just up the lane in Columbus.  Alas, I suppose this means we will remain mostly Ohio based for the time being.  Though I could see some part time living here and there happening…. One can dream, yes?

This past weekend we took a tour of the science facilities at OSU and were thrilled with what we encountered! The Geology building featured my kind of architecture which felt very Old World and fraught with legend.  Turns out that the gargoyles are all creatures that exist (or have in the past) in the Real World.

skullMy favorite part of the day’s touring by far was the Insectary and Greenhouses.  Here we encountered some awesome insects (and I mean awesome in the truest sense of the word).  Below is one called Amblypygi which you may recognize from the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  The professor doing this part of the tour called me ‘The Brave One’ for opting to hold any creature available.  AmblypygiThis next one is a Blonde Arizona tarantula.  In spite of her rather intimidating visage, she was really quite sweet.  I have always thought of tarantulas as the Labrador retrievers of the arachnid world. When the kids were growing up we would sometimes visit our long-time veterinarian and friend Dr. Jeff Werwa  for a ‘backstage tour’ where he would show us some of his more interesting pets. One of them was ‘Betty’, his beloved tarantula who eventually died of old age.  She was as big as a dinner plate by then which made this little lovely seem like just a tiny wee thing.  tarantulaOn the very top floor of this building there was a lovely greenhouse where plant scientists grow a huge variety of plants for their research.  In spite of single digit temperatures and gale force winds outside of doors, it was warm and moist inside.  It reminded me of our local Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati where my fellow intrepid sketchers Vanessa and Christina  and I go to draw, especially when the weather is poor.  We did just that last week in spite of all there is to do in our work and with our families.  It is good to take a few hours and sketch together quietly when we can.

The first sketch I did was of a stone sculpture of a monkey hidden in the greenery near a large philodendron.  Vanessa drew the same plant at a different angle which you can see in her post with her sketches.  Krohn 5I love to draw at Krohn.  There are so many little magic spots that are like little worlds in themselves.  In some of the darker, more hidden corners there are sweet little lights which give some ambiance to the underbrush….krohn 8I have sketched at Krohn a lot over the years, often with Christina and Vanessa, and we always come away refreshed from the lovely humidity and the life giving feeling of being near such beautiful, well cared for living creatures.  This time of year these places are even more precious and I am thrilled that my Madeleine will have a place to soak up sunshine, humidity and plant life on a cold winter’s day next year at University.

I’ll leave you here with a few of my older sketches below. There will be more sketching at Krohn, I’m certain.  If you see us there, do say hello and see what we are up to in our books.  Or perhaps, bring your own sketchbook to this jewel in the crown of our fair Queen City.  It’s a great way to really see this magical place.

Krohn 1 krohn 2 Krohn 4 Krohn 6 krohn 7 krohn 3

Last gasp of winter

spring

 

We thought we had made it through to the other side.

The piled up, well and often used coats and woolens lying around have been tucked away into the closet to await next winter.  Pollen has begun to hinder the morning’s runs and flowers are bursting forth all over the landscape with enthusiastic springtime abandon.

 

Mona Lisa

 

Lambs are being born at our friend’s farm, and green grass for them to nibble is growing strong.  We have had the first official pass with the lawn mowing tractor.

 

foggy morning sheep

Neighborhood friends have come back to play in the shadowed corners of the yard, quiet, sweet and quite shy, but willing to make friends if we let them.

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Even the ever so flighty cherry blossoms have been on full display at some of the more flowerful places around town.

 

spring grove cherries

 

And then some storms came.  With much wind, buckets and buckets of rain.  And we awoke to a blanket of thick sticky snow weighing down our springtime lightness.

 

winter 4

I couldn’t help but admire it’s loveliness, much as I am over snow as a phenomenon for the season.  Springtime has it’s own slant to the light in the sky and so the snow has a more lively crystalline quality to it than it does in the depths of winter.

winter 3

The daffodils seemed to be requesting a do over, with their cheery faces leaning back into the soil.

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The forsythia blooms, just recently opened are feeling a bit droopy and sad with this cold snap and the weight of the snow.  I wonder if a few more blooms are still behind these…

winter 1

 

The farmer’s almanac did say that we were in for at least one more good snow before we really could settle our bare toes back into the grass and the bubbling creeks without getting too very cold.  And they have been spot on all winter long.  This too shall pass.

And then we can continue to get on with the busy-ness of spring.

Sanctuary

Hibernation.  There is really no better way to describe my recent state.  With caramel colored dogs littering the warm concrete kitchen floor, I have been sewing and making soup.  I am hoping this homey trend continues as we have been delivered an early winter season!

However, Last weekend I ventured out to a 2 day Bereavement Quilt Workshop with improvisational quilt artist Sherri Lynn Wood.  The experience was intense and therapeutic and I learned loads of basic quilting techniques which I will be putting to good use in the coming months. (Up to now, I have been a self taught quilter.) Hopefully Sherri will have photos of some of what our group accomplished during our time together posted soon on her blog.  I highly recommend visiting her site. It’s chock full of amazing imagery, ideas and inspiration – in the quilty world and beyond!

Somehow, in the midst of that weekend workshop, I managed to carve out a few hours to switch gears and join my friend and business partner Adam from Drawing Down the Vision to deliver a pro-bono workshop to teen aged volunteers participating in the Leadership Development Program at the American Red Cross. We had a great time introducing them to the idea of gathering ideas through the process of drawing.

Needless to say, this was an exhausting couple of days and I have been battling a nasty cold ever since.  I suppose I am a physical processor at heart – hence the hibernation….

Yesterday in the mail I was delighted to receive a holiday card from my friend Jerry Bransford, a guide at Mammoth Cave National Park.  Included were some photos from Jerry’s ongoing research into his family history in the park and a cool copy of a ‘guide card’ that Jerry’s great uncle Mat would have given to tourists during his tenure as a Mammoth Cave guide.  History is alive and well at Mammoth Cave and that continues to be the major thing that inspires me about the park.

Our area was dealt a lovely snow storm the other night which shut the city down for the day.  This meant the gift of a snow day for my daughter’s birthday which was a treat for everyone!  But it also meant that my final meeting with my Keeping A Sketchbook Journal class was canceled.  With the Christmas holiday season upon us, the Art Academy closes for the winter break and I am not sure if we will have a chance to make up the class.  Coming to the end of my own recent sketchbook volume, it is time to begin a new book so I spent my snowy day transforming the covers of two new books which I will fill this winter.  I am always filled with a renewed sense of artful purpose when I personalize a new sketchbook.  It’s a magical process full of promise. The black book below (still in process) will be my typical, day to day book, found always at my side collecting thoughts, quotes, sketches etc…. the cover design is reminiscent of the balanced stacks of pebbles I have around the house.

I also got a second little book as well this time around.  First of all I could not resist it’s fetching size and the lovely linen cover material as well as it’s watercolor paper.  I am not sure what will find it’s way into this particular book.  I have had the desire to make more illustrative imagery lately.  Maybe children’s books.  Maybe beyond. I am not sure. Lynda Barry, in her NPR interview about her recent book, Picture This, spoke about her desire to ‘draw cute little animals’ in the aftermath of 911.  In the midst of all of the grief and chaos, the only thing she could bring herself to do was to draw these cute little animals.  And that it was healing for her.  I was really inspired by this notion.  There has always been a side of myself that wants to draw and paint cute little animals.  (case in point, my dog drawings!)  My plan is to allow the space for these little drawings in the coming new year and see what comes of them.  Hopefully some joy and simplicity.  Hopefully the capacity to just play a bit.  These are things I am consciously injecting into my life.

This morning I went out into the garden to take some snaps of the snow among the shapes and beauty of the sleeping plants.  The dogs romped around the yard searching for now elusive yard smells.  It’s been too long since I have centered myself by drawing my dogs and their antics.  Maybe it’s time to get back to center…