celebrating with music

A young friend of ours is turning 21, the true legal adult age here in the states, and so we gathered to celebrate this momentous birthday (and the Halloween holiday as well!) with an accordion cake, plenty of food and drink, and of course, music.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I did not play music.  Having never been exposed to music classes in the various schools I attended, it just was something I had never gotten into.  Then I became the parent of a born musician.  And I’m here to tell you, if you are musician inside, in your very heart, by nature, then sitting around tunes long enough at sessions and such, somehow, one catches the bug.  Eventually I took some whistle lessons with one of the brilliant young local players, a teen at the time, and that lead to playing the wooden flute.  I still marvel when I am at an Irish music session and a set of tunes is being played (at speed!) and I am (just barely) keeping up.  I still struggle on the faster reels, but I play anyway.  And listen A LOT when I do not know the tune.  Eventually, I will learn more.  So long as I just keep playing.

There is such humility and beauty in being the beginner.  Our society doesn’t seem to want beginners.  we expect ourselves to be able to anything at once, the minute we decide to pursue it.  To be able to draw well, or play music well, make a marionette move just so, or to do a sport well, or write well.  These things do not happen over night.  Often, they do not happen at all for fear of being made to look the fool in front of others.  This is especially true of adults.  I tell my students (and myself) that there is great importance in taking those first few steps as The Beginner.  And the steps after that, and after that.  To play this music takes hours of listening.  Hours of practice.  Hours of lessons from the pros, and from each other.  And over time, my fellow musicians have become my dearest friends.  Our children are growing into adults.  And we will continue to play this music together.  As long as we are blessed to do so.

We will find the instrument that becomes an extension of our bodies.

We will sing with joy and abandon.

And whenever possible, we will have ourselves some fun in the spirit of the current holiday.

What is the music that makes your heart sing?  Find it.  Listen to it.  And if it stirs your soul, pick up an instrument…. and PLAY.



It is a season of change and of cocooning and hibernation.  There are bridges to be crossed daily – moving to new things, bridging old projects to new adventures…

From a well made, protective cocoon, given enough time and love, magic can emerge.  Music where there was none before; artful objects that did not exist just months ago.  Opportunities appearing from seemingly thin air…..

One evening last week I attended a Halloween-themed chamber orchestra concert at my son’s school, The School for Creative and Performing Arts.  These talented kids took a break from their day to day rehearsals for the upcoming major musical Brigadoon and managed to put together an evening of entertainment with everything from Michael Jackson’s Thriller to the Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens.  They decorated the theatre with an assortment of goulish bits, and after a last minute rehearsal…..

….it was show time.  Let’s just say, that to begin the festivities, the orchestra teacher/conductor, (an unapologetic creative himself) emerged from a coffin, in full Dracula regalia, as the orchestra pit was  brought to stage level, and the music began.  It was BRILLIANT!!  I am reminded on a daily basis how fortunate we are to have this amazing school in our city.  It is the first of its kind in the US;  a K-12 arts enrichment facility, where the study of the arts is taken as seriously as other academic pursuits. (often times more so!!)

Meanwhile, after months of occasional stitching, and travels down dark avenues of the Unknown, my final quilt project for presentation to Mammoth Cave National Park (affectionately named the MCQuilt) was finally finished and readied for delivery to the fine folks down there.

VOILA!!  The Brea(d)th of History

I am still not entirely sure of what to put in a written statement to support this work now that it has become part of the Mammoth Cave Collection of Interesting Things.  I believe that sometimes works of art come from a gut place, far from the realm of descriptive words, and they need a little time among We Who Use the Spoken Word.  It may be awhile before this quilt is itself wrapped in a blanket of words, but for now I will feed you some tidbits….

While working, I was thinking a lot about the tie between natural and cultural history that is such a part of Mammoth Cave.  Unlike some other parks in our National Park system, MACA is distinctly and directly tied to the people who explored, sought shelter in, and sometimes even died in the cave.  It is rich with history, known to go back as far as 4000 years ago.  Perhaps even beyond.  The shadows and whispers of those who came before are around every bend in the cave.  This cave, much like others, breathes with the breath of the earth, air moving with the changing temperatures and moods of the earth and atmosphere itself.  It can at once shelter artifacts which are preserved indefinitely due to cave conditions, while simultaneously act as Living Cave – creating new and ever changing crystal formations and new, undiscovered caverns.  It is a place deep in mystery, and steeped in legend.

Upon completion, late one evening, I held up this quilt to have an upright, good look at it, and discovered that it glows when lit a bit from behind.  A small and delightful surprise.

We must always seek the light in the darkest places…..

And so, it was time for an autumn road trip…..

My friend Julie from the Jakk’s Magic Beans Workshop took some time out of her busy schedule to join me for the 4 hour trek down into the hills of Kentucky and a lantern lit cave tour underground.  It was, the proverbial 3-hour tour…..

With the help of our guides Rangers Bobby and Linda, we discovered historic graffiti, and listened to the cave speak to us as we quietly walked it’s stony paths.

It has been a year since my month long residency down in the park and it was so wonderful to go back and catch up with friends I now hold dear.  This new layer of community is perhaps the greatest gift from my time there.  Everyone oohed and ahhed at the quilt work.  I felt so honored to present it to them.

All of this ceremonial completion deserved a bit of celebration, which occurred this week with some of my now friends from last year’s Taos trip.

In the past few posts, I have written about my desire to get deeper into image making – drawing and painting.  I want to steep myself in an inner narrative that I have never truly explored beyond it’s crusty surface (with it’s gorgeous, touchable textures – where so much of my Big Work has resided).  Like many artists I know, I keep by my bedside a worn copy of Women Who Run With the Wolves.  It’s the ultimate book of fairy tales.  In this modern world of ours, we don’t often think of the old stories beyond a Disney version of the average princess-in-distress story or some such.  But if you dig just below the surface to the root of those tales, they have much to tell us and Dr. Estes does just that in her fascinating book.  The world of children’s stories, myth, puppetry are where we human beings hide Important Truths which may be too big for knowing just now.  Thankfully, these stories and others, are told on a routine basis, sometimes in bits and pieces, by artists, performers, musicians.  A few of my recent favorites are Rima Staines, whose blog The Hermitage is simply a feast for the senses and an escape into a timeless world of mystery; and Carolyn Ryder Cooley – I am in love with her drawings and installations!  Two other painters with whose work I became acquainted with via the miracle of Twitter are Kathleen Lolley and Lindsey Carr.  I love the colors they use, evoking a time out of place, just through the fog, to an Other. I look forward to exploring more of the work of these artists and more, as I dig into my own work more deeply at the same time.

A funny thing happens when you cast a wide wish-net into the Universe.  Ask for fairy tales, old fashioned narrative, and artists who are masters at the interpretation of these tales, any you may just get exactly what you ask for…..

In my last post I hinted that I had a potential work opportunity brewing that would provide me with another tangential avenue upon which to broaden my artistic horizons.  Let me introduce you to Kevin Frisch, of Frisch Marionettes:


The word on the street was that Kevin, whom I’ve known as a friend and fellow member of our local puppetry guild, was looking to hire a new puppeteer to help him work his larger shows.  I ignored this at first until my old boss at the Red Cross encouraged me to toss my hat into the ring for consideration.  I visited Kevin and his current fellow puppeteer Tiffany (slated to go back to grad school this winter, hence the search) at their presentation of Hansel and Gretel.  I spent some time with Kevin and a few of his marionettes to see if I had even an ounce of natural marionette manipulating ability.  And after a week or so, was offered the opportunity to begin rehearsing for performances in January 2012.

In this interview, Kevin explains why sometimes, artists and musicians make good puppeteers…


And so Peter Page and I will be spending many, many hours together this fall.  Learning to walk and stand without slouching, to run and walk with a distinct bounce in one’s step, and to focus, really focus on exactly what you are supposed to be paying attention to.  (a wee bug on the ground perhaps).  Surely these are good lessons to work on with or without the help of an adorable puppet page.

It is indeed wonderful to be crossing this bridge into an altogether new adventure, to have put to completion a year’s worth of thinking and stitching, and to begin nurturing the parts of my creative self that have been sorely neglected.  As things settle in to this season of hibernation and cocooning, I’ll work at my puppetry skills, and the creation of parts and cases for the beautiful concertinas I have the pleasure to listen to and handle on an almost daily basis. (one day I shall learn a tune or two on the concertina, I believe.)  I’ll enjoy curling up for some doodling and sketching (new art academy sketch-journal class starts next Thursday, there’s still time to sign up!!).  I’ll continue to practice my flute playing and teaching at the Riley School of Irish Music.  And hopefully get my paints out to blend the sorts of colors that now occupy my sleep.




(above, collage from my dear friend Tina)

I’ve been outside a lot lately.  Eyeing the moon in it’s waxing, fullness, waning….. I adore its comforting light – by the fire and by the dawn.

In our somewhat untended yard space (as we are, for the time, gardening and harvesting other important things in our lives) bits of bright summer color still peek through the golden blanket of leaves that covers everything in sight.

In between stitches on the nearly complete MCQuilt (to be delivered next week – pics to come soon!!) I venture out to stretch my legs with the dogs, whose cousins are visiting for the week (double the furry fun!)  So much the color of the leaf blanket:

Ian would very much like to join in this outdoor fun, but alas, coyotes are in the neighborhood of late and sadly, they are partial to delicious morsels such as him.

Murphy feels he is very much in charge, though everyone else knows that Iris is.  And in the end, even she is under my employ.

Lots of time spent on the couch with beads and thread…. and a purring helper.

Studio work is not the only thing in my cauldron of work related stew…. There is an information meeting coming up on November 9th (6:30 pm!!) at the Art Academy of Cincinnati for anyone who is interested in the opportunity to travel to Taos next summer for the 2nd annual sketch-journaling workshop I’m teaching there.  Email me for more information as needed!

There is also a new, very new, potential arty-opp in the planning stages.  I am excited to share it with you here potentially next week…. but must let it steep a few days longer.  For now, it is back to the quilting.  I will be ready to give this project it’s final push toward its birth into the real world.  Although not tremendously large as for as works go, it’s been sort of hanging over my head for a good year now and I’m ready to move on.  To nurture some new stories and techniques.  To revisit some old ones too…

As always, I’ll keep you posted here.



Art Date

I didn’t plan a blog post for my outing today, so I have only a few photos to share.  But share I will!  I spent a bit of the afternoon today at the Cincinnati Art Museum, a place with which I am, sadly, not familiar enough.  Perhaps I’ve shared a chronic and increasing fascination with painting, and I think that is what drew me to the museum today.  I wanted to study Real Paintings.  Up close and personal.  I wanted to look for brush strokes and curious color choices and to think on how they made those paintings, so long ago.  And so I did.  Here’s what I found…..

There was simply too much to take in.  I can’t pick a favorite, though I do find the sheep herding painting by one Anton Mauve, to be especially fetching.  The paintings I found myself most drawn to were those with a quality of light in them.  So many of them just glow in a way that seems otherworldly.

Although I had my sketchbook with me, I pretty much walked around with my mouth half open just looking, taking it all in.  Next time I go, I might draw this guy’s hand…. because it’s beautiful.

moon muse

My new friend Bee at Irish Blessings Tours had a wonderful idea the other day to bring the writing of Haiku poetry into my ‘illuminated diary’ practice.  Like small, quick sketches, Haiku poems are a brief but effective way to capture a moment in time, especially when time is of the essence.  Or, you are simply feeling lazy, un-motivated, or stuck…..

Brisk, moonlit morning

still warm blankets, call to me –

crickets sing, ‘wake up!’

Try writing a haiku poem in your sketchbook, along with a drawing.  The dance between images-in-pictures and images-in-words will enliven even the most seemingly mundane moments.

hello october

The end of September and beginning of October (my perennial favorite, if I may be so partial) has brought to us some gorgeous weather.  A goal of mine this month is to actually slow down for long enough here and there to actually take it all in.  I am very much in the taxi-ing stage of motherhood right now.  Although one is of age, neither of my kids is driving yet and so their transport to all of the various activities for school and extracurriculars is left to me.  I know this is temporary and only a stage and so I just go with it;  employing books-on-tape for all the miles and trying not to get too caught up in getting much of anything long term done.

Last week I was fortunate to pay a visit to some dear friends in Albany, NY while my husband schlepped the kids around (all the while on conference calls himself!)  So much of the travel I have done in recent months has been grown up travel at a grown up pace.  But this trip was on two-year-old time.  It was not so long ago that I was mothering in the toddler/preschool era of my own children’s lives and I remember thinking it seemed it might last forever.  The clarity of time and age have taught me how quickly stages pass by and that centering in them for the moment is the best way to go.  We spent the week gathering pumpkins, visiting the New York Firefighters Museum…

Napping all around the Upstate NY countryside…. (while the mamas caught up and chatted)

and waking up in magical places….

Being up there with not a care in the world seemed to reset my inner clock a bit.  Aside from a few snapshots with my phone, I made no art.  I played little music (besides a few notes on the flute for E, mostly train whistle impersonations).  I just hung out and co-mamaed for a few days.  It was bliss and the perfect shot in the arm and reminder of how time flies, my own kids being teens now and living such rich young adult lives of their own.

Today I am not going to work at the concertina shop.  Rather I figured I share some snapshots from recent weeks and a little of where my brain is right now.

Storms over Albany…

Our ‘herd’ passing through the yard…

My dog friends ever wondering… ‘is it time for our walk yet? or how about dinner?”

The above storms nearly caused me to be late for the rehearsal for my little brother Drew’s wedding last weekend but thankfully, I was able to get home in time to partake of the festivities.  It was an amazing day.  Kells was such a beautiful bride and we were so honored to witness their nuptials.

This wedding seemed to mark a temporal shift in things around here.  Even though the kids are still running from here to there, a slowness is returning to the household.  I feel as if I have literally been on the run since May.  It is time to slow down.  I have a few more stitches and beading to do on my mammoth cave quilt….

Once this project is finished and delivered, I’d like to focus my art practice a bit and go deeper into the things that are calling to me these days.  My sketchbook work, both in teaching and in my own daily documenting, traveling with a visual diary, and painting.  I have never trained as a painter.  I had only one small section of a foundations class in art school that even dealt with oil paints.  And so I am approaching it like a beginner.  The smell alone is reason enough to dabble in oils, as is the idea that I can work with a palette of paint for awhile, go away to run a kid to dance class, and return to a still wet, supple palette of colors.  So we shall see where this takes me.  In spite of the hectic schedule of this deliciously full life, there is room and time for depth when I make it. I suppose it is the fall time that puts me in this hibernatory, cocoon -building frame of mind, but it’s good to be here.  Good to be home.

Happy fall.