Chicken Soup

Half of my family is down with a rotten head cold that has us all operating a bit behind the power curve.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday here with my whole fam damily and then hit the ground running to Chicago for an Irish Dance Competition the next day.  It’s a funny thing, this dance phenomenon.  It would not, in a million years, even with the Irish music thing we have going here, be what I would have chosen as an activity for my daughter.  Her younger years were spent camping (and yes, pooping) in the woods, creek-walking and playing with mud pies.  She was the queen of mismatched puddle-boot couture.  It was a beautiful thing.

So riddle me this:  How did we get from here, (pardon the pixels, it was early in the digidays)

to here:

in full regalia with wig, make-up, sparkly gems and fancy materials.  I haven’t a clue.

Rachel, at 6512 and Growing, a blog I read regularly and thoroughly enjoy, writes often about her daughter Rose, and her tendency toward pink tutus and glittery, quintessentially Girly things.  She marvels and wonders at this girl child, so different from herself in many ways.  And she lets her bloom, in the way a Rose is bound to.  I love this.  And feel like maybe it’s a small nod from another mama that we have done the right thing in following our daughter into this wild and sparkly world of Irish dance.  It was what she wanted to do.  So we did it.

The cool thing is, at the end of the day, these dance kids are athletes.  They just present their athleticism behind the theatrical veil of costuming.  Like most athletes, they are a little smelly, they wear sweat pants most of the time and there is little make up to be found off the dance stage.  I used to worry about my little dancer becoming some prissy young thing, bossing us around, wearing too much make up and getting us onto reality TV.  But instead, the opposite has happened.  My daughter and most of her dance friends seem to have a healthy regard for make up and dressy clothing as Theater.  All Show.  They understand that all of that is just a costume, and that real life can easily be spent in sweats and a ponytail, especially during exam week.  They have gotten to play with all the crazy make up and have seen what it looks like on stage…. and then they wipe it all off and go curl up in a corner of the practice room like a litter of puppies to watch a movie while they await the next round of events.  All in all, this pursuit of hers, while I didn’t choose it, has proven to be a healthy thing for her.  A mix of art and athleticism that you would have to see to believe.  Still, being an indoor thing, with loads of people milling around, it wears this introvert inside out.

It was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the hotel to take in a little bit of Chicago.  It seems there is an entrance to the Ministry of Magic there:

And a cool stainless steel sculpture that’s a bit like a super-sized funhouse mirror.  It’s Big Art Name is Cloud Gate,  but most folks just call it the Bean.

But it was good to get home.  To some quiet. To my dogs.  To some soup.  This push pull between outer and inner selves is a difficult one to navigate.  For me at least, too much time around too many people is enough to wear me right down to my soul’s last nerve and then I am good for no one.  That said, too many days on my own and I can get a little depressed.  A good buffer for this is the online community of fellow bloggers, artisans, writers and thinkers that I keep track of via Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, etc.  Over time, I have come to rely on checking in with certain bloggers whose take on life, art and just stuff in general can shake up any stagnancy that might be happening in my own work.  I mentioned Rachel above.  Although she is years behind me in the mama-trip, she is wise and mellow and funny and I look forward to her posts about their life in the mountains of Colorado.  It is fun to follow bloggers near and far.  Near is the gratitude practice blog of my friend Julie at the Magic Beans Workshop.  And far; I have come to follow a number of artists in a village in England called Devon.  I’ve admired the work of Rima Staines for years.  I came across her work when I was delving into anything and everything that might be found in the pages of Women Who Run With the Wolves.  In art school I had trained as a sculptor and leaned mainly toward abstraction and texture and material to give any sense of narrative in my work.  But as I have written recently, narration born of imagery and collective story (the fairy tale) is where my heart is lately and where my online research is taking me.  The artists I have been reading about in Devon are all steeped in the work that calls to me.  One of my favorites is Terri Windling.  She is a writer, a visual artist, a prolific blogger.  Many people look to her as a beacon in the nebulous and difficult world of Creative Work.  I look forward to her blog posts daily with their links to magical places and people and inspiring things to consider.  Some folks even credit her writing as life-saving.

Yesterday, via Twitter, I was made aware that Ms. Windling has been experiencing some recent health and personal difficulties that have placed her in a state of financial challenge.  Wasting no time, her community, both locally in Devon, and around the world thru her virtual community, have decided to come to her aid.  They have created an auction to benefit her cause which is creating quite a buzz.  Contributing artists include Rima Staines and Wendy and Brian Froud, among many many others both well known and still undiscovered.  Reading about this auction and Terri’s plight brought me back to the fundraising we did a couple of years ago in honor of our friend Esme.  We literally heard from people all around the world.  Many we knew, many we did not.  But so many contributors were fellow artists.

It used to be, the image of The Artist was one of solo pursuits.  And in many ways, it still is a solitary life.  But thanks to online communities and the relevance of collaborative work these days, artists can find themselves surrounded by other artists who help to lift them when they stumble, who support them when they are down, who inspire them when they are in need of light.  We are each other’s Chicken Soup.  If you have a few minutes, check out the plethora of gifts and goodies on the Magick 4 Terri website and consider doing some shopping there for a good cause.  By supporting each other in times of need, we enable our own work to continue growing and changing – all above the safety net of community.




Bits of things

Meet Sandy.  Sandy is a sweet terrier mix of a dog whom I’ve come to meet recently so I could put together some drawings for her family.  It’s been forever since I have done much dog drawing.  I used to draw my old terrier, Caskie, quite a bit.  There is something irresistible about a scruffy, scribbly dog.  I adore my current caramel colored pups, Iris and River, but I don’t draw them as much as I would someone who is inherently more bed-headed.  Already I am a huge fan of Miss Sandy and her squirrel-obsessed intensity, which only a terrier can really pull off with such grace and seriousness of purpose.

Another new character in my life in recent days is this little guy, Gepetto, a Frisch Marionette with whom I’m working to practice many of the basic moves necessary to give a marionette The Illusion of Life.  Gepetto is a bit heavier and more difficult to maneuver than little Peter Page was but it’s important for me to work with many different puppets as I’m learning the ropes (so to speak).  I am really having a blast getting a hold of this new skill and can’t wait until shows start in January.

I took a day last week to meet for coffee and then bop around the art museum with a friend.  It was a gorgeous sunny day perfect for seeing beauty in the smallest things.  I was captivated by this gate at the coffee shop we visited.

The museum was as enchanting as usual.  Inspiring right down to each brush stroke.  Here are a couple of favorites from this visit….

I wonder what (or whom) she is thinking of……

My hub celebrated his birthday yesterday so we spent much of the day taking in a good bit of all that Cincinnati has to offer on a Saturday.  A Frisch production of Hansel and Gretel, lunch at a new tomato soup & grilled cheese place downtown called Tom and Chee, a visit to the endless shelves of The Ohio Bookstore (I could spend hours in there browsing all of the old tomes.  And, it’s a secret desire of mine to someday have a rolling library ladder in my very own home with which to reach the highest books on the shelf!), an afternoon bourbon toast at the historic and charming Washington Platform restaurant, and some shopping at the even more historic and charming Findlay Market.  We topped off the day with a fancy-full dinner at Cincinnati icon, the Precinct Restaurant.  It had been 12 years since we last went and the kids had never been, this being one of those Very Special Occasion places.  It was a treat for all to sit down to such fabulous food at a slow, fancy dinner pace with lovely lighting and the perfect company of my little family.  It was truly a fun and fabulous day.

As we gear up for Thanksgiving around these parts, my daughter and her teammates are working hard putting the finishing touches on their dance choreography routine for the big Oireachtas competition in Chicago next weekend.  Today they rehearsed in wigs and dresses to get the feel of performing in full regalia.  It was adorable to see them in their mismatched socks and no make-up, but we got to see a hint of what they are made of as the Oireachtas draws nigh.  It might look like a bunch of hair and fabric, but under all of it are some amazing athletes.  Best of luck to all the McGing Dancers next weekend!!