[draw] drawn, draw·ing,  noun, verb (used with object)

1.to cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; drag (often followed by along, away, in,out,  or off ).

As you probably know by now from reading this blog over the years, the one steady thing that has been a constant throughout all of my adventures as an artist, a world traveler, and a musician is the fact that I carry around a sketchbook with me.  Pretty much wherever I go, I have a book in my bag, a small set of watercolors and a pen or pencil to write, draw, collect what I see and hear in the world.  This practice began years and years ago, when my kids were really small.  Say what you want about the beauty of motherhood.  It IS beautiful.  But it’s also really, really hard.  Among the few things that kept me somewhat centered during the early years of parenthood (such as a great husband and many many many marathoning miles), the act of drawing in a little book became a habit that was like my anchor in the storm.  Those early drawings are clumsy and poorly rendered.  The really early ones didn’t even include any watercolors!!  And yet, I have them (somewhere around here).  They include tales of camping trips interrupted by pasta ravaging raccoons and over-the-top Halloween costumes made to order for my kids (One year Jack wanted to be a peacock.  And his little sister? Yes, a Princess Peacock.  I swear if I come across those journal entries/ photos I will totally share them).

Slowly, over many years, through many slumps and the crossing of proverbial seas, I began to realize what I had in this seemingly simple practice of sitting and drawing and writing a bit about my life.  I began to do it with a bit more consciousness. I began to find others, people who called themselves Artists, who did a similar thing and seemed to even be making books and teaching classes.  People around me, beyond my awesome family who always thought I could draw anything, began to notice.  I even went to art school.  But not for drawing.  Majoring in sculpture, I was still noted for my copious collecting skills in the form of my sketchbook.  Post art school, I made some Art, but it has been the sketching and journaling that has time and again come to the fore.  This is mainly because, as a mom, it’s the one art form that’s portable (that and embroidery, but that’s for another post, another time.)  All of this time and the many filled books, eventually led to my teaching this process to others wanting to learn it.  Without even realizing it, I had developed a very individual and distinct way of doing this sketch-journal thing.

So fast forward to nowadays.  I teach Keeping an Illuminated Journal in both individual classes and at the local community arts centers.  I co-developed a business centered journaling process with a former student. (That project is tabled right now as we both pursue our individual work, me here in Cincinnati, and Adam in NYC.).  With the support of the Art Academy, I began taking students afield to document the travel experience in a sketchbook.  Through these trips to Taos it was even clearer to me that what I am teaching is more than simple life documentation, or learning to draw things that come across one’s path in life.  This process has a power to draw a person toward their center.  Keeping a journal, and more importantly an illuminated journal (one with drawings or paintings) is an act of meditation which leads to a deeper thinking about life in general.  As a young mama, battling depression and anxiety, I was not only capturing precious bits of my kids’ fleeting childhood, I was actually healing myself.  Keeping these books has been a slow-cooker style of self-guided therapy that has, over the years, taught me much.  I’m much healthier in the head and heart these days and I attribute some of that to merely growing into myself.   Growing into myself has happened in the pages of my sketchbook.  It is there that I can jot down quotes that speak to me at the time, I can mull over the mundane and the difficult, I can draw a dog or a backyard bird and feel calmer for doing so.  It’s like magic really.  And I love sharing this magic.

This summer when I head to Taos with yet another amazing group of students, I will also be filming my segment of the Eco Chic Retreat DVD project slated to be completed this fall.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.  Often, the spiritual side of the classes I teach winds up being an added, unexpected bonus to the fun process of writing and drawing in a journal.  But Eco-Chic’s retreat climate is all about centering oneself in the storm of life through a time of guided nutrition, yoga, painting, meditation and more and of course, keeping a journal.  I’m tremendously excited to talk about how the simple act of making a drawing, writing a haiku poem, or taking note of the day can seriously alter a life.  I don’t make the claim lightly.  I was my first student and I am, finally after all these years, a firm believer in the power of this process.

What drove me to go into writer mode on today’s blog post is the photo below of some of the Eco-Chic family.  This was shared electronically to those of us on the team who couldn’t be there for this particular gathering and when I saw it, my heart just swelled.  These women are doing amazing work in the world.  Each of them is a healer in her own way.  I am humbled to be a part of this project.  But I too am a healer.  And I look forward to sharing my take on  the ‘simple’ act of keeping a sketchbook in the hopes that it will bring healing your way too.

L-R: Ana Easter, Lourdes Paredes, Jan Haller, Jody McNicholas and Louise Lowry

This week In The Garden: Tilled

As the inevitable blanket of shade begins to fill in the bright spots in our yard, ferns continue to pop up and make spaces for the bunnies to hide in….

But up the road, things are progressing in the Amberley Village Community Garden.  The other night we walked the dogs up there and discovered the patch had been tilled, just in time for yesterday evening’s garden orientation where we met our fellow gardeners, chose our plots,  and were introduced to our water tank system.

It was a blustery day in the hundred acre wood…..

You can begin to see where the plots will be.  We are fortunate to be using crunched up tree branches from the village as mulch on the pathways between plots.  Our deer fence will arrive in early May.

We sheltered from the wind for a bit to talk about the garden and how it’s going to work.

This is our water tank which is fed from the roof of an old golf clubhouse.  It was filled in just 2 rains.  Amazing!!

We shall have to be careful not to leave the water on this summer.  We will take turns monitoring the shut off valve each evening.

There’s a cool bulletin board at the clubhouse/garden shed area that already has a few announcements.  I’m excited to see what shapes up here in the future as this community grows right alongside it’s vegetables.  Our village has a reputation of being the type of place where, due to our lovely green spaces between houses, no one ever really communicates.  But I sense a hunger for neighborliness that this garden will feed, along with our tummies!!  It will be wonderful to see what everyone is growing this summer.  Many of us are veggie garden newbies.  I’ve had tomatoes and lettuces and such but not too much beyond that.  I am not even sure what to plant!!  So far I’m thinking tomatoes for canning, onion, basil, beans, maybe some broccoli, brussel sprouts…. oh the list goes on.  We shall see, and I’ll of course keep you posted.


In The Garden: Unfurling

As spring continues to wind her way into the Ohio River Valley with warmish days and cool nights, things continue to open up in our little gully, little by little….

Peonies like lollipops perch on their stems.

Columbines drip off of theirs.

The trumpet vine begins to wander….  And a showy rhody opens up to the world.

Ferns, worthy of middle earth unfurl taller and taller, providing a place to hide for bunnies and chipmunks alike.

Hearts bleed.  As they should.

I’d love to know what’s blooming in your garden…. and beyond.



Just a quick post to share the results of our weekend in Chicago for the Midwest Fleadh Choeoil.  It was, as usual, quite the adventure.  The Chicago Irish-American Heritage Center rolled out the red carpet to locals and those-from-afar alike.  It was our second time back there and it felt like home, being welcomed by old friends and a familiar locale.

The Riley School  was well represented this year by the young-uns.  Only a couple of Senior (adult) level competitors competed and the rest were kids.  (Congrats to Patrick, 2nd in Sr. fiddle and Kathy, 3rd in  Sr. English singing and 1st in Sr. Original song composition!!)  My son Jack competed again this year in fiddle as well as banjo and won both.  Fiddle was the biggie, with more competition and really where his heart was. He won first prize in both, qualifying him to compete again in Ireland this summer.

I simply don’t know how these kids (or the Sr. solo competitors, for that matter) do it.  They go up, in front of adjudicators (who are the best in their field) and play or sing  – ALONE – and get feedback.  It’s nerve wracking.  At least as a parent.  Somehow the kids just do it.  And do it well.

After a day of solo competitions for many of the kids, it was time for the band competitions.  Riley School fielded 2 bands, an under-18 Grupa Cheoil (Irish for Music Group) and an under-12 Ceili.  Most of the kids were new-comers to this HUGE room FILLED with onlookers and it must have been intimidating.  But they showed up and played their best and we were so proud of them.

Even the little kids ‘represented’.  It was awesome.

and exhausting.

But the Fleadh is not all about competition.  It’s also about making new friends, catching up with old friends, and most importantly, having a few tunes.  After the long evening of band competitions, there were many sessions in which to take part.  Some were dark and intimate and perfect for story sharing and tune swapping.

While others were huge, filled with the level of spot-on musicianship for which we attend the fleadh in the first place.

Congratulations to all who competed in, participated in, played their first tune in, this year’s Fleadh Cheoil. It was mighty and I’m already counting the days to next year….

Paint…. how do I love thee?

…. Let me count the ways.

I love watercolor.  It’t the medium with which I am the most comfortable, though as I am completely self taught in the painting-art realm, I wouldn’t go so far as to call me a watercolorist.

I also love (with my smallest toe, barely dipped into the luscious pool of oily goodness that it is) oil paint.  I am, again, only just learning about it and I marvel at those who paint with it successfully.  Here are a few of those that I have recently discovered.

Janice Tanton

Robyn Church Hatton

James Naughton (especially in love with his work as he’s been painting The Fells, the area Beatrix Potter so dearly loved and worked so hard to conserve in The National Trust)  Mr. Naughton’s ability to sculpt light and air into physicality are nothing short of enchanting….

And, thanks to a twitter link from Robyn, above, there are these YouTube videos by painter Duane Keiser which are painting process and delightful animations rolled into one.

Although I try not to spend too much time trolling around on the computer, I do love when this virtual art-space provides me with amazing artists to inspire me and light my way as I continue to push my own artistic boundaries.

Taos, terrariums, and taxes

It’s that time of year again.  All kinds of reminders seem to be flying through the air.  The don’t forgets in the form of last minute gifties for graduations & mother’s day, forms related to the tax season, when to plant-transplant-trim what in the garden spaces.  It’s all a little crazy, right.  Well, in the spirit of gentle reminders, here’s a couple from us here at Micromovements…

If you are slated to get a nice check back from the tax man, it’s not too late to sign up for the sketch-journaling workshop  in Taos NM.  The original deadline has passed, but now that the folks at Mabel Dodge and I have decided who’s gonna sleep where, we have discovered a few extra nooks and magical corners where a few lucky late-comers might find themselves.  You don’t even have to live near here in Ohio to participate.  We can skype out the lead-up classes and meet in Taos for the workshop!  So if you or someone you know is looking to shake things up a bit and take a trip of a life time, get in touch with me and join us.  You’ll be ever so glad you did.

Closer to home, the Terrariums have been making quite a splash in our local area.  We even got some free press in a monthly style magazine called A-line.   I stopped in the other day to check on them and  they are doing beautifully at High Street but would love to make someone’s day this spring as a graduation, housewarming, or mother’s day gift.  Quite a few have sold so stop in soon to get yours!!


Doings (and this week’s ‘in the garden’)

This past weekend I woke before the dawn (very uncharachteristically, I might add – thank goodness for coffee) and headed out to Vevay, Indiana for some puppet shows with the Frisch Marionettes.  It was a lovely day for a road trip.  Foggy and magical.  We took the scenic route along the Ohio River which afforded us some beautiful views…. along with some nail biting blind moments as well….

During our first show the sun magically came out and we were treated with a few minutes to walk around the sweet streets of this little old fashioned town.  It’s such a tiny place that you don’t really need much more time than that, but for a tiny town, there is some color.

Puppetry (and I suppose any kind of performance) takes a lot of energy and sometimes we literally have to talk ourselves into being excited for the next show.  Physically it’s a roller coaster that consists of adrenaline highs and then crashes shortly after.  (again, thank goodness for coffee!!)  Sometime we just have to get silly backstage.  Laughter is really a pick me up…

Meanwhile, this week In The Garden, I’ve been redistributing things that seem to have gone hog wild.  Like the sedum, which I love, but can be a bit over-industrious.  I’ve also been trying to stay on top of weeds which is a never ending battle.  One I’ll never win.  So I just do a bit each day.  If at all possible.

We had such a warm and early start here in Ohio that we have some early risers.  My ‘hens and chickens’ are already out and about in their strawberry pot with out my doing anything.

Speaking of hens and chickens, our village has been considering a new ordinance that would specifically allow for the keeping of backyard chickens.  Chickens have never been, by name at least, illegal here.  A few people even have them already.  But the by-laws do say ‘no farm animals’ so pro-chicken folks have sought clarity through this new ordinance.  Things were looking smooth a few weeks ago when it seemed all of council were on board and our village seemed to be keeping up with modern trends, allowing the keeping of hens.  But suddenly, those prone to village drama (and in my humble opinion, a whole heap of ignorance) started getting loud about all of the ‘questions’ chickens propose.  The crowing (hello! read the ordinance – no roosters!!) The smell (dog poop is worse and there’s plenty of that around the village) The DANGER!!! (I’ve heard of attacking roosters, but never of aggressive hens!)  So now it’s back to attending meetings and snuffing out the nay-sayers and their ignorant, ill-informed fear mongering.  Those of us who plan to keep chickens or already do, are the type of folks who take care of their pets.  We clean up after our dogs and cats.  Our chicken coops will be clean.  The only noise you’ll hear from our hens is the soft cluck-clucking and doh-doh-dohing sounds they make which you can really only hear when you are near them.  I think it’s a bit ridiculous that there is this much hulla-balloo over a few backyard chickens.  There aren’t that many of us in this village who will even want to keep hens.  As one pro-chicken friend of mine so aptly put it at the village council meeting last night, “Really? Seriously?  All this over chickens? Surely this village has bigger fish to fry.”  Speak your truth sister.  I wholeheartedly agree.  I shall keep you posted as to how this all goes in the weeks to come.  More about the chicken hullaballoo can be found here at our Vice-Mayor, Natalie Wolf’s lovely blog Lone Wolf In The Village.

Meanwhile, also village-garden related, the community vegetable garden has been marked off and is ready to till.  We meet in a couple of weeks to get the scoop on how things will work up there.  I am so excited to grow food beyond my sun-starved shady gully where the best I can get are a few kitchen herbs and my winter greens in the cold-frame.  Seriously.  I am SO excited!!!!

But back to my little patch of land… There are plenty of rodents.  Squirrels are a constant source of entertainment and doggie-fantasy.  Iris and River are ever at the Ash Tree trying to surprise them.

We’ve also had a few bunnies hanging around.  Especially early in the day when it’s moist and quiet outside.  I have even done a few sketchy doodles of them….

Not sure who has been nibbling on this mushroom but some little critter has….

and by next week, perhaps this rhody will have bloomed.  I shall keep you posted!


In the garden

Many of my favorite blogs have semi-routine posts that happen each week, each month or whatever time schedule suits them.  There are some that share a weekly video, or snapshot of their kids, or recent work.  Although I am not much of a ‘routine’ sort of blogger (or person for that matter) I thought it might be fun to try this idea out for a few months on my own blog.  This spring I have been getting out in my garden a lot more than I would normally.  I’m trying to learn about the plants more this year and to at least attempt to keep up out there a little better than in years past.  Even though on the surface this may seem like more chores, I find it has the opposite effect.  If I spend just a little time in the garden in the morning, I feel more grounded and ready to face the world at large.  And time seems to slow down a bit when I dig in the dirt and pull a few weeds.  While out there this morning I realized it might be fun to share what’s cooking in the garden with my blog-readers and that it might make a nice weekly post.  So here goes.

This Tuesday’s ‘In The Garden’ post.  A few snapshots of what’s coming up.  Stay tuned in weeks to come as I garden beyond my shady little gully here in Spring Valley  in our new Village Community Garden beginning this year!  Finally a deer proof and sunny spot to grow some veggies!!  I’ll be posting pics from both my little plot up there as well as the beds down here…

I planted a bleeding heart a couple of years ago…. this is the first time it’s bloomed!

Our biennial Lily of the Valley is going to bloom soon.  One of my favorite smells.

Wisteria vine in full glory.


This bush also has a lovely smell to it’s blooms…. I don’t remember it’s name.  If you know, please let me know!

Our cold frame with some greens.  They have been delicious!!  It’s nice to take advantage of the sunshine before the trees fill in and get our early and late season lettuces.  Notice the netting.  We have quite a few deer who would love to snack at our salad bar.

Little Buckley from next door.  She was sneaking over for a visit.  I think I surprised her!!

This may not look like more than a stick, but if you look closely, there are leaves on it.  We have two of these under our Ash tree out in the front yard.  They are baby PawPaw trees and someday, since there are two, and if they last… they may bear a yummy banana like fruit.  They were gifts from a friend who is connected with the Cincinnati Nature Center about 3 years ago.  I’m excited to see them every year!

That’s just a bit of what’s coming up in the garden.  I also have plenty of dandelions (yum!), wild strawberry, and creeping charlie to keep me weeding for weeks!  But I’m learning that the trick is to show up each day I can and tackle just a little bit.  See ya next week…. if not sooner!

What’s growing in your garden?