A tale of summer’s travels (part 1)


When summer comes to this river valley, I get the urge for goin’ as they say.  And so, I pack up my drawing and painting supplies, and maybe a few little books that I have created or altered to suit my needs, and I go.  This past summer was no different, except that due to some invasive happenings on my virtual front porch, I was unable to truly share them with you here until recently. (all has been resolved, of course.)  And so, let’s catch up on all my sketchy adventures of rambling through teaching, painting, playing music, catching up with family.

taos sign

get on a plane

Those of you who know me well, know that the first stop every summer is Taos, New Mexico where I teach an annual Illuminated Travel Journal Workshop (you can sign up NOW for the 2014 trip here!).  Each trip to Taos has it’s own distinct energy and pace and I was delighted with how this one turned out.  We opted to go a few days early this year, in order to make sure everything was in order for the workshop upon our arrival, as well as to acclimate to the climate and altitude.  These few days turned out to be key to setting the tone and intention for the workshop as a whole, and I have already booked the same for next year.


D.H. Lawrence said that “time runs differently in New Mexico.”  And it is, after all, the land of enchantment.  It takes time – to sink in and soak up the sacred waters of the hot springs as we gaze up at the wind and water sculpted cliffs.

sketch of ojo cliff

It takes time to go beyond our inner boundaries and pass through the right portals…..


portal 1

portal 2

It takes time to really sink into a place, by walking its paths, drawing (on) its beauty, rediscovering its inherent magic, so as to better pass these discoveries onto those attending the workshop.  And so we found ourselves at home in a little place at Mabel’s called Auntie’s Cottage and we set up shop.

our studio home away from home before class

And we took to the paths that lead to interesting things to capture in our journals….

Map to taos


sketching in town


famous taos truck

gorge watercolor

sketching morning light

a new mug for delicious morning coffee at mabel's!

Soon, it was time for workshop attendees to begin arriving.  They were welcomed to Taos by a Thunderbird.

taos thunderbird

Welcome to Juniper house!  This is the building that houses our gorgeous classroom space as well as a few extra rooms at the inn.

welcome to juniper

We had an amazing group of journal-keepers.  Some had experience with paint, paper, and art-making in general and created lovely images and memories in their books which we shared and discussed in class time.  While others, the truly intrepid ones if you ask me, were true beginners who nervously and courageously learned how to draw and paint just enough to get an impression of something they found beautiful into their books.  As expected, these beginners went leagues beyond where they thought they were able and sometimes tears of joy were shed to know “I am capable of creative work”.  Powerful stuff indeed

taos 2013

We coalesced as a group as we journeyed to the magical places to be found in and around Taos.

azure sky

Sky blue is a tricky color to capture….  The secret?  Most times it’s to add a little green.  One could spend a life time looking at and painting the New Mexico sky.

gorge sketching

The Rio Grande Gorge is a spectacular chasm that defies description.  We spent hours drawing there one morning.  And again, one could spend days, nay, YEARS!  I for one am still obsessively painting the gorge from memory and photos.  But I am itching to get back to the real thing to experience it once more….

gorge painting sketch

Above is a study in oil on a little wooden panel I had laying around, while below are the bones of a triptych that should eventually shape itself into a nice work of art…. I will keep you posted.

gorge unfinished

When the afternoon sun became too intense, we sometimes headed indoors to our breezy classroom space and worked in our books there.  Thanks to Lynne who sent me this cute snapshot of one of those times!!

in class and having fun

And sometimes in the evenings we would head out to a favorite sunset gazing spot.  Here there is a gnarled tree under which someone has memorialized an old four legged friend who might have liked to hike in the area.  This tree helps hold those memories.

a tree that holds memories

During this intense and beautiful workshop time, I was fortunate to have a small space, all to myself, where I sometimes spent a little while simply finding my quiet.  This was also my sleeping space.  My traveling companion and all around right hand woman Julie and I adored our little cottage for pre-workshop time, but during the workshop, it’s good to be closer to Mabel’s Big House and the classroom at Juniper House.  And who wouldn’t want to wake each morning to Taos Mountain delivering the sunrise?

sun comes up over taos mtn

My little room has a screen door that opens on this view.  It’s enough to melt the heart.

the view out back

And it did.  Every morning.  A melted heart is an important tool when teaching a workshop.

I took some time as many mornings as possible, to sit with my own illuminated journal and capture my experience, my thoughts, my view out the window, a little list of all the wonderful things that were happening each day.

taos mtn sketch


morning sketch of taos mtn

One of those serendipitous and wonderful moments was that a rather large article featuring our Eco-Chic Retreat was out in the paper during our stay in Taos.  It’s not everyday you arrive in a foreign town and find yourself in the paper.  I was absolutely delighted.  The Eco-Chic team have become my friends and I have enjoyed watching the project’s journey into the world.

We made the paper

Soon, too soon, it was time to travel back eastward.  But not before sinking once again into the waters at Ojo Caliente and gazing up at the cliffs that surround the pools of hot, healing waters.  I even spied a shooting star one night.

offerings from the locals

A small part of my soul was sad to leave my beloved Taos and the strong Mountain which overlooks it.  But I know I’ll be back.  the 2014 trip has just been announced and now, I simply need to gather the like minded souls who might want to open their eyes and hearts to a new way of traveling in this world.  As I wrote in my last post, next year is all me, along with my small team of helpers, and we are taking a leap in putting the trip on ourselves.  But sometimes a reminder comes across in the form of words from the past that seem to point in the direction of following one’s own path…


So we left the dry of the desert, and arrived home to this….

While the west thirsted for rains to quench a years long drought (sadly, they now have, with much destruction), Julie and I arrived home to a very rainy summer here at home.  It was so bad in our area that I opted to move the chickens to higher ground.

rain rain go away

And we got some flood insurance in the meantime, which thankfully, we have not had to utilize as things have, for now, evened out.

But the rains did come for a time. And they joined me on further adventures.  

While the Taos trip is magical and beautiful and something I would not trade in my life, it is still work.  And so the next big trip I took was to the mountains of North Carolina to attend a week of music classes at the Swannanoa Gathering.  This is one thing I do for myself that is for no other reason than my own enjoyment.  I opted to go down a day early with a music friend from here in town so we could camp for a night on Mt. Mitchell, which turned out to be more of an adventure than either of us bargained for.  With all the rain we had been having in the east, and North Carolina was no exception, you can imagine what the camping was like at the top of the highest peak east of the MIssissippi.


It all started innocently enough with a foggy arrival and dinner hour….

(sidenote: Just a week prior to this, I spent a very soggy weekend camping up by Lake Erie while I attended an all women’s Level 3 Sea-Kayaking course through 41 North.  Surely, SURELY I couldn’t have two rainy camping experiences in a row, right?)

map of our journey

The Rains decided to descend upon us once more, with wind as well, reminding us that Mother Nature is always in charge.  Just before dawn, after a somewhat sleepless night on top of the mountain, we packed up camp as best we could and ran for the car to attempt an escape.  By the light of my head lamp, I spotted a small salamander, something for which the Great Smoky Mountains are notorious, literally riding a stream of water down the steep path.  Even in the midst of chaos, this got my imagination going.

salamander kayaking


Paddle faster little man!!!


paddle faster

Needless to say, we got off the mountain.  And as check in at camp was not until later in the day, we dried out at the local breakfast place, then the mall, as we waited for sleepy Asheville to wake up.  One thing for which I am deeply grateful, are friends who consider these things adventures and are willing to laugh in the midst of the discomfort of being wet and a little bit miserable.  This gift enabled us to more deeply enjoy the week that followed.  And what a week it was.  I have few pictures.  No drawings.  I was immersed in a faery-like trace of a week of nothing but Irish traditional music along with folks who feel the same as I do about these old tunes and the playing of them.

me and my flute cousin

It was sheer bliss being able to catch up with my musical family, my “flute cousins” as we call each other.  We laughed harder and longer than we do the rest of the year.  We played tunes upon tunes upon tunes late into the night, and into the next day, while still managing to attend classes when the sun rose again.  We knew we only had a week to do this.  And it was precious.

I’ll leave you at this point in the tale of my summer’s travels with a video of my son Jack and a couple of his friends from camp doing their thing at the student showcase.  I have more to tell of our travels and will share them in part 2 of this post.  But for now, enjoy these amazing musicians….

(ps. Their accompanying guitarist?  Yes, the one and only John Doyle.  Where else can a few kids get their set of tunes backed up by a rock star?)

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