The ups and downs and ups of March

March is a heavy time.  In spite of the St. Patrick’s Day hoopla, which our whole family enjoys, it’s still a month tainted with grief and sadness we must simply trudge through. As the kids grow, each year is a little different.  Navigating the tragic loss of our dear friend Esme has presented challenges and unexpected gifts as a parent.  Maddie was 12 and Jack only 14 when Es died, so they grapple with the loss each year in a new way.  The depth of this loss is simply unfathomable and so the gift of it is that we have some pretty deep conversations about grief, loss, what might have been, how short life truly is…. We are fortunate that we have teenaged children who actually talk to us, as I know that is not the case for all parents at this stage.  It’s been 5 years.  My kids are young adults now and their take on things is vastly different than when this tragedy happened.  The very public, community based outpouring of love and grief has given over, for our little family at least, to a more private version of it all. Almost deeper in a way. This suits me and it suits my kids.  As everyone who grieves Esme moves on through what lives we have left here in this world, we all must do it in our own ways through work, new places to live, finding our centers.  And so, March is heavy in so many ways, but it is also tinged with the joys of this season.

This year’s March has been a particular roller coaster.  We seem to be (maybe) coming to the end of what feels like a 100 Year Winter, I seem to be (maybe) coming to the end of a month-long chest cold.  We were gifted with a beautiful spring-like day for Esme’s anniversary and a few of us quietly paid tribute to her at her tree in Spring Grove Cemetery.  I made a sketch…

esmes tree

Lately, I am simply teeming with new ideas in my work, fueled by my pull toward the sea…. as well as more homespun inspiration in the form of a visit to Shakerdale Farm.  Last time I went to Shakerdale, it was a little warmer and greener but this year we visited a little earlier to meet some new lambs.

mama and baby

Sheep, lambs and most things farmy have always appealed to me, both artistically and as a lifestyle perspective.  I am not sure if I will ever be a part of a small farm in this lifetime, but I am glad of the opportunities to visit local farms like Shakerdale and be inspired by those from around the world (current swoon-worthy obsession online is the farm photography site of Ben Hole, Isle of Purbeck, England!)

March is also the time of year that focuses on all things Irish and for us, as Irish muscians and a dancer, it’s high holy season for what we like to do all year ’round! I had the honor of playing an actual paid gig this year for St. Patrick’s day and though it was cold at our outdoor venue downtown, we had fun!  We followed that Official Business with a few hours of pure tunes at one of my favorite local venues, the B-List neighborhood bar in Belleview, Kentucky.  We are welcomed so warmly there by the bar’s owner Ben, and by the friendly patrons as well, faces who are now familiar from playing there for them each year.  The general sense of warmth, community and all around good fun was palpable.  St. Patrick’s Day fell upon a Monday this year which may have contributed to the more laid back feel of things.  But regardless of the reasoning, there seemed to be a special spark of magic to the day.

This long month is still, surprisingly, only barely half over.  I have much work to do to begin readying for Taos in June (deadline has passed, but if you are still interested, send me a message and we will see what we can do!).  And, honestly, I am tired and in need of some respite.  I will seek that in the coming weeks and will be sure and take a few snapshots and sketches to share with you here to keep you posted…..

~~~~~  UPDATE: I’ve been trying for a few days to get specific photos to load here and they just aren’t.  But do swing on over to my instagram page (@abeefrnd) or the twitter/facebook feeds (@micromovements) to keep up with recent snaps. I am off to travel for a few days.






Outside, the sky is falling.  Pieces of it, in the form of ice crystals, go pitter patter on the roof and windows.  We are weary of winter here in Ohio, in a way we haven’t been for many years.  Spring will be a welcome phenomenon, once it arrives.  I have faith that it will.  In the meantime, indoor activities beckon, as well as Life in Our Imagination, which is not at all a bad place to spend time.

*special thanks to Astrid and Doug Mast, dear friends and fab musicians who were inspired to write Ginger her very own original waltz. I find it to be very catchy and a lovely little tune to accompany any day’s adventures. Enjoy!*

When not pursuing the adventures of Ginger Small, my mind and hands and eyes have been thinking a great deal about life under the sea.  One of my favorite books of all time is Sensitive Chaos by Theodor Schwenk.   It is a lovely tome visually showcasing how the design of all things natural may be observed to be similar, connected, all part of one system of harmonic beauty be it air, water, human tissue, sea creatures, tree bark, land, etc.  This harmony can be heard and observed mathematically in music and movement as well.  Now I am no mathematician, and I can barely call myself a musician, but I find these connections not only fascinating, but heartwarming.  The patterns of these Mysteries relate to one another to create what we know of as earthly beauty.

I am fortunate to spend much of my time around Irish musicians, whom I believe are some of the smartest people around.  I am not sure whether smart people are attracted to the music, or if the music might make one smarter in some way (or perhaps it’s a combination of both things) but suffice it to say, there is usually a critical mass of PhD types around the table at the weekly session.  Recently at one of these musical gatherings, my exploration into Spirographs as related to patterning in doilies came up in conversation.  Our friend Peter, who plays a mean concertina, mentioned that he had a handmade (by himself!) harmonograph at his place and that I was welcome to pay a visit any time to see it work.  Related to spirograph imagery, harmonograph drawings are more three dimensional due to the entropic nature of their production.  As the pendulum slows, the lines move inward toward center and a sort of topographic quality emerges.  I had to go see this for myself.

The harmonograph is called such because the relationship between the pendulums which create the movement work best when related to one another in a harmonious way.  Too off kilter from one another and the image becomes cacophonous.   So Peter set the pendulums into a proper relationship to each other and we set it off to make its drawings.  Here are just a few of the enchanting images…

harmonograph 1 Harmonograph 2 harmonograph 3 harmonograph 4 Harmonograph 5

To me these images evoke sea creatures, turning inward on themselves like anemones, sea cucumbers, shelled animals and beyond.  Then again, that’s where my brain is these days.  They might also remind us of murmuration…

Murmuration from Islands & Rivers on Vimeo.

The weather being what it is outside, thoughts often turn this time of year to the embroidery basket.

thread mish mash

And other collected sundries I might have laying about.


And I begin to think of what they might like to mimic as I work with them…



upsidedown jellies

Soon, doilies (which remind me a good bit of spirograph drawings!) begin to think about becoming jelly fish, or barnacles who’ve maybe hitched a ride on a leviathan.



Stitches find their way into patterns of light and how it plays so differently under the water.



These works are still in progress and will be unveiled later this spring.  It is my hope they might have the honor of being a part of a local art show at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center called Splash, but we shall see.  It it not up to me to worry where the art will end up.  For now, my job is just to make it.

{The call to artists is out now and I encourage you to enter your interpretation of the concept of splash.}  

I continue to fill my well as best I can, even on icy days.  One place nice to spend time in on a bitter day is the Newport Aquarium.  This will also be a great place to escape heat and humidity come summer so I picked up a membership the other day, grabbed some fellow artists who enjoy sketching (Vanessa, Christina and Monica!), and paid a visit to the underwater world,  just across the river.

These little eels have a distinct muppet quality to them I believe….

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3


I struggled to make this drawing of an octopus.  It’s very dark where it lives so I did my best to get the pencilled in impression on location, then filled in with watercolors later once home in the studio.  Impressive creature, the octopus.  Along with whales and dolphins, I am not sure such a sentient being should be held in captivity.  But that is just my opinion…

photo 4

And so, as the sky continues to fall, I snuggle into my cozy work space to stitch and sketch, to ponder and marvel at things I barely understand, and to sludge through my first head cold of the season (I’d say I’ve been quite fortunate, wouldn’t you?)

How are you surviving this winter? Or perhaps you are Down Under, in the Land of Oz, dodging summer’s fiery wrath.  Wherever you are, I wish you creature comforts, real or imagined, such as they may be…. (I think I’ll go to the beach with Ginger)