Gifts that keep giving

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I arrived home from The Day Job yesterday to be greeted by a package addressed to me.  I wondered, very curiously, whatever could it be??  So I took it upstairs to my studio and opened it, ever so gently, to discover what was inside.  To my delight, there was a collection of the most delectable fibrous tidbits.  Delicious roving, hand painted all the colors of the desert and blessed by a hermitted Buddhist nun living and working (and spinning! ) just outside of Taos.

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There were also some raw locks of wool that I shall make into a rough and tumble sort of yarn in which to bundle myself in time for next winter (not that I even want to think about winter just yet after this most recent one!)  I’ve even dug out my old spindles to figure out how thick the roving’s eventual yarn might like to be…

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Other treats in the box were a card, created by my old Taos friend Kate Cartwright (now living in New Hampshire!) and a gorgeous bit of silk ribbon, the colors of which are that of the sunset.

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Call me old fashioned, but I get a little thrill from a bit of beautiful ribbon.  Once upon a time a treasure such as this would have been only possessed by the very rich, royal and fortunate among us.  Suffice it to say, I am feeling rather rich, royal and fortunate.


But who could have sent this glorious box of treasure??  Inside the card was a note from two of my former sketch-journal students, now dear friends, who had recently returned from Taos where they celebrated their birthdays.  In it they wrote “This is a small token of our appreciation for introducing us to Taos and to Mabel.”  I am so humbled by this.  One of these two women took my local class here in Ohio when the Taos trip was just a baby of a dream.  And both of them attended my inaugural offering of a week at Mabel’s in 2011.  They have been cheerleaders in my growth as an artist and a teacher, (along with countless others!) and have, over the years, become friends.

With the passing this week of the beloved and wise Maya Angleou, beautiful quotes belonging to her have been cascading across my computer screen and one in particular has of course, been shared by many, multiple times:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  ~m.a.

In the midst of the logistics of day to day life, combined with all that goes into putting a workshop such as this one together, it is easy for me to forget how important this journal-based work and my place in it truly are.  Yes, the workshop is about learning to sketch what we see while on a trip to a beautiful, soul-filling place, but it is so much more.  Growth happens on these trips.  Both in myself and in most of the workshop participants.  Keeping a visual diary of what comes across our paths in this life is more than just a lovely legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren; more than just a keeper of details from our travels.  This practice enables us to build our own lives as we see fit.  By opening up to the work in a sketchbook, we can open up to ourselves, the beauty around us, and to each other.  It’s powerful stuff.  And perhaps I don’t write often enough of the deep, deep work I do in these workshops, and in my own sketchbooks.

I saw another quote recently, by psycho-analyst Donald Winnicott:

“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate, and the desire to hide.” ~d.w.

There is such truth to this, and it may partially explain why I don’t publicly delve deeper into the Big Work that this journaling stuff is.  But it is.  And this is not lost on me.  My dear friend and right hand woman Julie and I leave for Taos in a matter of days.  And we are ready.  Ready for the big work.  Ready to midwife those who are also ready for the big work.  To notice this world in all it’s delirious detailing can be overwhelming.  But in the vessel of a little book, with the tools of some color and a pen or pencil, it doesn’t have to be so daunting.

Keeping an illuminated diary is a gift that keeps on giving.  Teaching is a gift that gives even more, as through this vocation, I have earned dear friends who seem to know me in a way many don’t.  I am deeply thankful for these gifts.  And for the earthly treasures that occasionally show up in my post box.

I’m fairly certain that there will be a small space set aside in my travel bag for a spindle and my beautiful roving whilst on my travels this summer.  Then I can work up yarn of a gypsy-journeying sort from which to knit a cloak of summer memories to keep me warm next winter.

Paddling the nooks and crannies of Grayson


kayak yoga

Yesterday we took the opportunity to head out of town and onto the water at a magical place in Kentucky called Grayson Lake. It wasn’t always a lake, but was created to give folks a break from unpredictable floods in the area and to provide better water quality for the people who call it home.  The Sandy River gorge area now boasts this amazing lake with tendrilled waterways that boaters of all ilk can explore.

The Hub was keen to try some new skills out on ‘real’ water as my gift to him at Christmas time was a set of lessons on how to do this:

Clearly, he took his lessons very seriously and will now have new things to show off in Maine later in the summer!

Everywhere there is wonder to behold.  Watery patterns and rivulets captured in sandstone read like a language from the ancients, should we just be able to translate them.



Water has fallen and flowed for thousands upon thousands of years, shaping this valley, and now, filling this lake.


We delight in playing under the waterfalls which can sometimes be quite dramatic after a rain.  On this day, they were mere trickles.



But even trickles have their own special breed of mystical lure.

Some avenues looked like they would lead to dead ends,



but if you know where to go, and when to keep going, you can find hidden gems such as this lagoon and it’s waterfall.



We opted to lunch at this sweet place.


The stone walls at Grayson are fantastic.  Dripping with mineral deposited streaks like some giant’s paint strokes.


And around every bend was beauty to behold…

I’m still working on some sketches to share with you over at my Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming days, but wanted to share with you a bit of our adventure.  (I got a little sidetracked with some chicken yoga earlier day.  What else can I say?)  But  it’s days like these in places like Grayson which feed this artist’s heart.  What feeds yours?


This post is for my lovely nephew, Gregory Bogard, who shines so brightly in this world, drinks fancified water, sprinkles love on all he meets and challenges his loved ones to #stopdropandyoga.


Well Greg, I see your spontaneous yoga pose challenge, and raise you – a chicken.

While on my run today I pondered how to respond to the challenge which I believe may have been posted sometime yesterday while the Hub and I were out on the water.  Even there, #stopdropandyoga was alive and well….

kayak yoga

(We also worked on some standing poses later, but I wasn’t the one with the camera at that point.)

But back to today’s run.  I always get hair brained ideas when out running and today was no different.  I took turns running with each of my dogs and a plan began to take shape….

so I called my dear friend Julie (who asks no questions when plans like this arise) to assist with the shooting.

I give you, Basic Yoga for You and Your Chicken.  Do enjoy.  and more on that kayak trip in a while.  Still working on my sketches a bit!!

Take your chick to yoga


We started with some sun salutations of course, and then onto:




tree pose



Virabhadrasana I (modified for chicken comfort level)





And of course, Shavasana, to finish it all off.



It’s good to have a little fun on a sunny day, don’t you think?


On Impermanence

Are we having the time of our lives?

Are we coming across clear?

Are we part of the plan here?

It’s about the last day of school for most kids around here, give or take some final exams (which are nothing compared to the AP’s of a few weeks ago!)  My Madeleine is now officially a senior in high school.  We head to Montreal next week to finish up a slew of college visits with her that have given us an idea of what she might be interested in pursuing for university studies.  All of this, combined with my travel plans for the summer are providing an orbital feel to life in general.  It is not lost on my that time is flying.  It isn’t lost on me that these times are precious either.  Part of me is so ready to get to teaching in Taos, and the other part of me pines to capture the beauty we have outside right now in the form of the late spring garden.  So I do capture it, as best I can.



A dear friend of mine has been down the rabbit hole of various meditation retreats of late and I am fascinated by her journey.  We have talked at length about what makes up a meditation practice, and what we hope to get out of meditating.   And I think it’s just the sense of being fully present in our lives.  Making sure that we aren’t so busy looking forward to the future, or pondering the past, that we forget to really be here now.  Occasionally I will let myself see the seemingly flawless practices of my more centered acquaintances and begin to compare my own messy monkey mind to them and see it in an unkind light.  But in chatting with my friend on her journey, she was quick to remind me that not all practices look the same.  That what we do in our sketchbooks is a form of meditation.  She’s so right.  (and, that said, so is running a few miles every day!)

In this book, on most days, I ponder the beautiful, cast out mental lists that might be driving me crazy, get them down on paper and off of my mind.  I note what’s important.  Noteworthy.  Quotable.  But mostly I just draw.  And for a little bit each day, that act of drawing removes me from the pool of time and I am outside of it.  It’s just me and that peony, which will never again be the peony it was this afternoon.  I note that my 17 year old kid will be a day older tomorrow.  We will put our visit to McGill in Montreal in the sketchbook.  Maybe she will even grace the pages of my book with a drawing of her own like she did when she was little.  We will mark a small moment in time.  Bottle it in a sense.

Somehow, we are part of the plan here.   I’m not sure exactly what that plan is, or what part I play in it.  But marking the here and the now, day to day, is one way to pin down the impermanent.  At least for the time being.



Hello dearest Taosenas!!

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to go to Taos!! Above is the final installation in my pre-workshop video series. I hope these have been helpful in preparing you a bit for the trip. But they are just the tip of the iceberg really. Our time together at Mabel’s will be so much more fruitful, especially when it comes to drawing.

Drawing can be such a loaded activity. For anyone who grew up the least bit creatively stifled (I speak from experience) the act of drawing can feel like it isn’t something that belongs to you. But it does belong to you. And to me. And to everyone. It is a tool for learning to see the beauty around you in a way that just looking, or merely using words to describe, is not enough. We catalog the world into symbols in order not to lose our minds in the minutiae and that’s important, but breaking down some of these symbols in order to see specifically something that is in front of us is where the magic is.

I am looking so forward to drawing together in Taos and capturing the magic of that place in our travel journals. Between now and then, keep up with me on facebook and instagram and of course here on the blog.

I’ll be checking here for any comments or questions as usual. See you soon!!!

Balancing Act

IMG_2199   Greetings from the fancy device. I have figured out how to make the good camera speak to this little thing by way of a wee translator card that translates things between them. The next step will be to actually be able to edit here. Surely it’s possible. Then we shall be in business. I’m in a bit of a state of limbo, awaiting news on a project I may or may not be a part of and it has me in a liminal state. And so, instead of fretting anymore about something I can do nothing more about, i have chosen instead to practice this gypsy technology, readying itself for summer. The project in question will either come to fruition, or it won’t, but either way, I’ll be ready (sort of) to share with you from the road this summer. Liminality has it’s own special breed of churning. IMG_2243 IMG_2242 IMG_2245 IMG_2248 IMG_2252 IMG_2253 IMG_2254 I have been running many miles to stay out of my own way.  And sometimes i even hide. (Like this evening.) IMG_2257   But mostly I am just getting on with the day to day of things. Much like the girls do. IMG_2209 IMG_2216 IMG_2212 IMG_2225 IMG_2222   And spending plenty of time in the garden, which is newly bursting forth, is crucial. IMG_2236 IMG_2233   Gardening keeps a girl grounded. In the craziest of times.   IMG_2237

Approaching that spanking new watercolor set!


Hi dear Taosenas!!  So ideally you have begun to collect supplies, make reservations, and are beginning to think about this trek out to Taos being a very real thing.  To continue the pre-workshop instruction, I’ll share with you here how I get into a new watercolor set.  If you have a set already that you use, we can work with that (provided it’s of good quality – y’all deserve proper supplies, so no crayola watercolor sets!!)  The first part of the video deals with literally ‘how to open and prepare the new set for usage’.  The reason I went into this is that if you are a beginner to all of this, opening a new set of quality watercolors is a bit of a process.  They are individually wrapped, they tend to fall out when you open them the first few times, etc. etc.  so I cover all this.  Then I get into getting used to the different colors which you just do with samples and practice, which of course can happen in your books!  So have a peek at the video.  This is the longest one of the bunch but I wanted to cover even the most pesky things about our new sets so they can serve us well once we are out in Taos.

Don’t be afraid to juice up these sets (i.e. get them wet and all painty like).  This is not a waste of material.  It’s important to learn how much water and when.  These things become second nature over time.  Practice a bit if you can in the coming weeks, as that will really serve you well when the workshop starts.  Hope you enjoy this little tutorial!  Only one more to go!


testing out the fancy gear



I received a fancy new tablet thingy the other day from our cell phone provider as part of a Mother’s Day promotion. It’s a whole other planet of a platform on which to work but its lightweight and connects easily with my fancy digital slr camera. So im giving it a try. Perhaps I can blog a bit from the road this summer without lugging around a computer. So here’s a test post. I used the device itself to take the snapshot of iris.  I have a scheduled lesson with my teen aged tech pro daughter for tonight to get it properly set up. Ill keep you posted!!

“I want to show her to myself….”

A number of years ago, I lost my maternal grandparents, in a whirlwind matter of days, while one held the door to the beyond for the other, and then they were gone from us.  But they left a lifetime of things behind through which we sifted and from which we selected a few bits and baubles to remember them by.  I kept ‘strange things’ like lists my Gran had made, or recipes she’d hand written.  These were the things I loved best.

just washed

Today this lovely video (below) came across my virtual path, courtesy of my artist friend and fellow creatrix, Michelle Blades of Bird In The Attic Studio and I was immediately taken back to the wild time of sifting through the Grans’ possessions.

I’ve watched this video a number of times now and what stuck with me is that this was a distillation of the life of a loved one. And that how, for those lucky enough to have sketch-journals left behind by a loved one who’s passed on, life without them is richer for the existence of these books. Our possessions these days are less lasting than in ages past, but one thing that I believe endures, are people’s sketchbooks. Regardless of how ‘archival’ or what have you they may be. In my sketch book I have grocery lists and to do lists, and notes about what I find is beautiful. I have occasional diarized written entries to keep myself centered in a busy day-to-day life. And I have drawings and impressions and ephemera that mean something to me, sometimes in the smallest way.


Someday, these books may mean something to my kids, or my grandkids, like the amazing woman in the video above. My family may have the gift of reading about a time years and years ago, when I first became a mother, or an artist, just because I kept a simple journal of my time here on earth. How I wish I had a written record of my grandmother’s ‘sense of the ridiculous’ (she had one!) or my grandfather’s knowing of all things garden (never plant tomatoes until after the first full moon past mother’s day).

How do you keep track of your time passing?  I’d love to know.  Interested in learning more about my process of capturing the day to day in a book?  Join me for a workshop! (deadline has passed, yes, but there are a couple of slots left if you are interested!)