Hiya friends. Amy here, the creatrix of John Joe Badger. It’s a strange time to be drawing gentle, tuneful badgers. There are so many badgers from which to choose in this harsh, fast-paced world.
There is the screaming, spitting, distrustful American badger; the go-your-own-way, screw-everyone-else, “independent” honey badger; and of course our own John Joe Badger, based as a character more on a “European” styled badger.
John Joe loves tea and gathering with fellow woodland animals – even, and perhaps especially – when they differ from him. He is quiet, thoughtful, and believes in fair opportunity for everyone. He believes in the arts (tunes and seascapes are his favorites!) and good, local food, available and affordable to all.
A friend of mine on the book of faces ranted recently “enough of politics!!!” And I hear that. But perhaps todays’ politics are more than “just” politics. Perhaps the choices these days are about life versus death, art and culture as life-saving things. Education and critical thinking as ways forward, not things to be afraid of.
It is difficult to make art, share a joyful tune, laugh at a silly pun, when the world is literally burning. But we MUST!
Today is week 42 of John Joe Badger’s “Twist of Hemp” series. I will bring episode 43 to you when my new pipes arrive from Ireland which might be a few weeks what with one thing and another (unless another idea springs to mind which sometimes happens.) There are tunes to record with my flutilla mates and our capitán of recent weeks Kevin, and tunes to record for the start of our strange new quarter at the Riley School. There are also votes to get out, volunteering opportunities to rock, old dogs to care for, gardens to harvest.
Art is a funny thing. It encompasses so much. And it’s not always what some might consider to be “art”. Sometimes, it’s politics.
There are many mysteries in this thing we call piping. John Joe Badger has heard whispers of a mysterious thing some call ‘The Backstitch’, and he is intrigued. On occasion he thinks he can hear it, in the playing of one further along the piping path, but he does not yet know what it really IS.
Perhaps one day he will figure it out.
For now he will leave backstitching efforts to the mending basket, and merely play the little tunes he knows as best he can.
It seems an age ago that were in Maine. Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.
We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.
As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care. This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home. And so we do.
A bit of harvesting.
And a few things still growing along nicely.
I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think. And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter. Beauty in dark times.
I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year. The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up. Keeping the deer at bay.
I am grateful.
The dahlias have put on a show this year. Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully. Surprisingly.
They are a constant delight.
My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine. She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really. When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents. Life has a way of marching on.
Last week I added another digit to my age line. It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends. It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.
My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years. When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks. But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc. Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.
Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.
I already have lists going, and some quotes. Tunes I must work on……
“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”
~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)
Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him. He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.
We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only the one aged dog along for the ride. (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)
Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.
It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak. My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons. I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being. In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own. My travel journal business was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home. For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill. Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.
I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit. With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now. It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime. There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy. Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.
It’s time. Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home. Of this I am sure. To seek beauty in a dark world is important work. Sometimes, that starts at home.
And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print. We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things. We do the best we can. Being gentle with ourselves and each other. Following our noses as to how best to proceed.
We are returned safely from travels and settled in, but more on that later……
Recently we heard from Mickey Dunne over in Limerick, Ireland that the half-set of uilleann pipes he is carefully crafting for me is nearly complete. I am very sad that I cannot go to Ireland this fall to collect them in person, meet Mickey and thank him properly. But this is just the way of things, and we soldier on.
Meanwhile, I am as a new parent preparing a nursery with all the necessary accoutrements for the new arrival. This week’s Twist of Hemp offering finds John Joe Badger diligently shopping for all the necessities and sundries so that we will be ready when the pipes (with drones!) finally arrive.
It is week 39 of our weekly adventure, John Joe and I. I am slowly learning a few tunes but still feel clumsy and more at home on the flute. Making a drawing for this series each week helps me keep track of how long I’ve been at this pipes thing while reminding me to just have a little fun with it along the way. It’s been a very long time since I purchased a proper instrument outside of a whistle of delryn flute here or there. I am nervous about it all and trying just to treat it like an investment. In myself, in the music, in the world.
These covid times can mess with our heads if we allow them to. What are you doing to keep yourself sane, grounded and invested in the world? I’m learning tunes, painting and drawing and walking many miles.