Antigua on my mind.

Brew a cuppa, this could be a long one.  It’s one of those borderless days.

***** A quick note about this post.  It is offered here today and also over on my Patreon page to everyone – in full – regardless of patronage or lack there of.    As always I appreciate those of you who come to this space to read and I will continue to offer bits and pieces here as I have since the beginning. I have been told my writings brings a smile sometimes, or value of some kind at least.  Occasionally. 

If this is you, and you would like to buy me a cup of coffee each month, (house brew, with a splash of oatmilk if you please) head on over and make a little pledge to do so.  Every little bit helps.  And at this point with the help of my new patrons, I have financially covered what it will take to upgrade some of my tech to keep this website alive and kickin.  For this I am deeply grateful.  Now….. let’s go to Antigua, Guatemala on this cold and snowy gray day……..*****

These are strange times in which we find ourselves.  I for one am still feeling a bit twitchy since the January 6th insurrection at our nation’s capitol.  While I am, for all intents and purposes, just fine,  I also write this post with a heating pad round my neck just after an appointment with an acupuncturist this morning.  I think it may take a while to physically remove the stains of vitriolic hatred from our bodies after the past 4+ years.  I know in my bones that we aren’t finished with this madness, just getting a little break.  Some time to recoup and catch our collective breath.

I find myself quick to cry lately.  Perhaps a song in a poignant key, or a tune comes round that I remember playing together with friends in the before times and I well up.  I suppose crying acts as a sort of pressure valve release.  Affording us a small respite so as not to shatter into a million tiny pieces.  I’ve lost count of the number of friends I have who have lost parents and other loved ones.  I know friends who’ve sickened and suffered but survived.  I also know friends who’ve sickened and not survived.  And I know those who are simply surviving in other ways as well – mentally, spiritually, financially.  It’s a slog, and we don’t even have each other to lean on.  Not really.  Though to be honest, as much as I may grow weary of zooming, I cannot deny it’s presence has been a god-send in this era of endless loneliness.

It has been almost a year since I packed my satchel to travel to Guatemala for two back to back travel journal workshop offerings.  My heart was heavy at the time with the household loss of my pack of aged animals – one on the heels of another and yet another, but the very soul of the city of Antigua acts as a balm to a weary spirit and the healing begins the moment my plane touches ground in Guatemala City.

There is a woman next to me on the plane in traditional Guatemalan dress.  She has no English, only a bit of Spanish and my Spanish languishes hidden behind veils of trauma and time.  I have no Maya to speak of either (let alone the dozens of dialects therein) .  But the universal language of humanity allows for mild pleasantries to occur during our flight – “excuse me, can I pass through to use the loo?”, “can I pass your cup of tea to you?”, “would you like this last cookie?”.  In this way we have traveled companionably.

The sun is up outside our minuscule scratched  porthole.  We see the smoking tips of volcanoes peeking up through clouds below us.  The land in Guatemala is alive, breathing.  My companion breaks into a tooth gold grin when our wheels hit the tarmac and I can’t help but join her in this gleeful feeling of homecoming.  Anxieties surrounding the years of my childhood spent here are tucked away into what feels like a different lifetime and I’ve developed a deep love for this place as an adult and an artist.  This land, these amazing people.  In spite of a crushing level of poverty to be found here in many places, people are quick to smile, to correct my woeful grammar or to give assistance in finding my way.  From here in wintry Ohio, in the middle of a raging pandemic, I need only close my eyes to see the smiles of my friends in Guatemala.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the work that I do in the normal times.  When asked “so what is it that you do?”, my answer is “I teach the art of keeping an illustrated travel journal.”  That’s the short answer at least.  The truth of the work is much more complicated.  Sure I teach a bit of art, I do a lot of cheerleading, and I share words and writing – my own and that of others.  But the real heart of the work is that I teach people to notice.  I conduct exercises which promote an opening up of the mind to the art of attention.

It is said that we teach what we most need to learn.  I suppose in a way, this old adage holds a grain of truth for me.  Engaging in a small blank book when traveling is a bit like holding a magical key of a kind.  I can slow time, focus in on the most miraculous sights, sounds and memories.  Later, when leafing back through old volumes, a drawing or the jotting of a few words’ impression can catapult my mind and heart back to the exact moment I wrote, drew or painted it.

This morning, before dawn, I sit with some coffee and a sleepy melted puppy (aren’t puppies the sweetest when just a bit melty?).

In my mind, for some reason, I go to Antigua.  I can smell woodsmoke on the air from cook fires off in the distant hillsides and diesel from cars and motorcycles shuttling local folk to work and school.

For my ears, there is the music of school and church bells ringing through out town.  These bells have a tinny clang to them unlike the bells I know back home.  I wonder about the families rushing to get to school on time, the grandmothers who light a candle upon entering a hushed and darkened church foyer.  There is laughter perhaps downstairs on the main level of our posada where the work day begins for our gracious hosts.  Hugo’s laughter is a bright light the world.  It is good to conjure on a dreary Ohio morning.  The sun shines and warm breezes blow, Fuego’s most recent eruptions drift off into the distance….

As much as being fully present is vital and advisable, I am not beyond a bit of escapism in difficult times.  Why else would we have the imaginations we do?  My Antigua travel-journaling class won’t be happening this spring, and summer’s trip to Taos is looking more and more doubtful each time I read the covid-related headlines.  Perhaps I can squeeze in a trip to Guatemala just to make art and work in my own journal before this calendar year is over.  I do not know.

I do know that I dearly miss the other soul-home-spaces I’ve come to know over the years of my nomadic work.  I also know that it has been a real gift to work on tending to this home-place here in Ohio for a time, cold and gray as it is just now.  I hope that wherever today’s missive finds you, be it sitting with sorrow or gratitude, or perhaps diving into old journals as a means of momentary escape, that you find a way to be gentle with yourself.  Have that second cup of coffee or tea.  Spend an extra moment holding it close for warmth.  Give into a good cry.  Trust me, it feels good.  Let your friends know you miss them.

We will get through this.  Eventually.

 

The Notion of Patronage

It is an ordinary day in an extraordinary time.

So much happening in this crazy world, and yet, there were some tunes to be had with my musical mates today, albeit online.  I tried another new recipe from a site I’ve come to enjoy recently as well.  And, in the midst of this ordinary day, I also launched a Patreon page.  

Fans, friends and family have been after me for a while to get going on this and so today I did it.  And I already (before even announcing it!) have two patrons.  I’m over the moon!

Over at the Patreon page, you’ll find more of what I do in the artful day to day.  More of the nitty-gritty of things in the studio.  I’ll share more experiments, more of what’s feeding my mind.  I might even share a selfie or two.

I began kicking this patronage idea around in my head a few years ago when I read Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking (if you’ve not read it, I recommend it, and you can get a sense of the concepts she shares in her Ted Talk.)  Now finally with the time to really ponder things (ahem, pandemic) and a commitment to take my gifts and by extension, my work, more seriously, today seemed like the perfect, ordinary day to launch a Patreon page.

I am reminded of a version of myself that began a little blog back in October 2007, not knowing where it would take me.  It has brought me here, to now.  And I am grateful.  Grateful to all those who have followed along with my musings and meanderings over the years.  Now, for the price of a fancy cup of coffee each month (perhaps more, perhaps less), you can chip into supporting my work – the writing, the art making, the dabbles into animation.  There are some rewards and benefits to be gleaned by becoming a patron and these are likely to shift, change and grow with time and as I learn the ways of Patreon.  For now, you have my unending thanks in advance for your support.

Go visit my Patreon page, and if you care to join me on more art-making adventures, toss a coin into the hat won’t you?

https://www.patreon.com/amybogard

Yours,

In gratitude,

Amy

 

The Bedside Book

Recently I’ve participated in some online workshop-gatherings of a sort.  Neither have been “classes” per se but rather more intended as an artistic shot in the arm – a path to creative exercise that isn’t my own regularly trodden path.

It is good to get out of one’s own way sometimes.  In this strange era of no teaching or traveling, barely making anything of note (besides a fair amount of really good food), there comes this opportunity to step outside of my norm, to tune out this world gone mad for an hour or so once a week.  It has been good.  Creating space for some play time has re-enlivened a few tried and true practices which had gone a bit stale over the course of the pandemic.  One such practice is that of my bedside sketchbook.

I came to the tail end of that little bedside book and it’s rich with interesting characters.  I’ve no idea who they are or why they are, they just are.

Some of them might be worth developing further one day, so as not to be trapped for eternity in the pages of a small book, but we shall see.  For now, here are a few of my favorites…

Sometimes, these Fine Folk would escape the bedside and make their way into the day book, alongside bits of poetry, to-do lists and the keeping of a calendar.  I welcome them too.

I was doodling one time while taking an online group workshop with Conal O’Grada of flute wielding fame. “The twiddle in the middle” are his words and they made me smile.

Yesterday I slipped into the art store before heading into the concertina shop.  I splurged on new versions of red and blue in the oil paints.  I also picked up a cheap little sketchbook to begin another volume of the bedside book.

It is nothing fancy, I just use pencil in it anyway, so no need for fancy.  I collaged the cover to make it my own, and will set it on the bedside table with a newly sharpened pencil to see who pays a visit before I collapse into a restless sleep.

I am restless due to current events and this raging pandemic and all that goes with it.  As I write this, I am receiving text messages from family and far flung friends with the news that the president has once again been impeached.  This is good news indeed, I think.  But honestly, I am weary.  Weary of ignorance and misinformation and cruelty.  I hope we can move through all this and one day gain footing on a sense of normality, whatever that may look like after these horrifying past months and years.  But time will tell.

For now, there is puppy kindergarten beginning this evening.  There are more meals to attempt which feed our bodies in healthy ways.  The sun shone today a good bit as well.  All is not lost, at least right here at home.  And that is what I cling to just now.  I hope you are doing well and hugging those you can.

The Embrace of a New Year

The new year dawns amidst heavy rains, as if the tears of 2020 continue to overflow.  There is a relief in this new day, this new year, even if in reality, it is just another day.

In years past I might have greeted the day a little weary from an overnight of music at Arthur’s house with many of my most treasured musical mates.  Alas, our tradition like so many this dark and difficult season, was simply not to be.  And so we had some curry and watched When Harry Met Sally.  I of course would rather have been playing music.  But that said, it was not a bad way to spend the turning of the year.  I am grateful for that.

So here we are.  A new chapter.  At least according to the calendars.  This feeling of a new beginning is refreshing after the sense of doomed Groundhog Days of the past several months.  The early half of this day I refreshed my studio chalkboard with a new focus word to contemplate for the year and some reminders to keep in mind of goals and plans for the months ahead.  Not so much “resolutions” really, rather ‘things to keep in mind’.

This year’s word is EMBRACE.  It is fitting on so many levels.  At the basest level, I just need more hugs in my life.  I’ve read that hugging more releases the hormone oxytocin into the body, creating happiness.  I am keen to try this as I’ve been a little blue of late.  But haven’t we all?

Embrace also is a challenge to myself to take more seriously all of the gifts that I have,  specifically in my working life.  I don’t take my art work for granted and I have worked hard over the years to improve my craft and get my work out into the world.  But that said, there is always more I can be doing to put the work forward.  I am considering setting up a Patreon page to ask my subscribers if they might like to pay a small patronage toward the making of my art work in exchange for patron only content and thank you rewards.  A bit like kickstarter and other funding platforms, but ongoing and not necessarily project specific.  I have heard wonderful things about the relationship that develops between artists and their patrons.  Money is a difficult concept for artists some of the time, but Patreon allows for people to throw a few coins into the proverbial hat so that artists can do what they do.   So we shall see.  I am still researching it all.  Don’t worry though, the blog will always be here in some form or other.  For free.  I promise.

With 2020 came so much change and grief and anxiety and a necessary re-thinking of the world in general.  The final tenet of my notion of Embrace, is to take what comes -to embrace the challenges of our time right along side with the small joys and achievements.  It is a time of  ‘yes, and’.  It is an era when we must learn to carry sadness and hope together in the same basket a lot of the time.  My goal is to embrace this concept and it’s inherent yin-yang quality and see where it takes me.  It feels like a good, multilevel word I can chew on for a good year or so.

The latter half of the day we met our daughter and her dog for a beautiful winter hike at a place called Glen Helen Nature Preserve.  It was magical with patches of fog and melting snow on bright green mosses.  There were streams and springs there filled with iron-oxide and the rocks at some of these waterfalls dripped a bright orange-red.

This fallen tree had been cut away from the trail we were hiking along. I looked at the growth rings and wondered, ‘how many other difficult years are represented here?’

There was an Adena burial mound just in the woods off the trail and it occurred to me that perhaps this place was sacred to early people in our area.  I am glad it is still treated well now.

Philomena continues to grow and change.  She has ‘divil dog’ moments when she is all wild instinct and needled teeth and it is difficult not to lose patience with her.  But we are all learning together.   As I type this, Charlie and I have escaped upstairs to the studio and Tony has taken over puppy duty.  When she is awake, we have to keep a close eye on her.

When she rests, one of her favorite things is to shuffle herself under her bed in the kitchen where there are radiant floors.  We think it might feel a bit like a weighted blanket to her.  She came up with this funny concept on her own.

Sometimes when she is all the way under, and merely a lump under a dog bed, she reminds me of a passage from The Little Prince

A favorite of mine.

As we attempt to bring our shoulders down out of our anxious ears, and gain an even footing in the world again in the next few months, I wish you a brave new year.  A year where the good will outweigh the heartache perhaps.  A year of mending what has come undone and weaving together all of the lessons of the past 10 months or so.

Sweet dreams everyone.  Tomorrow is another day.

Start Close In

by David Whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice

becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

A David Whyte poem from
River Flow: New & Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press