Yesterday was a day of travel. My Buddhist friends say, about most everything, something to the effect of “and herein lies the practice.” This is what I was saying to myself as I drove the Irish countryside, at once familiar and not so. Though fraught with white knuckled nerves, my journey was uneventful – in spite of monsoon styled rains. (It was overly rainy, even for Ireland!) But I managed with the driving, getting used to being the pilot of a strangely-sided vehicle. I must admit that being fully and constantly present in the moment is actually really exhausting when one actually does it for real.
We go through our lives on auto-pilot so much of the time. There is nothing quite like driving in Ireland to remind me thus.
This morning, there is peat in the air. I slept soundly and solidly for the first time since arriving and this has given me renewed purpose. There may be a visit to the beach today. Music has been elusive so I will just play on my own perhaps. One cannot push the plan. I hope to get the paints out as well, though I am disappointed with the medium I ordered to use as its drying time is a good deal longer than what I use at home.
It can take a few days to feel truly landed in a place. I am not sure I have quite yet arrived, but I am close.
Today it rains and rains here in Blackrock, as Ireland is famous for doing, and I am grateful that yesterday was the day for touring. My dear friend Simone had a work related function in Dublin and so we took the bus into town where we lunched then parted ways for the afternoon – she to her work life, and myself to take in some iconic touristy destinations.
Along my way I spy a couple of fevered protests. The first is in front of the famed General Post Office where the Easter Rising was centered back in 1916. Political protests have often happened at this site since that time, as it feels symbolic to the notion that perhaps change is possible. This current protest is by Kurds who find themselves here in Ireland. Their speeches are fraught with desperation regarding the atrocities occurring in their homeland just now and as an American, I am deeply ashamed of the recent decisions by our current “leadership”.
Further down the street, Extinction Rebellion is also holding a peaceful protest near the bridge over the Liffey River. If you haven’t heard of the Extinction Rebellion movement, you will. They too are desperate with their message, which is about the fact that we are running out of time before climate change wreaks a havoc we cannot stem.
And it’s interesting to me to listen to the talk of my fellow tourists on the street about their opinions regarding this “movement”. About how the folks participating in these events aren’t doing enough personally to make their message valid. That they might only be doing this for “attention”. Well, this is exactly what the powers that be want us to think. To so wrap us up in the guilt surrounding our own daily lives that we lash out at those trying to cause some systemic shifts in large level corporate and governmental practice. I think about how I flew in an airplane to get here to Ireland, and that I will fly some more in the coming months to do the work I do, and I do feel some guilt. But I also know I am doing what I can, where I can. Small shifts. I’m opting out of consumerism where I can, shopping only second hand for most things. That sort of thing. But at the end of the day, I live in a system that is largely out of my control, and Big Change will only occur on a large scale. Extinction Rebellion aims to force that change. I say good on em.
Eventually, I make my way to Trinity College, Dublin. The place is thronged with more and more tourists like myself. But it is beautiful regardless.
There is a wedding happening in the midst of the collegiate and tourist atmosphere which is lovely.
Ivy grows on on walls old and new.
I make my way to the Trinity Library where the Book of Kells is housed.
Over the course of the next hour I read about this ancient tome and how it found its way from the monks of olden times to its climate controlled home at Trinity. It is remarkable it survived.
It is almost too much to take in in such a short visit but I find the imagery to be evocative and inspiring. The work of these monks inspired an old artist friend of mine, Cindy Matyi to make her Celtic inspired works and much of what I see at the library brings her to mind.
Eventually we leave the Book of Kells display and make our way up to the Long Room of the library at Trinity.
Even with the crowds, the Long Room is breathtaking and I wander and take photos as best I can. I can only imagine what this place is like when the masses are gone and a real and genuine quiet descends once more. Surely the ghosts of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker stop in now and again?
With another hour left in my solitary time, I head back toward the General Post Office to take their tour on the Easter Rising. I think about what those rebels risked for what they believed in. And how they eventually gave their lives. I can’t help but think that some people may have thought they were crazy for doing what they did at the time (much like some think currently about Extinction Rebellion), and yet most scholars agree that it was the Easter Rising which set the course for the eventual forming of the Irish Republic.
This is all history that I barely know the surface of, but I am grateful for the stories told which get my mind buzzing and contemplating the state of our world now. Countries still fighting over lands in other places of the world. Border tensions even here in Ireland are set to have some potential issues with a hard brexit on the horizon. The Troubles are never far from anyone’s mind here. Peace and prosperity are tenuous at best. We would all do best to remember that.
Our bus ride home is a rainy one. We snooze a bit and chat about the day quietly.
I’ll admit to being rather exhausted after a day in town. Today has been busy getting a few things sorted before I hit the road tomorrow to the West. I’ll be hiring a car and driving it which I have not done this side of the Pond in a good many years. But with a little parking lot practice today to jog the memory, I think I’ll be just fine.
The rain has finally stopped and so I am writing a bit here before we go gather dinner ingredients. There is time for a walk to the sea for some fresh air.
Tomorrow travels resume. I shall be in touch when and where I can, as my tech set up will get a bit wilder from here. It is a delicate balance between soaking the travel experience in personally, catching up and spending time with loved ones, crafting material for this blog, all while attempting to make art and music along the way.
But I am keen to try to do it all.
ps. Here is the Brian Boru Harp, also housed in the Long Room at the library. It is a thing of beauty….
Miraculously, I make it through a full day yesterday with only the one quick nap, crashing to bed around 10 pm local time. (After a delicious dinner of curry and catching up with Ireland based dear ones, of course.) Traveling eastwards across the Atlantic on a redeye flight wreaks havoc on one’s inner equilibrium with regard to time and so powering through this day is important. The journey was uneventful, if not a bit bumpy and I am grateful for a safe arrival and a lift here to the village from the airport in Dublin.
Today is a brand new day and I manage to roust myself out of bed while it’s still morning. The village of Blackrock in Co. Louth is seaside charm personified. We walk for a cup of coffee at a place called Rocksalt, where the latte is artful divinity. Out the window to the alleyway, we watch workers come and go, to and fro and admire an old Renault parked there. I think I might like an old car such as this, if I lived in a place such as this….
Though the cafe is crowded with freelance workers as well as those there for breakfast and conversation, it is still quite subdued and quiet. This is something I have noticed on other visits to this country, things are more quiet here. I can hear myself think which is really nice.
After coffee we step outside for the wander home and I take a quick snapshot and a few seconds of video to show you how very lovely it is here. (note to self on video with phone in future – turn the damned thing to the side!)
We have been greeted with a gorgeous day, complete with a bit of sunshine and a lovely cool breeze. I am not sure what the rest of the day will bring my way. For now, I am enjoying just settling in. Listening to the quiet of this workaday seaside village, hearing the quiet of my own thinking which is a welcome change.
It is my hope in the coming weeks to keep in touch with you all on the blog here, with photos and updates. I did, after all the hemming and hawing, opt to bring a few oil paints as well as my usual sketching supplies, so perhaps I’ll have something to show in that department as well.
ps, 2 months into this decade we call ‘the fifties’, and I am really liking it thus far.
Too fast paced of late. Frenetically crossing to-do lists off as if penance for up-coming traveling. Only time out of doors can check this process. Finally the temperatures drop to comfort level, leaving “hotumn” behind us.
October temperatures in the mid-nineties will make one crabby.
I find myself outside on a beauty-filled day. Collecting leaves, plotting a small hillside in the back for a new vegetable bed slated for next spring. Tunes wander through my head. I take a break to capture a bit of this ochered season with my camera. The old sweet gum tree in front is particularly lovely, dropping her petals into the main creek which is, miraculously, always running with a trickle even in the driest of times. There are little skimmers paddling along in their own little world, which I suppose they do with our without our observation.
I put together a slow paced little gathering of sweet gum and skimmers for you here. The music is used with permission and is by Nuala Kennedy. Once upon a time I did a little art work for the cover of the album where this track can be found. The whole collection is divine and if you haven’t heard it, you should.
It is my hope that in this busy time of harvesting and preparing for the darker days of the season, you too might find the time to settle down for a spell and take in the small wonders.
~Irish saying that translates literally as “People live in each other’s shadows.” (via @nualamusic)
Today is the 30th of September, and the facet of my heart that shines brightest in New Mexico sunlight beats in time with those of my soul family there as they celebrate the Feast of San Geronimo.
This celebration is sacred to my friends, and we don’t talk much about the meaning of it all. Rather we bask in the company of one another, we celebrate a successful harvest with food and community and we encourage the Lady of the Mountain to don the golden colors of autumn.
There is talk of Shadows when the Koshares appear to wreak a bit of havoc, which adds to the festival atmosphere.
It is a day to sit in communion with the land and the mountains and the folks who live on and with it. Today I send a lot of love out into the cosmos, especially to my beloved Land of Enchantment.
“It’s all about balance, do you see? Balance is the trick. Keep the balance and – ” she stopped. “You’ve ridden on a seesaw? One end goes up, one end goes down. But the bit in the middle, that stays where it is. Upness and downness go right through it. Don’t matter how high or low the ends go, it keeps the balance.” She sniffed. “Magic is mostly movin’ stuff around.”
~Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
Skies are moody this morning. Day-job work and exercise loom on the to-do list, yet pondering the still point of the season feels crucial. My eclipse siblings of the soul were here last night, a gathering to mark the autumnal equinox. There was talk of “shedding or casting off that which no longer serves us.” (Thank you for that M.) Which is wise talk indeed. For me, that is this notion of “busy-ness”, the internal ‘hurry, hurry!!’ feeling in the center of my chest, a trap of sorts to which society programs us for falling into. To choose to sit and write or draw for a few moments each morning is a radical act of defiance some days.
The key to it all is balance. To be the center of life’s seesaw when we can, as Esmerelda Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching do with such grace. It is a strange thing to be a slow-cooker in a microwave, insta-pot kind of age. And yet sinking into my own pace, my own slowness, affords me the deeper work I strive for. In the long run, allowing my own pace magically gets more of my best work done, my best self in the world. And so, on this Monday, the Autumn Equinox, I look for balance in a world gone mad. And do my best to center in the midst of it all.
At the beginning of this month, I alerted a few eager early birds that I was about to embark on registration for the Taos 2020 Travel Sketch class at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s. Then just last week I opened up registration to anyone interested. After a flurry-filled week of inquiries and emails, text messages and notes back and forth with old and new participants alike, I am pleased to say, the workshop is sold out!! This is the earliest this phenomenon has ever occurred and I am thrilled. Thrilled that this work speaks to so many, thrilled to be heading back to Taos next summer with a full roster of fellow artists – both seasoned and newly learning their craft.
I am simply over the moon!!
June 2020 is in some ways, quite far off, but it comes around faster than one might expect and I’ll be ready with exciting new things to try in our sketchbooks by then. I am already looking forward. If you missed the call for this workshop, you still have some options. First, reach out to me and get on the waiting list. Plans can sometimes change for people unexpectedly which occasionally might open up a slot for someone else. I am contemplating adding a slot or two extra but need to contemplate this and talk it over with my trusted advisors and the team at Mabel’s. Those on the wait list would be the first to know if anything opens up for any reason.
You can also join me in Guatemala in early spring. Details on dates and costs can be found here. I have limited space in each of the two weeks being offered there and I believe it is only a matter of time before this trip too is sold out. Antigua, Guatemala is a gorgeous, quite cosmopolitan city which carries color and beauty and an ancient magic all its own. It is the perfect way to warm up during the depths of winter! So consider this option perhaps.
Other teaching outings are in the works for California next spring, generally the Bay Area and environs, so if you are local to there, reach out to me and I’ll put you on that mailing list. Right now we are looking at the first weekend in May and possibly some other dates around that time and in that general vicinity to make it that much more worth a trip to the Left Coast.
And so now, I get back to the making of things. Back to tending the craft that allows me to teach these workshops in the first place. I can smell an autumnal journey on the winds about which I am very excited. I’ll be sure and write from the road.
As always, consider getting on the mailing list to get all of the latest news from here. Social media can be a lot of fun but those pesky algorithms do keep us hustling to get the work into the world.
We can see it in the light just lately. A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.
This morning I take the dogs outside. I take note. And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.
I begin looking closer. The colors beckoning.
Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.
Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.
Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike. On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.
I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them. We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is.
My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.
The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville. I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.
It’s like the hand of a small maker. Which is how I feel at times.
Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon. Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.
There just never seems to be enough time for all the things. But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….
I am grateful for this reminder.
At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9. (And a banjo. He must have a banjo.) So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.
More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..
In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.
Asheville dog culture is wonderful.
It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering. All was quiet and peaceful. But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer. I look forward to next year.
It’s been a wild few days. Outward, ever outward. Shining toward others, ever deserving. Our oldest ‘small’ is returned to the midwest from Aspen‘s heights. He is beginning a master’s course of study in violin performance, settling into a house he’s rented from a family we know well. This gives me the hope that he is therefore surrounded by an extra layer of love as he embarks on this new chapter. I took a day this last week to make the drive out to his new hometown to purchase that first round of groceries (which always proves to be so costly when one is in one’s 20’s) and to have lunch with him and make sure he’s really and truly back from Colorado.
One never knows.
Turns out he’s properly returned. And feathering his new Indiana nest with joy and hope for the future.
Into the weekend we plummet. Another road trip to see an art show in Columbus with a couple of long time artful friends and the younger ‘small’ herself, also settling into early adulthood. It is a wonderful thing when one’s adult children begin to weave their way into our adult lives becoming yet another friend with whom to share experience and art and life. We walk her new dog, marveling at the blessings of *neighborhood* and *community* and the gifts they entail.
The show, In a New Light, Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement, is stunning and well worth the visit. The artist’s use of color is at once familiar and cosmic and I become that annoying art viewer with glasses on getting as close to the work as possible, studying brush strokes and color choices up close. I even purchase the catalog. The show is that great. My friends and I study Alice Schille’s life’s arc and timeline and decide she may have known our beloved Mabel. Would they have gotten along? Who could tell. Mabel was a tricky customer. But Alice was making her art. And this is commendable.
The weekend barrels on for myself and my family and while I so enjoy the celebrations and time together, I find myself twitchy today and though quite tired, get the paints out…..
Inspired as I have been by Alice’s work, the watercolors aren’t enough and I reach for the oil’s…..
And I knock out a couple of landscape paintings I am not entirely disappointed with. Not a bad afternoon’s work for one feeling torn in too many directions. One painting feels a bit like home here on the northern edges of Appalachia (culturally speaking at least, for you geographic purists). It is an expression of the days of late August, goldening on into September.
The other is more of a reaching out to the bog lands of Ireland where I will find myself in a matter of weeks. (Still considering taking a small set of oils. Thoughts, dear readers????)
Either way, regardless of where my heart is feeling tugged from one moment to the next, PAINT is always a player -at least in my mind if not in practice- and I am learning more and more (finally) to turn to it when I can, as well as to the trusty old drawn line. I find comfort in the art. I can settle into it. It’s become less something I avoid for *all the usual excuses* and more a place I run toward for solace.
I am thankful for days of celebrating family. And for friends who will travel to see a proper art show. I am thankful for women who made art in a time when it might not have been so fruitful or safe to do so. Have you seen the movie Packed In a Trunk? You should.
Tomorrow is a normal Monday. I have work at the shop to do. Household things to attend to in between attending to the *art mind and body* as it were. Life has to happen. How do you all balance the art making with the need for family time, as well as the solitude which feeds the work and self care?
How can we shut out the world for a bit enough to do our work while not ignoring the realities of the modern age? It’s a tricky business and I welcome any suggestions.
We are home from Maine, landlocked once again to Ohio.
Ohio is not without its beauty to be sure. There have been errands to run, adjustments to be made, momentous birthdays to acknowledge and celebrate.
Suddenly I realize it has been a coon’s age since I had my paints out mixing and dancing their way around the palette. I must dive back in.
August breezes, when they blow, are humid and hot. I figure this weather is a strange combination of the dooming of climate-change and good old-fashioned late August in the mid-west. How are we to know?
Storms do break up the monotony of late summer. They make for dramatic skies and monumental cloud forms.
From the West, always, the clouds gather.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of age that clouds and birdsong catch my attention now more than ever. I seek to paint them in between the expectations of a busy, modern life.
This past weekend there were tunes, on tunes, on tunes. Again I remember – this makes for intense happiness in my heart – I recommit. The painting and the music are inextricably linked. I may not be very good at either, comparatively speaking. But each makes my small heart sing. And surely this is a measure of something in the world.
Something. – in the epoch of our own humanity. We are but a blip in the matrix of the Universe as we know it, and yet we seek these bits of joy and meaning like spiritual breadcrumbs of a sort.
There are more tunes slated for this evening when a few of us gather to choose the autumnal soundtrack for the Riley School of Irish Music. Tomorrow is a road trip to settle one of the smalls (newly returned from western adventures) into his next adventure in grad school. It is good to have him near at hand once again.
Travel beckons again soon. I find myself already getting organized for a weekend trip to Sheboygan in September and a longer journey back to Ireland in October. Some day if I truly settle in one place, it will be a strange day indeed. I embrace this traveling side of myself and am grateful for those loved ones who keep the dogs fed and the home fires burning when I am away. It does not escape me that I am truly fortunate.
When I travel, I travel lightly. I do not plan to take the oils to Ireland this go round as I’ll be on the go more often than not. But I have ordered a new sketchbook and I have extra watercolorey books to pack as well.
The goldening, autumnal season will see me diving back into a world of words each morning once again to find my way through the dark of winter. There is nothing quite like pouring a cup of coffee, lighting a candle and putting pen to paper. This might keep me sane in the dark months to come. But so will hitting the road, discovering and re-discovering new places and new tunes.
What plans do you have this late-summer/early-autumn to feed your soul? How do you survive winters in general? What have you drawn or painted lately? As always, I’d love to know.