All posts by amy

Joy of a Simple Tune

~Twist of Hemp~ Week 5

John Joe Badger has worked and worked for weeks on his own, amidst countless cups of tea, and twigs on the fire in the woodstove.  This week, in spite of his misgivings, he accepts the invitation of friends to share a few tunes.  Perhaps he will try to play the one simple tune he’s (mostly) learned for them on his pipes.  Or, more likely, he will play his flute or penny whistle.

But tunes are made to be shared.  And for this John Joe is grateful.

In my ears

In this past year, I had the opportunity to do some album cover art for a delectable collection of Christmas tunes crafted by Andrew Finn Magill.  You can hear a sample below or contact Andrew directly for a copy.  It’s worth the effort to obtain, I can assure you.  A gentle take on holiday music which really sets the tone of things.

And while we are on the subject of setting the tone of things, this gem has been on repeat here this morning:

I’ll let this write up tell you about the project, but for me, the album simply casts a magical spell.  It’s perfect music for artful gleanings….

And this, via my friend and flute teacher extraordinaire, Nuala Kennedy.  It too is lovely and mood changing.  And I highly recommend it.  Here’s a review which sums it all up beautifully.

And lastly, you know me, I adore what’s known as “pure drop” traditional Irish music.  I picked up this album while in Ireland and I’ll admit that it’s my go-to happy music to play in the car recently.

What are you listening to that helps to create your world as you would like it?  What might happen if we were to more carefully curate what comes into our sphere of consumption?  For me, the world becomes a slightly gentler place in which to forge the beauty I am so keen to offer.

 

Untitled

“So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear. But autumn was waning fast; slowly the golden light faded to pale silver, and the lingering leaves fell from the naked trees.” —J.R.R. Tolkien

A week’s time into the hiatus from the more time consuming of social media platforms.  It is surprising to me how little I miss them.  The season of gratitude and a shared meal around the home table is past and we are thrust into the highlight of the capitalist calendar.

We resist.  

We walk in the woods.  We play music and sketch.

a recent Irish Music session, also attended by the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers
Music at my flute maker‘s home. Their dog, Ruby, occupies the best seat in the house as we play and she dreams.
In which the written musical page appears, as happens when our Jack is home for a few days.

We maintain gratitude for the littlest of things.

We tend to them with care and full presence.

Still we grieve.  Also with care and full presence.

Notice how River’s name on the “tower of love” happens to find itself situated beneath that of a Shitty Cat.  I wonder of the story there….

Most of all, we rest.

As promised to myself, I practice the art of slowing down, of diving into deep time.  Knitting, reading, drinking tea.  A gentle but firm pressure on the reset button.  It is good.

There is still *busy-ness*, as there is in life.  Appointments to be kept, jobs and presentations to attend to.  But it is all a bit less noisy and for that I am deeply grateful.

Here are a few of the delightful things occupying my mind, eyes, ears and heart of late….

This book:

And this one:

I look forward to a catalyst for dreaming due out in the coming months by Jackie Morris.  Even the updates on the process of its creation are delicious.  Consider supporting The Unwinding. (click the link, there is a beautiful video.)

A friend of my daughter’s turned her ears to a podcast….

“Reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it.”  ~Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I’ll admit to a bit of back and forth between the lovely depth and gentility of this wonderful consideration a favorite series of mine, and the live news coverage of impeachment hearings going on in my own country.  Somehow, the magical world of Harry Potter seems to make more sense than the one here in the not-so-United States, especially when viewed through a blind republican lens.

Via email, I receive updates from another podcaster, Jocelyn K. Glei.  Her show Hurry Slowly began as a mindful methodology toward higher productivity, but has become a meditation on transformation of spirit, so sorely needed in the world right now.  In her newsletters, she collects and shares lovely links which create a rabbit warren of inspiration.  Much like I do here.

Since logging off of social media, I’ll admit that the sensation of “writing for the proverbial no one” is a bit more pronounced.  But I have no fear of missing out as it were.   Instead, I am wondering how I might be able to do these longer breaks more often.  I am glad of the gift of time.

Have you opted for some time off on the social media channels?  How do you balance your online time?  Are there blogs or newsletters to which you subscribe which bring you joy outside of the soundbyte realm?  I’d love to know.

PS, for Mary Oliver…..  coffee and rainy days indeed!!  <3

 

*PHLOOFF*

~A TWIST OF HEMP – Embarrassing Blowouts~

……With much practicing, John Joe Badger has learnt most of a simple jig.  He has invited a couple of his closest friends and confidants over for a cup of tea to share it with them.  But lo!  Just when John Joe reaches the B part, *phlooofff!!*….. An embarrassing blowout!  His friends do their utmost not to laugh, as these things do happen.  Especially in the beginning. 

The fecks continue to fly, of course, yet John Joe carries on.  His friends are delighted at his progress, in spite of the leaks, the blowouts and the goose-like cacophony of his playing.  Keep practicing John Joe!  Oh, and maybe a little twist of waxed hemp to shore up that connections between your bellows and your bag, yes?  Yes. 

Flying Fecks

~A TWIST OF HEMP~ week 3 of John Joe Badger’s journey into Uillean Piping……

John Joe is diligent in his efforts on wrestling the octopus-like instrument we call the Uillean Pipes.  Gallant even!  But there are times during this journey when one might hear some rather colorful phrases coming out of the woodshed, or round the kitchen door.   John Joe realizes he has taken on a beastly task here, and that this will not be easy.

With every mistake, out of tune squawk, honk, or (occasionally, miraculoustly) note, John Joe looks up, takes another deep breath and tries again.  Letting the flying curses fall where they may….

Ode to a good dog

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

We’ve been wandering a bit close to the proverbial bone in these parts of late.

We always think we have more time…..

Once upon a time, we went for one puppy, and came home with two.

We didn’t really intend to, it just happened.  And it was perfect.

River was the unexpected one.  And he lived a life of such heart….

“If you’ve been thinking you’re all that you’ve got,
Then don’t feel alone anymore.
When we’re together, then you’ve got alot,
‘Cause I am the river and you are the shore.”

“Winding and swirling and dancing along,
We pass by the old willow tree”

“And it goes on and on, watching the river run,
Further and further from things that we’ve done,
Leaving them one by one.
And we have just begun watching the river run.
Listening and learning and yearning.
Run, river, run.”
Iris and River have been together from the beginning.  Though not litter mates, they came home to us as a pair and have been inseparable.  We will have to keep an eye on our old girl now, and give her some extra love and attention and patience.  Tonight, before River left us, she crawled into bed with him, as she’d done a thousand times before…..
Within an hour or so after that, he was gone.  He had had a stroke in the afternoon, but seemed ok.  Sure we are used to seizures in Iris and maybe with a little rest he’d be fine.  But alas, he slipped away peacefully.  For this peaceful passing we are deeply grateful, but it will be a long while yet until his presence has truly left our home.
Rest in Peace sweet pup.  Run, River, run.

The Dryness of Winter – A Twist of Hemp

~A TWIST OF HEMP – humidity~

….. in which we deal with dryness.  It is far too cold in the woodshed for John Joe Badger to practice his pipes.  He must bring the noise making inside where it is warm and dry.  Dry, yes.  Winter is dry.  And the pipes find themselves leaking air in all directions.  What is John Joe to do???  Well, he shores up leaky connections on his borrowed practice set with a twist of hemp thread, made sticky with a bit of beeswax.  He puts a full kettle on the stove top to boil.  These two things may help get John Joe through these trying, leaky, dry times.  For today at least……

John Joe’s struggles are my own.  I practice the pipes as much as I can, when I can find time alone in the house.  They are loud!  And not yet pleasant.  (For others at least.) The dryness that comes with a “forced air” heating arrangement is mitigated a bit with cool mist humidification and of course, putting the kettle on as much as possible.  It does help.  And so does the bit of hemp and beeswax.  It all feels very old fashioned.  It’s testing parts of my brain and motor memory which need the exercise!  I may never get to the point of playing this contraption out in the world.  But who knows?  I will say that I already have next week’s John Joe drawing idea in mind.  And it involves flying curses.  Til tuesday…..

Keep on playing!

 

Let us keep courage

Fine Folk grace the pages of my sketchbook, along with wise words from the wisdom keepers I trust.  I look to these wisdom keepers as beacons, following their light,  as will-o-the-wisp….. into the darkness.

One such beacon, writer Robert Macfarlane, was featured in an interview with Krista Tippett of the program On Being.  They discuss a recent book of his called Underland which is a gorgeous, lengthy tome; an exploration of the world beneath our feet as seen and sensed from a variety of angles.  It’s the kind of book that deserves to be by one’s bedside to fill the mind with juicy and delicious language as a doorway into dreaming.  This book apparently took Macfarlane 6 years to complete.  He dipped into other projects along the way of course, but this one crept along, under everything else it would seem.  It was worth the wait.

Underland explores a concept of Deep Time, one that is beyond human, but which can be tapped into by those of us with the proper notions to do so.  If you have been reading my ideas here over the years, you know this is something I hold dear, this time-bending.  I believe it is at the heart of the things we treasure as human beings.  Good art, rich poetry, the ability to go beyond the day to day.  To send our cultural tap roots down into the flow of All Things and perhaps channel something up.  All of this of course takes time and practice.  And there are no guarantees.

“CAESURA”

‘In verse, a pause in the rhythm of a line after a phrase; in choral work, a moment where singers might catch their breath.’

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

I really admire the depth of the work of writers such as Macfarlane, and I look to them for clues as to how to dig deeper into my own work.  Art as well as writing.  Even on social media channels, he and others like him make places like twitter and instagram into arenas of culture and idea-weaving.  I aim to do the same, having curbed my own use of such channels into avenues of art and music.  It’s a tricky balance in a world filled with instant sound-bytes and the next great and funny thing.  Last week Macfarlane announced he will be off of twitter for a while with the word caesura and its definition.

I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that.’

The idea of taking a break from social media is by no means a new one, by myself or anyone else for that matter.  There are books on digital detoxing which I have looked to when desperate for a break from it all.  Lately, thankfully, I have not felt desperate to leave the online arenas of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  I have them fairly well and carefully “curated” in order to see things which inspire me.  New books to read, artists to research and learn something from, science to pique my curiosity and better my stewardship of my little part of the world.   I choose when and how to get my “news” as that can be fraught with peril in this day and age.  We must be careful what we feed ourselves, body and mind.

And yet, although not desperate to leave per se, I could use a break.  What keeps me tethered to the usual channels is the business end of things.  Usually, I am in marketing mode this time of year.  Selling my classes to Taos and Guatemala.  Hustling to show the world that yes, we go to beautiful places, have an amazing time together and make a bunch of gorgeous work.  (WE DO!!!!! )  And this is all part of my job.  But this year, I have been given a great gift…..  My classes for 2020 are mostly sold out (there are two slots left in the second week of the Antigua offering. That’s it!)  For once, I can relax a little bit.  And so I am considering a break over the holidays.

If this idea comes to fruition, I’ll be off of twitter, facebook and instagram from Nov 29 – Jan 1.

I wonder sometimes, if I make something, or write something, but I don’t shout it into the void of the social media platforms, have I really created anything?  This is the culture we are sold in this modern age.  I would like to confront this culture, especially in my own mind.  I’d like to follow some breadcrumbs of my own making just to see where they may lead.  Without the pressure to report.

This will be an interesting experiment.  I just began a weekly story idea which will continue to grow here, but folks will have to come find it, or wait until the New Year when I get back into the swing of things of sharing.  Soon, I’ll be packing for Guatemala and sharing via instagram sun-kissed, color-washed images of our time in Antigua.  It is in this way I beckon to future students to step into the sunshine with me and come on along!!  But with the classes filled to brimming, and a lovely waitlist padded out for Taos, I feel I can take the social media break I’ve been craving for years, without having to crash and burn mentally to get it.  It’s a good place to find myself.

So we shall see.  It is always a balance.  I may yet shift this plan into something less stringent.  But I am always leaning toward trying a new tactic with regard to my presence in the online world.  And for once I have the space to do so.

In other news…….

With Riley School out for break,  I am back to sketching along with my mates in the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers.  Last week we had a “boUrban sketchers” outing where we tasted bourbon at New Riff distillery.  It was great fun!!  Come along with us sometime!

I have a few paintings up at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s winter Collective show, EMERGE.  This one below was the belle of the ball.  I received many complements and offers to buy it.  But alas, it was snatched up by a private collector just days before the show.  I think the theme is one I’d like to explore further.  The quietude of this piece seemed to speak to a number of people.

The other work on which I received a good bit of feedback is this little lovely, Bonny Hills,  whose skies are filled with subtle color.  This is a second theme I hope to explore further in more paintings in the new year.  This one has not yet sold….  One of my fellow collective members said to me, I get the sense you were meant to be in Ireland.  How right she is.

In the music arena, the Riley School of Irish music will present its annual holiday program Peace and Merriment,  at 2 pm December 14.  Our address is 2221 Slane Avenue in Cincinnati.  Hope to see you there!  We also play a weekly session out in town: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays we can be found at Ludlow Garage in Clifton, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays , Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  Stop in and say hi!

 

On Crafting One’s World

Today I have the great pleasure of presenting a bit of my illustration work and sketchbook process to some college students at a local university.  So I have been collecting a few of my books and drawings and have been thinking deeply how all of this stuff has affected and changed life as I know it.  It’s amazing really.

Yes, I am an artist by trade and vocation.  But I don’t think one has to be An Artist to find one’s path through life in an artistic manner.

Human beings are born makers.

When we pay attention to who we believe we are and we surround ourselves with the things that reflect that story, with all its urges, aspirations and processes, we develop a perspective that’s uniquely ours to share.  In turn we can share that unique perspective and, acting from a place of greater wholeness and awareness, thus become better and more useful members of our community.”

~Khristopher Flack

” I never knew I was creating a world which was an antithesis to the world around me which was full of sorrow, full of wars, full of difficulties.  I was creating a world I wanted, and into this world, once it is created, you invited others and then you attract those who have affinities and this becomes a universe.”

~Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin

A Twist of Hemp

Meet John Joe Badger. …. and his story in the coming weeks.


….. and……

And maybe,

 

A borrowed practice set of Uillean Pipes. Loads upon loads of humility and patience. A fair bit of time. And patience. (Did we mention humility?) And humor too, of course.  And we mustn’t forget the tea. Cups upon cups of tea. (I hear he’s partial to Lyon’s, with a splash of fresh milk).

These are just a few of the things John Joe Badger will need as he begins his journey down the perilous and noisy road of learning a bit about the Uillean piping tradition in Irish music. There will be blowouts, embarrassment, hours alone in the woodshed. (And more ungodly sounds!) But our John Joe is keen. He’s made a few friends on this same tricky path already and he’s acquired a teacher whom he’s fairly certain is a saint or perhaps an angel disguised as a fellow Irish musician.

This is week one of A Twist of Hemp. A little set of storied pictures of a timid badger making his way, albeit clumsily, down this musical path. Stay tuned!!