I’ve been painting a bit. And writing. You can read about it all over on Patreon where I share a couple of exciting new projects I am to be a part of in coming weeks. Below is the link and as always, I appreciate your support of my work.
The last time we were renovating, we were relatively new to this house, busy with elementary school kids, eager to create a home for them that would grow with them. I catalogued those renovations back in the spring of 2008. Looking back to those posts and a host of others before and after on this lowly old blog, there is one small and constant voice in the comments section. (before I realized that there were comments!!) Just the one. I don’t think many people were reading my early efforts really. But Esme was.
Es was a dear friend of my kids. They bookended her in age and the three of them spent countless hours together. I wrote about losing her in this blog post from March 2009.
Today is the somber anniversary of that loss, a loss that rippled through a community in ways still being navigated. It’s been 12 years. Madeleine made the journey home from Columbus today and we met up at Spring Grove Cemetery to pay homage to a young life ended too soon. There is a tree there, planted in Esme’s honor and we made our way to it. I remember when the tree was first planted, Es’s dad Tom would personally hand carry big buckets of water over to it to make sure it had enough. So many trees in Spring Grove. He wanted to make sure this became a tree for the ages. It has.
There is something about the time in which we find ourselves just now – this pandemic – which has peeled some layers of vulnerability back on all of us. My kids, now young adults, may finally be able to look at what happened to Esme from a slightly broader perspective. Perhaps they even feel some company in grief, now that we find ourselves surrounded by it.
It is miraculous to stand amidst the boughs of this amazing weeping cherry and think of how much we have all grown over time. How much stronger we all are.
We can bear so much now, with love in our hearts, and the perspective of time.
This nation has lost 500,000 people. Like the virus that has us all at a stand still, grief rides the air and it can seep into everything. No one is left untouched. Perhaps we will support one another in grief and learn to live and love in kinder ways, I do not know.
What happened to Esme was a random and strange thing – a strike of lightning in a way. Violence against women is – and always has been over the ages – rampant, with some women more at risk than others. In every family, and for every young friend who loses someone – that loss shapes the lives of everyone touched in their lives.
This cannot be over-stated.
Sometimes when I consider the grief in the wake of this pandemic, or in the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous women, I think of Esme and of the affect her loss had on our lives. None of us were ever the same. We still grieve. And while we were her friends and we loved her dearly, we weren’t even her family. I think of the hundreds of thousands of families, and loving friends, who’ve lost someone this year and I know a bit of the road ahead.
Grief is a prickly thing. We all navigate it differently. But grief, much like birth and death, is something we share as human beings. And while the way through this journey of both grief and more broadly of being human is very personal, there are some tried and true paths which seem well lighted.
The gifts of music, art, nature, poetry and friendship (even if distanced just now) can be a bit of a healing balm through the tears. It is our only option really, to seek beauty through sadness.
We have not been without our rough times after the loss of Esme. Life is life, yes? But our kids never really went through a stereotypical stage of teenage rebellion as they were sort of catapulted into the realities of the world at a much too early age. The two of them have the most tender hearts, in part because of a Big Loss at such a young age.
We have a choice when we experience loss. We can either harden, or deepen. With the tools of art, music and kinship, we can choose to deepen (perhaps not right away, but eventually). As painful as it might seem at the time, deepening is better than hardening, yes?
This time of year is normally fraught with a bit of tension. The Irish music and dance arenas are on full throttle and we can tend to bottle up or bury the sadness of years past. This is ok, and a very human thing to do. We mark this anniversary in our own private ways most years. This year though, we are at a strange collective standstill and are given a small gift of space. A moment of silence to work into grief a bit, our own and that of the community at large, locally, nationally, globally. Let us not harden.
Let us grow, even with dark shadows at our heels. Let us deepen.
I wish you all peace. Through the grief of the age.
****this is public post also available at my Patreon Page. If you’d like to support my work and writing over there, the link is this: https://www.patreon.com/amybogard
We have taken the dogs and run away to Kentucky for a couple of days. Stop over to my Patreon site to get the full story. Your patronage is truly appreciated there. (even just a dollar each month!)
In other news here on this lowly old blog, I have engaged the tech services of a new person to help keep this place safe and ongoing. Welcome John! To Mary Beth, my long time, cheerful tech helper of all years in recent memory, I thank you for your patience and kindness. You’ll be missed.
I am still working out what needs to be “blog” and what needs to be “patreon”. But suffice it to say, it’s important to me that this ‘place’ here on the internet be maintained, that the kettle is always on and warm and that you are always welcome. We all need a little place to get away from the world now and then.
Just a quick nudge here to go give a follow to my new Daily Dog themed instagram account @dog_drawn_good where I will post my doodles and paintings and etc. of the dog at hand. Likely mostly Philomena. But Charlie might make her way in there sometimes as well.
Also, come visit me over on Patreon! I could use the support of my work in these weird, untravelable times. Patreon is allowing me to meet my studio bills and I really appreciate it. Even a dollar a month makes a difference.
Ever yours in deep gratitude.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way to begin
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
heroics, be humble
start close in,
for your own.
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
A David Whyte poem from
River Flow: New & Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press
This week’s pupdate:
Philomena is a very busy young dog. We are all about redirection around here as well as making sure our new puppy gets enough exercise to keep her energy at a reasonable level. While it is tiring, as she still wakes a time or two for a tinkle in the middle of the night, we are also having a tremendous amount of fun. Philomena makes us laugh. A lot. (ps. a frozen wet washcloth is great for teething. Better than toes, frozen or otherwise.)
Philomena is engaging and curious and quite a quick learner. Last night at bed time, she didn’t even whine when she was placed in her kennel den for the night. She then awoke once at 530 am to go outside, only to go back to sleep in her den until we were ready to get up for the day. She’s figuring out her routine amidst our lives here, and trying her best to make friends with Charlie.
Charlie is having none of it. We respect her in this regard.
After all, Charlie did not choose to get a puppy.
Yesterday Philly walked all the way around a neighborhood block here. It took some coaxing with small bits of chicken to get her to come along, but in the end I think she was glad she did. She is getting to know the neighborhood a bit.
After her walk, which required her walking with the leash, she was given a bit more freedom. Philomena used her free time to chew on a stick. It’s life’s little pleasures, isn’t it?
Today, a work day, Philly donned her leash once more for a neighborhood jaunt. On this walk, colder and more windy, she was carried a bit of the way. But there were still bits of chicken for paying attention to me and for listening when I call her name, and all in all this too was a fine walk indeed.
In a time which seems like a lifetime ago, I used to run marathons as a sort of side hobby. I ran the weekdays with babies in a stroller and managed a long run on the weekends. In the end I took on 7 of these races and while I was no Olympian, I managed to place now and then. More importantly I made some friends and kept in touch with the self in me that had nothing to do with early motherhood. Raising small children, while undoubtedly a most rewarding and important job, is lonesome and occasionally mind-numbingly dull work. Marathoning gave me a balance amidst it all and enabled me to be a bit of a better mom. Essentially, I ran marathons to survive early motherhood.
Now it would seem that coin is flipped. The pandemic we are experiencing in the world is no sprint. It is definitely more of a marathon. I heard from friends in the UK that lockdowns are in place once more there. There are no lockdowns here, though we are experiencing a difficult season indeed. . The United States is once again acting like the lawless wild west of old, relying on people to make up their own rules along the way. As a result, we are dying in droves. While the vaccine roll-out does bring some hope, there is no end in sight to this pandemic. As Kristin Wigg of SNL fame put it the other day, “the trouble with a light at the end of the tunnel is that finally we can see how bad the tunnel really is.” I agree with her. And so we trudge along this marathon route, step by step, day by day, best we can. And to weather this marathon, we got a puppy.
Something about the structure that raising a new puppy requires, as well as the constant navigation of a fairly steep learning curve (each dog is a new universe in and of itself, is it not?), takes us outside of the panic in the world at large. Much like the structure of marathon running helped me deal with the panic of being a clueless young mother so long ago. I am so grateful for this.
And so here we are. A week in. Already in love. Registered for puppy kindergarten in January. This may or may not lead to some agility work for this little pup who is, indeed, a handful as we expected her to be. But while she is a handful at times, she is also the sweetest little thing.
When she settles down I enjoy doing a sketch of her.
There is no better way to get to know a dog than to draw them.
Ever moving, growing like a weed, it is hard to keep up.
But I aim to try.
We begin a new chapter in recent days. One filled with the sweetness of a puppy’s young breath while haunted and hunted by the pandemic. The weekend saw us driving northward a bit to collect a new dog whom we now call Philomena Amaryllis. A big name for a big personality. We are still getting to know her.
We encountered her through a local heeler group as I’ve been keen to get an Australian Cattle Dog mix of some sort. A dog who can keep up with my miles in the morning, Hub’s miles in the evening, and everything in between. They called her number 9 and something in her eyes reminded me of our wild and wise Iris Rose whom we lost last winter. We still grieve, but life goes on in spite of that.
We inquired about this young pup in particular and I enjoyed getting to know the young woman who would bring her to us once she was ready. Along the way she sent us routine photos of the pups and their parents, apparently from a farm home. I didn’t ask too many questions. Puppies are puppies and they provide us with a blank slate of possibility. They were clean and well cared for, what more could we want?
We made our decision to adopt number 9.
And so we brought her home a couple of days ago and things are fairly puppy centered in our home just now. I’m feeling a bit sleep-deprived and depleted with night-time puppy scheduling on top of some recent health challenges. But we are really happy with our new puppy. At least most of us are…..
Charlie, our sweet “canine house-cat” is not too keen on Phil’s addition to the family. But they occasionally find a peaceful moment.
We remain diligent in making sure Charlie’s quality of life and personal boundaries are respected and maintained, even with the addition of a rambunctious new pup. We give Phil plenty of time and space to run. I find her enchanting and engaging.
Phil was in a motley way when me met her, smelling of regurgitated puppy food as her brother had gotten a bit car sick on the drive down to us for the hand off. So much for her pre-trip bath!
We got her cleaned up and wrapped up and headed for home. She hardly moved a muscle the whole drive. Except when she was nursing in her dreams.
Arriving home we are already figuring out our schedule again as a household. We’ve dealt with the changing landscape of early puppyhood in the past and know that nothing lasts long. We simply spend time observing and correcting, training and treating. It’s a fun and fleeting time.
This week our talented builder, who’s been singlehandedly rebuilding our back room, tested positive for Covid-19. We have not had much indoor contact with him, and when we have it was always masked, but this is nevertheless quite worrisome. And so now we quarantine here with our new puppy. Socialization with neighbors and friends outdoors will have to wait until we make sure we are all healthy and well. Soon the spectre of the coronavirus will be made slightly less grim by the arrival of a vaccine. We merely bide our time in the meantime and try to keep hopes high.
This is not difficult to do with a new puppy in the house.
Today we are walking out in the yard more, allowing Phil to explore while teaching her that we are the source of all good treats and pats. We learn that she is really into traipsing through dried plant life in the garden and this brings her endless pleasure.
It is my sincerest hope that this activity will make for a restful night. But we shall see. This is puppyhood after all. We remain patient and diligent in equal measure.
You’ll be seeing a lot of Phil on this blog in due time. Drawings, paintings and the like. Dogs are my muse after all. Such a close tie to Nature itself. They remind us of our wild selves, all the while weaving themselves into our domestic lives and reminding us to root down into a settled life in the moment. We needed more of this concept in our lives after this devastating year.
Dreams, it would seem, do come true…..