It is summer. And with summer comes the heat of the season, and if we are lucky, perhaps the occasional cone of ice cream. This summer brings with it all kinds of new stressors beyond heat and humidity, and decisions much weightier than merely what flavor to choose at the scoop shop. We all know this.
John Joe Badger is taking a few moments away from all of the weightiness and is treating himself to some ice cream. Though it is a small thing indeed, he has decided to put his few dollars down behind the big ideas of a good company. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
I might not be as bold and loud with proclamations and performative (read social media postings for some) as Ben and Jerry’s, but rest assured, I am doing the quiet work over here. And hopefully, also continuing to make my art which has always felt like the boldest thing I can do in this world.
What’s your favorite flavor? And what are you doing to treat yourself kindly in between and amidst the very important work which needs doing? We must be in this for the long game, yes? Yes. Let us know.
ps. John Joe (and I) love mint chocolate chip and black raspberry chip generally, locally speaking. In the Ben and Jerry’s realm, Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Therapy. Yum!!!!!
I debated even posting a John Joe Badger drawing this week.
Where does my work illustrating anthropomorphic creatures even fit in to the fabric of things just now? I went for a long walk to do some thinking, and I kept coming back to the idea that the music that John Joe, and I, play is steeped in at least a couple of concepts connected to the times at hand.
And so, I sat down to draw a badger.
Irish music is joyful to the ear to be sure, and yet when you read Irish history, there is so much strife, oppression and “troubles” along the way. Music may have provided some solace to a country facing dark and challenging times. The tunes are a small something. Sometimes.
The troubles of one country aren’t the troubles of another of course. But maybe musical solace is something we can share.
The second concept I keep coming round to is that of listening. In the world of Irish music, there is no greater skill really than to listen. You can be a fab player of all the lovely tunes available to you, but if you don’t listen to the other players and to the players of history, your session experience will not be a successful one. The best sessions, the ones where we feel that deep sense of community and tuneful camaraderie, are the settings where each member of the musical community are listening, deeply listening to one another, while also listening to the history that got us here.
We find ourselves at a time in the United States where deep, communal listening is necessary. There are many ways to do this. There are many ways to protest recent atrocities and to amplify the voices of African-Americans who have for too long been sidelined.
Since John Joe Badger is primarily an illustrated character, I share with you this:
Children’s literature can shape young minds who will shape the future. Let us feed their minds with books that inspire a future we can be proud of.
I’ve barely published a thing. So I barely have a voice, really. But I believe in the power of story and of the drawn image. I believe in the idea of change and that this change can be driven via inspiring imagery.
This weekly John Joe illustration is my small offering, in this space, just now.
If you read this blog regularly and want further reading and deeper ideas on how to dig in and do the hard work, I suggest digging into the following:
This is Week 30 of my little series. Depending upon the state of things, John Joe and I may go on a bit of a hiatus until fall when things like velvet waistcoats, hot tea and strolls in the forest come back into fashion. But we may surprise you and keep going. I do not know.
Either way, through it all, the tunes and the tea will still be flowing. In hard times, joyful tunes and aromatic tea are a balm for the senses of a sensitive creature.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
It’s funny to me, my own internal cycles of inward-facing versus outward-facing; of intense productivity versus steeping an idea for a time. The notion of developing something a while and then, at the proper juncture, sitting down to implement that development into something real in the world, something which was once just an inkling in the outer reaches of my mind’s eye.
These cycles are no less apparent in my relationship to the online world. In the midst of this pandemic, and that amidst a country further mired and deeply more into trouble, I have once again, like so many I know, fallen into the trap of too much information and too much time on the standard culprits. It is time for a break. I’ve learned that I do not need to pull a Lorde and burn up my social media presence, rather I simply need to pull back into my own sphere for a bit to recalibrate.
“This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
A good while ago, knowing the news wasn’t going to get any better anytime soon, I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone (always a wise move even in the best of times) but it’s not enough. There must be a balance to these things. A balance of being informed but not inundated, of monitoring where my attention falls.
I have heard it said that what we do with our days is what we do with our lives. I believe this to be true. And so we must decide what we want our lives to be.
“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
There is a lot to take in just now. Heartbreaking news from every corner of the globe, but also breathtaking beauty in our gardens and new ideas to pursue in our imaginings. Neither of these things should outweigh the other. We must pay witness to the tragic, yet not dismiss the miraculous, however small or fleeting it may be.
We must pay attention to everything. Closely. It is what artist’s do really.
“Instructions for living a life. Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
One of the pitfalls of social media is the old “if a tree falls in the forest” concept. If one is not on facebook lamenting the latest lunacy from the white house, is one really informed or engaged at all? My answer is “yes”, perhaps even more so.
So while I may appear to disappear into the folds of my own little world here, you can be sure I am keeping up with the broader context. I might seem to be hiding in the garage making stop motion videos, or getting lost in an imaginary world where animals wear clothing. But rest assured, I am quietly staying informed. Engaged. We all just need a break sometimes.
A time in which to grieve the horrendous loss we are experiencing as a collective, to bear witness to ongoing atrocities in our “perfect union”, and yes, a time to weep at the beauty of the blooming of a simple spring flower.
“Attention, without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness – an empathy – was necessary if the attention was to matter.”
Raw December day, wet, dripping with rain and fog. Last night’s few inches of snow turn to slush and mud. I opt for a day home sketching and drinking tea after a busy weekend of music-making, and other such peopling. I am deeply grateful for a flexible schedule.
The paints have been fairly ignored recently, my hands opting for other activities. I know this is simply my way and the paints do call again eventually.
I work diligently on a set of mittens, maybe a second set if there is time. Gifts of heart and hand.
Iris rests in the studio room with me, both of us vying for the space nearest the space-heater.
The house is cozy, with the season’s usual suspects tucked into their places, remembrances of years past.
The paints have indeed been calling, which is why I take to them for a few sketches today. I can always feel the tug when it begins. I see something that I want to interpret. A scene or a landscape featuring a special light of some sort perhaps. And I want to delve in. This often finds me disturbingly out of practice.
Yesterday, before the snow came, I attended an art-book fair. I found it refreshing to wander the stalls of fellow artists and see they are still keen on political disruption, unable to sit with the state of things, pretending this is all *normal*. It is not normal and it will “not always be like this”. I hope this is true.
On route to the fair, I noted the beauty of a pre-snow sky as the backdrop to our city skyline. Today, I sketch from memory.
My friend Kim and I spend the late afternoon and early evening talking about art and resistance and I am refreshed. She shares with me the story of artist Charlotte Salomon, about whom she’s been reading and who’s work exploded from her while evading Nazi capture (and sadly, other evils even closer to home). Her tale has more to it than I can even begin to portray here, and I have ordered the books from the library to dive deeper into it all. In the meantime, there are many articles about her available which I have been reading today. Here are just a few along with some of her images…..
The sheer scale of her making is almost unbelievable. I think about Charlotte painting as if her life depended on it, with urgency and desperation to tell her story before it was too late and I am glad the work survived at all. Indeed, this storied work may very well be the world’s first graphic novel as it is now called. I simply can’t get enough of looking at these paintings.
I think about other artists whose work has captivated my attention, not only for the caliber in the work itself, but for the stories behind the work. Artists like Edith Lake Wilkinson and Alice Schille, both of whom I have mentioned in previous posts here and there, and both of whom I have found inspiring for their art-making lives.
And through the lens of the work of these artists who’ve come before me in the Grand Arc of Art History, I think about my own work in the world. I think about how it continues to evolve, stretched between words and image making, between material studies and experimentation. How it is never comfortable, and when it is, it gets boring. I wonder how many women artists, like myself or others, have flown under the radar their entire working lives. Many more than we might possibly count I would wager.
So on this quiet day, here is where my head is. I mentioned to a friend of mine the other day how spacious this time without the demands and distractions of social media has felt. We laughed that it’s a bit like when as a stay at home mother, your children first go to school (or perhaps when they leave for college) and suddenly, there is room in your head to actually think deeply. We in this world do not spend enough time pondering, wondering, engaging in our own thinking, following the mindful breadcrumbs offered from the gods of creativity.
I wish for everyone to give themselves the gift of this space. I believe the world at large could sorely use some quiet time.
I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast. This is not a bad thing. As I choose pie over cake any day.
Yesterday was my birthday. It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With. On paper I turned 50. But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really. Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere. From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses. They might give anything to be here.
“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood! Time for an adventure. Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)
Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….
“Old friends cannot be created out of hand. Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)
We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play. I for one simply can never get enough of the sea. In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible. I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature. I long to come home to that each visit. These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?
“Swimming, One Day In August
It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.
Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.
I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.
About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”
“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.” And so it is.
“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”
~Anne Frank via @annefrankcenter
Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile. I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views. But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events. I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing (even online) speaks volumes. Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).
It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote. “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”, I was asked.
Yes, this is different. No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking. Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time. The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.
It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance. The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it. The world is left wondering what the hell is going on. I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand. I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government. At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another. Not at the border, not at protest rallies.
And so where to from here?
On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world. Perhaps I have some wisdom after all. I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world. These will continue to be my focus and my center. But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others. I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world. It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning. The world needs more of us.
Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested. I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first. So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were. I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination. I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm. Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough. In other words I am tougher than I might seem.
Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space. Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.
“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.” ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)
There is love above all. And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to. The day might be long, the news might be dire. But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.
“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”
–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran
For me, to do my work, is to love the world. Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life. For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.
“You don’t have to move mountains. Simply fall in love with life. Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance. You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”
~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book. Her words make a world.)
So back again, to the breath and the work. I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……
“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”
~John Constable, 1821
For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you. To you quiet new ones, welcome. It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing. (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)
Happy birthday to me. Here’s to many more years.
ps, the art work I share here is often for sale. Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange. I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.
But first, there are tunes to play (yay!!… below I’ll list where we are playing locally in coming days) lists to attend to, errands to run.
In the meantime a favorite part of the work I do is to collect bits of ‘swag’ to present to my students upon arrival in whatever destination we may find ourselves. For the Antigua trip, I’ll gather a few things once I arrive to combine with things I’ve gathered here in Ohio- like little altoid watercolor sets to work with (this allows people to try new colors which might not be available in their own sets and to play with limiting their palette as an exercise).
I’ve crafted a keepsake illustrated map of some of our favorite haunts in Antigua which I’ll reproduce for my students. It’s fun! It is my hope that not only will this come in handy to know where they are as we sketch the city, but will also encourage them to create their own version in their own travel journals. We must always map our own course, I do believe.
There are stickers…. always stickers…..
….which encourage a bit of ‘mixed media -ness’ in our books. I’m sure to have a few more tricks up my sleeve but really the true gift will be that of spending time together, slowing down and enjoying this World Unesco Heritage city in all its glory. To say I am excited to return would be an understatement.
Here at home I have been gifted some tree cuttings to root as I re-think the stewardship of our little patch of land. I am mindful of what needs to be done in the garden, and perhaps more importantly, what needs NOT be done as well. Do check out the work of We Are The Ark in the hopes of re-wilding small places to create a network of healing in these times.
While I was making stickers at the library today for my workshops, I saved a bit of time to make some stickers for this cause as well. I’ve mentioned this notion of holding two things at once in our hearts, yes? We must do the work we do in the day to day, while also tending the wild places in the corners of our gardens and spreading the word about the need to be more mindful in this world. Limiting consumption where we can.
In this same spirit I am following closely the work of young activists who are striking from school when and where they can (usually Friday’s but I know it can vary region to region). Emma Reynolds has pulled together a number of illustrators to show solidarity with these brave voices and here is my little drawing…
That is the news from today. For now I am off to rehearse tunes with my musical mates. We don’t often have microphones thrust in front of us, and so we take a bit of time to practice for these once-yearly gigs.
You can find me here in the coming days……
Saturday: Arnolds Bar and Grill 8-1130 pm
Sunday: B-List Bar in Bellevue KY 4 pm-730 ish then Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel 9-12 (this is quite fancy)
I hope to see you there if you are local to this little river valley. More soon as I get set to hit the road very soon…..
“I don’t want realism. I want magic.” ~Tennessee Williams
There is much coming and going of late. Hither and thither we work and play. I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops. Antigua beckons…..
Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West. When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.
pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise. I was captivated by the murky depths. And miraculously I did not get sea sick.
Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner. Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum. Though to be fair, rum has its place.
If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold. And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..
We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.
There is magic around every turn there.
Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio. But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.
My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test. He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark. With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.
Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world. Music as well. This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.
Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks. This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue. It’s one of our favorite places to play. Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel. Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail. Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?
I am so grateful for the music.
And this music as well….
Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night. It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed. There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.
All is not angelic and ethereal round here however. As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala. This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong. I embark on that journey later this month.
But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work. That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.
I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.
All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge. This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.
My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.
Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.
Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough. And this is good.
And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues. While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this. We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.
I say this as a reminder to myself really. Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh – o – o …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes) This is all part of the process. I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.
Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in, always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work. I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts. I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.
To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc. I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day. And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.
But I do keep trying. And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……
I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October. We are thrilled!!!!
We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.
I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans. But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.
So much rich stuff ahead. And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well. I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. – This is not an easy task. But I aim to try, as I have for years now. To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change. It’s what the artists I most admire do best.
Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us. It’s terrifying really. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
New album, Songs of Instruction, by Kim Taylor, is now streaming…… I highly recommend it.
The wind blows and blows and blows today. The sort of ill-wind which sets my teeth on edge and often brings on a seizure spell in poor old Iris Rose, our resident canine barometer. Mother Nature seems to be telling us that she’s none-too-pleased with the state of things. And who can blame her.
“Cover me, cover me, cover me, cover me. All the leaves, all the trees, the storms and seas, just cover me.
Cuz I’m troubled by this world. I’m troubled by this world.”
~Kim Taylor (from her new album, Songs of Instruction
Today a random peek at my social media feed provides the gift of a beautiful new rabbit hole down which to venture. The evocative nearly 3 acre world of Bealtaine Cottage, a permaculture life and project of one Colette O’Neill of Co. Roscommon … (I know, I know, more Ireland…. but I don’t seem to be able to find quite the same specific, familiar magic here in the states – Ohio specifically. So here we are, in Ireland, once again.)
O’Neill seems to have a direct picc-line into the heart of all-earthy-things through her blog and video presence online. In her nearly 14 years of living with and on her land, she has documented her journey and now carries an enthusiastic following from like-minded folk around the world. I now consider myself one of them.
To watch and listen to a video post of Colette’s is to enter into another realm of sorts. She is not just a gardener. She is a guardian-er. She is the Bob Ross of Guardian-ing. (seriously, just go listen to her.) Today as I worked at the drawing table, I had her YouTube channel on, going from one meandering, thoughtful video to the next and I found myself transported. These are ad-free videos I might add. Which adds (no pun intended) to their appeal.
Long ago, when I first began this wee artful place of my own here on the inter-webs, a few kind souls, eager to see my art work and writing take flight, suggested I engage in making a bit of money here and there by allowing some thoughtfully chosen ads to roost in this online nest along side my own work. I’ll admit I thought about it.
The push to make money is a strong one in our society. But I realized that those ads might be like the greedy cowbird who comes into the nest seeking refuge and an easy birthing place, only to kick the original egg or fledgling inhabitants out onto the pavement replacing them with their own agenda. In the end, I decided to be ad free from the beginning, much like Keri Smith, whose blog and art I have also admired for many a moon. I have yet to regret this decision though it has meant only the slowest of growth in a world obsessed with scaling things to the next level.
Travel season is coming. I look forward to this, though I have mixed feelings about it to be honest. The workshops I teach involve my going far afield and this means flying- which isn’t the best way to treat the planet just now. But, for the time being, this is just how it has to be as I build things in my work. To mitigate this damage, I’ve taken to driving way less where I can here at home (have cut the day job commute to 2 days at most!) and keeping things as local as possible when I am in town. Small moves such as moving our family medical practitioner to one just up the street, versus clear across town, to name one example. Little things add up, I do believe. And it’s a start.
Our little patch of land has seen a great deal of change in recent years with the loss of trees suffering death and damage from the emerald ash borer, (to name just one culprit.) We have begun the replanting with apples, a new hawthorn tree and some berry bushes (who were nearly decimated by deer last season and so we will be fencing more properly this year).
As I begin to fly hither, thither and yon for my work, I will come home in between trips to plant trees. Willow, oak, maple. More fruit trees as well. We will have to protect them from the deer who can destroy everything in their path – this being no fault of their own really, just a sign of how out of balance things are in our little corner of the world. I am hopeful to put a fence around a small front garden patch to attempt a bit of a kitchen garden at least. With perhaps a trellis of sorts to provide a bit of shade on the front door now the trees aren’t there any more……. I can just picture how happy the morning glories and clematis might be there…….
This is the only thing I know how to do as we move forward. The world is in trouble. There is no denying this, though so many – especially within the current leadership of this country in particular – do deny it. But we can all play our part. I am inspired by those walking the walk far better than I just now. And I follow blindly in their footsteps. Balancing the cliff’s edge of my own mental health, the need to do my work, and the necessities of next-steps-forward for the planet. It’s a tricky tightrope trek to be sure.
I welcome your thoughts on balancing things as we move forward as human beans – with the best options for this place we call home. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error. I find inspiration abroad but closer to home here as well…
This is a world gone mad. Too many things to take in, too much heartache for a body to navigate really. The things I love which carry me into the gentle places of my soul and self and which keep me grounded when the winds do blow have suffered for lack of care. I look at this little home of mine here on the interwebs and realize that it’s been since August that I’ve written. It is not as if I have not written, or drawn, or painted in general. Just not here, where even when no one is reading, it matters most.
Today I took to the woods with one of our trusty dogs, the one and only wild Iris Rose, to ponder a plan of how to negotiate the dangerous waters of our time in a sustainable balanced manner. It is October, my most favorite month of the year. I adore autumn and all it has to offer in the way of cooler temperatures, misty mornings and the desire to get the knitting needles clicking once more….
We admired the colors signaling a late but welcome change of season….
I played a bit with my fancy camera which, like this blog space, has grown a bit dusty with disuse.
The pace of things in the world has me feeling a bit weary. All this running and seemingly little to show for it. The season and my soul alike beg for a backing off, a swing toward the internal to come once more to the still point of my personal center. This country, and the world at large could stand the same I believe.
With the dark season ahead, one often fraught with personal mental health challenges, I am looking back with pride on a few months of wondrous productivity and activity whilst simultaneously crafting a structure of future quietude to keep the wolves at bay in the months ahead.
The Resistance, as it stands, is in full swing and its toiling does take up space and energy. I quite mindfully make the space necessary to be of service in these dark times but must balance that of course. There is canvassing and volunteering and much reading to stay informed. The news is too much to keep up with and it can drag a soul down to low places, but I do my best. I am careful to turn it all off and hit the paints or the road when I need a break.
The flurry of work and words in the past couple of months have been exciting to birth forth. Here I share a few things that have been occupying my eye, my keyboard and notebook, my interest and my heart. It is my hope that I take to engaging more here in this space in the coming months as it forces me, in the best way possible, to slow down. To think about what I am writing and the images I share. Social media channels are wondrous in their own way, and I certainly find myself lurking in the more creative corners of their hallowed halls. There is so much to inspire. But here, in my own designated space, I can think through my fingers….
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
….and maybe go a little deeper.
So, last I left you dear reader, it was August, and so very hot. September came along and while the heat gave no break, I encountered a small challenge to make a drawing a day in 1″ square scale. This painterly adventure, combined with a whirlwind trip to Taos, NM was balm indeed to a tired soul….
I completed the challenge and made 30 of these little works.
Even when the news did say there were magnificent displays of ill will and malevolence.
Toward the end of the month of September, my long time, dear friend Kristin (whom you may remember from this post) and I somehow managed to make our way from Ohio (me) and Vermont (she) to Chicago for a seamless meet-up at O’Hare and on to a quick flight out to New Mexico. The opportunity to introduce a dear one to one’s soul home is a gift indeed and we savored every second. Not much was catalogued of our time there, but we did manage some image captures…..
“It’s the most wonderful place you can imagine. It’s so beautiful there. It’s ridiculous.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe
We timed our visit with the Feast of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo (every year on September 30th, you should go) which enabled me to see and visit with some dear friends there at a very sacred time. It was a gift and blessing to share these folks and this place who are so dear to me, with an old friend from the way back, equally as dear. Kristin said to me at one point, “You’ve built a whole world here, Ames.” I do believe I have. I am deeply grateful.
Our journey was far too short for a proper catch up. To be honest, in spite of the splendor we encountered, we spent a good deal of time in a state of deep grief over the recent goings on at the Supreme Court. There is a collective, primal scream of rage emanating from the women in my life over doing this all over again. How many times has this story been lived, eh? Though this time is was so public, and so top-level. I am still grieving.
But, and this is the thing, somehow we must keep going……..
And so, once home, early autumn life began with a focus toward music each weekend at the Riley School of Irish Music. Those of us who love the music aim to bring just a smidge of this video below to our own playing….
While we may never reach this level, we did manage to play our annual ceili dance once more and folks who attended seemed to enjoy it. Chatting with our caller, Éamonn de Cógáin after the dance, he remarked, “This is growing!!” And indeed it is.
The season brings with it, as mentioned before, a renewed commitment to new needle bound adventures. I’ve invested in some gorgeous wool from my local knit shop to attempt the crafting of a sweater. We shall see…. But in the meantime, it’s always fun to get to know the source of all things wool.
And maybe even attempt a sketch or two.
Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of whiplash of the soul. One minute darkness and rage – the next minute, a shaft of light to pierce that darkness and provide a respite. We here are fortunate to have these moments of lightness. To make art and craft worlds with words is a privilege indeed, and one I do not take for granted. I believe to my core that it is an act of resistance to play music, and craft beauty with line, paint and words. I am fortunate to have the support of family and my day job that enable me to live this artful life. Not everyone can. Yet somehow, artists get the job done, one way or another. Here are just a few whom I support and so should you…..
And so where does this all leave me? As you can see, there’s been a great deal of output here in the form of energy and a good bit of intake as well which is wonderful. But my hope is that I can slow it all down a bit. To corral things to more depth and to a more manageable realm for me as an artist. I like to say that I am a crock pot in this world of microwaves.
My hub and I are running away a couple of days after the election to Guatemala to visit friends and make some art – to shore up our souls for what’s to come in our lives personally and collectively, good or ill.
We will get home just before Thanksgiving (yes, I’ve ordered the bird from our favorite market vendor.) I plan to write here on this blog-space from down there if I can connect, as it’s one of the most inspiring places. So do stay tuned.
Wherever this reading finds you, I hope you are finding some gentility in this rough world. We are at a crossroads as human beings and we have some decisions to make as to the path ahead. For me, it’s one of kindness and art making.
“Hang in there, make art, be kind.” ~Neil Gaiman in response to the news of Brazil’s election of a nationalist, right wing president. To my friends in Brazil, we are here for you.
To attempt any kind of plan on any given day in the month of March in Ohio is to play a game of roulette. But March 24th was the day nationwide when the youth of this country, and those of us no longer so young who support them any way we can, came together to demand something be done about the overwhelming problem of gun violence in this country. And so it was that our city found ourselves bracing for a spring snow-storm, as well as an anti-gun-violence rally downtown.
Let me first preface this writing with a few quick words just so you’re clear where I stand…. (it’s by no means complete, but it’s a start.)
I am not anti-gun. While not a gun enthusiast myself, I see the place of a shotgun on a farm to deal quickly with a suffering beast or an overzealous predator. While I’d not join them per se, I appreciate the hunters who help to quell the population of deer and are careful to process, consume and share the animals they take down and who do so with a reverence to Nature. I’d rather see an animal taken down with a well placed bullet (or arrow) than one starving to death. I married a Navy guy who was a sharp shooter in college. I am not anti-military. (In fact, I truly appreciate the many veterans who are speaking out on the subject of gun violence.) I am a former school teacher. I am an artist who lives and speaks in symbols, story and metaphor. I know the difference between a shot gun and an assault rifle…..
So, with that out of the way, let me share with you a bit of the past few days, as I have an interesting tale to tell about my own experiences related to this past weekend’s March For Our Lives.
My beloved flute maker and dear musical friend of many years, Dave Copley of Copley and Boegli Flutes, sent along an intriguing message about someone who wanted to commission him to craft a series of flute like instruments out of gun barrels hitherto the March for Our Lives which was to happen a couple of weeks later here in town and all across the country. Upon reading the message, I knew this was something special and encouraged Dave to get involved if at all possible within his budget and schedule and, that I would help out along the sidelines if I could.
Pedro Reyes is an internationally renowned artist known for his capacity to tackle socio-political issues in innovative, creative and distinctly participatory ways. He is based in Mexico City where he lives and works with his family. Cal Cullen heads up Wave Pool Gallery which is “a dynamic place where art intersects with community. We act as a catalyst for social engagement and cultivate artistic development.” Factored into this mix is The Welcome Project which is affiliated with Wave Pool and is helping out a lot of vulnerable new members of our community. Somehow, these folks found flute maker Dave. Inspired by the 17 lives lost at the Parkland, Florida mass shooting this past Valentine’s Day and the activism sparked amongst the surviving students, Dave was to craft 17 flutes from 17 gun barrels to honor those lost and to inspire those now marching for change, backed by the people and organizations I have mentioned here.
(Yes, I know these are shot gun barrels. Please read above statement about my love of metaphor and symbol in art practice.)
Dave took on the project. At this point I was out of the country doing my work in Guatemala but I was keeping my ear to the ground as to how it was going. Last week upon my return, I stopped over for lunch with Dave and Marlene and got a chance to see the flutes in person. They are heavy and cumbersome but play surprisingly well. I make a decision on the spot that I will help to play these at the march the following weekend.
These former guns are still collectively creepy. They are heavy, cold, each a bit different from one another. They pose a bit of a challenge to Dave as an instrument maker but he soldiers on and they eventually make their way to Wave Pool where we give them a spin.
Remarkably, they play beautifully (at least when warm)! He crafts a few in each of a couple of keys. The ones in E are slightly lighter in weight and we choose them to play the coming weekend at the march. We had hoped for some local kids to help play them, but alas, no one shows to the rehearsal. Perhaps a case of mixed signals…..
We find our way into Saturday morning. Local music school classes are not canceled as we thought they might be and so some of our number had to go to work which left three of us to wield the new flute barrels best we can.
I was prepared with my own crafting of the idea as this too was a concept I could get behind.
Those who know me well know I have an evil eye on my flute case. The charm is from Greece and was brought back to me by my friend and mentor Pam shortly before she died. I treasure it….
Somehow, all of the flute-related magic is coming together.
The weather is raw and unforgiving on marching day. The mitts are necessary and perhaps not nearly enough to keep fingers challenged with steel gun barrels from freezing.
We get to City Hall and already there is a great crowd gathering.
We are put into place to begin the work of musical activism. On the steps of City Hall, the three of us present to play remark half heartedly that we sure wish we had more flute players. It is cold and we do not trust our fingers on gun steel. Nor our embouchures really. And wouldn’t you know it….two of the young people on hand for the march chime in, “We play.” Just like that we are 5. And stronger for it. Thank you Lila and Kennisha. You saved the day for us older folk.
While introducing the kids to these strange instruments, we meet Ethel Guttenberg whose grand-daughter Jaime was a victim at Parkland. One of the 17 who sparked this rally, one of the 17 who sparked this gun barrel flute project. I am speechless and reeling from the gravity of what we are doing here.
We play a few classics. We Shall Overcome, Amazing Grace, that sort of thing. We only have a few minutes. And it’s cold and raw to be placing bare lips and fingers to cold gun metal. Miraculously, the crowd begins to sing along and it is magical. This is the genius behind the vision of Pedro Reyes and his biblical notion of ploughshares from swords. This is not a new concept really, but one brought beautifully to bear by this modern artist. To be quite honest, I find it hard to keep my quivering lip playing the simple music at hand, especially after talking with Ethel.
Ethel speaks to the crowd on hand, which is sizable, especially when combined with like minded folk across the country and around the world. Before her and after her are the children responsible for this amazing event. Kids like her grand-daughter Jaime. Kids, really. Up till now perhaps the world would have discounted these kids. But they are the future. In fact, I’d say they aren’t even the future. They are the now. They are stepping up where our leadership cannot.
“and these children that your spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ~David Bowie
As a parent of two young adults who weathered some serious storming in their own young lives along the way, I know what it is to be a parent witnessing the undoing of innocence in our children. I have been thinking so much about Emma and David, and their friends, parents and loved ones. I’ve seen snippets of what they are grappling with off stage and out of the spotlight. These are kids, y’all. Children. Children grieving the loss of their classmates. Children grappling with their place in a limelight none of them asked for. Their lives are altered. Taking a peek at what the interwebs has to offer in the way of feedback, a good chunk of it is negative. But a fair amount of it is also positive. From good people like myself wishing them well. Hoping they might even consider running for office one day. Sign me up.
I write to you crickets here in this echo chamber, hoping maybe my words will ring true. Even to just one person. Maybe two on a good day. Hoping that this avalanche of gathering young snowflakes is embarking on change….
I share Sam Cook’s music with a nod to how these kids have made it a point to include people of color so often left out of these conversations. Something I find remarkable and a glimpse of the future…..
People like Naomi.
ELEVEN, y’all. Let that sink in.
These kids are our future. They are poised and educated and can dance their way round the internet in ways I couldn’t have imagined. (Let’s face it, at their age, I couldn’t imagine the internet).
And so, time marches on. At this writing, over a month has passed. More shootings have occurred. These kids have a job ahead of them to be sure. But I have faith in them, despite the internet throwing shite upon them at every turn. Let’s find ways to support them as the tide turns.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~Albus Dumbledore