Category Archives: coronavirus

Like so many others

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.

http://www.amybogard.com/2009/03/

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.

This tree has created a perfect ‘sit-spot’.

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.

Jack played a concert for his old haunt the Riley School of Irish Music, where folks who’d watched him grow up, were treated to a show of what makes him tick musically. Music has been his path over these years and I am so grateful for it.

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

Antigua on my mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will get through this.  Eventually.

 

Mischief and Moxie

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…..

 

 

 

Gifts and Gratitude

It’s a quiet Day of Thanks here in our little Spring Valley.  Just two of us humans and one little dog.  But we are well and soon to be well-fed all, and for this alone I am deeply grateful.

These last weeks and months have been such a wild ride, between a contentious election and this virus gone haywire.  I walk my anxieties away best I can in the early hours of morning.  Birds and trees as my constant companions.

I hope that you are finding some peace amidst the madness and sadness.  These are grief-filled times indeed.  But we must keep a forward momentum and do the things which make our heart sing.

Wherever you are, whatever state you are in, I wish you the best this day can offer.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

 

 

Comfort and Joy

“There is another world, but it is in this one.” ~W.B. Yeats

Recently, we spent a week away in another world.  Down to the low-country coastal barrier-island of Tybee we traveled, as  I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for my lost (or at least post-poned) month’s work in Ireland, among other things.  Both of us pining for the sea, we watered the plants here at home, packed the dog and a kayak and some food into the car and slipped away into the pre-dawn darkness.

It was worth the day’s journeying.

We made friends with sand and surf and a few others – crow and cat being among my favorites.

There was much beach combing and waterside wandering.

Even Charlie found her way to the edges of things, though dogs aren’t permitted onto beaches in the proper sense.  I think she was content regardless of the limitations.

We should all be more like Charlie in this way, contented amidst the limitations we find upon us in these times.

There was much marshiness and moss which, mosquitos notwithstanding, I found to be quite captivating.

It was all so much to take in.  I found it exceptionally healing.

There were weddings to witness….

Sunrises to greet….

Sketches to make….

And paintings to begin…

so much more to do on this one. and more paintings to make from our magical time there on Tybee… more soon!

The space and pace of an off season beach town is something I highly recommend.  We were excited to plan a small getaway, but also a bit leery about whether there would be too many other people around whom we’d have to avoid, these being anxiety-ridden Covid times.

In the end, there was space to spare.  And we were grateful for it.

Soon it was time to come home to the harvest.  We still have a few tomatoes on the vine which may or may not ripen. (I am researching pickling options for green tomatoes….).

I gratefully gathered a few hawthorn berries to make into a tea, though mostly because I merely adore their color.

Eventually we readied the back garden for a small gathering of our family which would serve as a celebration of the season at hand, and possibly seasons still to come.

We sense difficult times in the weeks ahead.  Covid numbers are climbing and we will not  be able to gather indoors for Thanksgiving, and likely not Christmas either.  So I hatched a plan to host a “well-filling, out-of-doors, socially distanced, fully masked, early Thanksgiving” dinner for my family.  I decided I’d set a date and let the weather gods determine if it might happen or not.  In the end we were granted a most glorious day.  We went ahead with our plans.

Thankfully everyone was respectful of our strict protocol for mask wearing when not at the tables eating.

It was just good to have everyone ‘sort of’ together in one place before we head into winter.  A winter which may feel a bit like a revisitation to the quiet time of early lock-down and quarantine.

Time will tell.  But for this one day, we safely took what we could get.

I like to think Dr. Fauci would approve of our handling of the gathering, he having said, more or less, ‘if you can’t have Thanksgiving outside, and socially distanced, then don’t have it’.

Each separate family household came inside to fill their plates independently.  Even the kids were on board.  I appreciate the respect and care everyone brought to our day together.  I wouldn’t have chanced it all if I thought they might behave otherwise.

There was the typical fare – a turkey, smashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, chips and dips and casseroles galore.  All of the standard comfort foods related to our traditional Thanksgiving meal.  While thankful I don’t eat like this most of the time, there is something about all of the carb-laden goodies that is truly good for the soul.  They don’t call it ‘comfort food’ for nothing.  We dove in with abandon and it was delicious.

Given one perfect day of weather for our early Thanksgiving, we then weathered rain on the following day to cast our ballots into the box at the local Board of Elections.  We were glad to do so.  Even today, people stand in line in the rain to vote in person.  At least we are all voting, one way or another.

Later, the rain abated and it was time for a hike in the woods…..

…..where nature is always full of surprising things.

A wander in the woods always has the capacity to reset things in our hearts, allowing for a recalibration of sorts.  I have a deep sense that things in general will be slowing now as we head into late autumn and whatever the rest of the season may bring with it.

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
~JOHN O’DONOHUE
Excerpt from his books, To Bless the Space Between Us (US) / Benedictus (Europe)

I also have a deep sense that things may get even crazier here in this country in the weeks ahead.  Having cast my ballot early, along with so many fellow citizens, I find myself drifting away from the daily news, merely awaiting results of the eventual electoral outcome.  I have cautious optimism some days.  Other days, a drive into the countryside to the edges of our city gives me pause for all the republican paraphernalia and propaganda to be found there.  As usual, time will tell.   If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is to hold no expectation too tightly.  Everything can change on a dime.

This has always been the case, it’s just now more obvious.

I welcome the slow days ahead, as much as I miss holiday frivolity with loved ones.  Somehow a hibernation feels more natural for the season.  I often crave a bit of quiet this time of year, and this year perhaps I shall have it.  Sure there are still zooms and classes and the like, but my intent is to capture a spirit of spaciousness, thoughtfulness and mindfulness in the weeks and months ahead.  I think this space might give us some time to reconcile with all that has happened this year.  To perhaps shift our way of thinking and being in adjustment to the State of Things.

This month I have reinvigorated a daily drawing practice by participating in the annual “inktober” drawing challenge.  This has given me not only practice drawing in general, but making little time-lapse films as well.  Here are a few….

I hope the season is being kind to you in one way or another.  We are all grappling with so much of late.  And it’s all happening quite fast really.  My wish is that in the midst of the madness we might find a tune we love to play and play it.  That we might see something worth painting and paint it.  That we might begin or perhaps continue the planting and plotting of a garden bed.

I’ll share some paintings soon.  Keep the faith in the meantime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U-Bend

It is a gentle, rainy day.  “Soft” as they sometimes call it in Ireland.  This kind of weather might annoy some people, but honestly I like it.  The coloring of things hints at autumn, my favorite season in spite of or perhaps because of inherent melancholia to be found therein.

Melancholia is a constant and faithful friend of late.  I find myself thinking a lot about death.

The gardens themselves lean toward the great sleep, readying here and there for a dying back into autumnal composting and winter’s rest.  Spring’s regrowth will come once more, eventually.  We as humans seem to forget our place amidst nature’s seasons.  Lately I find my mind ill at ease – a feeling of being consistently gaslighted by society.  Over 180,000 people have died of Covid-19 in this country and few seem to even take note of it anymore.  Around 1000 people PER DAY.  How can this not be the day’s big news?  There are even some who don’t believe the numbers.  We throw these figures around and forget that behind every number is a lifetime of dreams and hopes and fears and faults.  Laughter and learning, lightness and darkness.  The messy stuff of everyone’s everyday.  These are someone’s loved ones.  How can the world just go “on”?  I find it almost too much to take.  And maybe this explains why no one is talking about it much.  Maybe no one can take it.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

–Mary Oliver  (I love this poem and was re-minded of it recently by the wonderful daily poem sharing offering of Shippenverse.  Go give her a follow on the socials if you like timely poetry.)

It is a grave mistake in a well lived life not to give death a good mulling over now and then.  I have at times (in the before times) been playing music with my dearest friends in a local session and have found myself so overwhelmed with a tearful gratitude that I think:

“Remember this.  It’s not going to happen again.  These people are a gift.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Pay attention.  We could lose one another in an instant.”

Cheerful.  I know.

But I do maintain that to toe the edges of things, to contemplate Great Mysteries, is to be more deeply alive, to live closer to the bone.

On soft days such as this one, I find myself thinking about Ireland, a land with its fair share of soft days and a place where the lines between life and death, this world and the Other, before and after, us and them, are blurred.  I find myself most comfortable in a place that openly acknowledges the delicate nature of our very existence.  Ireland is such a place.

Looking back on this Year of Years, we come to realize we were truly fortunate to begin the year’s wave of griefs on griefs in such a magical place.  Tony’s mom died while we were over there.  To explore ancient burial sites and wander the misty and mystical Burren in Clare was to feel a part of things in a very deep way.  I wish I could be there again this fall, to process all that has happened – all that IS happening – but this is not to be.

Will you look at this gorgeous new evocative work by my friend Lillie Morris, whose relationship with the music and magic of Ireland runs as deeply as mine. This is entitled, “The Immovability of Stone” which refers to a poem called ‘Stone’ by David Whyte. (I share this with Lillie’s blessing)

Last week in the tail end of a yoga practice a thought, or perhaps even a ‘command’ of sorts came to me.  “Tell the earring story” it said.  And so I shall….

My friend Mia was dying.  I had been lucky enough to leave my day to day behind and spend a few quality days with her before she slipped into that “between place” where she could no longer be reached by us.  It was the wee hours of the morning and no one in the household had slept much that night.  Professional nurses, Mia’s mom Ruth and husband Morris tended to her final moments and then, just like that, she was gone.  The quiet was that strange sort of quiet that sometimes happens in a room where a birth has occurred.  Dying is a different kind of birth I suppose. I stepped outside to get some air and to give Mia’s family a bit of space.  I could feel the All of Everything outside.  It was a beautiful morning.  A bit later, Morris and one of the Hospice nurses approached myself and two other women on hand and asked if we might accept the task of washing and readying Mia’s body for viewing.  Their family’s close community was to come to the house to pay their respects, share food and kinship, and bid farewell to their dear friend.  Washington state allows for a family to hold on their loved ones for one full day before needing to send the body on to final burial or cremation.  This was to be Mia’s day.  We accepted this task with great honor and the Hospice nurse filled us in on what needed to be done.   It’s a strange and wonderful thing to tend to the final physicality of someone we love.  Yes, we were filled with grief, but something about the very earthiness of it all was a salve to that grief.  We were mindful and in the moment.  We put on Mia’s favorite music, opened the window to allow her soul passage.  We washed her gently, and put her into her favorite clothes.  Soon, we were nearly done.  I had put in one of a pair of earrings into her ear when we were interrupted by someone entering the room.  A friend in the community who hadn’t realized we weren’t *quite* finished.  And just like that, the bubble had burst.  Something of a strange reality had entered the room with this newcomer and there was no more that could be done.  Mia’s head was turned and so no one would notice the missing earring anyway.  My fellow caretakers and I had a bit of a strange laugh over this turn of events and the day carried on.  I pulled Morris aside and told him of the earring still in my possession.  He too found it all a bit funny.  The earrings in question were moonstones.  Mia and I had gotten matching sets we before she’d moved out to Washington and we liked to wear them at the same time like a couple of middle school bff’s.  When the day came to an end it was time for the funeral folks to come and take Mia’s body away.  I did a puppet show for the kids in the other end of the house while Morris took care of this bit of business.  Later, he handed me the first earring.  I took some pliers and converted that earring into a small pendant which I eventually took home with me.  I made the second into a pendant as well, and left my set of earrings and that matching pendant with Morris to give to their daughter when she was old enough to wear them.  (she was in the first grade if I remember right.)  I still have my little moonstone pendant and keep it on my flute case as a constant reminder to live this life to the fullest.  Mia reminded me always to follow my art dreams and to keep playing music.  I have done and am so grateful for her early encouragement as we ran mile after mile together in between our busy lives and young motherhood.

I tell the story above as a small snapshot of the complexities of the end of a life.  To remind us that once there was a time when tending to our dead was a privilege.   This virus has so many dying that I believe we have a hard time really taking stock of so much loss.  Our minds can’t wrap around the level of destruction.  And with all of this death, comes a deep loneliness as well as many are having to die alone so as not to endanger their loved ones.  The virus has robbed us of the very things through which we cope with difficulty.  Gathering, hugging, singing, sharing.  And these are difficult times to be sure.

A couple of artful friends in my life are stepping into what one of them calls her “final act”.  They are seemingly facing this next chapter with a grace all of us might hope for in the end.  They wisely advise us all to have the difficult conversations about what we might want for our own end of life chapters, how we might want things to go if difficult decisions are faced.  Have you done this?  Do your loved ones know how you might like to be remembered?

My friend Jeni sent this below to me (not knowing I was brewing a death-themed blog post, but this is how the muse works sometimes, eh?)  And I absolutely love it.  I read this and think, I might have been friends with this woman had we met.

It seems easy in these scary times to just step out of our bodies and forget we are limited beings.   I think many people have really.  So much anger, so little time for self-reflection or kindness.  We aren’t taking the time to ask one another “How’re you doing, like really?”  We won’t be here forever, this much is true.  Something about turning 50 on the cusp of a global pandemic will drive this home to many of us.  Much as the ads promising me the fountain of youth would like me to step away from my own sense of self, I stay put and face this age, my age, as it is.  It isn’t pretty most days.

I make the conscious choice to stay in my body, as difficult as this feels in this harsh world.  I run when I can, even on (perhaps especially on) cool rainy days.

Me and the graceful neighborhood rats

I eat spicy food and cry easily.  Much like old Moaning Myrtle, I am not afraid to talk of death.  Perhaps it is, in the long run, the only thing left we might have in common these days.

Be kind to each other, check in with one another.  Bake some cookies for your neighbors if you can.

And perhaps take some time for self-reflection on these remarkable times in which we find our small selves.

 

 

Genius Home

It seems an age ago that were in Maine.  Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.

We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.

We always know when we have returned firmly to Ohio…..

As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care.  This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home.  And so we do.

A bit of harvesting.

And a few things still growing along nicely.

I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think.  And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter.  Beauty in dark times.

This begonia has been through the wars. Originally a cutting gift from my friend Vanessa, it was eaten by deer one year, but eventually bounced back and needed a new pot this year.

I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year.  The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up.  Keeping the deer at bay.

I am grateful.

The dahlias have put on a show this year.  Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully.  Surprisingly.

They are a constant delight.

My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine.  She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really.  When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents.  Life has a way of marching on.

Note the dates. My grans, married for 64 years, died within just 3 days of one another. My grandmother, who married at age 16, used to quip about my grandfather, “Why Herbie? Well, he practically raised me.” I can still hear her say it in her quintessential Butler County drawl.

Last week I added another digit to my age line.  It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends.  It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.

My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years.  When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks.  But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc.  Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.

Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.

I already have lists going, and some quotes.  Tunes I must work on……

This is my new half-set of uilleann pipes being crafted by Mickey Dunne in Limerick, Ireland. I think they are a thing of beauty indeed. Though honestly I am not sure quite what I have gotten myself into!  As Louise Mulcahy said in a presentation she did yesterday hosted by Southern California Pipers Club, perhaps it’s just the “medicinal sound of the drones.”  I’ll be sure to post here when I receive my beautiful new instrument!

“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”

~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)

Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him.  He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.

We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only  the one aged dog along for the ride.  (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)

Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.

It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak.  My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons.  I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being.   In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own.  My travel journal business  was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home.  For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill.  Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.

I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit.  With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now.  It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime.  There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy.  Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.

It’s time.  Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home.  Of this I am sure.  To seek beauty in a dark world is important work.  Sometimes, that starts at home.

And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print.  We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things.  We do the best we can.  Being gentle with ourselves and each other.  Following our noses as to how best to proceed.

How are you all doing? I’d love to know…..

co-work

It is monday.  I walk the roads for a bit before the temperatures climb too high.  Our folks here asked us to bring some warmer weather with us when we arrived.

Perhaps we overdid it.

Co-working spaces are selected, but shift throughout the day as conditions change.

As for me, I manage to sketch for a few minutes to get the bones of a little painting down.  Not wild about the results, but practice is practice.

In the heat of the day, a few of us steal away to swim and cool down a bit.  The ocean does not disappoint.

Day three of ocean swim.  I couldn’t be happier.

Today is our 29th wedding anniversary.  We started off right here in this place all those years ago and it’s nice to be here to celebrate this year.  Hopefully with oysters if we get lucky…..

*****later******

and so we were lucky indeed…….

Cheers, y’all!

 

Day 2, in pictures and paint

It’s fun to see how others have weathered the isolation in recent months.  Here it’s Rumikub.  There have been many games, apparently.

Locals remind themselves of what is lovely here, in spite of all.

While on my morning walk/run there is a veritable parade of old fashioned cars, harkening to days bygone.

It is good to walk in a place where glimpses of the sea are readily available through the trees.

Before the day gets away, I steal away to paint for a bit, using a new paint set up I gleaned recently from the lovely work and suggestions of Lena Rivo.

Wonderful to find a secluded bench, with shade and a view.

Here’s the wee painting I come up with…..

I can still see influences in my painting from the workshop I took with Henry Isaacs here in 2015.  (click the blue for the link!)

Later it is time to swim.  Of course it is.

Is that a seal???

Alas, it’s just me.

Sea me.  I LOVE swimming in the ocean each day.  Thankful it is just down the road from us.

Tonight, in the spirit of reconnaissance for a kayak opportunity of Tony’s later in the week, we gather for dinner at another lovely spot, out of doors, away from others, by the sea, and happy to be together.

We are treated to an amazing sunset.  And just like that, our first full day in Maine comes to a close.

We are deeply grateful to be here.  To fill the proverbial well with hope for the months to come.  To remind ourselves AND you that beauty and friendship still exist.  That we will get through these hard times.

Bon courage, friends.

 

 

 

Return to center

In spite of such dire times, our journey home to Maine was fairly simple.  With three drivers, all of our food and drinks on board, we merely stopped for gas now and then and to hit the loo.

There were lovely fogs in New York State as the moon and sun rose together.  There was nearly no one else traveling, which was nice.

Having lived here for years, this feels like a homecoming.
The long awaited first glimpse of the ocean…..

We arrived mid morning to inject ourselves into the family bubble here for a couple of weeks, ever so grateful to our loved ones so keen to have us.  And now we settle.

Poppy’s Welcome

Of course that begins with a dip in the sea.

Shenanigans have begun already.

We found a lovely place to paddle around for a bit and rinse the worrisome drive off of our hearts and minds.

There will be more such imagery in coming days.  I hope you’ll come along as I share this magical place with you, no matter where you are.  There are books to read, sketches to conjure, knitting to wrangle, and music to play.

Wishing you peaceful summer’s breezes……

ps…

There was lobster.

and corn.

and pie.

Goodnight!