Category Archives: illustration

Prickly territory

This evening I was walking the lone, remaining dog up the drive.  She doesn’t care for a long walk really, being fully deaf and mostly blind, but she does still like a good ole sniff along.  I spied some neighbors walking by.  A mother and adult son by the looks of it.  They were thick into conversation, and looked up just in time to wave to myself and little Charlie from afar.  And I got to thinking about the silverish lining of these strange and grief-full times in which we find ourselves just now.

Today would have been Full Day One at the Swannanoa Gathering and to be quite honest, I have been a bed of ready tears since the day before yesterday.  I had texted my friend Peter on Saturday about the snacks and tunes and books-on-tape we might have shared along the drive south together on Sunday if we had been able to actually go.

Then Sunday morning, the waterworks really began as there were videos available from the Celtic Week Staff (only temporary, so click *here* for now, but not forever…) to wish us all well as we weather this heartbreaking non-time.

Thankfully the weather here locally was remarkably reasonable so I went for a hike and a little bicycle ride with the Hub and tried not to think about what we’ve lost this year.

It didn’t work.

I still had a good sob in the bath upon returning home, in spite of a day well spent in good company.

Grief is a funny country.  It doesn’t follow the rules of polite society.  It’s prickly territory.

Having had a dance with griefs big and small over the years, I figured, let’s just dance with it again and see what happens.  As I communicated with all of my favorite summer and musical soul mates we talked of how fortunate we all are to have one another, if but from afar.  To have this music in our lives to give us strength in hard times.  We are all sad not to be together this year, but we are all hopeful that we will persevere toward better times.  We know what we have here.  And we are grateful.

So for now we work on our craft, learning new tunes, new instruments maybe.  We weather this grief, personally, collectively. We know our loss of this week together is just one small loss in the Grand Scheme.  But we grieve anyway.

There are plans to gather online in coming days, weeks, months, as best we can and we solider on with the help of our loved ones who seem to know how hard this is.

Case in point, I was drawing late this afternoon and heard the distinct sound of Irish music coming from outside.  And wouldn’t you know, my Hub, knowing how difficult this has all been on me had set up a little ‘beer tent’ in the back yard in honor of Swannanoa.  It’s the most thoughtful thing.

I think about that mother and son from my neighborhood and wonder if he, as a young person, is perhaps stuck at home unexpectedly with his parents in this wild, pandemicly charged time.  Might they be getting to know each other in new and unexpected ways?  I do not know.  But maybe.

Small, unexpected silver linings in what is indeed a very dark time in the world.

As for me, I’ve seen more of my garden this year than in years past and I am glad of it, even if it means the work I do in the world will not look as it has in the past, at least this year.  Even if it means my adventures have been tamed for the season.  I am glad of the time here at home, fraught as it has been with worry about The State of Things.

Do I wish I were with my musical mates this evening down at Swannanoa?  Yes, of course I do.  But instead,  here I am in a different sort of time, trying to make sense of things as they are.  Blooming where I am planted.

****if you haven’t listened to Dolly Parton’s America podcast, you should*****

In a couple of days we will make the quiet drive to Maine.  Stealing away like thieves in the night.  Before departure, I’ll get the garlic out of the ground for the season, and engage a neighbor to water the rest of the plants while we are away.

I’ll admit to be a bit anxious about the journey.  There are no plans to engage anyone or anything once there, besides our extended family.  We know how fortunate we are to even have this option of ‘away time’.  And this is another prickly level of things.  To allow grief for the things in our lives that aren’t happening this year, and joy for the things that are, amidst the complexities of the world at large.

We must make space in our hearts for all of it.  To be at once missing wistful tunes in misty mountains outside of Asheville while also making fervent calls to government representatives.  To doodle gentle creatures  while gardening as if our lives might depend upon it.  Perhaps they may yet.  We mustn’t lose our capacity for complexity in these times.  We must remain richly invested in all of it.  The good when we can find it, the difficult when it confronts us, the grief-ridden – especially as a collective of human beans.

In a long ago chapter of our early days together, we were faced with a number of long deployments due to Tony’s work in the Navy.  Fortunately, these were in peaceful days and the dangers were relatively few.  But nevertheless, the separations were difficult.  I used to have a system of whining about it all that gave space for the grieving without wallowing in it.  A couple of days of feeling pitiful, with allowances for ice cream for breakfast, an extra bottle of wine or what have you.  And then, I’d wipe my tears, and get back to the job at hand.  The time eventually passed, possessing its own arc and way.  This pandemic is a bit like a long and terrible deployment I think.  We have no idea how long it may last.  I think it’s vital to let ourselves whinge a bit now and then about the waves of losses that have come in the wake of this thing.  To be a bit weepy for a day or two in the midst of it all is far better than to armor up completely under the guise of “being strong” or feeling like our small griefs do not count when others have lost so much more.  Armor is not good for an open heart.

I hope y’all are keeping safe and sane in these difficult times.  We will get through.  Together.  Seek joy where you can.  Lean on one another.  Send letters.  Have a good sob in the tub now and then.  But don’t lose faith all together.

PS:

Here’s one more lovely thing as well.  I am ever so grateful for music.

A tiny shrew

:::TWIST OF HEMP:::  Week 35

In which John Joe Badger takes a walk in the forest, only to find a tiny door, from behind which drifts a delightful and strange music.

And lo!!  It is a tiny shrew, playing the relatively obscure Northumbrian Pipes.  She is a lovely wee thing, very shy, and so John Joe, being shy himself, merely listens for a time outside her tiny door, then moves on, allowing her to go on playing in peace.

What have you found in the forest lately?  Are you really listening properly?

 

Good Post

:::TWIST OF HEMP:::

It is week 34 of my illustrative journey with John Joe Badger, an intrepid, though somewhat shy, uillean pipes playing creature.  This week finds John Joe discovering that his long awaited B whistle from one Jerry Freeman has finally arrived after much anticipation which will allow him to play along with his favorite recordings.  This will, in turn, possibly improve his pipes playing in the long run.

So much to learn as we await the arrival of the new half-set from Mickey Dunne which will include DRONES.

We are abuzz with excitement over it all to be sure.

Til next week, keep on playing, friends!

Dog and Pony Show

Since the beginning of the era in which we found ourselves in a state of lockdown and isolation, a few of us faithful session-goers loosely affiliated with the Riley School of Irish Music community have gathered weekly on zoom to have a few tunes, check in with one another and have a bit o’ craic (i.e. chats, jokes, catching up, sharing stories – a crucial part of a good session.)  As with all things coming at us on the mycelial network ad infinitum these days, zoom is an imperfect way to connect musically.  But we take what we can get.

Somehow, I have managed to find myself as moderator each week for these online gatherings.  I attempt to keep proceedings least awkward as they can be, making sure those who have something to say or play get a chance to do so.  It’s a good job for one with long internal antennae and I do the job gladly week to week so that our beautiful community will be there when this whole pandemic eases and we can be together properly once more.

I jokingly call it the Dog and Pony Show because sometimes it feels that way.  But at the heart of it all, it’s a sincere offering to my musical mates.  It’s just hard to be social.

There are a lot of people out on the interwebs putting together online shows and bits of shows to put together with bits of other shows to keep the music and the communities surrounding it all alive.  It can be frustrating sometimes to be sure (such as when the neighborhood lawn mower starts when the recording begins! *kevin*) but the gifts in return are wonderful.  I do my small part with our little session here in town (and we sometimes have old friends in from Ireland which has been lovely!!) The professionals continue to do their best to keep us tapped into the tradition properly along the way as well.  And we must support them.

Go donate to Tune Supply if you love traditional Irish music, or any place your favorite artists and musicians might be hanging out online doing their work.   Reach out to them, buy some gift cards or a painting or a song or tune, an essay or a poem.  Artists are still working, making the world a more magical place.

It’s what we do.

Join us at the Riley School for session each Saturday from 4-6 pm EST (message me for the link), or consider taking a class from one of our esteemed instructors sometime!  Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, here is this week’s Twist of Hemp illustration featuring John Joe Badger, and some new friends from the dog and pony show.  It’s week 33.

Fresh Air

Twist of Hemp ~ Week 32

We have been given the great gift of a few days of fine, cool weather. John Joe Badger has taken this opportunity to invite a dear fiddling friend over for a tune at an appropriate distance. Which is still closer and more fun than awkward screen based tunes over the mycelial network (fine as those are when needs must). These strange times do not seem to be leaving us. And so we must adjust, keep safe best we can, and also do the small things which keep our souls healthy in a difficult era. A tune with a dear old friend is just the thing. For today at least.
@johnjoebadger #kidlitart #illustration #weeklyseries #mentalhealth #takecare #visitfriendssafely #badger #uilleanpipes #musicalanimals #fiddlersquirrel #amybogardart #amybogardillustration #pandemictunes #irishmusic #safesession #week32 #twistofhemp

Sweetness

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.

You can read their full statement here (*click*)

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!!!!!

Listen

Listen.

:::Twist of Hemp Week 30 :::

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.

Perhaps.

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:

Here is the link: https://www.embracerace.org

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:

https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies?fbclid=IwAR0H2eaXoa9KrcmpBQHd0G2fng49J-Jty8eBDsfpBf480qLLc4LF_cJehTo

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hpub-jkm9cLzJWqZSsETqbE6tZ13Q0UbQz–vQ2avEc/preview?fbclid=IwAR3TBQvG2A0RagdMjltfsvLAoV6cfNHMhZD8x3MZEv4OsZjXi3uDvWY3ol8&pru=AAABcqEADEM*MC6i5_NRAcTanK1bAEQlHg

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/?fbclid=IwAR045Qg2fo7lfMHA9vLWU8sarQTBx_EJQG8e7oDQOp7uWPC7f_jXbtisuLk

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.

I thank you for reading…..

 

On Feeling Small

:::  TWIST OF HEMP ~  Week 29  :::

In this brave new world of zooming here and there and everywhere, we are confronted with the giants among us, musically and culturally speaking.  We have opportunities to hear from them about their musical journeys and to learn from them in classes in the online sphere.

These opportunities can have a badger feeling rather small sometimes, but take heart John Joe!  We must all start somewhere, yes?

Yes.

a wee collaboration

The news is dark and darker, every day.  The only occasional escape is to turn it all off for awhile now and then and creep into our imaginations.  It is here where joy may be found in a jaunty tune, from lands far from this tame old river valley.

I put together some moving drawings to accompany this delightful music from Snowflake Trio and voilá!!  I hope you enjoy watching and listening as much as we enjoyed making it.

 

Cake in the Time of Corona

::: Twist of Hemp ~  Week 28 :::

I have heard that “stress baking” is a thing.  And sure enough, in these strange times, we find many taking to the kitchen to remind themselves that every little thing is going to be ok.  John Joe Badger is no different.  He’s so very grateful for everything Frank and Flora from the world of Wisteria the Wise have baked for him in recent weeks but he felt it was time to repay the favor and do a little kitchen chemistry himself.

After all, baking for others has been proven to soothe a worried mind, and chocolate can keep the dementors away.  Or so I’ve heard.

What is your favorite kind of cake?  I like lemon when the weather is warm.  And rich, dark chocolate all of the time.