Category Archives: In the Garden

Joy of being

“In today’s rush, we all think too much… seek too much… want too much… and forget about the joy of just being.”

~Eckhart Tolle *

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m feeling the rush and pull of a return to normalcy which I’ll admit, I am not quite yet in favor of.

“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.

~Vincent van Gogh *

For those of you who follow my online doings, the noise of the world has gotten to be a bit much for me personally and I have opted off the social media channels until further notice.  While we cannot and mustn’t turn our backs on a troubled world just now – the news of things as they are happening in real time – we CAN turn down the noise of it all online in order to dig deeper into what is really happening out there, what can actually be done, and how we feel about it all.  Sure one might get a chuckle now and then over on the socials, but true reality is a bit more difficult to find.  And so I seek it in deeper wells.

I’ll be honest, I needed a break – have done for a good long while now.

And so I am taking one.  Officially.  I am hopeful it might be longer than the usual month off which happens now and then in normal times.

I celebrated this returning to myself, this coming home really,  by building a fire last night.  Humidity is creeping back up as of today, but in recent days past, the magic of a cool summer night’s mystery has been in rare form.

We are grateful.

We wear a crown of midsummer and watch the garden flourish.

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”

~Rumi *

While not everything planted will be in top form this season, the garden’s beginnings give me hope for better days.

I suppose if necessary, we could live off of pumpkin and swiss chard alone, if we had to eventually.  Perhaps not all is lost.

Life carries on.

Birds nest.

A great June greening gathers further in.

“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”

~ H G Wells

The daily post continues to be a source of great day to day joy.  Today we received the long anticipated “Views from Quarantine” zine project from Ireland-based artist and child-art psychotherapist Simone Westerkamp (also long time friend and musical pal).  This zine is filled with offerings Simone gathered from artful friends and family scattered around the globe.  We, Tony and I, are thrilled to have been a small part of it.  In this era of grief, sadness and strife – in epic proportions, to be sure – beautiful small things are a keen reminder of the scale and importance of our own humanity.

“Never regret anything you have done with sincere affection; nothing is lost that is born of the heart.”

~Basil Rathbone *

The summer’s slowing, with my yearly work offerings no longer viable, affords a delicate space for quiet wonderment.  There are Rainier cherries now at the market once more, which I love.  When I can settle my brain and nerves down enough, I am drawing more in this in between time and space.  I am grateful for these crumbs of validity in such tumultuous times.

I’ll admit I am not ready to re-enter the rat-race.  I did not belong to it in the first place.  This I must remember as the traffic time into my part-time work begins to once more give me pause.

We have our sights set to venture home to Maine later in July. (God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, as they say)  Once there we will keep ourselves to ourselves, which we normally do anyway, and I promise we will do this all safely.  I look very much forward to cuddle piles of hugs with my god-child and her sister, and our dear friends, their parents.  Even as introverts, we are missing the humanity of a normal social existence.  I am counting the days.

This is a strange new world we live in.  Some people seem to be carrying on like nothing has changed, like it is an insult to their American-borne freedom to be asked to wear a mask in interest of the safety of others.  Most near and dear to me of course, continue to be diligent and do what is necessary to keep things safe for everyone.  We live life in the day to day just now.  Plans are difficult to commit to with things changing so fast in real time.

In the end, time will tell.

As for us, we soldier on.  Listening to books, reading books, doing puzzles, keeping to the work online as needed.  Tonight we go to meet East-Coast cousins arriving new to town.  Socially distant, of course.

Take care of each other, get hugs when you can.

More soon……

****some of the quotes above (*)  have been saved over time from a wonderful offering on the Book of Faces called Ravenous Butterflies.  Go give em a follow if you are currently riding the waves of the socials.  They are a bright light on a dark platform.

notes to self

It is a discombobulated time.  I for one feel a bit unmoored and adrift of late. (Perhaps we all do.)  It is the season for journeying but I, like everyone just now, find myself rooted to home.   Still the journey must go on.  And so I go inward.

A new book, just for me.  I return to old practices.  With no inclination to share.

These past couple of days give the gift of a break in the weather, a lifting of humidity and oppressive heat.  The break in weather affords the gift of a bit of hope, at least for me.  A backing off of the blue dog which has been hovering at the doors of my heart lately.  I make a mindful choice to hit a reset button.

Perhaps only half true, but I am at least still young at heart.

 

An online music festival provides unexpected glee with workshops in flute and pipes.  One instructor speaks of tunes as poetry and palindromes, the other talks openly of the magic of this music, some of it “old and outside the laws of the land.”

I am reminded of my place in the world.

“G is not a tone, it’s a place.”  ~Conal Ó Gráda

I’ll admit, it all made me a bit weepy.  I am deeply missing my musical mates these last months.  I shall just work on my craft and connect how I can.

The noise of the online world feels unbearable as I wade through the news of the physical world day to day.  I find myself online less and less in an attempt to situate myself in reality to offer up my best self to the world.  This is as it should be.  Plenty of times have I vowed to spend less time in the hall of mirrors of the social networks, and always I seem to drift back.  Just now however, it is more of a drifting away from that hall and a journey inward, in lieu of summer’s teaching travels.

We have harvested lovely bundles of scapes in recent weeks.  Garlic, sent to me from a dear one in Maine, planted last fall as we began the new bed out back – The Before Times.  It all seems so far away, muted by the mists of time, dappled with a light we will not see again.

Scapes are like the “flowers” of the garlic plant.  Up and up they rise and curl.

Eating them, lightly sautéed, with an egg at breakfast, I taste the garlic to come.  It is essence of future garlic.

“While they are indeed a delicacy of early summer, we do not harvest scapes merely for their culinary flare.  To harvest these showy curls is to send the energy of the plants down below into the ground to the very base of the garlic – the bulbs – which we will harvest later in the summer.

I see a strong metaphor here for our own meandering growth.  It is lovely to flower and curl and show up in the world.  But we forget to cut these flowers off now and then to allow for real development below ground.”

 

This is where I find myself, metaphorically speaking.  I need to grow the bulbs.  It is summer, and in a normal summer, one might find me off to New Mexico to teach, or to North Carolina to take in some music workshops.  And often, I am too busy with these adventures to be spending much time online.  This is as it should be.

This summer I devote that time to a more inward journey.  To work on my art outside of the constancy of the online world and its performative pressures.  To play and experiment.  To read books, both for fun and escape as well as for the ongoing journey to educate myself.

It is entirely possible we may find ourselves in Maine later in July.  Fingers crossed.  We shall do so if we can do so, safely.  This potential gives me hope.  As does the deep pool of a new book, filled with good paper, some new ink for an old pen, and time to dive into it all without an audience.

But don’t worry, I’m not going far from here, this little corner of the internet that I call home.  Til next time……

That’s it!  File under life.

 

 

Attending

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

~Mary Oliver

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.”

~Mary Oliver

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.”

~Mary Oliver

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.

None of us are any good to anyone if we become mired in the unreal world of social media.  My goal personally is to read more deeply about the issues at hand – about this pandemic and it’s long term challenges.  About how the rest of the world is viewing our country (and the UK)  just now in the wake of recent, racially motivated murders.  I’ll investigate ways to look keenly at my own inherent biases and consider how to best navigate them and change from within.  (Here are just two things for a start:  The Groundwater Presentation and The 1619 Project .)

We are in tumultuous times to be sure.

 

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.”

~Mary Oliver

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.

Turns out we DO have white peonies in our yard after all! But we can still share some pink peonies with our gardening friends.

“Attention, without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report.  An openness – an empathy – was necessary if the attention was to matter.”

~Mary Oliver

I wonder and worry as to whether I’ll ever get back to Ireland. (And with that, how to get delivery of my new pipes due in October as well….) As a small prayer of hope, I planted some fuschia in a pot in the back garden. I am told the hummingbirds will like it. And maybe the bees too. These can be found all over Ireland in hedge form. Little fairy jewels on display. And I love having them around here at home.

These Gifts

There are quiet gifts arriving daily here at our lowly little acre.  A baby oak seedling I have been stewarding in the last year or so made it through the winter and has wee buds of life bursting forth.  My good musical friend Emmanuel found this little tree in a setting that mightn’t have let it grow and asked if he might dig it up for me.  I said yes and so the little seedling arrived and I have crafted for it a home here and the rest has been up to it.  It seems happy.  I am grateful for friends who see the world like I do.

Ferns are coming up.  They are a bit like big-footed teenagers romping through the house.  Taking up too much space, yet gorgeous in their unfurling.  We have some to share if you would like them.  They love shade, and spreading out.  Much like human teenagers actually.  Just send me a message if you would like some.  we can have a socially distant digging party of sorts.

A number of weeks ago, eager for spring, I took a few cuttings from the willow tree we planted last year, which is thriving (don’t worry, I humbly asked permission first).

These spindly little cuttings quickly made roots and are now forming proper trees in various places in the yard.  Getting trees to grow is a big goal of mine here, having lost so many in recent years.   I look forward to helping these little trees become big trees in the coming years.

In the veggie garden, plans are afoot to attempt what’s called a “Hugelkultur” which is basically a little mounded garden space which increases ground space as well as makes way for the organic matter necessary to feed hungry plants.

My beloved hawthorn tree, which is thriving, has spring buds upon it.  She seems really happy to be the mother hen of this new protected garden space and is relieved of the old armor we kept on her trunk to keep the destructive deer at bay.  We are all breathing a bit easier now, in spite of a pandemic.

a few bits and bobs have gone into the ground and I visit a few times daily to see how we are faring.

But garden gifts aren’t the only ones quietly arriving day to day here at Chez Bogard.  The post has been a blessing as well.  Some of my more trusty penpals have taken to the postal waves to comfort one another in these strange times and thankfully, this has included me.

I’ve received belated birthday gifts, hand painted seed collections,  long missives with the hopes and dreams of a pandemic age.  I’ve sipped the gifts of exotic tea bags and read articles from far flung periodicals lovingly snipped and sent along.  And just yesterday, party flags arrived to welcome the new deer boundary.

Firstly, my artist friend Michelle who is hunkering in Sheboygan WI sent me 50 snapshots of her view of Lake Michigan near her home.  50 snaps for 50 years of my own life.  She is a talented gift giver.  For my 40th, it was pebbles in a hand crocheted bag.  I still treasure them.  I’ll admit, these in their beautiful blueness took my breath away and made me a little weepy.

Gifts such as these make my heart soar.

Letters come, big and small, sometimes bearing other gifts beyond words within, like tea and seeds.  But often the words are enough.  The two above are from two separate pen friends.  Both know I adore the natural world.

Other gifts will keep on giving long after arrival.  These pumpkins will be tested on the Hugelkultur this year.  I love the little drawing on their seed pack.  One of a kind.

And the flags, well the flags were a request actually.  I have had them in my living room and now I have a few sets for my garden – the new living-room as it were.  They are part prayer-flag, part party-flag.

Joyfulness is a form of prayer.  I adore them.

Joy in a time of sadness.

They are crafted by my soul-sister in Vermont, @complimentcoins who makes little bits of love and kindness to sow into the world like seeds.

Some of her little coins are on order to send to my beloved pen friends around the world.  We could all use a bit of love and kindness just now, don’t you think?

There is much news that needs attention paying to it just now.  But a big one for me is the notion that the federal postal service is in question here in our country right now.  This is a long time coming as the service has been saddled with rules and restrictions that have caused their budget to be out of balance in recent decades.  It’s a long and complicated thing which I don’t truly fully understand.  But one thing I do understand is that the timing is crucial.

As we face this pandemic, we also stare down what is likely the most vital election our country has ever faced.  Voting by mail simply must be an option this fall in the face of uncertainty at best, and a second wave of the virus at worst.  And sure enough, those in power would like to defund the post office by October.  Just in time for the election.

We must be diligent.  And let our representatives know how we feel about this.  Via post, ideally.

Here is one link who’s action begins this week (it’s not too late)

I for one, plan to vote by mail at the earliest opportunity.  That was my original plan before all of this madness arrived as I hope to be in Ireland for October and a chunk of November this autumn.  Time will tell if I get my residency after all, and honestly that is the least of my worries in a world of so many worries just now.

If this idea resonates with you, write a letter to your senators, write a letter to your loved ones far away, and even one to those just up the road.  A hand written note or packaged gift can brighten these dark days in ways few other things can.

We small creatures must take to the postal waves and make our voices heard.  It is the only way.

Go.  Be the gift.

Ps:  you are not alone in feeling a lack of concentration in these strange times.  I really enjoyed this article about the Allostatic Load.  We will get through this.  (Charlie, this is for you.)

 

 

A glorious something else

“A glorious something else awaits.”

~Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

I sit with the sadness this morning.  Like so many of us in this time of so many griefs big and small.  Not anything in particular really.  I am fine actually, personally, just now.  The sun is beginning to peek through the clouds and it looks to be a potentially nice day.  I may get to see my sister today, from afar, and we will relinquish the little red dragon back into his normal life back home with her and her support team. He is welcome back here any time of course but  I know he will bring her comfort between her shifts in the ER.

Here, comforts are bursting forth from the ground up.  The long (long) awaited deer fencing is up so we can finally grow some proper food in a real garden bed.

Here are the young-uns. Did you know, egg shells are the perfect little vehicle for growing seeds? It’s true.

A few things are in the ground of course already.  The cold weather kind.  And it looks nice to have some life amidst the structure of it all.

Planted strawberries in pots so they might come inside again over the winter and rest in the warmth. I am learning along the way.
Garlic survived not only the winter, but our trampling around it as we built the garden from the ground up. I wanted to get them in the ground last fall and so it rested whilst we laid cardboard down, then leaves and straw and so much time. Later came more straw and wood chip mulch. Building soil, without tilling. This little patch is the only one with no grass barrier. We will see how it goes.
A note about these lettuce plants. They have served us so well. They started out as seeds in a bag of soil under a plastic bin for warmth over the winter. Here’s the how to: *click* 
We created some archway trellises for the more climbing kind of plant-creatures. I look forward to them shading any summer greens we might be able to plant.

I have nothing against deer really.  Like all of us they are just trying to make a living in the world.  But they are decimators of plant life.  And so, while most of our little acre is at their disposal to wander and chew,  we’ve cordoned off just this little bit for ourselves.  I’ve thought for a long time that growing some of our own food could be paramount.  I always thought this notion might be a bit dramatic really.  But now it all seems closer to home.  Closer to reality.

The deer have been warned to move along from this place. With all due respect.

“Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming”

~trad. Irish/Scottish folk song

I am grateful it is spring time.  It is good to walk and watch the wild world come alive.  A normal spring time here would see my work year ramping up into full gear.  Today I was due to be waking up in California, ready to find the weekend’s sketching spots for the upcoming weekend.  Well, we all know how that panned out.

And I would usually be chomping at the bit to get back to the Land of Enchantment for a taste of big skies and grand ideas and the feeling that anything is possible.  That is Taos for me.  But, alas.

A thousand tiny griefs.

It is a difficult balance in this strange new era of corona to make space for all the grief.  We as a culture are so quick to categorize the griefs and the joys as big or small, important or trivial – at any given time.  And here’s the thing, we don’t know what one thing or another might mean to any other person but our own true selves.  The joy of a new sunrise to one person might be equal to the birth of a child to another.  Circumstances differ.  We must make space for what that sunrise means to that one person on that very day.

I think the same holds for grief.  There is so much of it just now.  But it does us no good to hold one grief up against another for comparison.  Better to just allow.  and honor.  All of it.  It’s hard to do.  I’ve been heartbroken this last week or so with the cancellation of not only my Taos work, but the magical week of Swannanoa as well.  I had a good long snot cry over each of these in the bath, I’ll be honest.  I’m doing my best to honor these losses, to give them space, even while I read the headlines of the death toll mounting, and hear stories of the front line from my sister and her co-workers.

All of it is heart breaking.  We must make space.

Stunning photography by Seán Mac an tSíthigh. @buailtin on instagram

And we must compost this grief and cultivate joy in this space.

A wee peach tree given to me last year by my dear friend Kim Taylor. This year I shall place it into a larger pot and it can summer out in the garden, to get a taste of life in the big world. I shall continue to nurture it…..

It can feel a bit like a roller coaster of emotions of late.  I was saying to a friend the other day that if this time teaches us nothing else, it is giving us lessons in the notion of being as fully present as possible in each and every moment.  We don’t know if the things to which we look forward will actually come to fruition.  It is a new horizon in tech as we all try to connect real time with our beloved communities and families.  I can say for the record that the incorrect connecting device for one’s computer might actually drive one to tears (again) and another lost connection is added to the list of a thousand griefs.

And so how to navigate?

“Look at how a candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

~Anne Frank

I am fortunate to know many who somehow manage to exist above the fray.  I look to them for inspiration.  The other day Nuala Kennedy took to the airwaves to do a little concert.  It was inspiring and honest and beautiful.  Much like Nuala herself.

Here’s the post:  https://www.facebook.com/nualamusic/videos/10163320918625188/UzpfSTEzMDEyMzY2NTY6MTAyMjE5OTEyMzA1OTIxMjE/

A couple of far flung artist friends of mine are offering up their teaching online in beautiful ways as well.  Erin Lee Gafill of Nepenthe  in Big Sur, California has a lovely community built over on facebook if you look for “Awaken The Artist Within”, and her tutorials are over on YouTube.  Here’s a sample.

Erin is lovely and calm and brilliant in her scope of experience.  She brings a soothing presence to the canvas and to her teaching.  Getting into the paints is on my list of joyful things to do in these pandemic times….

Would like to translate this tiny sketch of a painting into something larger in scale. The canvas is prepped. But the garden calls.

Fabian Hernandez is an artist I met down in Antigua and he too is offering some video tutorials for free over on Facebook.  I know Facebook is the devil in so many ways, but it is an easy platform in a difficult time.  I find myself finding community there (as well as frustration on occasion too) more than usual.  This is to be expected and forgiven.

Here is a still from one of Fabian’s tutorials. You can find him over on FB here. *click* It’s all in Spanish, but you’d be surprised what you can pick up.

And so, here we are.  In need of a bang trim, trying our best.

My friend Rosemary says “I can get used to just about anything, if you just give me a minute or so to adjust.”  And I agree.  (My metaphor for this same idea is that ” I am not a tug boat in the harbor, more like an ocean liner, and it takes me a bit of time to turn course.”  But you get the picture.)

We are here for a while it would seem and every day brings new challenges.  Like everyone I am learning to sit with it all.  Learning to get my head up in the clouds when needed to get a 30,000 ft view over it all for some perspective.  As the weather improves the garden will go on, giving me focus.  I can get out into the back room (currently under construction) to play some music perhaps.  I’m being more mindful in the last week or so as to what I say yes to.  This to give space to the grief that is and the grief that is to come.  And the joy.

I am trying to see all of this as the space I have been craving for awhile now.  But I do miss my friends.   Especially the musical ones.

*small disclaimer:  I write this from a place of deep privilege which is not lost on me.  I am deeply aware of the bigger broader world, this is just my artful snippet of it.  Don’t forget to vote.  wherever you are.  

Sounds of Autumn

This morning, just after my first cup of coffee, an autumnal sonic assault begins.  A murderous whirring of epic proportions.

The gas powered leaf blower.

It is nigh impossible to think for oneself amidst the din of modernity, particularly in suburbia, where the moving of leaves around seems to point to some sort of status.

I wonder, what we might hear if we were afforded an opportunity to listen deeper.  To listen to the miniscule preparations being made by the smallest of creatures….

Roll, roll, grumble, grumble, roll…

The sounds of a gathering of food stuffs for the winter season.  Acorns, walnuts.

Crack, snap, crack, crack, stack…..

Further gathering and arranging of sticks and wood and kindling with which to warm ourselves in the months to come.   Even the smallest of fallen twigs might be of use.

Perhaps we hear the click, click, click of knitting needles working woolens into garments for bracing against autumnal winds…..

Maybe we hear the gentle felling of ripened fungi in the forest, so that they might be dried and saved for soup making.

What sorts of sounds do you listen for when the leaf blowers finally run out of gasoline?  How can we better listen to the quietude offered to us by the smallest of woodland creatures?  How might we better listen to ourselves?

 

 

Pacing

Too fast paced of late.  Frenetically crossing to-do lists off as if penance for up-coming traveling.  Only time out of doors can check this process.  Finally the temperatures drop to comfort level, leaving “hotumn” behind us.

October temperatures in the mid-nineties will make one crabby.

I find myself outside on a beauty-filled day.  Collecting leaves, plotting a small hillside in the back for a new vegetable bed slated for next spring.  Tunes wander through my head.  I take a break to capture a bit of this ochered season with my camera.  The old sweet gum tree in front is particularly lovely, dropping her petals into the main creek which is, miraculously, always running with a trickle even in the driest of times.  There are little skimmers paddling along in their own little world, which I suppose they do with or without our observation.

I put together a slow paced little gathering of sweet gum and skimmers for you here.  The music is used with permission and is by Nuala Kennedy.  Once upon a time I did a little art work for the cover of the album where this track can be found.  The whole collection is divine and if you haven’t heard it, you should.

It is my hope that in this busy time of harvesting and preparing for the darker days of the season, you too might find the time to settle down for a spell and take in the small wonders.

Here ye, Here ye!

I have some work going up in the coming weeks and I may even attend an opening or two as these are very special shows…… Do stop by if you are local to Cincinnati!

Opening of  Mind Gardens is May 3, 5-9 pm.

Poster Art by Ursula Roma

And of course, this show, the opening party of which is a spectacle in and of itself to be sure…..

Poster Art by Jonathan Queen

Hope to see you all there!

 

Tecolote Blooming

TECOLOTE

“A nomadic bird, Snowy Owl relocates when the weather changes.  In January 2012 rising numbers of Snowy Owls started migrating  in mass numbers from the Arctic to many parts of the United States.  One leading researcher described the migration as ‘unbelievable’.  Another researcher called this the most significant  wildlife event in decades.

Owls have been seen in indigenous cultures to be predicative of weather changes, and Snowy Owl is now showing us that as the Earth evolves we, too, must move and flow with the changes.

Snowy Owl blended in with the snow of the Arctic but stands out in contrast in more southerly environments.  One message we can interpret from this is that as the Earth changes we need to come out of hiding and be seen.  If you found comfort in blending in with your surroundings, the goddess energies, the feminine, might now be asking you to stand out and make your strengths known.  It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”

~Sandra Ingerman and Lyn Roberts – Speaking With Nature

The flowering trees are a force in our little patch of land. I love how the petals float down the little creek out back

Spring has sprung here in Ohio.  I arrived back only a few days ago, and today must get back into the world properly, spending a few hours at the shop and pursuing a shadow-box style frame for an plants-themed art project due quite soon.

(pssst.  Here’s the start of that project, begun in Antigua…..)

I’ll admit, I miss Antigua and it’s garish semi-tropical plant life.  And I miss my garish semi-tropical self as well.  In spite of the language barrier and the “foreignness” of food and drink, air and sounds, I felt so well adjusted down there.  Even with being “in charge” of things, hosting two separate groups of artists.  It was a lot to be sure, but I slept well and my anxiety was low.  I felt unfurled and properly relaxed, even in the midst of Semana Santa chaos and the weight of responsibility in my work.

Looking back and attempting to find a pattern, I realized that part of this was the time I spent in my garden before leaving for Guatemala. It was time spent tidying up a bit here and there and crafting gentle boundaries for the deer to allow some growth to happen in the plant-life and trees.  There truly is nothing so grounding as digging in the dirt.  So far, these boundaries are holding and things are bursting forth in splendor indeed.

Virginia Blue Bell – miraculously, the deer don’t seem to touch these guys
Weeping cherry on the hillside by the creek
White bud tree near front creek
Crab apple tree in front yard area
Raspberry!

Another important piece of the puzzle I have come to realize is that I didn’t spend very much time checking in on the social media outlets while down there.  I had too much to attend to really.  I’d post a bit on IG which posts automatically to FB and then occasionally I’d drop a sketch or so onto twitter with a hashtag or two.  I know that in this day and age, it’s part of my job and part of how I sell the work that I do so that I can do more of it.

Blueberry!
Elderberry!

This is all well and good of course, as we do live in a modern world.  But some of us, those who live close to the bone when it comes to mental health, must walk a careful balance when it comes to such temptations.  It can be all too easy to get hooked on who likes what has been posted, who might perchance redistribute it in someway or comment on one thing or another.  It can be all too easy to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at the work of others, while one’s own ideas wither and die beneath the surface of it all.

Social media makers have crafted a system that keeps us glued to our screens more than we should be and upon arriving back home, I melted back into those old habits.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy reading and reacting to comments on my own work, as well as the engagement with the work and words of other artists and writers.  But I realize something has to shift…..

We planted a lovely large willow tree just before I left and it’s thriving.
Wildflowers await transplantation once danger of frost has abated
The hub keeps the mower blade high enough to protect the “weeds” which we actually love. We stick to village tidiness standards, while allowing bee-friendly plants to grow in our “lawn”
Morning glories, getting a head start. I like to grow these lovelies just outside the front door as a way to soften the brick exterior.
Paw Paw…. wonder if she’ll fruit this year?

The nice thing is, I pay attention to these trends in myself and could feel the anxiety creeping back into my bones.  Though I had a good balance with the social media work while I was away, upon returning home to familiar territory I could feel the internal quandary of “not-good-enough” and comparison with everything else on the internet – that sense that I am never, ever doing quite enough to keep up with the rest of the world.  Even as I enjoyed catching up with it all on some level.  All of this is a bit ridiculous, I know, but there it is.

How is it that while in Antigua I could practically feel a proper book pitch bubbling together just under the surface while upon returning home find myself back in the sludge- swamp of insecurities that so marks my day to day?  How can ideas be so clear and firm on one day in one place, only to scatter to the wind when “real life” gets back into gear.

“It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”

A dear friend of mine, who shares my deep love of metaphor and signs, shared the owl quote from above with me yesterday as I was writing up the post about this latest journey.  How was she to know that tecolote (just one of the many Spanish words for “owl”) had featured prominently in our time in Guatemala?  So prominently in fact that I picked up a mask of owl to bring a lovely burst of color to our front entryway….

Not so very long ago, in autumn, I made a painting with owl which was shown in winter at the local art center.  My friend and I decided that perhaps this was just the beginning of my journey to “showing up and being seen and heard” properly, which is at once scary and exciting.  That even then, tecolote was talking to me.

The ever magical Hawthorn tree which is a gateway to the fairy world if there ever was one. With the planting of this tree in the footprint of our old ash tree, I invited the magic back into our land. It seems to be working.
My plant ally, Apple. This year she blooms, which makes me really happy.
Protecting these little blooms from the deer has been a top priority for me in recent years.

I long to burst forth with so many ideas that I’ve literally had for decades but I find I always have time for every-thing and every-one else, while setting aside my own work in the process.  It’s classic avoidance behavior and I am guilty as charged.  And so, with this in mind, I logged off of two of the largest time-sucks in the social media realm – facebook and twitter.  For now I shall leave instagram on so that I can post pictures there and announce when I share a blogpost.  But I am carefully monitoring even that.  My intention is to write a bit more here on the blog.  Sketch more.  Allow the disparate ideas to trust me to bring them to light in their own way, in their own splendor.

Gardens must be tended.  With each journey to far away lands, I learn more about how better to tend to my very own garden, both literally and metaphorically.  I’d love it if you drop me a line here now and then, and let me know what you think as I sink my roots into deeper soil.  I’ll admit I do still enjoy a nod from outside myself now and again.

I do not know how to make a “real” book pitch.  I have 11 years of writing on this blog and I am told it is of value and worthwhile.  And so perhaps I shall spend some time reading my own writing and sampling that to send off to agents and publishers.  So far, I have only really been sending off illustrations here and there.  If I were to state it clearly, I’d love to see a little published book with my thoughts and sketches of my reacquaintance with the country of Guatemala.  A little book that might inspire others to dig into the wildness of their own past and see it bloom through new eyes.  I do not know.  I only know, I must do a better job of trusting in my own vision, instead of always permitting myself to view the world through the vision of others. *

*don’t worry, I will still keep track of things which make my heart sing and I will always share them here.  The world is too filled with beauty to spend all one’s time narcissistically navel-gazing.  🙂

The other day on NPR I heard that *strangely*, the world’s collective attention span is getting shorter (I know, *gasp!*)  I know this to be true for myself and it’s another reason for paring down my social media usage.  Here’s to trusting one’s own vision and forging forth on longer term, deeper projects – and bringing them to fruition.   I’d love to know if you are doing something similar in your own relationship to social media, and how you find and keep that balance.

More soon…..

Mapping the weeks ahead

Antigua beckons…..

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.

Art by Ruth Evans for www.wearetheark.org

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…..