Today I have the great pleasure of presenting a bit of my illustration work and sketchbook process to some college students at a local university. So I have been collecting a few of my books and drawings and have been thinking deeply how all of this stuff has affected and changed life as I know it. It’s amazing really.
Yes, I am an artist by trade and vocation. But I don’t think one has to be An Artist to find one’s path through life in an artistic manner.
Human beings are born makers.
“When we pay attention to who we believe we are and we surround ourselves with the things that reflect that story, with all its urges, aspirations and processes, we develop a perspective that’s uniquely ours to share. In turn we can share that unique perspective and, acting from a place of greater wholeness and awareness, thus become better and more useful members of our community.”
” I never knew I was creating a world which was an antithesis to the world around me which was full of sorrow, full of wars, full of difficulties. I was creating a world I wanted, and into this world, once it is created, you invited others and then you attract those who have affinities and this becomes a universe.”
Rain is falling and it is said snow is coming. What a perfect time to share this……
So excited to finally share with you a little drawing I made in late summer or so. It is the cover art crafted for a beautiful collection of pre-twentieth century European Christmas carols, all arranged for fiddle and guitar and performed with such delicate grace by Finn MaGill.
You can obtain this music digitally via the link below during pre-order days for just $7 until Nov. 29:
In a world so mad with the day to day, it is really nice to find a pensive work of music to set the tone. Especially for the holidays. Truly, it’s lovely. Go get it.
In other news, I have been pulling myself up by the bootstraps a bit as I dig back into colder weather and grayer days. I look back at older work to see where newer work might come from. My friend Rima Staines posted online a week or so ago a weeklong set of prompts for “Folk Tale Week” and at the last minute, I decided to play along.
It was good for my mood. Here they are….. (but to read my reasoning behind choosing these particular images for these specific prompts, go to my instagram page.)
It really was fun to re-visit some of my older drawings, and fun to feel inspired to make a couple of new ones as well. New ideas are a funny thing. We need the space and time in which to create them, and in a busy modern world, finding that is a feat in and of itself. But we must also seed new work with perhaps pieces of our own old ideas, or maybe some new things from people and things that inspire us. and so, we strive for balance.
This balance is always up for scrutiny, at least for me. Too much time alone with my own thoughts can be dangerous. Too little, is equally or perhaps more so. But I keep wandering the artful path. Trusting that time spent playing my flute or learning new things on the pipes is time well spent (let’s face it, no money is being made and in this modern age, that can seem like a waste of time!!).
In pipes class the other day we were lamenting the piping path, fraught with peril. And a new idea occurred to me of a series that might happen showcasing a newish piper, a Badger perhaps, clumsily finding his own way along the road to piperhood. And so I may have a new friend. He may look a bit like the fella singing in the album cover above…. John Joe? is that you?
More soon on all of it. In the meantime, treat yourself to the quiet beauty of Finn’s new album. It’s gorgeous. And for once, I am excited to put on Christmas music.
” I sat down on the bank above the beach where I had a splendid view all around me. Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.”
We are more than a week home to Ohio now. In this time we have run the gamut of human emotions. Grief over the loss of and funeral for Tony’s mom, love and glee at reconnecting with far flung family at said funeral, relief at being in one’s own bed and living space, awe at the turning of the season, as autumn in Ohio carries its own special splendor. Overwhelm at the return to the reality of regular responsibility.
So often the case, I find my soul lagging behind my body after a trip of such magnitude and so part of my mind’s eye is still fixed on the magical hills and cliffs and windswept beaches of western Ireland. But I am more fortunate than most who return to the US from a trip to the Emerald Isle. I have music.
I shall start with that.
Irish music has been in my life for a good while now. Beginning with my son taking on the challenges of the fiddle, which led not only to his life’s work as a musician but also to me forging my own brambled path via whistle, flute and eventually (gods willing and the creek don’t rise) the Uillean pipes. To say this music is a gift in my life would be a vast understatement. Everywhere we laid our weary heads whilst in Ireland had something to do with the music.
Our friends in Blackrock, Co. Louth are both musicians. Through their work over the years, they have come to know many influential people in the relatively small world of traditional Irish music. And this is how I came to find myself treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a private lesson with a legend.
Seamus Tansey is a force to be reckoned with. His playing carries the wild, untamed side of Irish flute music and his mercurial personality matches this fierceness. He’s a character not to be crossed, from everything I have ever heard about him. And yet, because I came connected to someone he holds in high regard, I think he took a shine to me. Our lesson was mostly me being stunned at the musical gymnastics he was asking for and him being patient with my inabilities. There is nothing more humbling than this music and I have so much to learn, it’s true. Perhaps this lesson with a legend would have been better spent on one besides myself, one with more knowing of the intricacies of this tradition. But when one gets this opportunity laid in front of them, one must say, “I accept.” I am grateful to Seamus and his lovely wife Joan for their gracious hospitality, to Simone and Sean for shuttling me to Northern Ireland for this opportunity and to Lillie whom I took to the airport hotel in Dublin far earlier than maybe suited her so that I could get to Belfast in time for all this. Life is rich indeed, and we all do things to build each other up, do we not?
One of my favorite evenings of this trip was of a night in a Kerry kitchen, trading very local tunes with my friend Michael, a lovely box player who is a bit too shy to play at the sessions but who has loads to share. Another favorite memory is that of an open session in a little pub in Dingle called Neligan’s. Another box player called Michael, along with a few other lovely players and another lovely night of tunes indeed. A shout out to publican Dara who makes all feel welcome and at home in his pub. Thanks for the encouragement to come along and play! (We shall catch up to ourselves in Dingle shortly here in this writing…..)
Dingle is quite the touristy place really. I can only imagine the throngs during the season. But I think of this music as a bit of a back stage pass. Knowing a few tunes and humbly sitting in (only when invited, of course) at a local session can mean that the local musicians might stick around for a chat after the tunes. And just like that, one makes a new friend or two.
Thankfully for Tony, all was not incessantly musical. There was much touring to be done in our short time in Ireland. I was keen to hook him on this country I hold so dear with the hopes of luring him back once again. I will be there next year for a whole month of course and I hope for him to tag along for a bit of November perhaps….. we shall see.
We took in the windswept Cliffs of Moher where there was not only natural splendor…..
But the splendor of quirky humanity as well which made my heart swell. There was an intrepid couple from away, maybe Portugal or Italy (difficult to hear with the wind blowing) who were keen to get some iconic wedding photos made….
Her veil blew in the wind and the rains did fall. Everyone seemed to be good sports about it all.
Others got in on the fun and had their own impromptu wedding shoots….
It was one of those rare, feel good moments when one feels a part of things and good to be a human. These kids might have been from Germany (again, so hard to hear with the wind as it was). But strangely, all seemed right with the world for the moment.
Eventually, the next day, as you know, saw us headed further south, further west to the Dingle Peninsula, “Corca Dhuibhne”. We soldiered on through rain and fog and down impossibly small roads which found us over impossibly foggy mountains. The skies did clear and Dingle did cast her spell eventually and we found the music there that night at Neligan’s. Sadly we barely had 24 hours to explore this amazing peninsula, but we took in what we could.
All around there was a feeling of being in an “other” world, of being blessed by those who exist in a greater beyond. Things seem chancey and strange here.
“Then I went to Ireland. The conversation of those ragged peasants, as soon as I learnt to follow it, electrified me. It was as though Homer had come alive. Its vitality was inexhaustible, yet it was rhythmical, alliterative, formal, artificial, always on the point of bursting into poetry.”
~George Thomson, The Prehistoric Aegean
Language, in English as well as Irish piles up like stones. Every nook and cranny, every stream and small strand has a name.
The sheer breadth and depth of such a small place is difficult to capture and express. It is said that Ireland is the size of our Indiana. And yet, it carries aeons of legends and myths, tales of wonder and woe. It would take a life time to learn and unpack it all.
We start with small words, easy to learn. Familiar concepts.
Creatures we know we love already.
Perhaps through painting the sights we see, learning the tunes which waft through the air, and engaging in a word or two of Irish here and there, we might find our way to being accepted by this land I feel so drawn to. I am keen to spend more time in Ireland.
I like the idea of being able to walk to the sea, and to the local bookstore, and the local pub, which might not only feature a warming bevvie, but also a nice cup of soup on an evening I don’t feel the urge to cook.
I actually don’t even mind the backward driving….
I love the constant presence of ravens and crows (kind of like in New Mexico).
But alas, here I am, now, in Ohio. And I do not grieve this. I have an amazing inlet and outlet for music via the Riley School, I have a wonderful community of fellow artists. We have a patch of land where I am about to go set some garlic in for the winter and batten down the hatches against the squirrels. Life is good wherever we are.
But I am glad to know of a few places, one especially, which make my heart sing. Most folks might go a whole lifetime and not find this. For this I am grateful.
Today my Kerry companions and I head north on a little road trip to Ennis in Co. Clare, endlessly chasing the music. There is a gig to attend by a friend who makes this music professionally and a session in the works up the road after the concert. And so, this day will be a traveling day.
I know I am not painting “enough” in recent days but writing feels like the art this week. Gathering imagery and words. Following the threads of inspiration. This is “enough”. Whatever that means.
As I left this space in my last post, I was off to don wellies and wander up the road with my hosts here to visit a bit of bog land that has been a part of their family and culture for generations. The bog road goes well off the Ballybunion road and so traffic, if any, is light, and consists of other walkers and wanderers seeking a bit of quiet time in Nature.
We dodge raindrops and keep an eye on the horizon for rainbows. Of course there are rainbows.
The bog is quiet with only the sound of the breeze, the rain falling, bird song and a an occasional gentle mooing of a far off cow.
Bogs are natural wonderlands, filled with all kinds of flora and fauna for those with eyes to see. Ferns and heather, native grasses and mosses. It is a lovely place to behold.
The silence of the bog is infectious and exactly what I have been craving. I find it interesting that this segment of Brain Pickings is about silence and it comes across my digital path this morning as I build a little blog post before hitting the winding road to Clare.
This bog is a working bog and local folks have utilized the turf to heat their homes and light their hearths for years. This is all now up for discussion nowadays as bog turf holds a great deal of carbon. My companions are gentle stewards of this patch of bog as well as of the land which holds their cottage and grows much of their food. They know this place well and appreciate its limitations. I for one hope that a least a bit of turf can be burned here and there in future as the smell is divine.
After the bog walk, we return to the cottage for a cup of tea and a game of fetch with Pancake, a lovely pup indeed.
I am treated to a bite to eat and evening descends upon us. Tea turns to wine, conversation turns to tunes, just myself and Michael – flute and accordion – and I hear slides and marches which are new to my ears. They are local to this place and I wish for them to be collected and played back home, to celebrate this beautiful quiet patch of Kerry. Mike and I talk about how the old tunes are really the best tunes. Flash and musical prowess are lovely to behold, but there is something so rich and lovely about a few solid tunes in the kitchen with a local farmer. I am blessed beyond belief.
Later I return home, my head fairly swimming with music (*finally!*) and I am reminded of the date. It is the anniversary of the death of one of my best and most influential friends of this life time – Mia. If she could see where life has taken me, she would beam, I am sure. When she was ever so ill, I had just begun on the whistle – awkward and shy about it. But she insisted I play what I knew for her and so I did. She laughed and clapped in delight and told me never to stop playing. I haven’t. I miss Mia on a regular basis and think that perhaps the magic of this special day, from pre-dawn beach time, to a bog-walk under a watery sun and into the evening with new tunes and dear friends may have just been a blessing from the beyond. I am deeply grateful.
Ballybunion is a bustling seaside town in the summer, but it quiets down quite a bit in the ‘off season’, as many of the best places do. There is a sweet sign in the park which overlooks the ocean, reminding us not to take ourselves so seriously, something time spent at the beach can often do.
Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round, or listened to rain slapping the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight, or gazed at the sun fading into the night?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.
Do you run through each day on the fly, when you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.
Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow and in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say hi?
You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day, it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.
Life isn’t a race, so take it slower, hear the music before the song is over.
David L. Weatherford
There is nothing like the sea and time spent near it to calm the inner storms and frustrations which plague. Yesterday my companions and I drove out to Ballybunion and braved a bit of rain and wind to take in the fresh sea air. We were not disappointed.
After a lovely, misty wander up and down the beach, we walked back up to the village and warmed up by the fire with Guinness and Wine for some, tea for me. I am quite proud that I can drive here in Ireland and have thus far done fairly well.
This morning I opted to steal away before dawn for a few more source photos and merely more time by the sea. If I lived just 10 km down the road from this place, might be found there almost daily.
It rained nearly all the way from Listowel to Ballybunion but the clouds did eventually part and I was treated to a magnificent morning indeed.
As I walked and took pictures, I swept the beach for bits of plastic I might be able to pick up. There was more than I’d hoped for, but all in all it is such a clean beach. Still, we must do better.
There is such a sense of history layered upon history here in Ireland and there is no escaping it. There is the Renaissance era Ballybunion castle ruins which are so iconic, and the old escape hatches sometimes found niched into the cliffs that some say may have predated the castle and began in the Iron Age as food storage cellars. It’s fascinating! And I realize, we are only temporary.
Nature will, eventually, take everything back.
There shall be more here, but for now I must find my woolen socks and ready my camera as I am due to be picked up for a visit to the bog with our hosts here in Listowel. Taking in all I can, while I can.
ps, I am told that the way the woman in this video lives is very much like how my friends here grew up in the very cottage we stay in now, which has been updated with a few modern amenities…..
~Irish saying that translates literally as “People live in each other’s shadows.” (via @nualamusic)
Today is the 30th of September, and the facet of my heart that shines brightest in New Mexico sunlight beats in time with those of my soul family there as they celebrate the Feast of San Geronimo.
This celebration is sacred to my friends, and we don’t talk much about the meaning of it all. Rather we bask in the company of one another, we celebrate a successful harvest with food and community and we encourage the Lady of the Mountain to don the golden colors of autumn.
There is talk of Shadows when the Koshares appear to wreak a bit of havoc, which adds to the festival atmosphere.
It is a day to sit in communion with the land and the mountains and the folks who live on and with it. Today I send a lot of love out into the cosmos, especially to my beloved Land of Enchantment.
“We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own”
We find ourselves in Maine, where once upon a long time ago, many many lifetimes ago actually, we came as newly fledged adults to begin finding our way in the world. Much like recently hatched ducklings, we imprinted on this land then and have returned year after year in pilgrimage to this place which so shaped us in those early days. The smells, sounds, color and light here are different from all else and they speak in a soul-full tongue indeed. We are grateful to be here.
As it is a “workaday” sort of day for many of us here, I crept away to a local point to give my paint brushes a little spin, they having collected a bit of dust during my time down other, more musical pathways recently.
I found a perfect spot under a shade tree, at the end of a lane one can find only by foot. There were welcoming spots in the form of benches and water accessible paths. I opted for a space at a picnic table and set about to sketch a bit. It was clear that other artful efforts had occurred in this very space as there was evidence.
So I began with the watercolors, of course.
Eventually moving over to oils…..
…..which are not without their frustrations, but I mixed and painted and observed and corrected and painted some more. And got the bones of a painting down which I can perhaps work with later in the week once we are settled at camp.
All in all, it was lovely exercise on this, my first day back here in Maine where we are settled in for awhile, nestled by the sea.
I am between traveling. Home from a brief visit to Aspen, Colorado, where our son Jack is part of the Aspen Music Festival, living his musical dreams to the fullest. It is truly something to witness, one following their truest path. He is at home in music.
While he worked and practiced and performed, we took in the natural splendor of Aspen and surrounds, grateful to Jack’s wonderful hosts who took us in and treated us like family.
It occurred to me while sitting at the base of the Maroon Bells that the best people in our lives, many of the most important connections moving us ever forward and truer in our own lives, have come from a few simple things – art, music, and the pursuit of what makes our souls sing most heartily.
I think about the time years ago, sitting at the base of those same iconic mountains, when I made the decision to pursue a proper art degree upon returning home from a metalworking class I’d taken at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass near Aspen. What is it about the clear mountain air and the presence of a stately, ancient mountain which affords us such lofty notions? I do not know. But I’m beginning to pick up on the fact that if I have something to think about, I should find myself at the foot of Taos Mountain, Volcan de Agua, or perhaps those lovely iron-laden Maroon Bells to find my answers.
Aspen felt like a proper vacation after the rich and deep work done in New Mexico. While the Hub and I did sketch quite a lot in some gorgeous locations, there were often times I personally just sat and took it all in. Jackie Morris of The Lost Words fame recently stated on an episode of Folk On Footthat one of the most difficult things for her to learn as an artist was that the sitting and thinking and looking and thinking some more, are as important to her job of Artist as the pencil and paint to paper practicalities of her craft – perhaps even more so. Having not come from a background and family of practicing artists, she’s found this notion difficult in past, and has only recently begun to truly take it on board. I feel much the same.
That said, the watercolors and pencils do beckon in beautiful places, and I did make a few drawings.
Aspen is steeped in the arts, with ties to the taste and aesthetic of the Bauhaus tradition in its design and of course in the music festival itself held there each summer. Everything is better with the arts involved.
Today, just now, I write to you here fairly giddy with relief, gratitude and a sense of overwhelming possibility. I have *finally* (after literally years of frustration and hemming and hawing) upgraded my tech tools here in the studio.
I’ve invested in a more travel worthy laptop machine for writing and photo-manipulation on the road, and even opted for a large home-base monitor when I am at my desk in the studio. Sometime today (*hopefully*) a little scanner will arrive and I’ll get that set up as well. All of this is in keeping with the plan to get more work made and into the world. Let’s be fair, I work. I work a lot. In some ways I am never NOT working. But so much of my energy was going into technical glitches and the waiting and slowness of manipulating photos on outdated technology. If I was to engage in a blog post, I needed a solid day to get it made. And so, I found myself putting off writing. I have so much work to share, but with an old scanner, my work never translated well to digital, and so it took a lot to get it tech-ready for sharing online or presenting for publication or applying for grants and residencies. With some encouragement from Vanessa at NessyPress and moral support from the Hub, I took the plunge and threw the necessary gold coins into the abyss to get the tools I needed.
It took some doing, and a few trips to the computer store and calls to the tech folks at apple, but we managed to get it sorted. And here I am, knocking out an update here in a more prompt and succinct manner. This feels sustainable. It was time for this investment.
But tech tools aren’t the only important thing, of course, merely being the vehicles by which the work is dispersed in this world. I also took a bit of time to make a traveling oil paint set up.
Watercolor is generally my go to travel companion. I have the set up I love, a little traveling “van” in which to cart it all, and it really works. Even so, I pine for the oils when I find myself in beautiful places. Our family trip to Maine, coming up later this summer, is a perfect combination of loads to do combined with plenty of “down time” to just play. That play might be on the water, catching up on books we’ve been meaning to read, or perhaps trying new recipes with one’s best friend in tiny kitchen at camp. But there is always more time, and that is when I start feeling restless, wishing I’d brought some oil paints to play with.
So I put together a handmade pochade box of sorts, crafted from an old wooden cigar box, plus a little carrier for any wet panels I may want to bring home.
The pochade box is pretty sturdy, and the wet panel carrier will do until I decide if this is something I may do again and again. All in all I spent about $20. A worthwhile investment on vacation satisfaction I do believe.
Upon returning from Aspen, I felt overwhelmed with home chores and the work needing caught up on at the shop and in my own studio. And so for the first day or so, I just painted and played music.
This practice set my head on straight and I was then able to sink into the tasks at hand. I am deeply grateful for all of it. I often think that in this day and age, it is difficult to remember to take a few minutes to breathe. To play a tune, paint a picture. There are Big Things we must tackle (did you hear Amy McGrath is taking on Mitch McConnell??), situations we must face, as heartbreaking as they are (there has to be a better, kinder, more humane way forward at the border, don’t you think?). Life is complex, and tormented at times, but it is also beautiful and simple in many ways as well. It always has been.
Next week I am off once again for my own musical adventure at the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina. On the one hand, this week is truly a get-away-from-it-all Brigadoon of sorts where we forget the world outside, focus on learning tunes and improving our craft and catch up with dear friends who have become musical family over the years. But on the other hand, it is so much more.
This week at music camp, and for that matter, my week of teaching in Taos each year, are a form of deep magic. Magic which in some way counteracts all of the darkness we see through our screens in this modern age. The very human physicality of coming together to play tunes, sing songs, laugh and cry together over the year’s happenings, somehow counteracts the “badness” in the news. It’s not a cure all to be sure. But it is the way many of us take respite from it all, if only for a moment, in order to get back out into the world and do the work.
Artists confront the difficult in this world. Just look online at the work of artists during WW1 who were interpreting the previously unimaginable through their paintings. I personally have taken to avoiding the echo chambers of social media for my own outrage over the state of things nowadays. But I have my ear to the ground. I support candidates who are doing good things in the world. I take to the streets as needed. I volunteer with and support the vulnerable. But I also seek joy. And beauty amidst the outrage. For if I, or any of my artist friends begin to lose perspective (and isn’t it so easy to do?) then we amount to nothing.
It is my hope to be a source of light in the darkness in this modern age. A reminder there is a place by the hearth-fire for anyone who needs a break between difficulties. We cannot do it all, let alone singlehandedly. Art and Joy, Music and Friendship, Beauty and Solitude are worthy pursuits, even in this fast paced, crowded, often seemingly ugly world. Let us make art and music.
But first, there are tunes to play (yay!!… below I’ll list where we are playing locally in coming days) lists to attend to, errands to run.
In the meantime a favorite part of the work I do is to collect bits of ‘swag’ to present to my students upon arrival in whatever destination we may find ourselves. For the Antigua trip, I’ll gather a few things once I arrive to combine with things I’ve gathered here in Ohio- like little altoid watercolor sets to work with (this allows people to try new colors which might not be available in their own sets and to play with limiting their palette as an exercise).
I’ve crafted a keepsake illustrated map of some of our favorite haunts in Antigua which I’ll reproduce for my students. It’s fun! It is my hope that not only will this come in handy to know where they are as we sketch the city, but will also encourage them to create their own version in their own travel journals. We must always map our own course, I do believe.
There are stickers…. always stickers…..
….which encourage a bit of ‘mixed media -ness’ in our books. I’m sure to have a few more tricks up my sleeve but really the true gift will be that of spending time together, slowing down and enjoying this World Unesco Heritage city in all its glory. To say I am excited to return would be an understatement.
Here at home I have been gifted some tree cuttings to root as I re-think the stewardship of our little patch of land. I am mindful of what needs to be done in the garden, and perhaps more importantly, what needs NOT be done as well. Do check out the work of We Are The Ark in the hopes of re-wilding small places to create a network of healing in these times.
While I was making stickers at the library today for my workshops, I saved a bit of time to make some stickers for this cause as well. I’ve mentioned this notion of holding two things at once in our hearts, yes? We must do the work we do in the day to day, while also tending the wild places in the corners of our gardens and spreading the word about the need to be more mindful in this world. Limiting consumption where we can.
In this same spirit I am following closely the work of young activists who are striking from school when and where they can (usually Friday’s but I know it can vary region to region). Emma Reynolds has pulled together a number of illustrators to show solidarity with these brave voices and here is my little drawing…
That is the news from today. For now I am off to rehearse tunes with my musical mates. We don’t often have microphones thrust in front of us, and so we take a bit of time to practice for these once-yearly gigs.
You can find me here in the coming days……
Saturday: Arnolds Bar and Grill 8-1130 pm
Sunday: B-List Bar in Bellevue KY 4 pm-730 ish then Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel 9-12 (this is quite fancy)
I hope to see you there if you are local to this little river valley. More soon as I get set to hit the road very soon…..
New album, Songs of Instruction, by Kim Taylor, is now streaming…… I highly recommend it.
The wind blows and blows and blows today. The sort of ill-wind which sets my teeth on edge and often brings on a seizure spell in poor old Iris Rose, our resident canine barometer. Mother Nature seems to be telling us that she’s none-too-pleased with the state of things. And who can blame her.
“Cover me, cover me, cover me, cover me. All the leaves, all the trees, the storms and seas, just cover me.
Cuz I’m troubled by this world. I’m troubled by this world.”
~Kim Taylor (from her new album, Songs of Instruction
Today a random peek at my social media feed provides the gift of a beautiful new rabbit hole down which to venture. The evocative nearly 3 acre world of Bealtaine Cottage, a permaculture life and project of one Colette O’Neill of Co. Roscommon … (I know, I know, more Ireland…. but I don’t seem to be able to find quite the same specific, familiar magic here in the states – Ohio specifically. So here we are, in Ireland, once again.)
O’Neill seems to have a direct picc-line into the heart of all-earthy-things through her blog and video presence online. In her nearly 14 years of living with and on her land, she has documented her journey and now carries an enthusiastic following from like-minded folk around the world. I now consider myself one of them.
To watch and listen to a video post of Colette’s is to enter into another realm of sorts. She is not just a gardener. She is a guardian-er. She is the Bob Ross of Guardian-ing. (seriously, just go listen to her.) Today as I worked at the drawing table, I had her YouTube channel on, going from one meandering, thoughtful video to the next and I found myself transported. These are ad-free videos I might add. Which adds (no pun intended) to their appeal.
Long ago, when I first began this wee artful place of my own here on the inter-webs, a few kind souls, eager to see my art work and writing take flight, suggested I engage in making a bit of money here and there by allowing some thoughtfully chosen ads to roost in this online nest along side my own work. I’ll admit I thought about it.
The push to make money is a strong one in our society. But I realized that those ads might be like the greedy cowbird who comes into the nest seeking refuge and an easy birthing place, only to kick the original egg or fledgling inhabitants out onto the pavement replacing them with their own agenda. In the end, I decided to be ad free from the beginning, much like Keri Smith, whose blog and art I have also admired for many a moon. I have yet to regret this decision though it has meant only the slowest of growth in a world obsessed with scaling things to the next level.
Travel season is coming. I look forward to this, though I have mixed feelings about it to be honest. The workshops I teach involve my going far afield and this means flying- which isn’t the best way to treat the planet just now. But, for the time being, this is just how it has to be as I build things in my work. To mitigate this damage, I’ve taken to driving way less where I can here at home (have cut the day job commute to 2 days at most!) and keeping things as local as possible when I am in town. Small moves such as moving our family medical practitioner to one just up the street, versus clear across town, to name one example. Little things add up, I do believe. And it’s a start.
Our little patch of land has seen a great deal of change in recent years with the loss of trees suffering death and damage from the emerald ash borer, (to name just one culprit.) We have begun the replanting with apples, a new hawthorn tree and some berry bushes (who were nearly decimated by deer last season and so we will be fencing more properly this year).
As I begin to fly hither, thither and yon for my work, I will come home in between trips to plant trees. Willow, oak, maple. More fruit trees as well. We will have to protect them from the deer who can destroy everything in their path – this being no fault of their own really, just a sign of how out of balance things are in our little corner of the world. I am hopeful to put a fence around a small front garden patch to attempt a bit of a kitchen garden at least. With perhaps a trellis of sorts to provide a bit of shade on the front door now the trees aren’t there any more……. I can just picture how happy the morning glories and clematis might be there…….
This is the only thing I know how to do as we move forward. The world is in trouble. There is no denying this, though so many – especially within the current leadership of this country in particular – do deny it. But we can all play our part. I am inspired by those walking the walk far better than I just now. And I follow blindly in their footsteps. Balancing the cliff’s edge of my own mental health, the need to do my work, and the necessities of next-steps-forward for the planet. It’s a tricky tightrope trek to be sure.
I welcome your thoughts on balancing things as we move forward as human beans – with the best options for this place we call home. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error. I find inspiration abroad but closer to home here as well…