Category Archives: music

Just the same

It is pouring rain this morning.  Despite this, I walk a few miles before sitting down to write.   Work at the concertina shop beckons as well – buttons to be polished, a case to be outfitted.  These quiet rhythms of walking and working, in one form or other, keep me grounded in the here and now, skirting the edges of anxiety – though thankfully not drifting too far into that country.  Worse yet in times of past perils, is the propensity to escape my body altogether.  This too, isn’t an ideal state.  So I keep to the rhythms of my days, best I can.

Yesterday, a day gray and heavy with weather to come, I stock up on a few basic groceries to set us up for the weeks ahead.  My favorite place is a market downtown, Findlay Market.  There is a lovely man visiting with a friend there and selling the Streetvibes paper.  I am glad to have a bit of cash in my pocket to buy his paper and support his efforts.  We stand  and chat about the weather and upcoming election, that there is a hurricane coming once more to the folk in Louisiana.  “Where is all this water coming from, anyway?” one of the men asks.   I answer, only slightly in jest, “Tears of our collective grief.”  This gets a laugh.

“There’s rain in the river and the river’s running through.”

~Nick Mulvey

I’ll be quite honest when I say that while my physically anxious tendencies are indeed mitigated with recent self-care and the slowing down only a pandemic can bring us, I am deeply concerned for what will happen in this country in the coming days.  The level of vitriol between opposing world views  is so palpable.  So much at stake.  And each side of the political coin thinks the ruination of our country will come with the election of the other side’s candidate.  It is no hidden thing that I am not a fan of this so-called president or his rabid followers, so you know on which side of the coin I rest.  To me, the direction of the world, not just our country, is really what’s at stake here.  No side of any coin will be able to exist amidst the climate changes already happening.  The election of Donald Trump would defy any efforts to save our poor crumbling planet.  His direction is simply the wrong way.  Greta Thunberg says “We are running out of time.”  and I believe her.

To anyone I know who still supports this mad man, all I can say is,

“I know you are so different to me but I love you just the same.”

Nick Mulvey

The song above has been rolling around in my head since I heard it on a podcast I’ve been listening to about the issues surrounding climate change.  It is a strangely hopeful show called Outrage and Optimism and I highly recommend it.  Instead of worsening my anxieties about the state of the world, it has merely deepened my ideas about changes that need to be made and how we can make them.   As I listen to this song, the words remind me of an old bible verse from Psalms:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 

Begin Again, Nick Mulvey

Mary was my mother’s mother and my sister too
There’s rain in the river, there’s a river running through
To the sea around these islands, crying tears of sorrow, pain
There’s rain in the river there’s a river in my veins
Mary, young as we may be you know, the blood in you and me
Is as old as blood can be
Is as old as blood can be
As old as blood can be
Living lines of memory through the markings on my hand
Ancient lines of living love, awaken in this land
Saying, I am in the forest, in the city and the field
I am in the bounty, come on, know me as I yield
I am in the falcon, in the otter, and the stoat
I am in the turtle dove with nowhere left to go
And in the moment of blind madness when he’s pushing her away
I am in the lover and in the ear who hears her say
Can we begin again? Oh, baby, it’s me again
I know you are so different to me, but I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
Love you just the same
Love you just the same
Love you just the same
Nigh-e
Nigh-e (Love you just the same)
Nigh-e (Love you just the same)
Nigh-e (Love you just the same)
Mary, if the world had 1912 to ’72 (Love you just the same)
Though we never met in flesh, here, I remember you
(Love you just the same)
Were woman you were gentle, you were modest, you were kind
(I love you just the same)
A mother, wife and gran you were a woman of your time
(Love you just the same)
Mary, young as we may be, you know, the blood in you and me
Is as old as blood can be
Is as old as blood can be (Love you just the same)
As old as blood can be (I love you just the same)
She says, I am in the living I am in the dying too (Love you just the same)
I am in the stillness, can you see me as I move? (Love you just the same)
I am in the hawthorn, in the apple and the beach (Love you just the same)
I am in the mayhem, in the medicine of speech (Love you just the same)
In the moment of blind madness when he’s pushing her away
I am in the lover, and in the ear who hears her say
Can we begin again? Oh, baby, it’s me again
I know you are so different to me, but I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
This may seem like a leap for some, but to me the idea of “I am” is inherent to the notion of the divinity in all of us, including those in the natural world.  Those whom Joanna Macy calls ‘the more than human world.  One time in a yoga class, one of my instructors laid out the following further break down of the Psalms verse:

“Be still, and know that I am.”

“Be still and know that I”

“Be still and know that.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Will, Cincinnati Yoga School

We sat with each statement for a few moments to let it sink in.  To ponder what the essence of the words might mean for us.  It was a lovely meditation of sorts.  Perhaps thoughtful meditation is what is lacking in our country.  The ability to sit in silence with one another.  The opportunity to think and breathe deeply and just BE – which is as close as we can come to divinity most days.

We are not a culture prone to stillness, quietude and self-reflection.  In the 2016 election, I was the only one amongst my circle of friends not to be surprised by the outcome.  I’d had a spidey sense all along that Trump would be the result of that grizzly contest, though I couldn’t have imagined how badly things might go, and how quickly too.  This election, I don’t even have a spidey sense about what’s to come –  a likely result of 4 years’ gaslighting from our Abuser In Chief.  I have spent a lot of time these last four years angry and anxious about the state of things.  With the pandemic came the time to slow it all down and think deeply.  To sit quietly with radical uncertainty.  As awful as this year has been, I am grateful for the slowing down it has wrought.  I seek to find the bright spots in this era of darkness.  That is one.

As we careen into the days (likely weeks) of uncertainty ahead, may we find ways to center amidst the madness of it all.  Our own fears for the future of our country and for the world at large.  May we continue to find divinity in our fellow human beings, (no matter our differences) and in the not so human beings as well.  Make some soup, drink some tea.  Be well, stay safe, stay kind.

I love you just the same.

And one other lovely nugget from the Faroe Islands……

I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
I love you just the same
Can we begin again?

x’s and o’s (the upper octave)

::: Twist of Hemp :::  Week 40

This week, John Joe Badger is working diligently in the upper octave, experimenting with a variety of approaches to achieving these ephemeral notes.

This can prove excruciating for some.

We thank them for their patience.

The “B” remains, for the time being, ever elusive.  Alas.

Away ::: Twist of Hemp 38 :::

Midweek, and we are away.

Skies – sunsets in particular –  have been magnificent.  Reminding us of our small place in the world.

Evening jaunts on the boat allow us a break from the heat on shore and affords us quality time together (at once more than we can handle and never enough – how I love this chosen family of mine).

At times we must dock the boat near the little local general store to stock up on supplies.  And sometimes we forget our masks and must improvise which results in iconic fashionry.

In this time of fear and uncertainty, we see others and wish them well, while also hoping they never come too close.

The light here in Maine, from a painter’s perspective, is perfection.  I take source photos for later use.  Balancing the time here, trying not to be selfish.  As usual, I would split the artist side of self off to go work in the corner all week bathed in paints while the rest of human self could dive into a book or a group activity in earnest.  But the art always calls and there is no splitting.  And so here we are.  I do the best I can.

would you look at that light????

It is a gorgeous day outside, and I have a paddleboard planned with my dearest, long time friend (she birthed both my babies with me back in the day, so you get the depth of our connection.)  Later, some socially distant music is planned with a fellow Irish musician local to these lakelands and I am grateful to find a tune here in the wilds, so far from home.

I realize that home is only as far away as the next tune, the next friend, the next dip into some paint of any kind.

I am home the minute I can center into a bit of music, or a puddle of paint, or a beautiful fireside conversation with loved ones (while a mysterious mink waterly wanders by with nary a splash.)

There has been daily practicing of the pipes, as the lady pipers group has done a tune trade this summer and my job was to learn a tune from my “tune fairie” and record said tune to share with my mystery tune-provider.

It was terrifying.  Honestly.

But I did it, as I am keen to do this.  To learn.  To find my small place in this tradition.  Even as an American with only distant ties to the motherland of this music, even as an adult learner with so very little musical knowledge. Even as merely an artist.  Something about all of it makes just sense.

And so I dive in.  Best I can.  We have limited time, always.  Especially when on vacation.  Especially when on vacation during a global pandemic.  I know this.

This limit is why I paint.   Why I play.  Why I write.

There is a recent article in Downeast Magazine about Miss Rumphius, a favorite book of mine about bringing beauty into the world as one lives one’s life.  I highly recommend it….

 

Why We Love Miss Rumphius Now More Than Ever

A couple of years ago I was able to visit an exhibit of Miss Rumphius illustrator Barbara Cooney’s art work and I was thoroughly captivated.

Hireath

What do you do to make the world more beautiful in your own way?

I’d love to know.

Wishing you all well, no matter what tune you are playing just now.

 

Transition

In which we dive in.

Yesterday was moving day.  The day on which we gather ourselves en masse for a week away from home and, more importantly, work.  There are groceries to collect, the packing up of all the essentials for a week at the lake.  Usually we figure we can have a meal in town and pick up any forgotten necessities.  Usually things are more casual and fluid, especially as the kids have become adults in recent years.  But this year is different.

We hunker down.

Moving day, even on a good year, breeds small anxieties in my heart and this year the spin cycle of the mind is even more active than usual. I am loathe to leave the ocean, but excited for the relatively warm, fresh waters of Long Pond.  I worry we will forget something, worry I’m not doing enough to be of assistance to our little family unit, worry I’m getting behind in my art work, becoming lazy and complacent here in this vacation-land paradise.  I worry my country is breathing it’s final dying gasps, worry about the ripple effects of this damned virus……  I won’t bore you with all of the worries, but you get the general picture.  This is my brain on transitions of most kinds, what can I say?  I am only human, a work in progress.

There is nothing for a wave of worries quite like playing a bit of music.  Good for the soul in so many ways – perhaps merely the tonal qualities of music in general and the necessity of managing ones breath as a flute player specifically.  One of my nagging worries yesterday is that I might miss the precious zoom calls which fall on the very hour we are due to be arriving here at our little rented cabin.

But, as with seemingly everything on this gift of a journey this summer, it all works out.  Our rental allows for a bit of an early arrival, which means I can attend these conversations after all.  My computer remembers the household wireless, so no technical glitches either.  With two back to back zoom calls, I get to see the faces and hear the voices of my musical mates from the Swannanoa gathering which shores up the heart in these heavy times.  We learn a couple of new tunes, all the while catching up with one another, with hopes to do so in person next summer.  But who knows?  With a bit of music, and the knowledge that my friends scattered around the world are ok for now, my unsettled heart shifts back into center.  I am grateful.

Soon we are unpacked and a simple dinner is in the works.  By tradition, we feast on steamed lobster, bread and a salad on our first night at ‘camp’.

After dinner, we load onto the boat for a sunset cruise and a swim.

That’s one way to wash away the lobster juice.

We are welcomed back to this magical place by the mournful calls of loons echoing back and forth across the pond.

Sunset is miraculous and beautiful over the Kennebec Highlands, as it is most days.  And we marvel.

The evening descends.  Some play games up at the house, others opt to watch the stars come out and listen to the loons down by the dock.  My anxieties are by now washed away by the gifts of this magical afternoon and evening.

It is now Sunday morning and there is a full, soft day ahead of us.  Each of us keen to soak it all in here together.  We all know there was a time, mere weeks ago, when we weren’t sure if we might even make this trip happen.  And so we are doubly grateful to simply be here this year, now more than ever.

Thanks to you, dear readers for coming along.  I really appreciate all of the emails and messages you’ve sent encouraging me to keep the updates coming.  I aim to do so, hopefully with more artwork as this week unfurls……

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

The Key of C

:::  Twist of Hemp ~ Week 27  :::

It is said that “C” is for ‘cookie’.

It is also for ‘cute’, and maybe ‘cuddly’ (to look at maybe).

To John Joe Badger (and to me, his ‘c’reatrix) “C” stands especially for ‘community’, which is at the heart of this music.  So many of the early days are spent in the woodshed, alone, learning our way around a new instrument.  But in the end, the tunes are meant to bring us all together.  The goal is to elevate a simple tune into a momentary, never-to-be-repeated magical thing that reminds us that we are all in this life collectively, come what may.

And what a May has come.

This week’s illustration (while, of course remembering that “C” does, indeed, stand for ‘cookie’)  is dedicated to two other “C”‘s.  Caitlin Warbelow and Chris Ranney, the brains and brilliance behind an amazing project called Tune Supply and who put together a concert featuring 45 artists from around the world this past weekend in celebration of Mother’s Day.


In the comments of the video from this virtual concert are a variety of links to support individual artists involved in this heartwarming project. Or one can just go here to donate to the project as a whole and the artists ‘c’ollectively, in ‘c’ommunity.

Give it all a listen.  It’s wonderful.  It’s hopeful.

Also in the interest of ‘c’ommunity, but a bit more close to home, I personally have been leading/moderating an online version of a session each week with the folks from the Riley School of Irish Music.  It’s not sleek, and it’s imperfect, but we take turns leading tunes or sets of tunes and we play one musician at a time, knowing that somewhere in the world, our mates are playing along with us.  We can see them, but not hear them as we play, and we all go unmuted then to chat in between sets.  Mostly, we catch up with each other, just make sure we are all playing a bit week to week, and not spending too much time staring into the abyss of a global pandemic.  While not an ideal situation, it beats a blank.  And let’s face it, few people are in an ideal situation these days.

The same goes for monthly Urban Sketchers virtual outings, both locally here in Cincinnati, and all around the world.  (pssst!  There is one here this Saturday!! Come join us for a zoom throw-down!) It’s not about the drawings so much as it is about the ‘c’ommunity that can come together again eventually to draw as a group.   For now we do our drawings from an online prompt on a mutual theme, then we “throw down” our drawings all together via a zoom call (noon this saturday).  Not sleek, not perfect, but it keeps us ‘c’onnected.

These adjustments may need to be in place in some form for some time to be sure.  But in the meantime, I am thankful for the virtual world to keep things at least ‘c’onnected.  Send me a comment or a message if you are looking to join a virtual session or sketch group and I hope we can connect.

We will get through this.  Eventually.

 

 

 

Ill Wind

In spite of green and flowering times, a cold, ill wind blows.

Sirens blare and we shelter.  In place.

In which we shelter in place with two small dogs during a particularly dramatic tornado warning. I send Tony out to grab the scotch. This makes Ari quite nervous. It is a small room indeed.  We do the best we can.

Each day I attempt to outrun this wind, to no avail.  She catches up by late afternoon.  Daily.

One foot in front of another, I write, paint, play, plant.

Running.

Daily.

I listen to the wind.  The lessons we must certainly learn from these times, yet likely won’t.

I wonder if I will ever get to my places again.  To Taos, the west of Ireland, Guatemala.  (I will walk to Maine if needed, eventually.)  Flying could be tricky from here on out.  We are in changed times.  I try to be open to what needs to happen from here.  I know there will be choices.

Yet there is much hope in the world, though it’s hard to find it on a windy day.  I find that merely being in my body properly (something I’ve worked decades to achieve) is difficult some days just now in this time with its fear and uncertainty so familiar in my bones.

The wind howls outside.

A bard of the ages is lost to us this week; one who was the soundtrack to our era and many others as well.  I wept at his passing and wish for his loved ones to know a gentle grief if at all possible.

Tomorrow I am told a delivery will occur.

The makings of a boundary here.  To cordon off a bit of our small yard to keep for ourselves, away from the voracious overpopulation of deer.  I’ve lain awake at night worrying over this deer fence, about its placement, its date of arrival (will it come soon enough for us to get our tomatoes in?!).

I know it’s not about the fence.

Perhaps I can carve a small safe place in the confines of this new garden bed.  A place where I might leave my worries at the gate and tend to hopeful things there.

And there are hopeful things.

I keep on with the pipes.  (If you missed it, I made a little video):

I’m working with Seattle based musician and song-writer Alex Sturbaum to create some art work in support of his latest album project which is appropriately called Loomings.  His songs are timeless.  A new bard for the ages.

A big box of really nice paper in a larger-than-I-am-accustomed-to size arrived just the other day and I hope to continue to explore the world of gouache painting.  In discovering this new medium I have found a way to take painting on the road without all the solvents involved in oils.

Yet now I wonder if the road will still be there when this is all over.

I try not to think too far ahead.  Some days I am not even sure what day it is.  I just run.  Doing my best to stay ahead of it all.

 

 

 

Virtually in Tune

~  Twist of Hemp Week 20  ~

The woodland is quiet all around.  Everyone, sheltering in place.  But if you listen closely to the ground, and in the trees, you might hear the whisper of music and conversation….

It would seem that the magical mycelial network has been working overtime making sure that all our animal friends are counted and cared for and have enough company, even for the most solitary among them.

The kettle is on, the tunes are being practiced, and we all merely….

wait.  Patiently.  Kindly.  alone, but together.

*author’s note.  This is WEEK 20!!  Thank you for following along on the musical misadventures of sweet John Joe Badger.  As you may have guessed, he’s a bit of me combined with the best bits of others as well to become his very own self.  I am really enjoying this series.  JJB’s world reflects our own, of course.  But hopefully with a bit more whimsy and sweetness in this dark and uncertain world of our own.