Category Archives: music

In my ears

In this past year, I had the opportunity to do some album cover art for a delectable collection of Christmas tunes crafted by Andrew Finn Magill.  You can hear a sample below or contact Andrew directly for a copy.  It’s worth the effort to obtain, I can assure you.  A gentle take on holiday music which really sets the tone of things.

And while we are on the subject of setting the tone of things, this gem has been on repeat here this morning:

I’ll let this write up tell you about the project, but for me, the album simply casts a magical spell.  It’s perfect music for artful gleanings….

And this, via my friend and flute teacher extraordinaire, Nuala Kennedy.  It too is lovely and mood changing.  And I highly recommend it.  Here’s a review which sums it all up beautifully.

And lastly, you know me, I adore what’s known as “pure drop” traditional Irish music.  I picked up this album while in Ireland and I’ll admit that it’s my go-to happy music to play in the car recently.

What are you listening to that helps to create your world as you would like it?  What might happen if we were to more carefully curate what comes into our sphere of consumption?  For me, the world becomes a slightly gentler place in which to forge the beauty I am so keen to offer.

 

The Dryness of Winter – A Twist of Hemp

~A TWIST OF HEMP – humidity~

….. in which we deal with dryness.  It is far too cold in the woodshed for John Joe Badger to practice his pipes.  He must bring the noise making inside where it is warm and dry.  Dry, yes.  Winter is dry.  And the pipes find themselves leaking air in all directions.  What is John Joe to do???  Well, he shores up leaky connections on his borrowed practice set with a twist of hemp thread, made sticky with a bit of beeswax.  He puts a full kettle on the stove top to boil.  These two things may help get John Joe through these trying, leaky, dry times.  For today at least……

John Joe’s struggles are my own.  I practice the pipes as much as I can, when I can find time alone in the house.  They are loud!  And not yet pleasant.  (For others at least.) The dryness that comes with a “forced air” heating arrangement is mitigated a bit with cool mist humidification and of course, putting the kettle on as much as possible.  It does help.  And so does the bit of hemp and beeswax.  It all feels very old fashioned.  It’s testing parts of my brain and motor memory which need the exercise!  I may never get to the point of playing this contraption out in the world.  But who knows?  I will say that I already have next week’s John Joe drawing idea in mind.  And it involves flying curses.  Til tuesday…..

Keep on playing!

 

Let us keep courage

Fine Folk grace the pages of my sketchbook, along with wise words from the wisdom keepers I trust.  I look to these wisdom keepers as beacons, following their light,  as will-o-the-wisp….. into the darkness.

One such beacon, writer Robert Macfarlane, was featured in an interview with Krista Tippett of the program On Being.  They discuss a recent book of his called Underland which is a gorgeous, lengthy tome; an exploration of the world beneath our feet as seen and sensed from a variety of angles.  It’s the kind of book that deserves to be by one’s bedside to fill the mind with juicy and delicious language as a doorway into dreaming.  This book apparently took Macfarlane 6 years to complete.  He dipped into other projects along the way of course, but this one crept along, under everything else it would seem.  It was worth the wait.

Underland explores a concept of Deep Time, one that is beyond human, but which can be tapped into by those of us with the proper notions to do so.  If you have been reading my ideas here over the years, you know this is something I hold dear, this time-bending.  I believe it is at the heart of the things we treasure as human beings.  Good art, rich poetry, the ability to go beyond the day to day.  To send our cultural tap roots down into the flow of All Things and perhaps channel something up.  All of this of course takes time and practice.  And there are no guarantees.

“CAESURA”

‘In verse, a pause in the rhythm of a line after a phrase; in choral work, a moment where singers might catch their breath.’

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

I really admire the depth of the work of writers such as Macfarlane, and I look to them for clues as to how to dig deeper into my own work.  Art as well as writing.  Even on social media channels, he and others like him make places like twitter and instagram into arenas of culture and idea-weaving.  I aim to do the same, having curbed my own use of such channels into avenues of art and music.  It’s a tricky balance in a world filled with instant sound-bytes and the next great and funny thing.  Last week Macfarlane announced he will be off of twitter for a while with the word caesura and its definition.

I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that.’

The idea of taking a break from social media is by no means a new one, by myself or anyone else for that matter.  There are books on digital detoxing which I have looked to when desperate for a break from it all.  Lately, thankfully, I have not felt desperate to leave the online arenas of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.  I have them fairly well and carefully “curated” in order to see things which inspire me.  New books to read, artists to research and learn something from, science to pique my curiosity and better my stewardship of my little part of the world.   I choose when and how to get my “news” as that can be fraught with peril in this day and age.  We must be careful what we feed ourselves, body and mind.

And yet, although not desperate to leave per se, I could use a break.  What keeps me tethered to the usual channels is the business end of things.  Usually, I am in marketing mode this time of year.  Selling my classes to Taos and Guatemala.  Hustling to show the world that yes, we go to beautiful places, have an amazing time together and make a bunch of gorgeous work.  (WE DO!!!!! )  And this is all part of my job.  But this year, I have been given a great gift…..  My classes for 2020 are mostly sold out (there are two slots left in the second week of the Antigua offering. That’s it!)  For once, I can relax a little bit.  And so I am considering a break over the holidays.

If this idea comes to fruition, I’ll be off of twitter, facebook and instagram from Nov 29 – Jan 1.

I wonder sometimes, if I make something, or write something, but I don’t shout it into the void of the social media platforms, have I really created anything?  This is the culture we are sold in this modern age.  I would like to confront this culture, especially in my own mind.  I’d like to follow some breadcrumbs of my own making just to see where they may lead.  Without the pressure to report.

This will be an interesting experiment.  I just began a weekly story idea which will continue to grow here, but folks will have to come find it, or wait until the New Year when I get back into the swing of things of sharing.  Soon, I’ll be packing for Guatemala and sharing via instagram sun-kissed, color-washed images of our time in Antigua.  It is in this way I beckon to future students to step into the sunshine with me and come on along!!  But with the classes filled to brimming, and a lovely waitlist padded out for Taos, I feel I can take the social media break I’ve been craving for years, without having to crash and burn mentally to get it.  It’s a good place to find myself.

So we shall see.  It is always a balance.  I may yet shift this plan into something less stringent.  But I am always leaning toward trying a new tactic with regard to my presence in the online world.  And for once I have the space to do so.

In other news…….

With Riley School out for break,  I am back to sketching along with my mates in the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers.  Last week we had a “boUrban sketchers” outing where we tasted bourbon at New Riff distillery.  It was great fun!!  Come along with us sometime!

I have a few paintings up at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s winter Collective show, EMERGE.  This one below was the belle of the ball.  I received many complements and offers to buy it.  But alas, it was snatched up by a private collector just days before the show.  I think the theme is one I’d like to explore further.  The quietude of this piece seemed to speak to a number of people.

The other work on which I received a good bit of feedback is this little lovely, Bonny Hills,  whose skies are filled with subtle color.  This is a second theme I hope to explore further in more paintings in the new year.  This one has not yet sold….  One of my fellow collective members said to me, I get the sense you were meant to be in Ireland.  How right she is.

In the music arena, the Riley School of Irish music will present its annual holiday program Peace and Merriment,  at 2 pm December 14.  Our address is 2221 Slane Avenue in Cincinnati.  Hope to see you there!  We also play a weekly session out in town: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays we can be found at Ludlow Garage in Clifton, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays , Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  Stop in and say hi!

 

A Twist of Hemp

Meet John Joe Badger. …. and his story in the coming weeks.


….. and……

And maybe,

 

A borrowed practice set of Uillean Pipes. Loads upon loads of humility and patience. A fair bit of time. And patience. (Did we mention humility?) And humor too, of course.  And we mustn’t forget the tea. Cups upon cups of tea. (I hear he’s partial to Lyon’s, with a splash of fresh milk).

These are just a few of the things John Joe Badger will need as he begins his journey down the perilous and noisy road of learning a bit about the Uillean piping tradition in Irish music. There will be blowouts, embarrassment, hours alone in the woodshed. (And more ungodly sounds!) But our John Joe is keen. He’s made a few friends on this same tricky path already and he’s acquired a teacher whom he’s fairly certain is a saint or perhaps an angel disguised as a fellow Irish musician.

This is week one of A Twist of Hemp. A little set of storied pictures of a timid badger making his way, albeit clumsily, down this musical path. Stay tuned!!

 

Lately

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:

https://andrewfinnmagill.bandcamp.com/album/christmas-carols-for-violin-guitar?fbclid=IwAR3vwHOu5eB5xoZ2SX-ybMINGJv4UJ_EDdvLKD30Cy4b-T4ByUFbHV7FLoE

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.)

  1. HOME
  2. SECRET
  3. PATH
  4. SMOKE
  5. DARKNESS
  6. KEY
  7. CROWN

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.

Enchantment on the edge

” 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.”

~Peig Sayers

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.

This fiddle playing owl graces the doorway of Neligan’s Pub in Dingle, where we happened upon an “open” session in which to play a few tunes.

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.

Things I took away from meeting Seamus: I have good tone (this is really good news) and I need to work on my ornamentation (not news to me of course, and also not unexpected from a Sligo styled player)

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…..

One can see the rains coming in just in time to take cover….

Small beauty, amidst the majestic.

 

The wind makes drawings in the grasses.

Dizzying heights.
Classic cliffs. There is a reason this place is famous.

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.

An old “famine cottage” along the Slea Head Drive. Although it was €3 to enter, we found it fascinating and ghost like.
Mary, ever present. The Goddess in modern vernacular.

“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.

we begin to see where the swirls come into play….

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.

Looking out to the Great Blasket Island from the Blasket Cultural center. An amazing place to visit should you get the chance.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Back To Center

“To Paint is to Love Again.”  ~Henry Miller

We are home from Maine, landlocked once again to Ohio.

Ohio is not without its beauty to be sure.  There have been errands to run, adjustments to be made, momentous birthdays to acknowledge and celebrate.

Suddenly I realize it has been a coon’s age since I had my paints out mixing and dancing their way around the palette.  I must dive back in.

August breezes, when they blow, are humid and hot.  I figure this weather is a strange combination of the dooming of climate-change and good old-fashioned late August in the mid-west.  How are we to know?

Storms do break up the monotony of late summer.  They make for dramatic skies and monumental cloud forms.

From the West, always, the clouds gather.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of age that clouds and birdsong catch my attention now more than ever.   I seek to paint them in between the expectations of a busy, modern life.

This past weekend there were tunes, on tunes, on tunes.  Again I remember – this makes for intense happiness in my heart – I recommit.  The painting and the music are inextricably linked.  I may not be very good at either, comparatively speaking.  But each makes my small heart sing.  And surely this is a measure of something in the world.

Something. –  in the epoch of our own humanity.  We are but a blip in the matrix of the Universe as we know it, and yet we seek these bits of joy and meaning like spiritual breadcrumbs of a sort.

There are more tunes slated for this evening when a few of us gather to choose the autumnal soundtrack for the Riley School of Irish Music.  Tomorrow is a road trip to settle one of the smalls (newly returned from western adventures) into his next adventure in grad school.  It is good to have him near at hand once again.

Travel beckons again soon.  I find myself already getting organized for a weekend trip to Sheboygan in September and a longer journey back to Ireland in October.  Some day if I truly settle in one place, it will be a strange day indeed.  I embrace this traveling side of myself and am grateful for those loved ones who keep the dogs fed and the home fires burning when I am away.  It does not escape me that I am truly fortunate.

When I travel, I travel lightly.  I do not plan to take the oils to Ireland this go round as I’ll be on the go more often than not.  But I have ordered a new sketchbook and I have extra watercolorey books to pack as well.

The goldening, autumnal season will see me diving back into a world of words each morning once again to find my way through the dark of winter.  There is nothing quite like pouring a cup of coffee, lighting a candle and putting pen to paper.  This might keep me sane in the dark months to come.  But so will hitting the road, discovering and re-discovering new places and new tunes.

What plans do you have this late-summer/early-autumn to feed your soul?  How do you survive winters in general?  What have you drawn or painted lately?  As always, I’d love to know.

 

Like a River – Flowing

(give the video til  30 seconds in…..)

Laundry hangs on the line, drying best it can in this humidity before we hit the road again.  On my desk are half written lists of to-do and to-remember along with the fragments of last week’s fun in various states of unpacking, unfurling into readying and re-packing.  My mind and heart are full to brimming with a collection of new tunes I can carry with me into the next journey which is to Maine.  A yearly homecoming of sorts, much like many of my trips tend to be.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Last week we leapt into the mists of yet another magical “Celtic Week” at the Swannanoa Gathering in beautiful North Carolina.  Much like the story of Brigadoon, we picked up right where we had left off the year before greeting old friends as family, getting to know new friends as well, as if nary a day has passed, let alone an entire calendar year.  Irish music does not follow the rules of linear time.  The only line it truly follows is that of tradition. The river of music flows along over top of that tradition, above and below it, side-stepping occasionally into other musical paths, (this IS a living tradition after all.)  Eventually though, it always comes home once again to the thing itself.   We came to the week with no agenda except to improve our playing a bit by spending time with masters of the craft.

The flute sisters are off to class Day 1. Many thanks to Kate McFadden for this capture.

“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”  ~Socrates

Somehow I have carved my way into classes and sessions loosely labeled “advanced”, and yet I come to this week with my mind fully open to learn new things, to be -always – the beginner.  There is no place at Swannanoa for ego or agenda.

Our musical “rock stars” who tour the world with their gifts come to camp not only to ply their musical wares….

I don’t yet read music from the written page, but I purchased Gerry O’Connor’s gorgeous compilation “Rose in the Gap”. It was so lovely to meet him!
Two of the worlds top teachers in the Irish flute tradition, Nuala Kennedy and Kevin Crawford. I am deeply grateful for their tutelage and friendship over the years. (Kevin has a new album out with Colin Farrell and Patrick Doocey called Music and Mischief. Nuala’s latest project is called the Snowflake trio. Both albums are gems!!!!)

…..but to have a laugh and a tune as well, to bask in the amazing community that is the Swannanoa Gathering.  It is so readily apparent how hard they work all week, but it is also clear that this week is as special to them as it is to us.

Thanks for the new tunes this week Kevin!!

As the space which holds this special time, Warren Wilson College does not disappoint.  It is nestled in the mountains near Asheville North Carolina, with views and vistas at every turn and even in some of the classroom spaces which remind us of what is possible if we but relax into it all.

Originally crafted as a gift for my dear friends Ellen and David in honor of their Swannanoa Wedding.
Occasionally difficult to stay focused with this view out the windows, but we managed.
We are surrounded by words of wisdom, reminding us we are but water in the river of this tradition.

The week was one of metaphor and depth.  We talked of honoring those who have come before us in this music by looking back often to older playing which may have gone out of vogue for a time.  We must never forget those who have come before us.

Sometimes we wandered through cathedrals of bamboo and dove into the depths of the river Swannanoa for a bit of wild swimming.  This returned many things back to center, especially our core temperatures.  It was a warm and steamy time.

The Bamboo Cathedral, managed and utilized by the WWC farmers.
Flutes are ancient, once made of even our own bones, or perhaps the bones of the bamboo plant. We bow low to honor the old ways when we can.

There were concerts and a bit of dancing.  There were classes filled with new tunes, but not too many.  Just enough.  There were moments of goosebumps up our arms and spines as we felt things bump against the root of all things.  Music and art making are conduits to this great source.

A few of us have been attending this week of music for many years and we opt for dinner and a bevvie or two out in town one evening each year.  I was thrilled to see a bit of our musical shenanigans have made their way into that other world….. viva la flutilla!!!!

resistance is flutile stickers in the wild at Native Kitchen in Swannanoa and Black Mountain Ciderworks.

Soon, we had crested mid-week into late-week, then late-week into last night.  The mists of time descended upon us that final night as if to tell us it’s time to go back…..

Many years, this thrust back into what some might call “the real world” is painful and we find ourselves pining and weepy.  This year was different.  This is not to say that I don’t miss my flute family.  I really do.  Instead, I think it is clearer than ever that the real world, at least for those of us willing to live in it on a daily basis, is that of art making and the sharing of a tune or a story.  The real world is that quintessential Irish humor and side-eyed self deprecation which puts everyone at ease and the belly laughs that come along  with this “craic”.  We live in difficult, trying and combative times.  Perhaps we can learn from the Irish tradition and its history that even in the most dire of times and conditions, there is always room for a tune.

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse

Thanks again to the staff and everyone who makes this gathering possible.  til next year!!!

if you are new to the reading of this blog, I have other posts about other years.  Just type Swannanoa into the search bar.

 

 

Comings, Goings. Doings, Beings.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

“I don’t want realism.  I want magic.”  ~Tennessee Williams

There is much coming and going of late.  Hither and thither we work and play.  I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops.  Antigua beckons…..

A sample of the magnets I have designed as give aways for my workshop participants! I figure if they see these on their fridge in the day to day, they will remember to work in their books more often, yes?

Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West.  When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.

pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise.  I was captivated by the murky depths.  And miraculously I did not get sea sick.

Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner.  Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum.  Though to be fair, rum has its place.

If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold.  And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..

Hens, chicks and roosters are to be found everywhere. They are well socialized and cry the song of their people. A lot. Cockadoodledooooooo!!! (and chuk-chuk and peep-peep as well!)
The Young Man And The Sea, our ship’s crewman Dale.
The captain and crew of the good ship Sarah took great care of us on a sunset cruise on the ocean. If you are ever near Key West, I recommend Danger Charters, in spite of their name.

We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.

I found Key West to harbor great juxtaposition. The locals care deeply for the ocean, that is clear, and yet single-use-plastics are still the norm at local businesses. We declined all straws/utensils/bags when it was an option.  It’s a small thing, but it’s worth doing.
Cemetery Sentinel

There is magic around every turn there.

Tree guardian being? Or a large fairy fist, offering us a tropical green bouquet?
Our Queen City-scape, with a river running through it. Quite lovely from the sky, though I am not a city girl at heart.

Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio.  But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.

My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test.  He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark.  With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.

Our front creek, captured magically by Imran Nuri.

Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world.  Music as well.  This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.

Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks.  This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue.  It’s one of our favorite places to play.  Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel.  Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail.  Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?

I am so grateful for the music.

And this music as well….

Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night.  It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed.  There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.

All is not angelic and ethereal round here however.  As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala.  This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong.  I embark on that journey later this month.

But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work.  That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.  

I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.

All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge.  This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.

My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.

Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.

Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough.  And this is good.

And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues.  While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this.  We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.

I say this as a reminder to myself really.  Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh    –      o         –    o   …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes)  This is all part of the process.  I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.



Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in,  always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work.  I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts.  I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.

To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc.  I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day.  And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.

But I do keep trying.   And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……

 

I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October.   We are thrilled!!!!

In which Amy and Julie get together for a cup of tea once each summer.  Don’t mind my lake hair – we are usually at camp!

We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.

I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans.  But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.

So much rich stuff ahead.  And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well.  I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. –  This is not an easy task.  But I aim to try, as I have for years now.  To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change.  It’s what the artists I most admire do best.

Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us.  It’s terrifying really.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”                   

                                   ~Georgia O’Keeffe