“It’s all about balance, do you see? Balance is the trick. Keep the balance and – ” she stopped. “You’ve ridden on a seesaw? One end goes up, one end goes down. But the bit in the middle, that stays where it is. Upness and downness go right through it. Don’t matter how high or low the ends go, it keeps the balance.” She sniffed. “Magic is mostly movin’ stuff around.”
~Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
Skies are moody this morning. Day-job work and exercise loom on the to-do list, yet pondering the still point of the season feels crucial. My eclipse siblings of the soul were here last night, a gathering to mark the autumnal equinox. There was talk of “shedding or casting off that which no longer serves us.” (Thank you for that M.) Which is wise talk indeed. For me, that is this notion of “busy-ness”, the internal ‘hurry, hurry!!’ feeling in the center of my chest, a trap of sorts to which society programs us for falling into. To choose to sit and write or draw for a few moments each morning is a radical act of defiance some days.
The key to it all is balance. To be the center of life’s seesaw when we can, as Esmerelda Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching do with such grace. It is a strange thing to be a slow-cooker in a microwave, insta-pot kind of age. And yet sinking into my own pace, my own slowness, affords me the deeper work I strive for. In the long run, allowing my own pace magically gets more of my best work done, my best self in the world. And so, on this Monday, the Autumn Equinox, I look for balance in a world gone mad. And do my best to center in the midst of it all.
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.
Ginger Small and I have been playing a bit with stop-motion
It is a blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood, proverbially speaking. Blessed with a studio day, I seek escape from the confines of my over-working monkeyed mind in the form of writing and perhaps some play with materials on hand. It is important to dance with winter in anyway we can.
Craving coastline and a gentler breeze on this Polar Vortex day, I dip back into collected imagery from a whirlwind trip west not weeks ago, marveling at the light and magic to be found in California.
It blows a frozen, (though thankfully sunny) gale outside my window here, but if I just climb into my imagination a bit more deeply, I can remember what unfrozen air feels like, though it was brisk and cool.
Time with those beloved to us is magic time indeed.
Self doubts, once seemingly frozen into place, thaw. The black dogs of recent depression recede, if only for a couple of days. I realize that as much as I love woolen wear, and hot tea and buttered rum and life in general here in the Ohio River Valley, journeys which afford escape to more temperate climes in winter months keep my wheels on.
I am steeped in gratitude.
Guardians, ghosts and gods are easier to spot near the sea. Sometimes they lean back and bend to the breezes.
As our wanderings take us farther down the coast we meet them more and more often, in many forms.
Through the mists we find them.
Those who light the way and *remind* us. With words, color, hospitality, love.
“To paint is to love again.”
Through mists and moonlight, we come back to our animal selves.
Once returned, we seek not to deep dive back into old familiar patterns of busy-ness and not-so-aliveness, flitting about in our heads like trapped songbirds. Though we do.
I am thankful for reminders.
But wouldn’t you know it, a guardian god did follow us home….
A Maximón of legend, lovingly crafted as a gift for us by Steve Worley who fancies himself *just* a craftsman, though we all know he is an artist to be reckoned with.
For now, Maximón watches over our doings and comings and goings from his perch on our kitchen counter.
But we will one day provide for him a proper altar of sorts, much like the blast of color, taste and smoke to be found in Santiago Atitlan.
More adventures are on the horizon, I can just see them through the bursts of icy snow – shining, beckoning like soul beacons. A small personal getaway with the women in my family before workshop season gets underway in full force. Last minute sign-ups for the Guatemala trip have both weeks *at capacity*.
Just last year I wondered if I could possibly work out two back to back workshops. The work speaks for itself and somehow, here I am now. Not with out much needed help, encouragement, and proofreaders for my dyslexic, prone-to-wander brain.
The California based weekend workshop is officially OPEN. Do send me an email if you are on that lovely Left Coast and care to join us to sketch May 18/19, 2019. You can choose one or both days. Each is different.
Taos, my flagship course is also *at capacity* and I am already dreaming and scheming what to share with my class this year. Again, I marvel. And I am not without what every single successful person I know of deals with…. a (not-so) healthy dose of imposter syndrome. Yes, there it is. The beast in the room.
But the advice to *think less, breathe more* (I think these words set to music from Hamilton) is good advice. And also, to just make work. Surely this will calm the beast a bit, yes. Especially certain types of beasts…
I have embarked on a project with a fairly tight deadline for the annual May the Fourth show.
Like many beasts, he is large, imposing, but once you get to know him, he softens up and becomes an exercise in mindfulness.
Stitch, by stitch. Hook by hook.
I shall breathe more, think less. (And watch a bit of Netflix along the way I am sure.) while the beasts in the room get as close as they can to the space heater.
It is a gray, cold day here in Ohio. Like many people I know, both here at home and abroad, I awoke this morning after a fitful few hours’ sleep to a world blackened by the election results of this country of ours. I am shocked, honestly, at the outcome of what has been a really painful time to be an American. Perhaps I am naive but I thought better of neighbors, extended family members and yes probably even a co-worker. I find it truly hard to believe that anyone would vote for someone who carries himself in the world the way our new president-elect does, though I knew there were those people out there, fearful enough to go for his vague messages of ‘change-maker’ and ‘political outsider’. But yes, perhaps I was fooling myself.
And today, I am grieving. Not in the way one might be disappointed after an election goes in favor of the other party. I’ve had those years and that did feel bad enough. But, one wakes up, trusts in the system and has an extra cup of coffee.
This is a deeper level of grief. A grief I am truly having trouble wrapping my brain around at the speed expected of such things in the world these days. I am a slow cooker when it comes to most everything. I don’t do well with hurrying along emotions or decision making. This morning I visited my usual online haunts first thing, to commiserate with friends, and perhaps begin to wrap some words around this awful sense I’m feeling in the gut of my deepest gut. And I found an interesting phenomenon happening there. One which I think is indicative of the pace of things in the modern world.
People are already moving on.
I think part of this notion is the desire not to get mired down in the deep dark depths of negativity, which on the whole, is admirable. And yes, I do believe the path forward must be one of light and peacemaking. That said, I can’t go there yet. I am still grieving. At my own apparently geologic pace.
For many of my more moderate friends, this election was difficult in that they really didn’t feel they had a choice. I know many who ‘held their noses and voted for Hillary’. While I don’t understand this thinking, everyone comes to their beliefs through their own experiences (and, it must be said, ‘news’ agencies). It’s my own experiences that are feeding this deep aching grief of mine, however.
For a short while there, I’d had a sense that the world, and indeed our country, were changing for the good. There seemed to be more acceptance of those with differences, a real desire on the part of people to further understand one another’s religions and cultures and true selves. This felt like a world I could live in.
When I was a kid, after having moved around all sorts of places in the world, my broken family came home to live back here in Ohio. We were poor, very poor, and my single mom did her very best to do her very best through work, food stamps and night school.
A few years later our household eventually held two women and three children, living together under one roof and this was apparently problematic in the small Ohio town we landed in. We weren’t exactly lovingly accepted into the community fold. In fact, one time, we even had a rock thrown through our living room window. Even at that time, I knew why.
As a woman, I’ve witnessed and experienced the countless subtle and not so subtle ways women can be demeaned in our society. Hillary Clinton’s campaign gave me hope that in spite of this, perhaps women could have their equal time at the table. That inclusion could be possible for everyone. As the mother of two young adults, one of whom is gay, I was feeling like the world could be safer than the one I grew up in. That fewer rocks of ignorance might be thrown through our windows. That maybe my daughter could pursue her own path of service and leadership in the world on an equal footing.
I don’t often write here on this blog in such a personal way. I attempt to keep things liminal, otherworldly and artful. I shall head back down that rabbit hole for my work and my own sanity eventually. But I feel compelled to write this personally after this dreadful election. Tweets and facebook posts aren’t enough. We must do some deeper thinking as a country. Some slow, deep thinking. I wonder if anyone slows down to think any more. It certainly doesn’t seem so. It’s all about the next tiny parcel of semi-information, and sound bytes – small cogs in the wheel of the world spinning out of control. Perhaps the pace of things is different elsewhere. I don’t know. I do know that I’m having a hard time with how things are rolling along here and now. I worry that this very pace of surface information flying hither and thither contributed to the awful results we face this morning as a country.
This all being what it is, today I plan to get some spring bulbs into the ground. Which feels infinitely hopeful. I am trying to tap into our wiser selves a few months in the future….
And I await the arrival of a missing printer which I am fairly excited about. These are small, practical things I am looking forward to in my small day to day. But I will continue to grieve for the bigger picture of things. I am deeply grateful for friends who get that maybe for some of us, this grieving may take some time. Those of us who have been desperately poor, or have been victims of misogynistic behavior or have been on the ‘fringe’ of society somehow or other, will need a bit of time before we can ‘move forward’, ‘stay positive’, etc. We can get to that in January.
Thanks to my dear friend Justin for these beautiful, kind words which he wrote just as I began this lengthy blog post.
“I see a lot of folks on my feed telling folks that are reacting negatively to the election outcome to keep it together and get over it . . . so I just want to throw this out there:
If you’re sad, no shame. If you’re angry, no shame. If you’re scared, no shame. There is absolutely not a DAMN thing wrong with sadness, anger, or fear. You don’t need to “get over it”, “man up”, “move on”, “grow a pair”, or whatever else. You have (and God knows you don’t need it from me) full permission to experience YOUR experience, and there isn’t a soul alive or otherwise that has the right to make you do any different. Love is the greatest ally to all persons on this planet, so start with yourself and own your experience, no shame.”
And while we are on the subject of wise words, here are two more quotes bringing me some small solace this morning.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” ~Julian of Norwich
“FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam. SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam?
SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.” ~(not sure if this is quoted from the book or the movie, but it’s from Tolkien’s The Two Towers. )
Today is my 46th birthday. As is often the case this time of year, things are in a state of semi-controlled chaotic flux, what with school starting soon and Big Moves happening for both of the kids. Jack returned from Brazil just in time to join us on our annual summer sojourn to the coast of Maine and is now in the process of returning to his collegiate life across town. Meanwhile, in similar fashion, our youngest, Madeleine, is making lists and preparatory pilings of her own as we move her into a dormitory at Ohio State University next week. Things are getting real. They are embarking on a world of their own making….
All of this is, as expected, a little on the bittersweet side of life. But it is also the Way Of Things. This is why we raise them. So that they can hopefully head out into productive lives of their own. It is time for us to focus back on ourselves for the first time in ages. I for one am feeling a delicious fire burning in my art work, music and in my inner life, while the Hub, Tony, has plans of his own involving far flung watery places to explore. It is an exciting time for all of us.
So let me just catch you up a bit on happenings since I last wrote. As you now know, I am in the process of putting together a new workshop, launching in February. I’ve had quite a bit of interest, and a few sign ups too! And while I have been mostly on the road since the announcement and not able to ‘blast’ it properly as of yet, it is my hope that this class will be a ‘go’ with just enough folks to make it a reality. Do let me know if you have any questions!
Ah yes, the road. How it beckons!! Last I touched base here at my online home, I was off to a week of full on music at Swannanoa.
This was a week of complete bliss for me personally. Tearful reunions with people I only get to see once a year. We fell straight into tunes and laughter and musical mayhem that only ‘band camp’ can provide. I opted for two classes, both in flute, with two of my favorite instructors/musicians/people on the planet, Kevin Crawford and Nuala Kennedy.
They are not only brilliant teachers and players but they are absolutely hilarious to spend time with. In my own teaching I try to emulate the sense of fun and level of laughter I’ve known in classes with these two. It is through a childlike sense of play and creative experimentation that the best learning is to be had. Learning a creative pursuit as an adult can be daunting! Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, or painting a picture, adults take themselves (ourselves!) so seriously. Getting out of our own way is half the battle. I am still riding the wave of magic and beauty of that week, with renewed gusto to practice my tunes, to keep learning and improving. I intend to make it back to this week again next year. There is such a sense of ‘Brigadoon‘ to it all, magically happening each summer and then just like that, it’s gone….
Of course, if you follow my summer patterns at all, you know that no summer is complete without a dip of my toes into the ocean in my soul’s home, Maine….
Ginger Small and I were reunited up there as I’d heard very little from her all summer. And we have much work to do!
I spent a fair amount of time just gazing out to sea and doodling….
…that is, when I wasn’t partaking of the bounty of the ocean. YUM!
Our time in Maine usually allows for a bit of the ocean and a bit of the lakeside as well. I did a fair amount of oogling and doodling there as well.
It is a time we treasure, and each year we know it might be the last where everyone attends. Any next year could see the kids doing their own thing elsewhere. So while I painted and sketched a good bit, and came up with a number of tiny paintings, it is never enough.
Maine tugs at my heart strings harder and harder each year. Every year, it gets more difficult to leave the fresh salt air and cool breezes available there.
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” ~Holly Black
Having lived there once upon a time, I know life in New England is not all summer time and roses. Winters are cold and long. But I simply must spend more time there.
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke
For a while now, my dear, long time friend Amy (she who attended to the births of my children, my soul-sister) and I have admired the whimsical, colorful world of artist Henry Isaacs.
His paintings are impressionistic, energetic, and brimming with color that is at once straightforward and complex. They are the kind of paintings that make me yearn to pick up a paint brush and paint. But not in my usual sketchy fashion.
I’ve had this yearning to paint for awhile now. And I have painted. Here and there. I’ve made some paintings that I like a fair bit. While others have lacked the intensity I wanted them to have. They often feel too cautious to me. I’m not quite sure how to approach the materials, having had only nominal amounts of instruction in this particular way of art-making. Often as soon as I have found my way into a painting, it’s time to quit to attend to Life. And by my next visit to it, I’ve lost the steam. Clearly, I need some help.
So in honor of everyone in this household going off and learning new things and forging exciting new paths, I am heading back to the coast of Maine in just a few weeks to take a workshop with Henry Isaacs. I am so very excited to learn some new ways of approaching paint and then applying these lessons to the sights and sounds I find so enchanting by the ocean.
“I have sea foam in my veins, for I understand the language of the waves.” ~Le Testament d’Orphee
Perhaps I may get the opportunity to paint the ocean of sage in the high desert of New Mexico at some point as well. Again, something I have yearned to capture, but outside of my sketches, have never seemed to accomplish successfully.
I believe in following the voice of one’s heart. That intuitive voice that whispers ‘this, yes, this!!!!’.
I’m following that voice as much as I can these days. My Right Work seems to be a three-pronged dance made up of teaching workshops in beauty-filled places, making up whimsical stories and pictures for the young at heart, and just painting/sketching/drawing by myself (also in beauty-filled places). In between there I’ll work the day job when I can, manage the comings and goings of these adult children of mine, and try to keep this house in some sort of working order. Oh yeah, and music. Always music.
Today is a day of musing. Pondering my life’s path. I feel like the 46 year old me is waving enthusiastically to a younger version of me as if to say ‘This way! This way! Aside from a few bumps in the road here and there, life’s going along quite nicely just now! Just hang on!’ Because it is going along quite nicely actually.
I’m excited at the timing of this painting workshop opportunity, as it falls just as I have a moment to catch my breath before really needing to buckle down to work this fall on February’s offering. I get another taste of salty Maine sea air before they must batten down the hatches for yet another winter. My kids will be off doing their own thing for the first time really ever. I’m thrilled and excited and incredibly grateful for all of it.
Happy birthday to me.
….and here are some of the new Tiny Offerings from recent travels. Let me know if you would like to own one!
A week ago today I arrived in Taos here to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House to begin my long awaited residency. It has, thus far, been a magical time filled with wonderful opportunities for inspiration around every bend. I have had a chance to catch up with my Taos based community of friends over tea and the odd burger and beer. I have had hours to walk and admire the natural beauty, even on the meltiest, most muddy of tracks. I’ve been able to set up a bit of a routine which looks a bit like ‘up, write, coffee, check emails etc, write or draw some more, take a walk, have some lunch or a visit with a friend, walk some more, work some more, have some dinner, and then paint.’
I am so thrilled to have so much time and energy to myself. While time is certainly passing as it is wont to do, each day feels nearly endless.
I love the idea of having enough energy at the end of the day to get a second wind and play with my oil paints. Here in Taos, where so much seems possible, I have been able to paint a bit in the evenings. And to think I considered not packing my oil paints…..
It’s been an interesting transition into full time creative work on a daily basis. When at home I am used to dividing my time between day job work, animal/household daily chores, cooking etc. Just dealing with the day to day life of things which are part of my very rich and gratifying life. I fit the art and writing in where I can.
However, here in New Mexico, everyday I stand at the edge of a great chasm of time and space which, I will admit, had me a little rattled upon arriving. While I managed to step up to the drawing board and writing notebook a great deal each day to go about making the necessary work at hand, I spent my first few working days under the great weight of a sense of generalized anxiety, the likes of which I had not experienced in ages. Not just nerves but the Utter Sense of Crushing Doomfor which I am, sadly, somewhat hard wired. The familiar elephant on my chest just wouldn’t let up.
So I walked, I wrote, I practiced my flute, I painted and drew picture postcards to place myself into the heart and mind of Ginger. I just kept moving. There is a lot of current writing and talking about creative work and how it can tend to go hand in hand with anxiety, what with all of the unknowns faced by those of us giving birth to new things and the vulnerability inherent to this work. At least I’m in good company.
After some well timed conversations with friends who get this side of me, I began to visualize the elephant on my chest and decided to ask her why she might have taken up residence on my heart, disallowing this work I truly love so much. And a word came to mind. Play. And then another. Relax. So I opted to take an afternoon off of drawing and writing and took myself and my elephant for a hike. Not just a walk for exercise, but a real hike a little out of town to a little bench I had heard might be waiting at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge.
Elephant and I had a little chat. I told her that while I can work when she’s snuggled so weighty upon me, it’s actually much easier to let ideas flow when I am not in a state of overwhelming anxiety. She looked over at the gorge and asked me if she might ever be able to ride the wind in the way of the Eagle. I told her anything is possible.
And so, on the little bench at the edge of the Gorge, I helped elephant strap on a little harness which is linked to a very capable parachute, enabling her to safely ride the thermals. To my knowledge, she is still out there. But I’ve made her a little bed in the corner by the fire to lie in and have promised her a lollipop if she keeps to herself while I work once she decides to come back.
Adjusting to life in Taos is exhilarating and challenging and different every time I visit, so those first few days feeling so weighty is no huge surprise. Therefore, it is also no surprise that now the elephant has stepped away for the time being, I am finally feeling comfortable in my own skin again. I am relaxing and playing and getting even more work done. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)
I’m taking my daily adventures and figuring out what Ginger Small has to think about it all. She’s having a ball. She has skied with her friends (utilizing the handy Raven Ski Lift Company who are ever so trustworthy as one cannot be too careful in the mountains when one is a mere Small Creature)
And Ginger managed to make friends with a field mouse on the Pueblo who taught her how to walk quietly among the buffalo and to gather the purple cacti that small creatures find so medicinal. This adventure was exceptionally powerful.
The Wonderings and Wanderings of a Small Creature in a Big World is coming together – bit by juicy little bit. I am enjoying the work and am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here. You all continue to remind me how loved and supported I am while out here…
Mail is a thrilling thing. I’m excited to head into week 2 of conjuring the Adventuresome Correspondences of one Ginger Small.
p.s. There’s been a fair amount of counting in a long lost language of rhyme in the Rabbits Who Herd Sheep department as well.
Do stop in over on facebook, instagram, twitter etc to keep up with our adventures. And thank you, again, from the bottom of my thankfully lightened heart.
It’s a gloriously frosty morning down here in this Springvalley of ours.
The cold seems to have settled in for the season and it all feels a bit early, though I suppose it is November. This week I dug out the heated waterer for the girls so they have access to unfrozen water, and we are back to our morning ‘oatmealworm’ breakfasts to keep them warm, fed and with enough salt in their little systems. This time of year always puts me in a bit of a hibernatory place, in spite of our culture’s Countdown to Christmas mentality. I find myself drawn to slower pursuits and am inspired by others seeking the same in their worlds. Since it has been a little while since I have checked in here at my online home, I figured I’d share a a few things I’ve come across which consider a slower world-view, as well as a couple of updates in studio news.
Brew a cup of tea, or pour a wee dram of something else to warm you…..
The title for this particular post came from a quote from the above video. “What we have is a need for slowness.” I couldn’t agree more. This couple and their enchanting caravan lifestyle came across my path via the interweb-wanderings and sharings from a couple of artist/writer/performer types upon whom I have recently been keeping a close watch.
Rima Staines and Tom Hirons have crafted a world full of magic and old-world style mystery with their art work, poetry, puppetry and beyond and they are fixin’ to take it on the road. To live a simpler life in general and to share their artful wares and wonders with folks farther afield than their current home in Devon, England.
Tom and Rima created their crowdfunding video with the help of their uber-creative community of fellow artists. Their project harkens to a world just outside of the reach of modernity, at the edges of our imagination and land of dreaming. Hence, their new collaboration has the perfect title, Hedgespoken. I have made it a point to share their project here and there on my own tendrils of social media because I really believe in what they are doing. I grew up on the move myself (which is a story for another time and a longer burning fire) and have vivid and beautiful memories of time spent in my grans’ airstream trailer each summer. Nothing fancy or romantic really, but for me, it was life shaping.
People like Tom and Rima are quietly rebelling against the things that rush our world into the Land of Too Much (be it stuff, to-do lists, etc.) Their theater and home on wheels could possibly slow things down a bit for just a few people along their path, and remind us of the magic to be found in all things, if we but take the time to listen and look more closely. Hedgespoken is in it’s home stretch of fundraising and I wish them a firm breeze at their backs as they sail on home to port with it. If you believe in this particular brand of magic, head on over and toss a few coins into their hat. You’ll be glad you did, as their blogs (here, here, and here) are chock full of fascinating and shadowy paths down the proverbial rabbit hole.
Another delightful bit of sweetness that has come across my path this last week is an interview of a quiet gardener in Ireland named Eimear Moran. I found her thoughts on finding beauty and synchronicity and yes, the Divine in her own humble back yard to be truly inspiring. She is another quiet rebel walking the path of slowing down and waking up to things that are in our reach in the day to day. If, again, we but take the time to listen.
Eimear’s book is nearly available and I look forward to getting my hands on it. In the meantime, you can keep up with her daily garden thoughts and meanderings at her page on the Book of Faces (I have Rima to thank for coining that lovely phrase.)
With all of these beauty-full beacons to light my own path, I am truly sinking into the season here myself. My own small crowd-funding project to shore up my residency plans this January in Taos, NM is going well. I too have a few more weeks to get to my goal and am so grateful for all the support thus far. Ginger Small and her adventures have gotten the bulk of the attention lately as she is really the sparkly one of the bunch. But there are also sheep and rabbits coming along with me on this trip.
Cards are being made of a number of these images, should you be interested in counting a few sheep….
Or channeling your inner rabbit….
I am having great fun with all of them with thanks especially to my friend Vanessa Sorensen at Nessy Designs. She recently gave me a few pointers in photoshop which has helped me turn some of the mere sketches in my journal into things I can work with in print. Vanessa and I get together occasionally to sketch and sometimes even to collaborate on a craft project. The most recent of which is this little wonder of fashion…..
Part of this notion of slowing down in my life includes activities like knitting, embroidery, printing my own clothes. Vanessa’s cicada print, my years old skirt and a bit of embroidery to bug out the eyes makes for a wonderful one-of-a-kind fun thing to wear. And to top it all off, it meant an afternoon spent with a fellow artist, sipping tea and sharing bits of things that had set our minds to wander and our hearts to sing lately. That is the true gift. Time Well Spent.
Speaking of bits of embroidery…..
Leviathan will be on display at the Kennedy Heights Art Center’s upcoming show Imagine, featuring members of the KHAC’s Artist’s Collective. The show opens November 22. If you are local here in the Ohio River Valley, do stop by and see us. Some of my recent skull studies will also be up for grabs…..
What do you do to stem the flow of time? How do you bring a desired slowness to your everyday? I’d love your thoughts and links to others who might be in this same camp of Time outside of Time.
As promised awhile back here, I want to share with you the story of a fairy tale wedding which happened this summer amidst the magic and music of the Swannanoa Gathering. My summer friends, Ellen and David, who hail all the way from Massachusetts, and whom I only see at summer camp, opted to tie the knot amongst friends of the musical variety with the mountains of North Carolina as a back drop.
It was, in true south mountain fashion, a rather unpredictable day from the weather gods. All day it rained and rained and we began to steel ourselves for the wedding to be a drippy affair. Though we knew, that there was a pavilion to keep heads dry during the ceremony, a large hall for the ceili reception, and multiple tents for evening sessions. We certainly would not melt. And besides, we had work to do that day which had little to do with the wedding. We had new tunes to practice!!!
A strange thing happened while we were in our afternoon classes however…. the skies began to clear, just a bit, and hopes began to rise. The bride and groom went off to have a bite to eat, and to get ready for their magical evening and the rest of us gathered at the pavilion to begin arranging things…..
There were chairs to make into rows, flowers and cakes to welcome…
Champagne to open, of course.
And favors to welcome guests to the wedding…
Soon it was time for the processional. The ‘Flute Cousins’ all played a gorgeous Scottish march called The King’s House. This is one of those tunes that can give you goose bumps for all it’s soulfulness and it was the perfect choice for the event.
The wedding itself went as so many weddings have gone since time before history. There were lovely words and thoughts, tears and laughter amidst the solemnity of it all.
I was honored to be asked to read a poem called How Falling In Love is Like Owning a Dog, by Taylor Mali. This was a great choice for Ellen and David as they love all creatures great and small, especially dogs.
The newly married couple shared their first kiss after the ceremony….
…and were ushered out with a flute arch….
And a wedding reel!
Within no time, solemnity had shifted into raucous celebration….
Which lasted well into the evening, first with ceili dancing and later, more music – on into the wee hours…. For that is what we were there for.
Upon returning home from my summer’s travels, I began to ponder what I might put together as a gift for Ellen and David in honor of their big day. And so I began to build a little painting. Not so much of the actual way of things, but rather the feel of that magical afternoon into evening in the liminal world…..
I loved how the skies looked that afternoon when the clouds miraculously parted and the rains left everything clean washed and ready for celebration.
I enjoyed the way the pavilion looked before everyone arrived, but more especially after celebrating ensued.
Folks milled through the misty evening, filled to the brim with love, music, and a bit of drink perhaps as well. And the session tents around the campus were all full that night.
Here is the little painting born of a wedding celebration. It’s not a big thing, only 9×12, but I think it will be well received as a reminder of not only their wedding day, but also of the magic of the gathering in general, to which we all look forward to throughout the rest of the year. Many congratulations Ellen and David! May blessings abound.
As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.
As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.
As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.
As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.
As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.
As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.
As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.
As twilight harvests all the day’s color,
May love bring you home to each other.
~John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
(wedding pics by fellow ‘gatherers’, Kate Bradford McFadden and Natalie Wurz, concertina snapshot by Tim Smith, and art by me.)
It is a deliciously delectable day here in the Ohio River Valley. We have the gift of mild weather recently making being here this season a rather pleasant thing, which for this time of year, isn’t normal. I am so grateful for this. My musician son and I pack off tomorrow for a week of music camp in the mountains of North Carolina, while my dancer daughter sets off for her final week at Irish Dance camp to learn her new sets of steps for the coming year. (a special shout out to my Hub for keeping all the animals fed and watered while we are away!!)
Once upon a time, when this whole ‘kid-at-camp’ era of our lives began, I was merely an observer; a parent along to chaperone the latest in whatever phase the kids were going through. But over the years, I picked up a few tunes, learned a little bit about playing an instrument or so and eventually had the courage to sit with strangers and have a tune or two. These strangers have become my friends, my son has grown to adulthood (and yet manages to have a tune with his intermediate level mama here and there) and I find this camp-thing has become my thing as well. Something I deeply look forward to the rest of the year.
I believe that a practice of life-long learning is crucial to staying young at heart, tapped into the world and into one’s self. This year I am taking a class in concertina, a big step as I only know a couple of tunes on this complicated instrument and I will likely be hiding in the back of class with my recording device, trying not to hold other students behind! But since I help make these beautiful instruments at work, it’s worth learning to play one, as there is always a new instrument there needing to be broken in and scanned for needed tweaks and tuning.
Besides music, another pursuit I’ve taken on in recent years is that of painting. I took a few classes in drawing and print making while in art school, but my focus there was sculpture. I am, at heart, a maker of things. I love tools and supplies and materials. And my Day Job feeds this side of me. But painting has been tugging at my soul more and more, especially with trips in recent years to places like Taos, NM and Monhegan Island, Maine; places where the dogma and history of painting is rich and full of history. While in Taos a few weeks ago (has it only been a few weeks??) my friend Harold over at the Pueblo took a few of us out to visit his herd of buffalo. At the end of one of our visits, he gave to me a buffalo skull to take home. I was taken aback by this beautiful gift and have been somewhat obsessively sketching and painting it since it’s arrival here from Taos.
Hopefully these will be dry when I get home from traveling so I can send one back to Harold as a thank you gift!
Each painting I make I learn something, and this goes for every sketch I make in my journal, and every tune I hack away at in an Irish music session. All of it is learning. There is no true mastery of anything, really. Just a place on an endless spectrum of skill. Sometimes I look back at all the years of this blog and it’s amazing to see the learning I have accomplished and how so much of it is cataloged here. I am grateful for your readership over the years!
Likely I won’t get to blogging again here until the summer is near through as our annual family trip back home to Maine comes directly on the heels of camp week. It is not lost on me that this ability to spend most of the summer on the road is a huge gift. Sure, the Taos trip in June is work related, and technically summer camp is sort of a parenting gig…. but I know that I am truly fortunate to have these opportunities. While I may not do so much sketching in NC (seems the more music I learn, the less I draw while at music camp!) I will be sure to share some drawings and paintings from our time in Maine. Maine is a perennial soul home of mine and it fills my proverbial well of inspiration much in the same way Taos has come to do. If you want to contact me, you know how to find me.
Simply send a message on the wings of a bird, preferably a raven if you can find one, and send it my way. Or, if it’s more convenient, I’ll try to check in online now and then as well.
Happy summer to you. May it be filled with learning opportunities, chances for true joy, rest and communion with those you love who might be far away the rest of the year.
The above work entitled, Murmuration (Once, We Flew) (oil on paper, found frame, fish bone) has been accepted to be part of the 50/50 Art Show and Sale next month at Covington Arts! I’m thrilled to be a part of it as the sale always draws a crowd and there is a nice shuffle for purchase by the attendees. If you are local to us, and would like a one-of-a-kind gift for your Valentine, this is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy an evening out with some wonderful art, and maybe even purchase a piece or two!
Also in February, the 2nd to be exact, the class I’m offering in partnership with Diane Debevec at Women Writing for a Change has been met with great interest! We are a slot or two away from selling out, last I checked, so if you are interested, do get in touch with us via the link and join us for an afternoon of Illuminated Journaling practice and techniques! I’m excited to work within the WWfaC technique base and to incorporate writing practice into keeping the illuminated journal! With St. Bridgid as inspiration, we will have much subject matter to draw upon.
Rumor has it there may even be some collage exercises happening to get the creative juices flowing!!
Ginger Small has also been hard at work. She and I have started a Society6 page with a few Ginger products available for sale. These too, have been met with great fanfare by Ginger enthusiasts. If you are a fan of Ginger and would like to see a favorite image of hers upon a mug or a phone case or some such, just drop me a line! I’d be glad to upload more images as time goes on!
Some folks love when Ginger is all bundled up for a winter’s day, (much like today!) and have invited her for cocoa.
Others appreciate Ginger’s love of the ocean and a lovely tropical breeze. The perfect scene to keep your mind off your computer work, yes?
Speaking of the ocean, this continues to be where my art brain resides, and therefore, some of my sketchbook resides there as well. It’s difficult to stay primed in our illuminated journals when the wind howls outside and the snows cover most anything that might normally be of interest. At times like these, look to your imagination, (Ginger drawings), or online for seemingly magical (but very real indeed) creatures of the deep… (this one I drew from a photograph)
…or perhaps no further than your windowsill for a find from last summer or the last time you were at the beach. Around here there are always bits of this and that laying around, usually with a magnifying glass to notice the details. Here’s a page I did with a few of these finds. (not from a photo)
No matter how you are keeping your sketchbook alive, I’d love to see it! There are just over 6 weeks left to sign up for the Taos trip happening this june. While we may have a few slots left for latecomers, signing up before this deadline is the only way to guarantee at room at the inn as well as a slot in the class. Part of the magic of this course is spending a week at the magical, mystical Mabel Dodge Luhan House. While there is more than enough room for a conference at Mabel’s, they do open any extra rooms after our deadline to people who may not be attending a workshop but want to lodge at the inn. And so, after March 15th, much will be left to chance. If you have any questions about the trip, feel free to message me in an email and I will answer them for you as best I can. I hope you can join us!
As my mom would say,”that’s all the news that’s fit to print”. And so it is. Stay warm dear readers.