Category Archives: travel

City Day

Today it rains and rains here in Blackrock, as Ireland is famous for doing, and I am grateful that yesterday was the day for touring.  My dear friend Simone had a work related function in Dublin and so we took the bus into town where we lunched then parted ways for the afternoon – she to her work life, and myself to take in some iconic touristy destinations.

Along my way I spy a couple of fevered protests.  The first is in front of the famed General Post Office where the Easter Rising was centered back in 1916.  Political protests have often happened at this site since that time, as it feels symbolic to the notion that perhaps change is possible.  This current protest is by Kurds  who find themselves here in Ireland.  Their speeches are fraught with desperation regarding the atrocities occurring in their homeland just now and as an American, I am deeply ashamed of the recent decisions by our current “leadership”.

Further down the street, Extinction Rebellion is also holding a peaceful protest near the bridge over the Liffey River.  If you haven’t heard of the Extinction Rebellion movement, you will.  They too are desperate with their message, which is about the fact that we are running out of time before climate change wreaks a havoc we cannot stem.

And it’s interesting to me to listen to the talk of my fellow tourists on the street about their opinions regarding this “movement”.  About how the folks participating in these events aren’t doing enough personally to make their message valid.  That they might only be doing this for “attention”.  Well, this is exactly what the powers that be want us to think.  To so wrap us up in the guilt surrounding our own daily lives that we lash out at those trying to cause some systemic shifts in large level corporate and governmental practice.  I think about how I flew in an airplane to get here to Ireland, and that I will fly some more in the coming months to do the work I do, and I do feel some guilt.  But I also know I am doing what I can, where I can.  Small shifts.  I’m opting out of consumerism where I can, shopping only second hand for most things.  That sort of thing.  But at the end of the day, I live in a system that is largely out of my control, and Big Change will only occur on a large scale.  Extinction Rebellion aims to force that change.  I say good on em.

Eventually, I make my way to Trinity College, Dublin.  The place is thronged with more and more tourists like myself.  But it is beautiful regardless.

There is a wedding happening in the midst of the collegiate and tourist atmosphere which is lovely.

Ivy grows on on walls old and new.

I make my way to the Trinity Library where the Book of Kells is housed.

Over the course of the next hour I read about this ancient tome and how it found its way from the monks of olden times to its climate controlled home at Trinity.  It is remarkable it survived.

It is almost too much to take in in such a short visit but I find the imagery to be evocative and inspiring.  The work of these monks inspired an old artist friend of mine, Cindy Matyi to make her Celtic inspired works and much of what I see at the library brings her to mind.

Eventually we leave the Book of Kells display and make our way up to the Long Room of the library at Trinity.

Even with the crowds, the Long Room is breathtaking and I wander and take photos as best I can.  I can only imagine what this place is like when the masses are gone and a real and genuine quiet descends once more.  Surely the ghosts of Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker stop in now and again?

With another hour left in my solitary time, I head back toward the General Post Office to take their tour on the Easter Rising.  I think about what those rebels risked for what they believed in.  And how they eventually gave their lives.  I can’t help but think that some people may have thought they were crazy for doing what they did at the time (much like some think currently about Extinction Rebellion), and yet most scholars agree that it was the Easter Rising which set the course for the eventual forming of the Irish Republic.

This is all history that I barely know the surface of, but I am grateful for the stories told which get my mind buzzing and contemplating the state of our world now.  Countries still fighting over lands in other places of the world.  Border tensions even here in Ireland are set to have some potential issues with a hard brexit on the horizon.  The Troubles are never far from anyone’s mind here.  Peace and prosperity are tenuous at best.  We would all do best to remember that.

Our bus ride home is a rainy one.  We snooze a bit and chat about the day quietly.

I’ll admit to being rather exhausted after a day in town.  Today has been busy getting a few things sorted before I hit the road tomorrow to the West.  I’ll be hiring a car and driving it which I have not done this side of the Pond in a good many years.  But with a little parking lot practice today to jog the memory, I think I’ll be just fine.

The rain has finally stopped and so I am writing a bit here before we go gather dinner ingredients.  There is time for a walk to the sea for some fresh air.

Tomorrow travels resume.  I shall be in touch when and where I can, as my tech set up will get a bit wilder from here.  It is a delicate balance between soaking the travel experience in personally, catching up and spending time with loved ones, crafting material for this blog, all while attempting to make art and music along the way.

But I am keen to try to do it all.

ps. Here is the Brian Boru Harp, also housed in the Long Room at the library.  It is a thing of beauty….

Away from my desk

Miraculously, I make it through a full day yesterday with only the one quick nap, crashing to bed around 10 pm local time. (After a delicious dinner of curry and catching up with Ireland based dear ones, of course.)  Traveling eastwards across the Atlantic on a redeye flight wreaks havoc on one’s inner equilibrium with regard to time and so powering through this day is important.  The journey was uneventful, if not a bit bumpy and I am grateful for a safe arrival and a lift here to the village from the airport in Dublin.

Today is a brand new day and I manage to roust myself out of bed while it’s still morning.  The village of Blackrock in Co. Louth is seaside charm personified.  We walk for a cup of coffee at a place called Rocksalt, where the latte is artful divinity.   Out the window to the alleyway, we watch workers come and go, to and fro and admire an old Renault parked there.  I think I might like an old car such as this, if I lived in a place such as this….

Though the cafe is crowded with freelance workers as well as those there for breakfast and conversation, it is still quite subdued and quiet.  This is something I have noticed on other visits to this country, things are more quiet here.  I can hear myself think which is really nice.

After coffee we step outside for the wander home and I take a quick snapshot and a few seconds of video to show you how very lovely it is here. (note to self on video with phone in future –  turn the damned thing to the side!)

We have been greeted with a gorgeous day, complete with a bit of sunshine and a lovely cool breeze.  I am not sure what the rest of the day will bring my way.  For now, I am enjoying just settling in.  Listening to the quiet of this workaday seaside village, hearing the quiet of my own thinking which is a welcome change.

It is my hope in the coming weeks to keep in touch with you all on the blog here, with photos and updates.  I did, after all the hemming and hawing, opt to bring a few oil paints as well as my usual sketching supplies, so perhaps I’ll have something to show in that department as well.

Til then…..

ps, 2 months into this decade we call ‘the fifties’, and I am really liking it thus far.

San – G

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” 

~Irish saying that translates literally as “People live in each other’s shadows.”  (via @nualamusic)

Today is the 30th of September, and the facet of my heart that shines brightest in New Mexico sunlight beats in time with those of my soul family there as they celebrate the Feast of San Geronimo.

This celebration is sacred to my friends, and we don’t talk much about the meaning of it all.  Rather we bask in the company of one another, we celebrate a successful harvest with food and community and we encourage the Lady of the Mountain to don the golden colors of autumn.

There is talk of Shadows when the Koshares appear to wreak a bit of havoc, which adds to the festival atmosphere.

It is a day to sit in communion with the land and the mountains and the folks who live on and with it.  Today I send a lot of love out into the cosmos, especially to my beloved Land of Enchantment.

And just like that

SOLD!!!!!!!!

At the beginning of this month, I alerted a few eager early birds that I was about to embark on registration for the Taos 2020 Travel Sketch class at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s.  Then just last week I opened up registration to anyone interested.  After a flurry-filled week of inquiries and emails, text messages and notes back and forth with old and new participants alike, I am pleased to say, the workshop is sold out!!  This is the earliest this phenomenon has ever occurred and I am thrilled.  Thrilled that this work speaks to so many, thrilled to be heading back to Taos next summer with a full roster of fellow artists – both seasoned and newly learning their craft.

I am simply over the moon!!

This sketchbook volume is about to come to an end. It’s been widely traveled and greatly loved.

June 2020 is in some ways, quite far off, but it comes around faster than one might expect and I’ll be ready with exciting new things to try in our sketchbooks by then.  I am already looking forward.  If you missed the call for this workshop, you still have some options.  First, reach out to me and get on the waiting list.  Plans can sometimes change for people unexpectedly which occasionally might open up a slot for someone else.  I am contemplating adding a slot or two extra but need to contemplate this and talk it over with my trusted advisors and the team at Mabel’s.  Those on the wait list would be the first to know if anything opens up for any reason.

Mabel welcomes you!!

You can also join me in Guatemala in early spring.  Details on dates and costs can be found here.  I have limited space in each of the two weeks being offered there and I believe it is only a matter of time before this trip too is sold out.  Antigua, Guatemala is a gorgeous, quite cosmopolitan city which carries color and beauty and an ancient magic all its own.  It is the perfect way to warm up during the depths of winter!  So consider this option perhaps.

Other teaching outings are in the works for California next spring, generally the Bay Area and environs, so if you are local to there, reach out to me and I’ll put you on that mailing list.  Right now we are looking at the first weekend in May and possibly some other dates around that time and in that general vicinity to make it that much more worth a trip to the Left Coast.

And so now, I get back to the making of things.   Back to tending the craft that allows me to teach these workshops in the first place.  I can smell an autumnal journey on the winds about which I am very excited.  I’ll be sure and write from the road.

This little guy was created for the Gulf Coast Cruinniú, a musical weekend in Houston full of workshops and performances which should be a lot of fun for all!

As always, consider getting on the mailing list to get all of the latest news from here.  Social media can be a lot of fun but those pesky algorithms do keep us hustling to get the work into the world.

Till next time…..

 

 

A Word for Feeling

“It is the morning after the night before.”     ~Ciaran Carson (Last Night’s Fun)

I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast.  This is not a bad thing.  As I choose pie over cake any day.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With.  On paper I turned 50.  But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really.  Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere.  From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses.  They might give anything to be here.

Art by Christina Wald

“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood!  Time for an adventure.  Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)

Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….

“Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)

One of my oldest and dearest. While I find adventures at the end of a paint brush; she heads down the path of a Good Book. We all do what feeds us on vacation.

We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play.   I for one simply can never get enough of the sea.  In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible.  I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature.  I long to come home to that each visit.  These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?

photo credit Imran Nuri

“Swimming, One Day In August

It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”

~Mary Oliver  via @shippenverse on IG

photo credit: Imran Nuri

“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.”  And so it is.

“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”

~Anne Frank  via @annefrankcenter

Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile.  I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views.  But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events.  I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing  (even online) speaks volumes.  Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).

It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote.   “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”,  I was asked.

Yes, this is different.  No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking.  Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time.  The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.

It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance.  The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it.  The world is left wondering what the hell is going on.  I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand.  I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government.  At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another.  Not at the border, not at protest rallies.

And so where to from here?

So many stars, so little time (click here for the sound track to the writing of this post)

On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world.  Perhaps I have some wisdom after all.  I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world.  These will continue to be my focus and my center.  But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others.  I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world.  It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning.  The world needs more of us.

Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested.  I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first.  So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were.  I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination.  I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm.  Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough.  In other words I am tougher than I might seem.

Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space.  Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.

“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.”  ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)

And yet……..

There is love above all.  And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to.  The day might be long, the news might be dire.  But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”

–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran

(via the lovely work of Karla Sanders)

For me, to do my work, is to love the world.  Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life.  For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.

“You don’t have to move mountains.  Simply fall in love with life.  Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance.  You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”

~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book.  Her words make a world.)

So back again, to the breath and the work.  I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……

“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”

~John Constable, 1821

For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you.  To you quiet new ones, welcome.  It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing.  (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)

Happy birthday to me.  Here’s to many more years.

ps, the art work I share here is often for sale.  Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange.  I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.

 

 

 

view from the point

“We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own”

~ David Whyte*

                                                                    *came across this quote via @lachanterie

We find ourselves in Maine, where once upon a long time ago, many many lifetimes ago actually, we came as newly fledged adults to begin finding our way in the world.  Much like recently hatched ducklings, we imprinted on this land then and have returned year after year in pilgrimage to this place which so shaped us in those early days.  The smells, sounds, color and light here are different from all else and they speak in a soul-full tongue indeed.  We are grateful to be here.

As it is a “workaday” sort of day for many of us here, I crept away to a local point to give my paint brushes a little spin, they having collected a bit of dust during my time down other, more musical pathways recently.

I found a perfect spot under a shade tree, at the end of a lane one can find only by foot.  There were welcoming spots in the form of benches and water accessible paths.  I opted for a space at a picnic table and set about to sketch a bit.  It was clear that other artful efforts had occurred in this very space as there was evidence.

So I began with the watercolors, of course.

Eventually moving over to oils…..

…..which are not without their frustrations, but I mixed and painted and observed and corrected and painted some more.  And got the bones of a painting down which I can perhaps work with later in the week once we are settled at camp.

note the stripe up the right side, this is due to the little carrying rack I built (which works a treat actually!) and I will fix it at a later time.

All in all, it was lovely exercise on this, my first day back here in Maine where we are settled in for awhile, nestled by the sea.

 

‘Artvangogh’

It is travel season.  I am recently returned from California and while away, my studio window robins hatched and grew.

Mere seconds after this photo was snapped, this last one fledged.  It’s a bit like life itself.  How fast they grow.  Though our fledglings double back on occasion and for this we are grateful.

California was rewarding in her splendor as always, but had a few weather related tricks up her sleeve which complicated things for my workshop days.  That said, I packed in a lot in just a short time, both as a traveling artist and as a teacher.

There were many highlights….

After a class with nature journaling artist Kristin Meuser, (if you are ever in California, take a class from her! She’s lovely!) Rosemary and I headed to Berkeley where we met glass artist Alexis Berger, visited a lovely new shop called Etui, and gazed at magnificent fabrics at a place called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

We had an appointment to meet watercolor maker Amanda Hinton of Limn Watercolors where we got to see how her fabulous paints are made from scratch.  It’s a fascinating brand of magic she does and we were smitten with all the colors.  And with Amanda herself.

Amanda Hinton of Limn Colors shows us around the room where it happens.
All the juicy colors

Limn colors do the usual fun stuff watercolors are known for, like mixing beautifully and replicating stained glass with their translucency, but some of her colors can separate and bloom in evocative ways that we have found enchanting.  I have a whole row of her colors in my paint set now which afford me abilities I’ve not had in the past.

Pigments awaiting
Half pans, drying
Samples and the muller

It was great fun to try and buy a few new colors to add to our collection and I am so thankful to Amanda for her time and warm welcome.

Also in Berkeley was a wonderful creative re-use arts supply store and the amazing Burma Superstar restaurant.  We even managed to stop into California Typewriter, of documentary fame…..

 

We were warmly welcomed by Ken and Herb and enjoyed looking at the machines currently in store there.

All in all it was a perfect, busy, sunny California day.

The sunny bit was not to continue.  Alas, the weekend forecast was wet. wet. wet.  So we worked indoors with exercises students will be able to take out of doors on their own at a later time.  Not ideal, but neither is sketching and teaching in the rain.  We were at least cosy.

There is plenty to draw in the home of an interesting, artistic friend.  Here’s a small demo drawing of a wee humbled Buddha I did for the workshop.

The following days were to see us dodging rain drops to capture the wild water on the coastline.

The sun did come out for a few minutes so we sat down to sketch on this beautiful spot in Asilomar, only to be foiled by big raindrops. We ran for the car, rain splattering our drawings. It’s a risk we take yes?
I do love a tide pool.

Again, not ideal, but we managed.  Day two of workshops was moved by one day for those available to make it, and we did manage a few hours of sunlight between rainstorms on our day of working together.  We also managed a few more sketches.

Art L-R by Amy Bogard, Sandi Kane, Rosemary Berwald
The trusty art vans! Always on the gogh. 😉

Painting at the sea side is by far one of my favorite things.  I am often torn between the desire to simply sit and stare at the shifting light and color of the ocean and to capture it in my sketch book.  This feeling is magnified by the limited time I always have by the sea.

I find myself wondering why I do not live nearer to big water.

Somewhere where I might take my blue art van and wander down the lane to the sea shore for a few hours to sketch and stare….. maybe daily.

Suffice it to say, time in Santa Cruz is never enough time.  In the same way that time at Ballybunion Beach is never enough.  Or time on Monhegan is never enough.  Alas.  Time marches on…..

Next up is an ocean of a different kind.  An ocean of sage.  In just two weeks’ time I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship travel journaling course at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House once again.  Every year is a gift and I am thrilled to be heading back.

The weather seems like it might be more cooperative in Taos than in California, even leaning more cool than in recent years.  We shall see.  But at the very least, sunshine, New Mexico style.

My studio is less a place of making just now and more a place of packing and preparations.

The art van, of course, at the ready.  A new sweater for the (hopefully) cool Taos nights, and maybe a friend or two along for company.

Swag is being readied.

I consider what art supplies to bring for my own making, while making sure that I have all the extras for the workshop participants as well.

It can make one’s head spin to be sure.  But the paint set is clean (after being dusted quite heavily by volcanic ash in Guatemala and a grain or two of sand in Santa Cruz) and refilled (note the lovely middle line of mostly Limn colors!!)

I have a few new pencils to try, including a light blue one suggested by Kristin Meuser during her workshop and a couple of Blackwing pencils all the rage with my illustrator friends.

All of it tucks away into the little van, along with a book or two to draw and paint in.  It’s all quite compact actually.

This year I have made the decision to simplify my packing process for the Taos trip.  I am only bringing a few of my current books, not a box full of past years’ books like I do normally.  And instead of bringing yet another box full of published books for people to peruse, I will bring a list of said books to share with my students so they can explore when they get home via bookstore and library.  We will instead focus on the work at hand.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel good about it.

It’s easy to look at the wonderful empty classroom at Mabel’s and feel like we need to fill it with things other than ourselves and our small packs of art supplies.  This is especially the case for me as facilitator.  But this is not true.  That room fills with laughter and conversation and the joy of working into the wee hours on sketches begun earlier in the day.  WE fill the room.  WE are enough, with just our supplies on hand.

I am so excited to get back to Taos where this whole traveling-art thing began for me so many years ago.  Every year is different, and yet there is the lovely familiarity to lean into as well.  I am open to what I have to learn there year after year and am grateful for the opportunity to go back once again.

 

 

Tecolote Blooming

TECOLOTE

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

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

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

~Sandra Ingerman and Lyn Roberts – Speaking With Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blueberry!
Elderberry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More soon…..

Awakening, gradually

A word from Mabel…..

“One could really learn only by being, by awakening gradually to more and more consciousness, and consciousness is born and bred and developed in the whole body and not only the mind, where ideas about life isolate themselves and leave the heart and soul to lapse inert and fade away.  Yet never to cease watching was imperative also; to be aware, to notice and observe, and to realize the form and color of all, the action and result of action, letting the substance create the picture out of abstract consciousness, being always oneself the actor and at the same time the observer, without whom no picture can exist.”

~Mabel Dodge Luhan

And from Mary:

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

Upon flying away from Guatemala City, Volcán del Fuego poofed a breathy goodbye there in the distance. I’ll admit it had me a bit misty eyed.

Just a couple of days ago, I weathered a 20 hour (door to door) day of travel from Antigua, Guatemala back home here to Ohio to begin re-entry into my “real” life and to prepare for summer workshop season.  This latest trip to Antigua has gotten it all started in fine fashion.  Two weeks of facilitation and friendship; a welcoming of the Lenten season – even for the least religious among us;  and a passport to spring.

Now home, I weather the chain saws and leaf blowers which mark the fair weather season in these parts and I wonder what could be made different in this world.  I let these ponderings simmer on the back burner of my mind as I revisit what was, yet again, a life changing visit to a magical other-world.

Last I left you here I had arrived at the Posada a little heart-weary after a visit to my childhood home in Guatemala City.  I am still sifting through that heavy luggage, but not without curiosity and joy that I have as much information and inclination as I do with regard to it all.   It was, after all, a lifetime ago.  What does it even matter?  The words “make a book” keep coming around, though I have no idea how to go about it.  So many great memoirs exist in the world.  How does one even begin to make a semblance of a memoir with so few memories?  But I continue to investigate.  Perhaps living memories through the lens of a vivid imagination is enough.  Guatemala is worth exploring, I do believe.

But first, THE WORK.

I crafted this sketch-journal trip to be one framed in intimacy and quietude. No big groups here.  The goal being to come to a beautiful place, make some art, work at making it the best we can make it here and now – nothing more than that really.  Beyond that goal, the rest was travel gravy.  Each week there were 6 of us, (next year I’ll allow no more than 8 total – 6 participants at most) to allow for ease of movement about town as a group, ease of meal taking and decision making, to encourage a sense of deep work and seriousness of purpose.  This approach worked beautifully and set such a lovely tone all around for both weeks.  I marveled.

Volcano Medicine

my people

were fed by volcanoes

that fire milk

piercing the surface

like spirit

unrelenting

pierces our facade

to get in

and feed our souls

~Lisa Fazio


By morning we would admire the volcanoes, if they were up for viewing, and then we’d wander through town to breakfast….

One could spend the entire week with this series of arches on route to breakfast alone and not get bored with sketching.

The rooftop at Bella Vista Coffee Company is one of the best places to begin the day, and it has some of the best coffee the world has to offer.

We are greeted as friends, always.

The staff at Bella Vista was so excited to see what were up to in our books

Each day would see us tackling a new-to-us ruin in this gorgeous city, sketching and taking it all in along the way.

Sketch from San Francisco church ruins, Rosemary Berwald
Sketch from Conventa De Las Capuchinas, Joan Youngberg
Sketch of San Francisco church ruins, Connie Ware
sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Astrid Otey-Mast

 

sketch of San Jeronimo School ruins, Amy Bogard

By afternoon we would work back at Posada San Sebastián, tidying up sketches we’d begun in the morning…

A “throwdown” of sketches from week one. So much great work!!
Cindy touches up her sketch from the Capuchinas ruins
Sketching in the breezeway

and perhaps capturing a bit of our home-away-from-home at the Posada as it’s filled with all sorts of sketchable fare……

 

Cow and Donkey in a Candy Dish by Rosemary Berwald
Using blind and semi-blind contour drawing techniques to capture the wonky child’s chairs at the Posada.
I think laundry drying on a line is a beautiful theme. Ever changing yet always the same. It speaks of home.

I hope to make some proper paintings of the shifting light in the laundry area.

Sketch of Volcán de Agua by rosemary
so many blue kettles. so little time!!!

There was so much to see and take in and draw from and speak to and listen to and experience.  Each day was filled to the brim with a special kind of magic only found in this amazing Unesco World Heritage city of Antigua, Guatemala.

Vanessa utilized her excellent Spanish skills to get to know this fella who’s vessel on back there is for carrying water.
Richard spent a fine morning here in this shaded doorway tackling a difficult scene at Capuchinas.
Later he came home to sketch a “Cucurucho”, one of the Lenten flavored purple-costumed guys who populate the town and the Procesións this time of year.  Richard had purchased a little candle  representation of a Cucurucho which made us all laugh a bit, and so he drew it in his book!
Shade is hot territory on a sunny day.
Kudos to Connie who kept her focus in spite of many young onlookers as she drew the San Francisco ruins. We all remarked later that day on how polite and genuinely enthusiastic these kids were about what we were up to.
sketching at the Tanque. (Connie and Astrid)

A Sacred Season.

This year’s workshop abutted a very Holy Season indeed.  That of Lent.  In fact, at the end of the trip, Rosemary and I stole away in the wee hours of the morning of Palm Sunday.  Otherwise there might have been no escape.  For Lent is a busy time in Antigua.

Some days the incense was near stifling.  Reminiscent of growing up old-school Catholic, it was at once, unsettling and nostalgic.

Carrying Mary. It’s heavy work to bear the feminine through a distinctly male-dominated culture. But Mary prevails. As does the strength of the women of Guatemala.

A guardian of the Procesión.

The locals weren’t the only ones feeling a sense of the season. …

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
~Mary Oliver

Irish Music is my sanity and it was my great fortune to have Doug and Astrid along for a tune now and again.

“I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.”     ~Mary Oliver

Next year we hope not to be quite so close to Easter. (Stay tuned.  I am announcing the dates for 2020 to those who’ve been on the trip up to now and who’ve expressed interest even before that….. I’ll open it further soon to others but I expect it all to fill quite quickly if this year was any indication.)

Though I’ll admit it is thrilling to be near this level of faith.

This is Joseph Barry. Named so because as a Santo, he is Saint Joseph, but because he is from the Posada, he reminds me of the Bee Gees. He came home with me as a gift from our loved ones at San Sebastián and as a reminder to keep to the work at hand. And to have faith.

And so, here we are now, at the height of spring in Ohio, making lists and travel plans for my California Trip in May (contact me for details if you are interested) and the Taos based workshop in June (now full!), which is my flagship class and holds a truly special place in my heart.

This time of year always has me feeling a bit tossed about in the world.  I am not a speedboat in this modern world, but more of an old fashioned ocean liner of sorts.  It takes me some time to shift gears and change course of direction.  But I manage to get there in the end.

If you are curious to see more of my own work from our time in Antigua, head over to my Instagram.  There is plenty there.  I aim to keep working from source photos as well.  Sketching my way through misty memories of a tumultuous time and of course from more recent times as well, a tad less tumultous.

Seems the best way.

Vantigua!! At the ruins of San Francisco
Vantigua!! the art vans were dragged up to San Cristobal to get a view of Antigua from above. it was a delicious adventure!
The presence of Agua
Cupolas!
Color and Line. What more could an artist ask for???
The dangling flowers at Canela Bakery.
Fruit vendor. Sights. Smells.
evenings are gentle at the posada
Candles. always.
cupolas for the queue.
Dinner at Angie Angie. Sundays are two for one pizza night. Just fyi
“No bread please. Just cheese. Or meat.  Sauce is ok. If it’s on cheese or meat”     Sweetness, the street dog.
Back home with a handful of cut flowers for a garden themed show coming in May. Need to make more. and get a frame….. (One mustn’t bring true flowers into the country, but surely hand painted paper ones are ok, yes?)
Always important to have a map to find your way home……

PS.  There is a gorgeous telling of week one over on the blog-space of artist, printmaker, photographer and no-longer-practicing bear biologist (she has amazing stories fit for a proper campfire) of Vanessa Sorensen of Nessy Designs.  I adore her work, words and over all being really.  Thank you Vanessa for this lovely post:  http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2019/04/guatemala-sketchbook-workshop-2019.html

Do go visit her website and blog.  It’s a treasure to behold.

 

 

Arrival

(headphones in. Listen for the tone of the post below…….)

I arrived late in the day yesterday to my home away from home here at Posada San Sebastian in Antigua Guatemala.  Perhaps they say ‘welcome home’ to all their beloved guests, but it feels so great to hear it any how.  I awaken to hazy sunlight in the courtyard after 11 solid hours of unbroken sleep.  I am the first to arrive of our group.

My bedside window view is peaceful and familiar.  I bundle up in a shawl and socks to wander down the hall to boil water for coffee.  Coffee before coffee.

Arrival to Antigua is generally none too difficult.  Though traffic can be an issue at times getting from Guatemala City where the airport is to be found.  Yesterday I opted to complicate matters just a bit to endeavor a side trip on route to Antigua .

When I was a kid (ages 5 – 7 or so) we lived here in Guatemala, in the city.  My dad was a machete weilding geophysicist who enjoyed field work more than academia and so we came here for his work. There are many firm and pleasant memories from our time here.  And there are many gaps in that memory bank as well, for trauma did leave its mark in the end.

An earthquake and the seismic dismantling of our family shortly thereafter meant this place carries some scars in my little-girl psyche. I’ve been unpacking that heavy suitcase bit by gentle bit upon coming back for the first time with my hub for our anniversary  few years back.

Memory and the reptilian bits of our brain are a fascinating soup of interpreted facts.  Mixed in alongside the sanity-saving memory gaps,  desire to take flight, flee and save oneself at all times, trauma can cement things into a body and make a life we run from for the rest of our lives . For me, I am interested in going back in, from a place of safety, the present moment, and revisiting.

My side trip on route from the airport was to my childhood home where we found ourselves in 1976.  My patient shuttle driver put the sat nav on and we wound our way through the diesel and the oppressive midday heat and traffic to find my old home.

I had an old letter from my mom to her parents which has the whole harrowing tale from her perspective and the address as well and so off we go. With the traffic being what it is and this being an unusual shuttle driver request, I only manage to stay litle while. Snapping photos for my mom, noticing differences and familiarities in succession. Had I noticed anyone around I might have scraped up the courage to ask if I might come in and take a peek. Alas maybe next time. My Spanish improves with every visit here and I managed to share with my driver a bit of why it was important for me to visit this place.

There are many changes of course. Our neighborhood is now a guarded, gated community.  There are big black garage doors on what used to be an open and breezy car port. My host here said that with the violence suffered awhile back, many places circled their wagons in a sense to keep themselves defended. Guatemala has a complicated history, one I hope is shifting into a new era of eco-tourism, prosperity and fair pay for artisans living and working here. That is a tale for another day.  But suffice it to say, change is inevitable and truly the only constant.

Above is a sketch I made of my old house. With it’s unfamiliar doors and additions up top. Overlooking the gorge across the street, the trees are taller but the view is strangely familiar.  I remember the days just after the quake as the earth settled back into place with aftershocks and constant tremoring.

I’m ever so grateful to get a glimpse of this old place and hope to go back again.  I love my new relationship with Guatemala which involves textiles and painting and new memories being made with friends and loved ones in this magical mystical place.

As time passes and I dig deeper into the past while continuing to focus on the present, I’ll share more of what I dig up. Perhaps there is a book in all of this . I do not know. I just know, that right now, on this first morning in Antigua, I’m deeply grateful.  For my past which has made me who I am and for my present which helps me forge that self in the best way possible .

A note and apologies for the photos in this post. My devices aren’t talking to one another. So I had to use the crappy camera on this tablet to add the visuals. Its time for a new laptop for my travels so I can blog more easily from the road. If you dip over into instagram, find me at @abeefrnd and I’ll share a few old photos there which will add to the story .

As @doodleyboo on IG posted this morning…

” You might not work well everyday.  But you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

—Jodi Picoult

and so, in the spirit of the quote above, I offer you this imperfect blog post, for now .