In a matter of weeks, I’ll be departing for New Mexico for my annual “illuminated travel journal” workshop, held most years at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos. Usually by this time, all the plans are firmly in place and there are a host of folks gathering supplies, building pre-workshop community online and finalizing travel plans. As with all things in the covid era, this year is different. But, with cautions in place, and hope in my heart, I am forging ahead with this year’s workshop. The scope of the workshop is more intimate – only half the size of regular years, in keeping with New Mexico’s covid-safety guidelines. There is a certain expected fluidity in covid-era plans, and thus, this finds me with a slot open in the Taos class this year.
If you find yourself looking for a way to dip your toes back into travel, but in a way that doesn’t feel like an onslaught, this trip might be for you. Including myself and my trusty assistant and dear friend Rosemary, we are merely a group of 10. All attending will be vaccinated. Two of three meals a day will be taken at Mabel’s together, and there are plenty of take out options available locally in Taos. Rooms are single occupancy.
I’d love if you could join us this year. These are strange times indeed. What better way to catalog them than in a painted journal. A keeper of the beauty around us we might otherwise miss while weathering the storms of current events. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more information. Here is the link to the trip details: https://www.amybogard.com/taos-new-mexico/
“There is another world, but it is in this one.” ~W.B. Yeats
Recently, we spent a week away in another world. Down to the low-country coastal barrier-island of Tybee we traveled, as I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for my lost (or at least post-poned) month’s work in Ireland, among other things. Both of us pining for the sea, we watered the plants here at home, packed the dog and a kayak and some food into the car and slipped away into the pre-dawn darkness.
It was worth the day’s journeying.
We made friends with sand and surf and a few others – crow and cat being among my favorites.
There was much beach combing and waterside wandering.
Even Charlie found her way to the edges of things, though dogs aren’t permitted onto beaches in the proper sense. I think she was content regardless of the limitations.
We should all be more like Charlie in this way, contented amidst the limitations we find upon us in these times.
There was much marshiness and moss which, mosquitos notwithstanding, I found to be quite captivating.
It was all so much to take in. I found it exceptionally healing.
There were weddings to witness….
Sunrises to greet….
Sketches to make….
And paintings to begin…
The space and pace of an off season beach town is something I highly recommend. We were excited to plan a small getaway, but also a bit leery about whether there would be too many other people around whom we’d have to avoid, these being anxiety-ridden Covid times.
In the end, there was space to spare. And we were grateful for it.
Soon it was time to come home to the harvest. We still have a few tomatoes on the vine which may or may not ripen. (I am researching pickling options for green tomatoes….).
I gratefully gathered a few hawthorn berries to make into a tea, though mostly because I merely adore their color.
Eventually we readied the back garden for a small gathering of our family which would serve as a celebration of the season at hand, and possibly seasons still to come.
We sense difficult times in the weeks ahead. Covid numbers are climbing and we will not be able to gather indoors for Thanksgiving, and likely not Christmas either. So I hatched a plan to host a “well-filling, out-of-doors, socially distanced, fully masked, early Thanksgiving” dinner for my family. I decided I’d set a date and let the weather gods determine if it might happen or not. In the end we were granted a most glorious day. We went ahead with our plans.
Thankfully everyone was respectful of our strict protocol for mask wearing when not at the tables eating.
It was just good to have everyone ‘sort of’ together in one place before we head into winter. A winter which may feel a bit like a revisitation to the quiet time of early lock-down and quarantine.
Time will tell. But for this one day, we safely took what we could get.
I like to think Dr. Fauci would approve of our handling of the gathering, he having said, more or less, ‘if you can’t have Thanksgiving outside, and socially distanced, then don’t have it’.
Each separate family household came inside to fill their plates independently. Even the kids were on board. I appreciate the respect and care everyone brought to our day together. I wouldn’t have chanced it all if I thought they might behave otherwise.
There was the typical fare – a turkey, smashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, chips and dips and casseroles galore. All of the standard comfort foods related to our traditional Thanksgiving meal. While thankful I don’t eat like this most of the time, there is something about all of the carb-laden goodies that is truly good for the soul. They don’t call it ‘comfort food’ for nothing. We dove in with abandon and it was delicious.
Given one perfect day of weather for our early Thanksgiving, we then weathered rain on the following day to cast our ballots into the box at the local Board of Elections. We were glad to do so. Even today, people stand in line in the rain to vote in person. At least we are all voting, one way or another.
Later, the rain abated and it was time for a hike in the woods…..
…..where nature is always full of surprising things.
A wander in the woods always has the capacity to reset things in our hearts, allowing for a recalibration of sorts. I have a deep sense that things in general will be slowing now as we head into late autumn and whatever the rest of the season may bring with it.
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
Excerpt from his books, To Bless the Space Between Us (US) / Benedictus (Europe)
I also have a deep sense that things may get even crazier here in this country in the weeks ahead. Having cast my ballot early, along with so many fellow citizens, I find myself drifting away from the daily news, merely awaiting results of the eventual electoral outcome. I have cautious optimism some days. Other days, a drive into the countryside to the edges of our city gives me pause for all the republican paraphernalia and propaganda to be found there. As usual, time will tell. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is to hold no expectation too tightly. Everything can change on a dime.
This has always been the case, it’s just now more obvious.
I welcome the slow days ahead, as much as I miss holiday frivolity with loved ones. Somehow a hibernation feels more natural for the season. I often crave a bit of quiet this time of year, and this year perhaps I shall have it. Sure there are still zooms and classes and the like, but my intent is to capture a spirit of spaciousness, thoughtfulness and mindfulness in the weeks and months ahead. I think this space might give us some time to reconcile with all that has happened this year. To perhaps shift our way of thinking and being in adjustment to the State of Things.
This month I have reinvigorated a daily drawing practice by participating in the annual “inktober” drawing challenge. This has given me not only practice drawing in general, but making little time-lapse films as well. Here are a few….
I hope the season is being kind to you in one way or another. We are all grappling with so much of late. And it’s all happening quite fast really. My wish is that in the midst of the madness we might find a tune we love to play and play it. That we might see something worth painting and paint it. That we might begin or perhaps continue the planting and plotting of a garden bed.
I’ll share some paintings soon. Keep the faith in the meantime.
I’ve been for a long walk this morning, some exercise before the day begins in earnest. There is a heron out on the swim dock which is great to see. Up to now, our dock has merely been a pit stop for ducks and sea gulls. Yesterday while out on the lake we spied osprey, a magnificent bald eagle hunting for fish, and many iconic loons.
Their calls to one another haunt our dreams.
It is my full intention to be firmly present in these final couple of days here in Maine, but I admit to already feeling the pressure of the journey home which we will undertake in the wee hours of Sunday.
We are steeped in friendship and gratitude, natural splendor and rest, great food, camaraderie and play. The well is nigh full and we can draw on it back in our day to day at home.
There are small projects planned which will keep me grounded in practice, as the goldening of late summer drifts down on everything. There is a wistful sadness to the time of year, always, and especially now.
Tomorrow I shall have one more quick dip in the sea (don’t worry, I’ll avoid any shark tending locales!) and perhaps another bite or two of ocean sourced food, before packing up and readying for home. Next I write, I’ll be back in my familiar haunts and settling into what could be a long autumn, what with one thing and another and so many precious plans canceled. It will be important to maintain an even keel in the months ahead. To lean into the winds in a way that fills the sails and keeps us on course.
Perhaps today I’ll have a sailing lesson.
Much appreciation for you all reading along with me on these recent adventures. I shall endeavor to keep writing, even as we settle back into normality. For there is beauty and even some adventure to be found there as well.
” For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself. He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation.”
This day is close. Like humid and slow. I’m reminded of Ohio and grateful for the lake here.
This morning, a walk before some rain. I go for some time, in order to walk off a bit of the rich food and drink vacation with friends doth provide.
I walk, hike and occasionally jog a bit as well, past Wyeth style fields…. (keen to get this barking IT band back in working order)
…..up mountain roads, and past signs of life in the outer world.
There are stony sentinels guarding these well worn paths along the way.
The humidity suits the fungi sort.
Upon returning to camp, rain has begun in earnest and I retreat to the boathouse to practice some tunes for awhile.
Soon, the sun is back out, and the instruments have had their fill of muggy conditions. I put them away and go for a swim.
Fast forward to now…. I have made a painting. It’s busier than I would like. Perhaps I have waited too long to paint. Exercising and playing music first on this particular day. All are priorities of course. I work from memory along with a few snapshots of last night’s spectacular sunset. So much going on there, so much to capture.
So I just push paints around for while. There are notes of this one I like. “It is only a study” (this I remind myself again and again.) I am finding my voice (aren’t we always?) in gouache and one can’t make a masterpiece at every turn.
It is late afternoon and dinner hour begins soon so I’ll wrap up and be fully present here at camp, as that is the business of vacation. (Also, maybe another swim, jaysus, it’s hot!)
There are books to read, naps to take, boat rides to experience, meals to share. It’s all a bright balance of good things here and now. I am grateful for all of it…..
Yesterday was moving day. The day on which we gather ourselves en masse for a week away from home and, more importantly, work. There are groceries to collect, the packing up of all the essentials for a week at the lake. Usually we figure we can have a meal in town and pick up any forgotten necessities. Usually things are more casual and fluid, especially as the kids have become adults in recent years. But this year is different.
We hunker down.
Moving day, even on a good year, breeds small anxieties in my heart and this year the spin cycle of the mind is even more active than usual. I am loathe to leave the ocean, but excited for the relatively warm, fresh waters of Long Pond. I worry we will forget something, worry I’m not doing enough to be of assistance to our little family unit, worry I’m getting behind in my art work, becoming lazy and complacent here in this vacation-land paradise. I worry my country is breathing it’s final dying gasps, worry about the ripple effects of this damned virus…… I won’t bore you with all of the worries, but you get the general picture. This is my brain on transitions of most kinds, what can I say? I am only human, a work in progress.
There is nothing for a wave of worries quite like playing a bit of music. Good for the soul in so many ways – perhaps merely the tonal qualities of music in general and the necessity of managing ones breath as a flute player specifically. One of my nagging worries yesterday is that I might miss the precious zoom calls which fall on the very hour we are due to be arriving here at our little rented cabin.
But, as with seemingly everything on this gift of a journey this summer, it all works out. Our rental allows for a bit of an early arrival, which means I can attend these conversations after all. My computer remembers the household wireless, so no technical glitches either. With two back to back zoom calls, I get to see the faces and hear the voices of my musical mates from the Swannanoa gathering which shores up the heart in these heavy times. We learn a couple of new tunes, all the while catching up with one another, with hopes to do so in person next summer. But who knows? With a bit of music, and the knowledge that my friends scattered around the world are ok for now, my unsettled heart shifts back into center. I am grateful.
Soon we are unpacked and a simple dinner is in the works. By tradition, we feast on steamed lobster, bread and a salad on our first night at ‘camp’.
After dinner, we load onto the boat for a sunset cruise and a swim.
That’s one way to wash away the lobster juice.
We are welcomed back to this magical place by the mournful calls of loons echoing back and forth across the pond.
Sunset is miraculous and beautiful over the Kennebec Highlands, as it is most days. And we marvel.
The evening descends. Some play games up at the house, others opt to watch the stars come out and listen to the loons down by the dock. My anxieties are by now washed away by the gifts of this magical afternoon and evening.
It is now Sunday morning and there is a full, soft day ahead of us. Each of us keen to soak it all in here together. We all know there was a time, mere weeks ago, when we weren’t sure if we might even make this trip happen. And so we are doubly grateful to simply be here this year, now more than ever.
Thanks to you, dear readers for coming along. I really appreciate all of the emails and messages you’ve sent encouraging me to keep the updates coming. I aim to do so, hopefully with more artwork as this week unfurls……
“I can think of no greater happiness than to be clear-sighted and know the miracle when it happens. And I can think of no more real life than the adventurous one of living and liking and exclaiming the things of one’s own time. ” ~Robert Henri
An early start to the day sees us racing the tides to visit a colony of seals near here.
We get the boats in, just in time and paddle the short distance out to a rocky ledge where our selkie friends are known to congregate at low tide.
We do not venture too close so as not to stress them out, but we can see their velvety bodies slip into the water when they spy our approach. One or two trusting souls hang about on the rocks and watch us watch them. The rest, the shy ones, watch from the water, only getting within 50 feet at the closest. Sea dogs of a sort, they have some curiosity and fascination with us, as we do them, and we spend some time observing one another.
There are also osprey, terns, cormorants, gulls. We aren’t out long, but it is a productive day already.
Back home to gather some of the kids, we then head to lunch at a lovely land’s end marina. We are in our element, and pinching ourselves at our good fortune. No wait, a table by the water, and the best of company.
In the afternoon we walk off our lunch time decadence with a cliff walk trail which leads to an inlet of sorts where we take a swim.
Classic Maine woodland, complete with fairy huts and mushrooms. We soak in the quiet of a natural island pine forest.
We manage to find a path to the water of a little inlet and swim for a time. Salty and warm and lovely.
We are happy campers.
Suffice it to say, I created no art today, but rather took the beauty of the day to gather imagery and impressions for more work in days to come. Tomorrow we shift gears, heading inland to a rented lake home. All of the co-workers have taken the week off and vacation for the lot of us begins in earnest.
I will miss the ocean.
Expect a post here in this space come Sunday, or possibly Monday, depending upon the flow of things. Til then, be safe, wear a mask, be kind to one another.
I start the day with a long walk and a visit to the sea side where it is low tide. It has been rainy overnight and so the day is soft and gray. There are workers here at home doing outside house maintenance and so I opt to hide away for the day at a table in the basement where it is quiet and cool.
Still working out the kinks and idiosyncrasies of my new-to-me gouache paints, I work from a photo and then just from my imagination to craft a couple of little paintings for the day.
These give me hope for better work to come and I see them as studies.
It also seems that I am seeing an arc to the earth I haven’t noticed before in my paintings. It’s fun to experiment.
My intrepid god-child finishes her work for the day and we once again steal away for the day’s dip in the sea. With overnight storms and the gray – but warm – day, the water feels brisk. But we do it anyway and are rewarded with a refreshing swim, with the added bonus of mere time together.
Walking the path back to the car, I spy a stone which catches my eye.
It says everything else that needs to be said for the day.
By day, my porch-based co-worker Poppy and I work on some sketches and picture post-cards to send along to my trusty pen-pals. We also sketch. Crows caw in the trees above, but Poppy pays them no mind.
Technically I am on vacation, but art-making is not merely work for me, but play. This line being quite blurred in the day to day back home, vacation reminds me the importance of the ‘play’ side of the equation.
I begin with pencil, moving on from there to a little traditional sketch with watercolor and a bit of ink. All good, and a great way to warm up.
After a bit, I want to paint but I am too lazy to move off the porch to retrieve the gouache set up. So I ask the watercolors if they might like to play, just for fun.
And these two little paintings happened. I am pleased with them and will treat them as studies for larger works. We shall see. Tomorrow they will be on the wing, stamped for traveling.
Either way, it is fun to feel like I have tapped into something – a bit. We have, after all, been mired in fear and grief, anxieties and longing of late. It can be taxing to a soul. This journey to our Maine homeland has been a pleasant escape, though signs of the state of all things are readily apparent anywhere we go. So few tourists -to drive through Freeport is nigh on creepy. Any ‘outing’ we do has strict protocols for safety and distancing. But we carry on. Occasionally managing an oyster (like on our anniversary) or a beer or two, like last night.
By night, all the household co-workers come together for a bevvie and a catching up on the day, grateful to be together in these strange times. Tonight it’s dinner in, which is good. One can only handle so much town-centered anxiety.
It is nearly 3 pm here and I have yet to get my swim in for the day, but I am keen to try. We shall see…….
Meantime, here is another version of a selkie song I shared yesterday:
With all this ocean swimming of late, here’s a reminder of the wee filim (that’s Irish speak for film) I did a couple months ago (doesn’t it seem like an AGE!!!) with my pal Nuala and her musical mates from the Snowflake Trio:
It’s the ocean side of this journey, and we couldn’t be happier. It being Tuesday, I have a John Joe Badger drawing to share with you, of course. His journey and mine are interwoven in music and adventure and so, this week’s illustration features oceanic imagery and the stories I love.
Today’s swim found us meeting with high tide and so the dip into the sea was a simple one.
My god-daughter and I stole away from the co-working space, aka home, for the day’s swim and conditions were the best yet. There is nothing like a cold dip and then drying out on warm stone.
I never tire of the view off the coast here. Islands upon islands leading out to the Atlantic ocean proper, all of them offering magical little inlets, coves and wharves which are so picturesque.
I can’t capture all of them, but I capture what I can.
There is a magic to the Atlantic ocean – ancient, mysterious. No matter which side of the pond one finds oneself on.
John Joe Badger finds himself practicing his pipes every day on this trip to Maine (as do I). And he finds himself enjoying the company of friends as well.
We are keen to make contact with seals at some point perhaps and it looks as if John Joe already has.
He plays the tunes he knows for his new friends. Always trying to tap into the magic that the music, and the sea, provide.
Two of the videos above I gleaned from the blog of a favorite artist/writer/friend Terri Windling. *here* is the link. If you want a dose of magic and escape on the internet, go subscribe. It’s always beautiful and worth the time. The other, from Ronan Browne, is a perennial favorite of mine and an air that I play on the flute and am learning on the pipes. It’s a haunting thing, an oceanic melody and I never tire of it.
Thanks, as always, for following along on this escapeful journey of ours.
It’s fun to see how others have weathered the isolation in recent months. Here it’s Rumikub. There have been many games, apparently.
Locals remind themselves of what is lovely here, in spite of all.
While on my morning walk/run there is a veritable parade of old fashioned cars, harkening to days bygone.
It is good to walk in a place where glimpses of the sea are readily available through the trees.
Before the day gets away, I steal away to paint for a bit, using a new paint set up I gleaned recently from the lovely work and suggestions of Lena Rivo.
Wonderful to find a secluded bench, with shade and a view.
Here’s the wee painting I come up with…..
Later it is time to swim. Of course it is.
Is that a seal???
Alas, it’s just me.
Sea me. I LOVE swimming in the ocean each day. Thankful it is just down the road from us.
Tonight, in the spirit of reconnaissance for a kayak opportunity of Tony’s later in the week, we gather for dinner at another lovely spot, out of doors, away from others, by the sea, and happy to be together.
We are treated to an amazing sunset. And just like that, our first full day in Maine comes to a close.
We are deeply grateful to be here. To fill the proverbial well with hope for the months to come. To remind ourselves AND you that beauty and friendship still exist. That we will get through these hard times.