Category Archives: travel

Test Run

****** EDITED for recent events.  See below….

Outside it blazes a midwestern summer.  Inside, cocooned, I write letters to pen pals, grateful in knowing that notes and small treasures will be back and forth in the weeks and months to come.

So excited to dive into some vintage stationary!!  (click for link!!)

While on route to Bloomington, Indiana over the weekend, I work on one such little treasure to mail, a knitted crown, fit for a queen.

I hope she likes it, and never loses her youthful moxie.

We are welcomed to Bloomington by old walls, hand hewn, washed with time.

We are welcomed with love.

Our eldest, living, working and studying in this delightful Indiana college town, keeps his distance from us, of course, in true pandemic style, while also sharing with us the things he loves most about his new home town.

don’t worry, we have masks on.

We thoroughly enjoy the time there, shadowed as it is by the all of everything.  We bike, hike, sweat, take photos.  It feels a world away.

This bridge reminds me much of Swannanoa, and the bridge we walk daily there to get to meals, classes, concerts and the like. Perhaps next year. For now, we travel empty bridges.

Sometimes, in the heat of the day, we escape to our little cabin to nap in the cool air for a bit.

Smoke keeps the bugs away, mostly.

The weekend continues with dreadful temperatures but delightful company.  We take to the woods for an early hike.

It is quiet but for birdsong and an occasional fellow hiker.  The green is soothing to our citified souls.

Lake Monroe is lovely, and we get a peek of an inlet while hiking. But I pine for a more glacial lake if I am to be honest. It’s only a matter of days……

John Joe Badger is inspired by this little fairy door and a shrew we meet in the woods…..

This little adventure is a bit of a test run.  Not only do we want to touch base and deliver some home cooking to our boy, but we want to measure the state of things outside of our home here in Ohio.

Aside from trips to the grocery store and my occasional visit to the concertina shop to get some part-time work done, we don’t really do anything.  This weekend we find ourselves at a restaurant for the first time in months (out of doors, and the staff wear masks and there are plants dividing the spaces, it feels safe…. I think).

I am remotely comfortable with this set up and it all bodes well for our eventual (hopeful) trip north later this month.  But the hum of worry stains everything.  It just does.  Everywhere we turn, there is the threat.

But carry on we must.

and follow the path of those in the know.

Learn what needs learning.

Seek the edges and toe them accordingly.

Our society is so keen on the avoidance of the proverbial elephant in the room.  Perhaps we might do well to say what needs saying.

“It’s enough to be walking with you.”

More soon…..

edit:  When I wrote “more soon” above yesterday, I didn’t really mean THIS soon.  Last night we saw news of outrage and protest in Bloomington after a horrific event.  Here is the article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/07/07/vauhxx-booker-indiana-investigation/

We are a nation on the precipice.  A ‘powder keg’ as my husband called it this morning.  And I am heartbroken.  

 

 

 

 

Processing carrots

How to go from this….
……to this!!

Start with the shape of a carrot.  “ish”.

Add a “head” to your carrot shape.

And then a wee shadow to ground your developing figure in space….

(for the record, my sunshine is found in the left of my little world.)

Once your carrot is feeling like a figure, time to clothe it a bit.  This is done with some basic shapes, like rectangles.  The vendors here in Guatemala with their traditional outfits (the word for these is “traje”) are lovely to sketch in this way as the forms found in their clothing can be broken down to simple shapes.

Next I begin to add some appendages for this particular figure.

I then add a bundle on her head.  Folks here work so hard!  They carry their wares for peddling on their backs, heads, arms and then walk and walk and walk to make a sale.

I begin to find light in the bundle….

Then some patterning in her corte…..

And added some color therein….

I darken her outfit, showing the shadow beneath her heavy bundle….

a little more personality to her shadow.

Then I begin to add more wares for her to sell to the tourists here in Antigua.  Necklaces which will dangle from one arm whilst her other balances the bundle above.

More colors on the necklaces and some threads too.

She’s looking good I think!

So very tiny, but these little portraits really have a ton of personality and I enjoy creating them!

I am SO inspired by the Guatemalan people.  So very patient with us often clueless tourists with our clumsy spanglish.  Quick with a smile and a “buenos días” on the sidewalk.  The traditional textiles worn around town are a feast for the northern-most among us so thirsty for color.  It is such great fun to learn about the various patterns and places represented in these weavings and embroideries.  And great fun to explore them in a variety of ways in my sketchbook….

January

This time last week I was in Austin, Texas, visiting artful friends, meeting new trees and dogs.  A good time was had by all and I was (and always am) deeply inspired by time spent with these women and their loved ones.

Austin has been described as a blueberry in a big bowl of tomato soup, culturally, politically and it was great fun skimming even the surface of this amazing capitol city.

One can read countless articles about the food in Austin, or the music in Austin.  But honestly, I really loved the trees.

There were two in particular which captivated my imagination.  The first being the famed Treaty Tree – an old, intrepid Council Oak utilized by Native Americans long before our misguided United States was even a glimmer on the horizon.  You can read the full story here about how this poor tree was poisoned back in the 80’s and nearly died.  But it survives to this day and is loved and protected and shored up and supported in its growth.

The day we visited it, there happened to be officials on hand, measuring and taking stock of the tree and I asked permission to come inside the fence and place my hand upon its trunk.  I was permitted and nearly cried when I touched it.  Trees are truly miraculous beings and I have a bit of a thing for them.

A second tree which I befriended just happened to be in the back yard of the very friends we were visiting.  This tree, now called Bonnie, was a primary reason my friends chose this of all houses and they brought in an arborist to make sure they could care for her properly in the coming years.  I think they are glad to know Bonnie.  And perhaps Bonnie is glad to know them.

I am guessing there will be more paintings of Bonnie.  I spent a bit of time just watching how the evening light played upon her stately form.  She’s lovely indeed.

But Austin is not all trees, there are the dogs.  One dog especially seemed to sum up all of Austin’s playfulness.  Mr. Pickles.

One cannot NOT sketch a spectacle such as Mr. Pickles.  Apparently his mom works in the mobile dog grooming world, hence the painted on color.  I think Mr. Pickles knows how cute he is as he greeted us with enthusiasm on our visit to the Contemporary Austin art museum.

There was much more to tell of Austin.  A beer garden in a grove of trees in the hill country, cocktails made of a desert plant….

Vintage finds in the second hand shops.  But mostly we merely enjoyed one another’s company.  And this was enough.  Even in a city as cool as Austin.

And now I am home.  Nursing a cold…..

And deeply worried over our own pup Iris.  Our Wild Iris Rose has been unwell of late.  Deer poo is nasty stuff and we can only guess that she may have sampled some in the yard leading to intestinal distress.  We got her sorted out last week and were in the clear, but this week, among everything else, she was overcome again.

Tonight she is hospitalized and getting fluids.  We are hopeful for the best, but it’s up to her.  And so tonight we wait.

I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, tea is helpful, yes.

And good books to pass the time…

A bit of light reading…..

Scribbling a bit helps to pass the time sometimes. I learned this style of doodling from my friend artist Kim Rae Taylor

But it’s worrying, to put it mildly.  She has been greatly weakened by this latest illness and we are giving her the best care we know how.  And only time will tell.  Of all the dogs, Iris is really my girl and I miss her presence here in the studio tonight as I write this.  Hoping she’s back home resting comfortably tomorrow perhaps.  But we shall take it all as it comes.

As we must.

On traveling and coming home

John Joe Badger hasn’t been much of a piper these last few days.  He has traveled many miles to visit different forests than his own.  He thoroughly enjoyed the company of his friends from other places.  But he missed his musical practice and the comforts of his very own hut.

We shall brew a cup of tea to nurse this head cold, often a side effect of getting out into the world at large.  And perhaps we will coax the pipes out of their slumber a bit in the coming days.  What do you like best about traveling, and about coming back home….?

Let us keep courage

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

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

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

“CAESURA”

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

via Robert Macfarlane on twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…….

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

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

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

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

 

Enchantment on the edge

” I sat down on the bank above the beach where I had a splendid view all around me.  Dead indeed is the heart from which the balmy air of the sea cannot banish sorrow and grief.”

~Peig Sayers

We are more than a week home to Ohio now.  In this time we have run the gamut of human emotions.  Grief over the loss of and  funeral for Tony’s mom, love and glee at reconnecting with far flung family at said funeral, relief at being in one’s own bed and living space, awe at the turning of the season, as autumn in Ohio carries its own special splendor.  Overwhelm at the return to the reality of regular responsibility.

So often the case, I find my soul lagging behind my body after a trip of such magnitude and so part of my mind’s eye is still fixed on the magical hills and cliffs and windswept beaches of western Ireland.  But I am more fortunate than most who return to the US from a trip to the Emerald Isle.  I have music.

I shall start with that.

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

Irish music has been in my life for a good while now.  Beginning with my son taking on the challenges of the fiddle, which led not only to his life’s work as a musician but also to me forging my own brambled path via whistle, flute and eventually (gods willing and the creek don’t rise) the Uillean pipes.  To say this music is a gift in my life would be a vast understatement.  Everywhere we laid our weary heads whilst in Ireland had something to do with the music.

Our friends in Blackrock, Co. Louth are both musicians.  Through their work over the years, they have come to know many influential people in the relatively small world of traditional Irish music.  And this is how I came to find myself treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a private lesson with a legend.

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

Seamus Tansey is a force to be reckoned with.  His playing carries the wild, untamed side of Irish flute music and his mercurial personality matches this fierceness.  He’s a character not to be crossed, from everything I have ever heard about him.  And yet, because I came connected to someone he holds in high regard, I think he took a shine to me.  Our lesson was mostly me being stunned at the musical gymnastics he was asking for and him being patient with my inabilities.  There is nothing more humbling than this music and I have so much to learn, it’s true.  Perhaps this lesson with a legend would have been better spent on one besides myself, one with more knowing of the intricacies of this tradition.  But when one gets this opportunity laid in front of them, one must say, “I accept.”  I am grateful to Seamus and his lovely wife Joan for their gracious hospitality, to Simone and Sean for shuttling me to Northern Ireland for this opportunity and to Lillie whom I took to the airport hotel in Dublin far earlier than maybe suited her so that I could get to Belfast in time for all this.  Life is rich indeed, and we all do things to build each other up, do we not?

One of my favorite evenings of this trip was of a night in a Kerry kitchen, trading very local tunes with my friend Michael, a lovely box player who is a bit too shy to play at the sessions but who has loads to share.  Another favorite memory is that of an open session in a little pub in Dingle called Neligan’s.  Another box player called Michael, along with a few other lovely players and another lovely night of tunes indeed. A shout out to publican Dara who makes all feel welcome and at home in his pub.  Thanks for the encouragement to come along and play!  (We shall catch up to ourselves in Dingle shortly here in this writing…..)

Dingle is quite the touristy place really.  I can only imagine the throngs during the season.  But I think of this music as a bit of a back stage pass. Knowing a few tunes and humbly sitting in (only when invited, of course) at a local session can mean that the local musicians might stick around for a chat after the tunes.  And just like that, one makes a new friend or two.

Thankfully for Tony, all was not incessantly musical.  There was much touring to be done in our short time in Ireland. I was keen to hook him on this country I hold so dear with the hopes of luring him back once again.   I will be there next year for a whole month of course and I hope for him to tag along for a bit of November perhaps….. we shall see.

We took in the windswept Cliffs of Moher where there was not only natural splendor…..

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

Small beauty, amidst the majestic.

 

The wind makes drawings in the grasses.

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

But the splendor of quirky humanity as well which made my heart swell.  There was an intrepid couple from away, maybe Portugal or Italy (difficult to hear with the wind blowing) who were keen to get some iconic wedding photos made….

Her veil blew in the wind and the rains did fall.  Everyone seemed to be good sports about it all.

Others got in on the fun and had their own impromptu wedding shoots….

It was one of those rare, feel good moments when one feels a part of things and good to be a human.  These kids might have been from Germany (again, so hard to hear with the wind as it was).  But strangely, all seemed right with the world for the moment.

Eventually, the next day, as you know, saw us headed further south, further west to the Dingle Peninsula, “Corca Dhuibhne”.  We soldiered on through rain and fog and down impossibly small roads which found us over impossibly foggy mountains.  The skies did clear and Dingle did cast her spell eventually and we found the music there that night at Neligan’s.  Sadly we barely had 24 hours to explore this amazing peninsula, but we took in what we could.

All around there was a feeling of being in an “other” world, of being blessed by those who exist in a greater beyond.  Things seem chancey and strange here.

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

“Then I went to Ireland.  The conversation of those ragged peasants, as soon as I learnt to follow it, electrified me.  It was as though Homer had come alive.  Its vitality was inexhaustible, yet it was rhythmical, alliterative, formal, artificial, always on the point of bursting into poetry.”

~George Thomson, The Prehistoric Aegean

Language, in English as well as Irish piles up like stones.  Every nook and cranny, every stream and small strand has a name.

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

The sheer breadth and depth of such a small place is difficult to capture and express.  It is said that Ireland is the size of our Indiana.  And yet, it carries aeons of legends and myths, tales of wonder and woe.  It would take a life time to learn and unpack it all.

We start with small words, easy to learn.  Familiar concepts.

Creatures we know we love already.

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

Perhaps through painting the sights we see, learning the tunes which waft through the air, and engaging in a word or two of Irish here and there, we might find our way to being accepted by this land I feel so drawn to.  I am keen to spend more time in Ireland.

I like the idea of being able to walk to the sea, and to the local bookstore, and the local pub, which might not only feature a warming bevvie, but also a nice cup of soup on an evening I don’t feel the urge to cook.

I actually don’t even mind the backward driving….

I love the constant presence of ravens and crows (kind of like in New Mexico).

But alas, here I am, now, in Ohio.  And I do not grieve this.  I have an amazing inlet and outlet for music via the Riley School, I have a wonderful community of fellow artists.  We have a patch of land where I am about to go set some garlic in for the winter and batten down the hatches against the squirrels.  Life is good wherever we are.

But I am glad to know of a few places, one especially, which make my heart sing.  Most folks might go a whole lifetime and not find this.  For this I am grateful.

 

 

 

Passage

 

We are returned to Ohio.  Our journey to Ireland, at an end for the time being,  we sift through laundry, piles of post, lists of things we ought to be doing to return us to “real life” and “normality”.  Yet, these notions are unreal in themselves, for every journey changes us, and this one especially.  I will write of a lovely day spent by the sea admiring the magic of moving water and sky, and of meeting musical legends large and small along the way.  I will even write of the enchanting spell the west of County Kerry might cast.  For there is so much more to tell you…..

Eventually.

But for now, we are on the cusp of Samhain and the veil between life and death is thin.  Especially for our family.  You see, while we were away in Ireland, my mother-in-law passed away peacefully.  My husband had arrived with news that hospice services had been engaged for her and that her time was nigh, though no one knew just how long she might linger with us.  In the long run it was all sooner than we had expected, but isn’t that the way of things?  We are never ready, even if we have prepared for an age.  He had just seen her days before leaving to meet me, and I had visited her just days before leaving for Ireland myself a few weeks prior.  I am glad I made the time.

We were now so far from home, and there was some flurried discussion of shifting flight plans and making our way back to Ohio sooner than later.  We opted out of this change and chose to sit with all of it for our few remaining days of travel in Ireland.

Ireland is a place of great depth.  Depth in the beauty of its landscape.  Depth of history and story.  It is actually a rather appropriate place to consider the loss of a loved one.

One can’t move in Ireland for the archeological treasures to be found dotting the landscape.  We visited many in the coming days.  Newgrange being the first.  It is a “passage tomb”, thought to be a place of ritual and ceremony.

It contained the remains of ancient ones, known now only to the mists of time before written history.

Ancient people built these great structures to be in tune with the heavens.  They were at one with the seasons and the turning of the wheel of the year.  Newgrange is known for bringing the sun into the deepest part of the inner sanctum of the tomb at the winter solstice.  One can only imagine the level of engineering prowess this must have taken.

Their care in collection of materials from around the country, and the artful manipulation of stones and designs must have taken them generations.

Amidst the day to day tending to the feeding and sheltering of themselves, these people still took the time and effort to create these tombs honoring the passage of loved ones to another realm.  Death was important to them.

It is said that the Celtic peoples of old had great esteem for the concept of death as an inherent part of life.  That they honored this concept in how they thought about the cycles of the year, and their own place in it as mortal beings.

It is said that while the Celtic people of the ancient times must have certainly grieved the loss of their loved ones when they passed away,  for they were only human after all, it was all understood to be The Way Of Things.  The many passage tombs we were to encounter in subsequent days honors this idea and I found it all strangely comforting.

There is something about this time of year that offers us a chance to consider our own place in The Way Of Things and to remind us that we are only here but a short while in the vast depths of time.

 

It is crucial that we make the best of our time here.  To strive to be the best incarnation of spirit we can be, to offer that back to whatever great power put us here in the first place.  We cannot know the intentions of the cosmos.

Knowth, in the same general vicinity as Newgrange, was the next stop on the day we learned of Tony’s mom’s death.  Our eyes danced with dizziness at the spirals spied on so much stone and at the great vastness of scale the many passage tombs provided.

Stones were to be a constant theme in the days to come as we traversed the country and took in all we could in the days we had left.  I put the work of writing and painting aside and simply experienced it all with Tony, which felt like the right thing to do.

We left the east part of Ireland to head west toward the Burren, a place I was keen to see this time around.

It is a magical moonscape of sorts.  Many of the roads are mere cow tracks or bóthairín and I found myself holding my breath as we occasionally met another car traveling in the opposite direction.  We made our way to Poulnabrone Dolmen which is considered a “portal tomb”, which was also a means of honoring the dead.  The murky, misty weather intensified the mysterious feel of the place and we fell in love with it all immediately.  It was in keeping with the depth of how we felt about everything going on and seemed to be an appropriate way to spend some of our time in Ireland, considering the circumstances.

Barren though it all seemed at surface level, there was life everywhere in the cracks and crevices of stone.

On route to the Cliffs of Moher on this day, we spied the ruins of an old church.  Less ancient than the pre-historic sites we’d been visiting.  We parked for a look at the place.  It was no less enchanting for its relative modernity.

Once again we were struck with the connectivity of life to death in this place.  Graves upon graves, old and new, just next to a place where cows graze and birds flit about.  There is a peace to it all.

Later that evening we spent an enjoyable and delicious meal with dear friends in Ennis.  I read stories to the kids while the grown ups shared wine and cooked.  There was fresh baked bread which was divine.  There was time to laugh and converse and sing a bit together.  It was ultimately quite healing.

There is so much more to tell of our brief time together in Ireland, and I will weave that part of the tale into this broader story on another day.  I will tell of how we left Ennis far too quickly to catch the ferry back once more to my beloved County Kerry, and how we dodged raindrops to play amidst sea and sky along the Dingle peninsula where we could.  And how we eventually made our way back east once more again to fly home.

Once more through the mists….

And here we are, on a gray, autumnal Ohio day.  Sifting through old photos of Patricia Lynn Musick.  Pat is someone who had the strength of stone and steel in her very bones.  She raised my Tony and his brothers on her own with nerve that saw her through many trials in her lifetime.  By the time I came to the family, she had found her first love from teen years and had married him and cared for him through his life time of health problems.  She used to be a beautician and so would perm my hair for me when it was fashionable at the time, but way out of my budget.  She was fierce, whether playing cards or caring for her home or working the many jobs she held to keep things together.  She was proud and had a sarcastic sense of humor.  She loved her grandkids and they loved her.  We now have her last dog, Charlie, who needed a bit more care than Pat could give her as her own health further declined.  We took her often for visits which I think Pat appreciated.

I dedicate this post to the mother of my beloved.

Pat, go bhféadfainn Dia do bhealach a lasadh.  May God light your way.

Always quick to strike a pose for the camera.
Pat visited in Maine multiple times and loved visiting the seaside.


 

 

 

 

 

Bog Silence

Did you know, my middle name is Heather?

Today my Kerry companions and I head north on a little road trip to Ennis in Co. Clare, endlessly chasing the music.  There is a gig to attend by a friend who makes this music professionally and a session in the works up the road after the concert.  And so, this day will be a traveling day.

I know I am not painting “enough” in recent days but writing feels like the art this week.  Gathering imagery and words.  Following the threads of inspiration.  This is “enough”.  Whatever that means.

As I left this space in my last post, I was off to don wellies and wander up the road with my hosts here to visit a bit of bog land that has been a part of their family and culture for generations.   The bog road goes well off the Ballybunion road and so traffic, if any, is light, and consists of other walkers and wanderers seeking a bit of quiet time in Nature.

We dodge raindrops and keep an eye on the horizon for rainbows.  Of course there are rainbows.

The bog is quiet with only the sound of the breeze, the rain falling, bird song and a an occasional gentle mooing of a far off cow.

Bogs are natural wonderlands, filled with all kinds of flora and fauna for those with eyes to see.  Ferns and heather, native grasses and mosses.  It is a lovely place to behold.

The silence of the bog is infectious and exactly what I have been craving.  I find it interesting that this segment of Brain Pickings is about silence and it comes across my digital path this morning as I build a little blog post before hitting the winding road to Clare.

Turf is cut from the bog and stacked to dry for use. This is called “footing the turf” and the structures are like sculptures.

This bog is a working bog and local folks have utilized the turf to heat their homes and light their hearths for years.  This is all now up for discussion nowadays as bog turf holds a great deal of carbon.  My companions are gentle stewards of this patch of bog as well as of the land which holds their cottage and grows much of their food.  They know this place well and appreciate its limitations.   I for one hope that a least a bit of turf can be burned here and there in future as the smell is divine.

After the bog walk, we return to the cottage for a cup of tea and a game of fetch with Pancake, a lovely pup indeed.

I am treated to a bite to eat and evening descends upon us.  Tea turns to wine, conversation turns to tunes, just myself and Michael – flute and accordion – and I hear slides and marches which are new to my ears.  They are local to this place and I wish for them to be collected and played back home, to celebrate this beautiful quiet patch of Kerry.  Mike and I talk about how the old tunes are really the best tunes.  Flash and musical prowess are lovely to behold, but there is something so rich and lovely about a few solid tunes in the kitchen with a local farmer.  I am blessed beyond belief.

Later I return home, my head fairly swimming with music (*finally!*) and I am reminded of the date.  It is the anniversary of the death of one of my best and most influential friends of this life time – Mia.  If she could see where life has taken me, she would beam, I am sure.  When she was ever so ill, I had just begun on the whistle – awkward and shy about it.  But she insisted I play what I knew for her and so I did.  She laughed and clapped in delight and told me never to stop playing.  I haven’t.  I miss Mia on a regular basis and think that perhaps the magic of this special day, from pre-dawn beach time, to a bog-walk under a watery sun and into the evening with new tunes and dear friends may have just been a blessing from the beyond.  I am deeply grateful.

 

A ballybunion morning

Ballybunion is a bustling seaside town in the summer, but it quiets down quite a bit in the ‘off season’, as many of the best places do.  There is a sweet sign in the park which overlooks the ocean, reminding us not to take ourselves so seriously, something time spent at the beach can often do.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round, or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight, or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly, when you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed, with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast, time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day, it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower, hear the music before the song is over.

David L. Weatherford

There is nothing like the sea and time spent near it to calm the inner storms and frustrations which plague.  Yesterday my companions and I drove out to Ballybunion and braved a bit of rain and wind to take in the fresh sea air.  We were not disappointed.

 

After a lovely, misty wander up and down the beach, we walked back up to the village and warmed up by the fire with Guinness and Wine for some, tea for me.  I am quite proud that I can drive here in Ireland and have thus far done fairly well.

This morning I opted to steal away before dawn for a few more source photos and merely more time by the sea.  If I lived just 10 km down the road from this place, might be found there almost daily.

It rained nearly all the way from Listowel to Ballybunion but the clouds did eventually part and I was treated to a magnificent morning indeed.

As I walked and took pictures, I swept the beach for bits of plastic I might be able to pick up.  There was more than I’d hoped for, but all in all it is such a clean beach.  Still, we must do better.

There is such a sense of history layered upon history here in Ireland and there is no escaping it.  There is the Renaissance era Ballybunion castle ruins which are so iconic, and the old escape hatches sometimes found niched into the cliffs that some say may have predated the castle and began in the Iron Age as food storage cellars.  It’s fascinating!  And I realize, we are only temporary.

Nature will, eventually, take everything back.

There shall be more here, but for now I must find my woolen socks and ready my camera as I am due to be picked up for a visit to the bog with our hosts here in Listowel.  Taking in all I can, while I can.

ps, I am told that the way the woman in this video lives is very much like how my friends here grew up in the very cottage we stay in now, which has been updated with a few modern amenities…..

 

 

 

 

Practice

Yesterday was a day of travel.  My Buddhist friends say, about most everything, something to the effect of “and herein lies the practice.”  This is what I was saying to myself as I drove the Irish countryside, at once familiar and not so.   Though fraught with white knuckled nerves, my journey was uneventful – in spite of monsoon styled rains.  (It was overly rainy, even for Ireland!)  But I managed with the driving, getting used to being the pilot of a strangely-sided vehicle.  I must admit that being fully and constantly present in the moment is actually really exhausting when one actually does it for real.

We go through our lives on auto-pilot so much of the time.  There is nothing quite like driving in Ireland to remind me thus.

This morning, there is peat in the air.  I slept soundly and solidly for the first time since arriving and this has given me renewed purpose.  There may be a visit to the beach today.  Music has been elusive so I will just play on my own perhaps.  One cannot push the plan.   I hope to get the paints out as well, though I am disappointed with the medium I ordered to use as its drying time is a good deal longer than what I use at home.

It can take a few days to feel truly landed in a place.  I am not sure I have quite yet arrived, but I am close.