We waited and waited, and now, just like that, the waiting is over and the work begins.
Frankly I don’t really know what I am doing. I don’t know how to tune these reeds, or to make them sing their buzzy, intoxicating song together in unison. It all sounds a bit like a spot of goose bothering just now. I must remember that this is how it is. And likely how it will be for a while still. I have had the set out for a little while each day, even as “regular life” has been quite intervening and busy, more so than normal in these pandemical times.
This instrument is pushing all of my emotional hot-buttons. The “I don’t deserve” and the “I’m not smart enough”. The “aren’t I too old?” and the “who the hell do you think you are” hot buttons which run deep and strong and rear their ugly heads when insecurity beckons. That said, I have done a TON of work over the years on these buttons. Now they serve as reminders of growth. I feel all of these things which make me feel small, and I order the pipes anyway. I take the plunge in spite of the insecurities. I allow myself this luxury even if they aren’t here to impress anyone or make any money. I don’t even have to show them to anyone really. Unless I want to. I allow myself this luxury because the sound of uilleann pipes makes my heart happy. And because I love Irish music. There needn’t be any other reasons than those really.
As an object d’art, they are a stunning thing of beauty and perhaps I will draw them some, outside of the John Joe Badger series, just to draw the form of them. We shall see. For now, I will just play them a bit each day, call my teacher crying, begging for a zoom call to see what needs adjusting. Perhaps one day they might even sound musical. For now though…..
It seems an age ago that were in Maine. Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.
We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.
As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care. This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home. And so we do.
A bit of harvesting.
And a few things still growing along nicely.
I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think. And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter. Beauty in dark times.
I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year. The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up. Keeping the deer at bay.
I am grateful.
The dahlias have put on a show this year. Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully. Surprisingly.
They are a constant delight.
My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine. She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really. When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents. Life has a way of marching on.
Last week I added another digit to my age line. It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends. It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.
My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years. When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks. But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc. Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.
Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.
I already have lists going, and some quotes. Tunes I must work on……
“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”
~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)
Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him. He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.
We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only the one aged dog along for the ride. (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)
Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.
It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak. My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons. I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being. In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own. My travel journal business was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home. For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill. Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.
I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit. With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now. It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime. There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy. Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.
It’s time. Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home. Of this I am sure. To seek beauty in a dark world is important work. Sometimes, that starts at home.
And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print. We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things. We do the best we can. Being gentle with ourselves and each other. Following our noses as to how best to proceed.
We are returned safely from travels and settled in, but more on that later……
Recently we heard from Mickey Dunne over in Limerick, Ireland that the half-set of uilleann pipes he is carefully crafting for me is nearly complete. I am very sad that I cannot go to Ireland this fall to collect them in person, meet Mickey and thank him properly. But this is just the way of things, and we soldier on.
Meanwhile, I am as a new parent preparing a nursery with all the necessary accoutrements for the new arrival. This week’s Twist of Hemp offering finds John Joe Badger diligently shopping for all the necessities and sundries so that we will be ready when the pipes (with drones!) finally arrive.
It is week 39 of our weekly adventure, John Joe and I. I am slowly learning a few tunes but still feel clumsy and more at home on the flute. Making a drawing for this series each week helps me keep track of how long I’ve been at this pipes thing while reminding me to just have a little fun with it along the way. It’s been a very long time since I purchased a proper instrument outside of a whistle of delryn flute here or there. I am nervous about it all and trying just to treat it like an investment. In myself, in the music, in the world.
These covid times can mess with our heads if we allow them to. What are you doing to keep yourself sane, grounded and invested in the world? I’m learning tunes, painting and drawing and walking many miles.
Skies – sunsets in particular – have been magnificent. Reminding us of our small place in the world.
Evening jaunts on the boat allow us a break from the heat on shore and affords us quality time together (at once more than we can handle and never enough – how I love this chosen family of mine).
At times we must dock the boat near the little local general store to stock up on supplies. And sometimes we forget our masks and must improvise which results in iconic fashionry.
In this time of fear and uncertainty, we see others and wish them well, while also hoping they never come too close.
The light here in Maine, from a painter’s perspective, is perfection. I take source photos for later use. Balancing the time here, trying not to be selfish. As usual, I would split the artist side of self off to go work in the corner all week bathed in paints while the rest of human self could dive into a book or a group activity in earnest. But the art always calls and there is no splitting. And so here we are. I do the best I can.
It is a gorgeous day outside, and I have a paddleboard planned with my dearest, long time friend (she birthed both my babies with me back in the day, so you get the depth of our connection.) Later, some socially distant music is planned with a fellow Irish musician local to these lakelands and I am grateful to find a tune here in the wilds, so far from home.
I realize that home is only as far away as the next tune, the next friend, the next dip into some paint of any kind.
I am home the minute I can center into a bit of music, or a puddle of paint, or a beautiful fireside conversation with loved ones (while a mysterious mink waterly wanders by with nary a splash.)
There has been daily practicing of the pipes, as the lady pipers group has done a tune trade this summer and my job was to learn a tune from my “tune fairie” and record said tune to share with my mystery tune-provider.
It was terrifying. Honestly.
But I did it, as I am keen to do this. To learn. To find my small place in this tradition. Even as an American with only distant ties to the motherland of this music, even as an adult learner with so very little musical knowledge. Even as merely an artist. Something about all of it makes just sense.
And so I dive in. Best I can. We have limited time, always. Especially when on vacation. Especially when on vacation during a global pandemic. I know this.
This limit is why I paint. Why I play. Why I write.
There is a recent article in Downeast Magazine about Miss Rumphius, a favorite book of mine about bringing beauty into the world as one lives one’s life. I highly recommend it….
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.
Often times, one must simply make a commitment to something. Sometimes these commitments are small, such as making one’s bed each day,, eating more kale, or promising to go for a long walk every day ~even without a dog. (to be fair, these can add up to big things in the long run.) But other times, these commitments are larger ones. Such as adopting a pet, becoming a parent, or…. investing in a new musical instrument.
Today I sent an email off to a renowned Uillean pipes maker in Ireland to acquire a “half-set” of pipes later this year, hopefully when I go to Ireland for my artist’s residency. The maker is someone recommended to me by my teacher, dear friend and fellow musician Cathy whom I trust whole-heartedly. I guess this means I am diving full on into this piping stuff. I will continue to play the set I have on loan here, with all it’s quirks, and hope for the best with the new set when I pick it up in the fall. Praying I don’t drive everyone crazy with my practicing as I go.
In the meantime, St. Patrick’s day is coming. There are gigs to play with friend-musicians I am so fortunate to know and play with. A number of years ago, this would have felt like a pipe-dream of its own, really. So I have faith that with a bit of work, maybe my own “pipe dream” may come true and I’ll learn enough to play this wild new instrument along with others once more…. in the meantime, it is nice merely to grow and learn with a new project. I have some large canvases I plan to paint on as well. Big, new terrifying territory. But, like music, I am diving in. It’s the only way.
What are you doing these days that scares you?
ps. The above is week 18 of my little drawing series with John Joe Badger. While I was away teaching in Guatemala, I did manage to make a drawing each week, though sharing wasn’t as manageable. Here are week 16 and 17…..
As much as John Joe Badger loves his borrowed practice set, even with all of its idiosyncrasies (and don’t all sets have their idiosyncrasies?), he’s begun to consider the acquisition of a practice set of his own. Perhaps even a “half set”, which would surely complicate matters.
John Joe consults his latest issue of Piper’s Weekly……
Where does an average badger of modest means even begin to look for such a set? Does he go for a freshly made set of pipes? Or a well loved set, which might come along with adopted issues. Who are the best makers? Does he seek a maker near to him and to his climactic locale? Or does he dare contact one of the makers in Ireland….? These are the questions that keep our dear John Joe awake at night these days.
These, and the humidity levels (or lack thereof) here in late winter.
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….?