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Pardon Our Dust!!

Over the course of this winter I am working with my tech team to streamline this online space of mine here to better showcase the ever changing information about classes far and near, work available and of course, the writing featured on the blog.  The more recent stuff will be available on Patreon and eventually those posts can be read for free on the website.

Please pardon my digital dust as we get to working on this as it’s a big job.  I’ve had this thing going since 2007 with a minor upgrade sometime in the early teens I think.  If you have any questions about classes, art, etc, send me an email at abeefrnd@gmail.com

Thanks for your interest and support!

Heeler : Healer

This time last year…..

We were staring down another lonely holiday for fear of infecting loved ones with a deadly disease.

There was a vaccine, a miracle really, but not readily available quite yet to us normal folk.

We were terrified and tired.  And, frankly, tired of being terrified.

And then….

We welcomed into our home a new creature, a puppy.  This was no flight-of-fancy pandemic puppy, as we had done a lot of research and were biding our time hoping for a blue heeler, or perhaps a dog with heeler in the mix.  After the mass exodus of our two beloved big dogs, River, then Iris and our cat Ian, in late 2019, early 2020, the house had been feeling a bit empty and quiet with only Charlie left to snuggle.  We took nearly a year to think about it all, and to adjust to life in a long term pandemical era.

Eventually we got word that there were some puppies in northeast Ohio on a farm, a litter from a couple of working dogs and would we like one.  We took the plunge.  And into our lives came wee Philomena.

Her litter mate had gotten car sick on their drive to Columbus where we met up for puppy hand-off and so she smelled like puppy kibble and puppy breath combined.  We took her to our daughter’s apartment for a quick bath and then we drove back home, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

Those first weeks are a blur of setting Phil up for a life of routine and structure and of course love and play and learning.  She is intensely smart and took to all of it with little trouble.

We were fortunate that Charlie opted to stay healthy and well for a bit longer with us as she taught Philomena what it means to be gentle and respectful of the boundaries of other dogs.  For this I’ll be forever grateful to old Charlie, whom we lost this year.

Philomena is a wise little thing.  She carries in her a depth of personality and an old knowing, often found in smart dogs.  We simply adore her company.

She still carries in her some of the silliness of her puppy personality.  Once cold weather came back around this year, she once again began burrowing under her bed, something she did when she was very small.

Of course now she’s a bit  bigger.

I’ve spent much time observing and sketching this beautiful dog.

This gets more and more difficult, the older and more active she is.

Now just over a year old, we are riding out the adolescent times with Phil, teaching her patience and impulse control.  She is still very much a puppy in terms of energy and excitement.  But she is a friend to all who know her.  She has opted for a career in the field of fetching a tennis ball after some inquiries into other jobs like squirrel chasement, herding ball nipping and dead-animal seeking.  Chasing a tennis ball seems like a safe bet for a long lasting career.

She’s very good at her job and takes it all very seriously.

Happy gotcha day Philly.  We love you to the moon and back.

 

 

Today

Today is September 11.  It has been 20 years since that fateful day.

20 years ago our Jack had just turned 7.  His birthday was yesterday and now he is 27, off living his best adult life.  I marvel, honestly.  His memories of the 9/11 attacks involve the grown-ups all talking in tearful hushed tones while he diligently worked to put together his new Millennial Falcon lego set.

September 11 is always a somber day and today was no different.  But there is the joyful resistance to the murderous intentions of the evil-doers of that day.  Any time people come together in love or kindness or in solidarity in the pursuit of something beautiful or good, there is resistance to that evil.

Today, after a year and a half off, the Riley School Of Irish Music came together, vaccinated, masked and ever so weary of the state of things to learn a few tunes and to see how it might go.  With the virus surging, this may not last.  But it was worth a shot.  It’s always worth a shot.

We must try to show up and carve out a new version of what normal might look like and this will take time.

There are so many news stories and posts and blogs and podcasts and etc. etc. about this year’s 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  So I won’t wax poetically here, except to say that as I wandered in a public area in a nearby suburb, I was gladdened by the multi-cultural nature of it all.  People from all walks of life, in many skin tones,  bearing the cultural signifiers of various modes of belief and ways of life.  I thought about how one small band of people so filled with hatred could cause so much harm and what we might do, each of us, to avoid this sort of thing happening again.

In the end, I have to believe it’s just more and more love.

I hope that wherever today found you, that you could find a moment of peace, of beauty, and maybe a bit of friendship.  And that perhaps, through these things, we might heal the world a bit.

Peace.

 

Home in Maine

Hello from Maine!  Our annual pilgrimage was a success and we find ourselves drinking up the sea air and the long overdue catching up with dear family-friends.  We love it here.

Many of you long time readers have reached out that you look forward to seeing “all the Maine posts” this summer.  I’ve been lying fairly low over on the social media channels, choosing instead to put my limited work time each day to writing on my Patreon page and of course, working on art and writing in the background, not necessarily ready for posting.  If you want that dose of Maine, do come over and support the work over on Patreon.  It’s a small thing, as little as $1 a month, and you get to read the posts I put so much work and love into.  I’ll see you there.  (More on why the shift in my online offerings in this post *here*)

In other news, I am busy planning next year’s place-based travel-sketch journaling classes. (We’re back at it lads and I am so excited!!!)  Access to the Taos, NM and Antigua, Guatemala classes for 2022 is always offered to past participants first.  The Guatemala trip is nearly at capacity but I am delighted to announce that there are four spaces available in the second week (arr GUA Saturday Feb 26, class Feb 27-Mar 3, Depart Mar 4).  Send me an email if you are interested in more details.  I’ll be updating the Guatemala trip page here on the blog with the new dates soon, but the prices are basically the same as what is listed there currently.

Per the usual, I will announce how many Taos slots are open after the first week or so in September.  First dibs will be given to those who missed out due to the pandemic as well as to those few who were able to attend this summer.  I will put an announcement here when that occurs so be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss it.  Or just check back in early September.

Thank you as always for reading my musings.  I am carefully combing through all of my old thoughts on creativity, the power of attention (and intention) and what a difference seeking out the artful in our own lives can make and working on a bigger avenue for all of it.  So bear with a quieter than usual blog here, dig into the Patreon option for more of the kind of updates you are used to and stay tuned as I ramp things into bigger territory in the coming months.  It’s finally time.

 

Home again, Home again

The boots are off, suitcases finally unpacked.  As are the art supplies (also, finally).  Tony did a quick turn and has found himself in DC visiting our eldest who’s working a concert series at the University of Maryland.  I just couldn’t.  I feel I have done nothing but nap in recent days.  Sometimes twice a day.  Always with this sweet soul nearby.

Provided she gets a good run in, she is all for settling into naps.  I am grateful for this, as she is, after all, merely a puppy.  8 months old today actually.

I’ve been slowly getting myself situated here at home.  Batting off feelings of overwhelm and too-much-ness which often plague after a successful journey.  And what a journey it was.  It was the kind of road trip that makes me want to sell all and get a camper-van and hit the road.  This is, of course, all very well until I once again feel the call to get my hands into familiar soil.  And so, we strike a balance via travel.

A page from my own travel journal.

I want to welcome those of you reading this who aren’t familiar with my long time musings.  This post itself is a “public” post meaning anyone can read it, as I want my recent Taos workshop participants to have access and to read my words about the work accomplished and the magic made during our time together.  Patrons who choose to sponsor my work month to month get more posts all their own, and occasional thank you gifties as well.  (The post cards are coming!)

I did get a question about whether one might sponsor my work somehow without doing the monthly billing thing through Patreon.  I punted this question to my tech handler, John, as it’s a good question.  But alas, it appears I am firmly wedded to this platform for the time being.  So far it’s working.  A fair few lovely folks, many long time (we’re talking 14 years!) readers of the blog, are chipping in a few dollars a month and more and this is sort of feeding the whole thing.  I can pay the tech handler without worry that I took a year off for the pandemic.  Maybe eventually I might invest in some stop motion gear.  Who knows!  But I must, always, say thank you.  Patreon, with all its modern day baggage, is a good thing for me for now.  So that answers that.  Now onto the post trip report!!

I never quite know what I am walking into when I do a workshop.  This year in particular was a little anxiety producing as I was so out of practice!  (Weren’t we all?)  There are a number of things which might call someone to attend a “travel journal workshop”.  In my work I attempt to make room for all of it.  Sketching, collecting words and ephemera and experience, writing all go into these vessel-books.  And in the end there is a collection of evidence that the experience was had, and that it was rich and soul-full.  Year to year, every Taos week is different and I knew this would be the same, especially with the year we’ve had.  I had people self-identifying as “complete beginner” and others who are accomplished artists in their own right.  I’ll admit I was a tad daunted on day 1.  But I remembered that this process isn’t about how “good” one is at art or writing.  It’s about the act of paying attention to what thrills the soul when traveling.  That is it.  And this is different for everyone.

In the end, the beginners made strides I couldn’t have predicted.  And the artists in the group took away a small toolkit of new ideas and approaches which I hope will serve them.  I think it went well.

Here are a number of photos of the work done by those who attended the workshop.  They were so focused and fully present.  I couldn’t help but be the same as facilitator.

Mabel’s front door.  always a welcome. (Judith)

Barb took an exercise to the next level and made an abstracted painting she was quite pleased with.

More beautiful work from Judith

I love how Judith used the hole punch to peek through to the next page.  an idea from Melissa which many of us utilized.

Melissa, already an accomplished urban sketcher, lit up this page with the day’s exercise and her own sketch of the same scene.

Loads of trucks made that week.  I love the purple in this one.

another work from Melissa.  Such a fun sketch of this iconic sign.  She showed a real mastery of technique on this one.

Rosemary’s trucks.  They are slowly sinking into the fields out there.

Beautiful use of quote and sketch together (rosemary)

another from Rosemary.  She prints out little photos to add to her book with her sketches which makes for a lovely presentation on the page.

just gorgeous light here from Rosemary

This truck, believe it or not, is by one of my self-professed “beginners”.  Melinda, you’re a natural!

Not all beginners bravely go for a full page spread to draw.  Well done!

getting into subtleties (melinda)

We take in so much when we travel.  This is a good example of choosing one thing to spend time with.  In this case a gorgeous stained glass window at Mabel’s.  Loads learned on this one drawing.

This is truck one from Lily.  She was working on getting her values nailed and mitigating the pigments in her watercolor set.  later in the week…..

She’d learned to really see what was in front of her and she figured out how to get her paints to do what was asked of them.  Beautiful work Lily!

Bj has been attending my classes on and off over the years and her work has grown in depth.  

Her work is always such a capture of her experiences and impressions.

And I have always adored her sense of color!

Here Ruth tackles the birdhouses, not an easy task.

More lovely work from Ruth

I really love the sensitivity and delicacy of this page from Ruth in particular.  

Kris too made lovely work during the week, getting playful with the typewriter and all the flying curses therein.  For some reason I don’t have more images of her work.  She does this lovely splatter thing on many of her sketches and I think I might add that to some of mine.  Cross-pollination with other artists is the best thing really.

Soon, it was friday. (all too soon, really).  We gathered as a group in Mabel’s dining room for some delicious chili rellenos and lovely conversation, as we’d done all week.

and just like that, it was time to go.  Saturday morning was all a flutter, with last minute coffee and packing.  The goodbyes were tender but hopeful.  We’ve somehow survived this last tumultuous year, a til next time didn’t feel quite as painful as in years past.  Though I will admit that I was a little choked up at our final good byes to Harold and Esther outside of town.  They were the first to greet us and the last to see us go.  Always making a place for us.  Welcoming us home.

Rosemary, Steve, Tony and I had one last meal together before we all headed home to pack for an early start.

We left at the crack of dawn.

Drove through the mountains and plains and back into humidity and humanity.  Springfield MO offered up a brewery open late enough for us to get a meal and a beer which we gladly accepted.

All in all it was an uneventful journey.

But gosh I’m tired.  I forgot how hard the work is, in spite of how amazing it is.  Being out of practice didn’t help.  That said, I could not be more grateful.  For people willing to trust getting back together with strangers once again.  For Mabel’s who opened up just enough to allow our arrival, even though they often weren’t sure how or even if it would go.

It couldn’t have gone any better really.  I plan to continue catching up here at home.  I’ve hand painted post cards to finish and send to you patrons who are in those “tiers”.  Thank you again to all of you reading.  Between words and paint, I somehow am managing to make a small mark in this world.

Til next time.

X~a

Take Two

It is morning in New Mexico.  The sun has come up over Taos Mountain and we have been given the gift of a new day.

The week ahead beckons.  Our weary band of travelers begin their workshop week today, diving into the colors in their little traveling watercolor sets.  I encourage students to bring what they have or what they’d like to learn with, so there are potentially multiple kinds of paints to explore today.  One of my favorite things is to solve individual art problems with each person, helping them craft a travel journal that is all their very own.  I can’t wait to get started.

I appreciate the patience of my dear Patrons as we figure out the tech angle on things here in NM and in the interface between my blog/website platform and Patreon itself.  So this is a “public” post which will be here on Patreon as well as on my blog.  More soon.

 

 

On Drawing dogs

Just a quick nudge here to go give a follow to my new Daily Dog themed instagram account @dog_drawn_good where I will post my doodles and paintings and etc. of the dog at hand.  Likely mostly Philomena.  But Charlie might make her way in there sometimes as well.

Also, come visit me over on Patreon!  I could use the support of my work in these weird, untravelable times.  Patreon is allowing me to meet my studio bills and I really appreciate it.  Even a dollar a month makes a difference.

Ever yours in deep gratitude.

Amy

Where the One Eyed Man is King

Just read a snippet about the expression “where the one-eyed man is king” which seems relevant for the times.  This album came to mind.  It’s lovely, especially when pondering things or making art…..

Yesterday was the complex holiday of Thanks-Giving – complex due to the whitewashed narratives of our childhoods (read Pilgrims and Indians and all of that).  Add the further complexities of this strange year to the mix – folks home eating alone or with not enough to eat, or opting out of gatherings altogether, or choosing to have gatherings anyway, regardless.  It’s just complex no matter how we slice it.  Thankfully my family had had our larger scale get-together back in October before things got out of hand with the virus and we all kept ourselves to ourselves this holiday with a zoom conversation late morning over coffee (and maybe a bit o’ Bailey’s too).

It was good to see everyone though I can sense the weariness in all of us.

To be honest, the quietude of the day was just fine by me really.  I’m often griping this time of year that I’d rather be hibernating than socializing and this year is our chance.  Our meal was thoughtful and well made, most things from scratch.  Since we weren’t cooking for a crowd, we could take time and care in a different way.  It was really quite lovely actually.

As the evening wore on, we kept in touch with the kids, providing back up advice to them and their households as they navigated their first Thanksgiving away from the nest.  It was bitter sweet.  They seem to have a new appreciation for everything that goes into a well-crafted holiday meal.

It wasn’t just blood-family touching base throughout the day either, but friend-family too.  Heart-family.  A text from a dear one in California with an old Irish saying:

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine” 

which basically means ‘we live in the shelter of one another’, or more specifically translated, “we live in each other’s shadows”.  Protecting one another, in need of one another’s company and presence.  I could not agree more.   And then, a  sweet text from Ireland with video of the kids wishing their American friends a happy Thanksgiving.  My Taos based adopted family sent along their wishes as well.  We traded texted views of home-based natural life, as we often do through out the year.  Their mountain views to our hollers.  A heart-felt exchange of worlds colliding.  I am so grateful for all of it.

Eventually, we finished the pie and the washing-up over a Tune Supply concert that once again reminded me of the thing I will jump head-first most into once this is all over – music.  I am deeply missing that camaraderie.

For now, solo practicing and babbling brooks must suffice.

Today, as is our tradition, we avoided any of the “Black Friday” madness (not even sure if that is on this year?) and took to the woods.  Only the two of us, and currently dog-less*, it was quiet but beautiful.  We took our time to capture photos, study mosses and mushrooms and simply enjoy the splendor of a lovely day.

*Charlie doesn’t come on longer hikes, which renders us dog-less when in the woods.  

Muted autumn colors and horizons, Ohio style.
In which we all tuck in under a blanket for the season.

Shroomy faerie-land treasures thanks to recent rains and mild weather.

Like an other-worldly jewel.

The view up the holler.
Bogard, ‘not throwin’ away his shot.’

Though not a scientist, I have a soft spot for the mosses. I like their approach to time and reproduction, among other things.

It was wonderful to get out into the countryside today.  I’ve had our local hollers on my mind lately.  This time of year I often think of my grandparents and all of our old holidays up with them in Middletown, just north of here.  Middletown is a bit of a curiosity lately with the Hillbilly Elegy movie hitting the streams.  I loathed the book when it launched and will likely choose not to view the movie (much as I admire the work of those involved in this project).  I find I get my hackles up over the writing of JD Vance and would rather folks be reading Elizabeth Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia if they are curious about this great swath of the country.  I suppose I don’t appreciate the one-faceted view of folks in general and more specifically, those facing the challenges of poverty.  There is so much more to Appalachia than meets the eye.  Much like most of the rest of humanity.

The tide seems to be finally turning on the current president, and I am counting the days until we are back on an even keel with a leader who seems to even want the job.  But I know our work as a country is only just beginning.  As we drive around to the quiet wild places here in our own back yard, we are confronted with our political opposites.  How do we get folks from such opposite ends of the political spectrum to see the light in one another?

We are all lit from within, like jewels in the autumnal countryside

Seamus Heaney wrote a poem called Whatever You Say, Say Nothingwhich is exactly what we do here a good bit of the time.  Perhaps that’s part of what got us to where we are today, so divided and deconstructed.

Perhaps we should all just go for a hike together when this virus is all said and done, to go out looking for spectacular mushrooms and mosses and figure things out in a more thoughtful way.

Perhaps.

 

 

 

co-work

It is monday.  I walk the roads for a bit before the temperatures climb too high.  Our folks here asked us to bring some warmer weather with us when we arrived.

Perhaps we overdid it.

Co-working spaces are selected, but shift throughout the day as conditions change.

As for me, I manage to sketch for a few minutes to get the bones of a little painting down.  Not wild about the results, but practice is practice.

In the heat of the day, a few of us steal away to swim and cool down a bit.  The ocean does not disappoint.

Day three of ocean swim.  I couldn’t be happier.

Today is our 29th wedding anniversary.  We started off right here in this place all those years ago and it’s nice to be here to celebrate this year.  Hopefully with oysters if we get lucky…..

*****later******

and so we were lucky indeed…….

Cheers, y’all!