Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

 

notes to self

It is a discombobulated time.  I for one feel a bit unmoored and adrift of late. (Perhaps we all do.)  It is the season for journeying but I, like everyone just now, find myself rooted to home.   Still the journey must go on.  And so I go inward.

A new book, just for me.  I return to old practices.  With no inclination to share.

These past couple of days give the gift of a break in the weather, a lifting of humidity and oppressive heat.  The break in weather affords the gift of a bit of hope, at least for me.  A backing off of the blue dog which has been hovering at the doors of my heart lately.  I make a mindful choice to hit a reset button.

Perhaps only half true, but I am at least still young at heart.

 

An online music festival provides unexpected glee with workshops in flute and pipes.  One instructor speaks of tunes as poetry and palindromes, the other talks openly of the magic of this music, some of it “old and outside the laws of the land.”

I am reminded of my place in the world.

“G is not a tone, it’s a place.”  ~Conal Ó Gráda

I’ll admit, it all made me a bit weepy.  I am deeply missing my musical mates these last months.  I shall just work on my craft and connect how I can.

The noise of the online world feels unbearable as I wade through the news of the physical world day to day.  I find myself online less and less in an attempt to situate myself in reality to offer up my best self to the world.  This is as it should be.  Plenty of times have I vowed to spend less time in the hall of mirrors of the social networks, and always I seem to drift back.  Just now however, it is more of a drifting away from that hall and a journey inward, in lieu of summer’s teaching travels.

We have harvested lovely bundles of scapes in recent weeks.  Garlic, sent to me from a dear one in Maine, planted last fall as we began the new bed out back – The Before Times.  It all seems so far away, muted by the mists of time, dappled with a light we will not see again.

Scapes are like the “flowers” of the garlic plant.  Up and up they rise and curl.

Eating them, lightly sautéed, with an egg at breakfast, I taste the garlic to come.  It is essence of future garlic.

“While they are indeed a delicacy of early summer, we do not harvest scapes merely for their culinary flare.  To harvest these showy curls is to send the energy of the plants down below into the ground to the very base of the garlic – the bulbs – which we will harvest later in the summer.

I see a strong metaphor here for our own meandering growth.  It is lovely to flower and curl and show up in the world.  But we forget to cut these flowers off now and then to allow for real development below ground.”

 

This is where I find myself, metaphorically speaking.  I need to grow the bulbs.  It is summer, and in a normal summer, one might find me off to New Mexico to teach, or to North Carolina to take in some music workshops.  And often, I am too busy with these adventures to be spending much time online.  This is as it should be.

This summer I devote that time to a more inward journey.  To work on my art outside of the constancy of the online world and its performative pressures.  To play and experiment.  To read books, both for fun and escape as well as for the ongoing journey to educate myself.

It is entirely possible we may find ourselves in Maine later in July.  Fingers crossed.  We shall do so if we can do so, safely.  This potential gives me hope.  As does the deep pool of a new book, filled with good paper, some new ink for an old pen, and time to dive into it all without an audience.

But don’t worry, I’m not going far from here, this little corner of the internet that I call home.  Til next time……

That’s it!  File under life.

 

 

*PHLOOFF*

~A TWIST OF HEMP – Embarrassing Blowouts~

……With much practicing, John Joe Badger has learnt most of a simple jig.  He has invited a couple of his closest friends and confidants over for a cup of tea to share it with them.  But lo!  Just when John Joe reaches the B part, *phlooofff!!*….. An embarrassing blowout!  His friends do their utmost not to laugh, as these things do happen.  Especially in the beginning. 

The fecks continue to fly, of course, yet John Joe carries on.  His friends are delighted at his progress, in spite of the leaks, the blowouts and the goose-like cacophony of his playing.  Keep practicing John Joe!  Oh, and maybe a little twist of waxed hemp to shore up that connection between your bellows and your bag, yes?  Yes. 

City Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivy grows on on walls old and new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am keen to try to do it all.

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