Category Archives: Eco-Chic Retreat

A tale of summer’s travels (part 1)


When summer comes to this river valley, I get the urge for goin’ as they say.  And so, I pack up my drawing and painting supplies, and maybe a few little books that I have created or altered to suit my needs, and I go.  This past summer was no different, except that due to some invasive happenings on my virtual front porch, I was unable to truly share them with you here until recently. (all has been resolved, of course.)  And so, let’s catch up on all my sketchy adventures of rambling through teaching, painting, playing music, catching up with family.

taos sign

get on a plane

Those of you who know me well, know that the first stop every summer is Taos, New Mexico where I teach an annual Illuminated Travel Journal Workshop (you can sign up NOW for the 2014 trip here!).  Each trip to Taos has it’s own distinct energy and pace and I was delighted with how this one turned out.  We opted to go a few days early this year, in order to make sure everything was in order for the workshop upon our arrival, as well as to acclimate to the climate and altitude.  These few days turned out to be key to setting the tone and intention for the workshop as a whole, and I have already booked the same for next year.


D.H. Lawrence said that “time runs differently in New Mexico.”  And it is, after all, the land of enchantment.  It takes time – to sink in and soak up the sacred waters of the hot springs as we gaze up at the wind and water sculpted cliffs.

sketch of ojo cliff

It takes time to go beyond our inner boundaries and pass through the right portals…..


portal 1

portal 2

It takes time to really sink into a place, by walking its paths, drawing (on) its beauty, rediscovering its inherent magic, so as to better pass these discoveries onto those attending the workshop.  And so we found ourselves at home in a little place at Mabel’s called Auntie’s Cottage and we set up shop.

our studio home away from home before class

And we took to the paths that lead to interesting things to capture in our journals….

Map to taos


sketching in town


famous taos truck

gorge watercolor

sketching morning light

a new mug for delicious morning coffee at mabel's!

Soon, it was time for workshop attendees to begin arriving.  They were welcomed to Taos by a Thunderbird.

taos thunderbird

Welcome to Juniper house!  This is the building that houses our gorgeous classroom space as well as a few extra rooms at the inn.

welcome to juniper

We had an amazing group of journal-keepers.  Some had experience with paint, paper, and art-making in general and created lovely images and memories in their books which we shared and discussed in class time.  While others, the truly intrepid ones if you ask me, were true beginners who nervously and courageously learned how to draw and paint just enough to get an impression of something they found beautiful into their books.  As expected, these beginners went leagues beyond where they thought they were able and sometimes tears of joy were shed to know “I am capable of creative work”.  Powerful stuff indeed

taos 2013

We coalesced as a group as we journeyed to the magical places to be found in and around Taos.

azure sky

Sky blue is a tricky color to capture….  The secret?  Most times it’s to add a little green.  One could spend a life time looking at and painting the New Mexico sky.

gorge sketching

The Rio Grande Gorge is a spectacular chasm that defies description.  We spent hours drawing there one morning.  And again, one could spend days, nay, YEARS!  I for one am still obsessively painting the gorge from memory and photos.  But I am itching to get back to the real thing to experience it once more….

gorge painting sketch

Above is a study in oil on a little wooden panel I had laying around, while below are the bones of a triptych that should eventually shape itself into a nice work of art…. I will keep you posted.

gorge unfinished

When the afternoon sun became too intense, we sometimes headed indoors to our breezy classroom space and worked in our books there.  Thanks to Lynne who sent me this cute snapshot of one of those times!!

in class and having fun

And sometimes in the evenings we would head out to a favorite sunset gazing spot.  Here there is a gnarled tree under which someone has memorialized an old four legged friend who might have liked to hike in the area.  This tree helps hold those memories.

a tree that holds memories

During this intense and beautiful workshop time, I was fortunate to have a small space, all to myself, where I sometimes spent a little while simply finding my quiet.  This was also my sleeping space.  My traveling companion and all around right hand woman Julie and I adored our little cottage for pre-workshop time, but during the workshop, it’s good to be closer to Mabel’s Big House and the classroom at Juniper House.  And who wouldn’t want to wake each morning to Taos Mountain delivering the sunrise?

sun comes up over taos mtn

My little room has a screen door that opens on this view.  It’s enough to melt the heart.

the view out back

And it did.  Every morning.  A melted heart is an important tool when teaching a workshop.

I took some time as many mornings as possible, to sit with my own illuminated journal and capture my experience, my thoughts, my view out the window, a little list of all the wonderful things that were happening each day.

taos mtn sketch


morning sketch of taos mtn

One of those serendipitous and wonderful moments was that a rather large article featuring our Eco-Chic Retreat was out in the paper during our stay in Taos.  It’s not everyday you arrive in a foreign town and find yourself in the paper.  I was absolutely delighted.  The Eco-Chic team have become my friends and I have enjoyed watching the project’s journey into the world.

We made the paper

Soon, too soon, it was time to travel back eastward.  But not before sinking once again into the waters at Ojo Caliente and gazing up at the cliffs that surround the pools of hot, healing waters.  I even spied a shooting star one night.

offerings from the locals

A small part of my soul was sad to leave my beloved Taos and the strong Mountain which overlooks it.  But I know I’ll be back.  the 2014 trip has just been announced and now, I simply need to gather the like minded souls who might want to open their eyes and hearts to a new way of traveling in this world.  As I wrote in my last post, next year is all me, along with my small team of helpers, and we are taking a leap in putting the trip on ourselves.  But sometimes a reminder comes across in the form of words from the past that seem to point in the direction of following one’s own path…


So we left the dry of the desert, and arrived home to this….

While the west thirsted for rains to quench a years long drought (sadly, they now have, with much destruction), Julie and I arrived home to a very rainy summer here at home.  It was so bad in our area that I opted to move the chickens to higher ground.

rain rain go away

And we got some flood insurance in the meantime, which thankfully, we have not had to utilize as things have, for now, evened out.

But the rains did come for a time. And they joined me on further adventures.  

While the Taos trip is magical and beautiful and something I would not trade in my life, it is still work.  And so the next big trip I took was to the mountains of North Carolina to attend a week of music classes at the Swannanoa Gathering.  This is one thing I do for myself that is for no other reason than my own enjoyment.  I opted to go down a day early with a music friend from here in town so we could camp for a night on Mt. Mitchell, which turned out to be more of an adventure than either of us bargained for.  With all the rain we had been having in the east, and North Carolina was no exception, you can imagine what the camping was like at the top of the highest peak east of the MIssissippi.


It all started innocently enough with a foggy arrival and dinner hour….

(sidenote: Just a week prior to this, I spent a very soggy weekend camping up by Lake Erie while I attended an all women’s Level 3 Sea-Kayaking course through 41 North.  Surely, SURELY I couldn’t have two rainy camping experiences in a row, right?)

map of our journey

The Rains decided to descend upon us once more, with wind as well, reminding us that Mother Nature is always in charge.  Just before dawn, after a somewhat sleepless night on top of the mountain, we packed up camp as best we could and ran for the car to attempt an escape.  By the light of my head lamp, I spotted a small salamander, something for which the Great Smoky Mountains are notorious, literally riding a stream of water down the steep path.  Even in the midst of chaos, this got my imagination going.

salamander kayaking


Paddle faster little man!!!


paddle faster

Needless to say, we got off the mountain.  And as check in at camp was not until later in the day, we dried out at the local breakfast place, then the mall, as we waited for sleepy Asheville to wake up.  One thing for which I am deeply grateful, are friends who consider these things adventures and are willing to laugh in the midst of the discomfort of being wet and a little bit miserable.  This gift enabled us to more deeply enjoy the week that followed.  And what a week it was.  I have few pictures.  No drawings.  I was immersed in a faery-like trace of a week of nothing but Irish traditional music along with folks who feel the same as I do about these old tunes and the playing of them.

me and my flute cousin

It was sheer bliss being able to catch up with my musical family, my “flute cousins” as we call each other.  We laughed harder and longer than we do the rest of the year.  We played tunes upon tunes upon tunes late into the night, and into the next day, while still managing to attend classes when the sun rose again.  We knew we only had a week to do this.  And it was precious.

I’ll leave you at this point in the tale of my summer’s travels with a video of my son Jack and a couple of his friends from camp doing their thing at the student showcase.  I have more to tell of our travels and will share them in part 2 of this post.  But for now, enjoy these amazing musicians….

(ps. Their accompanying guitarist?  Yes, the one and only John Doyle.  Where else can a few kids get their set of tunes backed up by a rock star?)

Retreat to Taos

Any of you lovely readers who follow this lowly little blog know that one of the highlights of my working year is a now annual Travel Sketch Journal Trip to Taos, New Mexico.  Over the past few years I have partnered with the Art Academy of Cincinnati to create a unique, outside-of-classroom art experience for creative adults looking to hone their observation and basic drawing (and beyond!) skills thru the vessel of a simple blank book.  Plans are already in full swing for 2013.

If you are local to Cincinnati, there is an information night next Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Art Academy where folks will have a chance to meet me, ask questions and see a few slides of what a week in Taos looks like and some of the work we have done in years past.  I hope you will join us.  That said, one huge goal of mine this year is to include participants in the class who are not from the local Cincinnati area.  We already have someone from San Diego, a potential from Austin, TX…. If you have been eyeing this class from afar, this is your year to join us!  And please bring a friend!  Email me  directly if you need more information.

A really cool thing about going back each year to a sweet place like Taos is that I get to discover new things about it each year.  I have made friends in Taos whom I visit upon arrival each year.  And this year things got even richer.  I was approached last winter by film maker Jody McNicholas about being part of a DVD project that would provide a retreat experience for people who might not necessarily be able to/ desire to travel to a far flung place but wanted to try some of what happens at a retreat.  I officially became a part of the Eco Chic Retreat last summer, filming a short segment introducing the idea of keeping an illuminated journal.  The DVD is now finished and the Eco Chic team is diligently working to get the word out about this amazing project.  For just $50 you can give yourself or a loved one the gift of self care in this 3 day retreat experience.  There’s cooking, art, meditation, yoga and more!!  It’s a beautiful film and I am so proud to be a part of another something that helps people feel creative and well.

Most of the Eco Chic team is fairly far flung in the world and we filmed our segments separately with Jody at the helm.  Over time, we have all gotten to know one another virtually by connecting via email and facebook and such.  But we all desired to meet personally, as we agreed this project has taken on a life of it’s own. So last week, my hub Tony and I cashed in some hotel points, and airline miles and headed to Taos to meet as many of my fellow Eco Chic facilitators as could make the trip.

This trip happened to fall over the Spanish holiday tradition of el Dia de los Muertes, the Day of the Dead which is an exciting time to be in New Mexico.  Below are a few pics of our time out there and some sketches we made along the way.  I’m hoping it will whet your whistle to come along next summer when we go for the sketch trip….

One of my favorite things about getting into Taos is having to cross over (or drive down into) the Rio Grande Gorge.  It’s an amazing place.  Deep and full of mystery and shadow and the sweet green river running quietly down below.  It’s a great place to draw and get a sense of how to use light to create space in a drawing.

Over time, Tony has done quite a bit of sketching in his book inspired by the work I’ve done.  Here’s a beautiful drawing he made of his time at the gorge…

Often when I am teaching in Taos, I don’t get out into the countryside enough, so on this trip that was a priority.  We were up before dawn a couple of different days to experience all the mountains had to offer.  One morning we were treated to the sight of a herd of female elk.  I spotted them across a wide valley and just at the bottom of the tree line.  They blended so beautifully that only their slight movement gave them away.  The camera could not capture them.

Only fields and mountains stayed still enough to make drawings….

Dawn above Angel Fire NM was reputed to have cloudy wings of fire.  We just had to see this for ourselves…

I love windy roads/ drives which head into the hills.  I have often thought it would be lovely to have access to a little place just around the bend down one of these remote driveways where I can escape and find quiet when needed.  Funny thing is, this was not that far from Taos town.  It gets remote out there fairly quickly.

As I wrote earlier, each trip to Taos seems to result in a new friend or two.  This trip was no exception.   I met Leslie, a puppeteer/puppet maker living in Taos and she introduced me to some of her lovely hand-made hand puppets.  I couldn’t make it to her show as we had an Eco Chic dinner scheduled, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and her puppets.  I have a feeling we will meet again!

We joined my friend Kate for tea one afternoon at a delightful little ‘Apothecary’ tucked back away off the main road near some gallery spaces in the bosom of Taos Mountain.

April, the proprietess at this lovely shop, created amazing warm drinks for us from magical combinations I have never tried before.  They were delicious and good for the body as well as the soul.  Taos being the small town that it is, it turns out that April has created a special tea blend just for Eco Chic Retreat!!!

I love sitting at tea shops and coffee shops sketching and discussing art, politics (and aliens too!!!) when I’m in Taos.  Folks there are not as tied to the clock nor as in a hurry as we are back east.  Going at this pace actually seems to open time up for me and I get a lot more drawing done that when I am in a hurry… Go figure…

Of course, meeting my fellow Eco Chic facilitators was the purpose and highlight of this trip.  One afternoon we gathered to take a painting class led by Jan Haller at Magic Brush Studios.  We painted in response to the colors with no plan or attachment to outcome.  It was very freeing and fun!!!!

On another day we visited with Louise Lowry, chef in the ECR at her rented house just outside of town.  This is a magical place with charm and eccentricity around every corner!!

There was a tree house.

And guest rooms in the former chicken coop.

And quirk around every corner.

Of course I felt right at home.  And we had some tea and cookies.

We left Lou to do her shopping for that night’s dinner party and went to see some art in the afternoon at the famed Harwood Museum.  There was much to see both new and old.  What stuck with me was the work of Maye Torres who lives outside of Taos and makes amazing mixed media sculptures and paintings.  Her work is haunting.

Our final evening in Taos was spent convening with the Eco Chic team.  It’s simply amazing to meet a group of people with whom you feel immediately connected.  Strangely, we all felt as if we had known each other for years.  Conversation was easy and comfortable.  The food, thanks in large part to Louise (and Jan’s desserts!!) was out of this world.  We had a fabulous time.

It is with an ever heavier heart that I leave Taos each time I travel there.  This time it was so wonderful to take Tony and give him a taste of what a trip it is to get to this amazing place.  Aside from Eco Chic work, I was free to be more of a tourist, which will make me an even better prepared instructor for next summer’s Sketch Journal trip.

We rounded out the trip with a stop in Chimayo to see some sweet old adobe church structures.  We also had some tacos at the BEST taco truck EVER (in Santa Fe, kitty corner across from Trader Joe’s on the main drag to Taos).

All along the way, in typical Taos fashion, I was reminded that this is a soul place for me.  It feels a lot like home….


Catch this post on Dwellable!!!!

Go forth and doodle

We left our juicy river valley in the wee hours of the morning last friday…. and flew over the land, into some stormy skies, and finally into the mountains and the high desert of New Mexico.  First order of business was to find the taco truck preferred by the locals.  We were not disappointed…..

Our first night was spend soaking our tired bones and acclimating to the altitude at Ojo Caliente mineral springs.  These waters will bookend our trip.

I warmed up a bit in my sketchbook…  On Saturday it was time to hit the road for Taos, but before that, we took a slight detour up a magical mountain to the land of the Hopi…

And a celebration that was happening to welcome the summer solstice.  On this particular day, their celebration was open to the public as it was International Prayer for Peace Day.

We sat amongst this group and chanted and observed the joyful dancing and singing.

And then, eventually, we found our way to the Mabel Dodge House in Taos…..

I actually got to sleep in her bed….

There is beauty tucked into every corner here at Mabel’s.

Sunday arrived and it was time to get to work.  Jody and Beau McNicholas of the Eco-Chic Retreat project came to Mabel’s to film my journaling segment.  I now have two new friends in Taos.

Later in the day we moved into our house for the week, Mabel’s Gatehouse where we have settled in quite nicely.

On the first day of classes we took a field trip to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and the Earthships where some sketching was begun!

We took it all in….

It was hotter than blazes.

So we eventually came back to our gorgeous home in the classroom at the juniper house to continue working.

And this was only the first day of class!!!  There is still more to come about today’s activities.  Tours, visits to and from brilliant artists today and into tomorrow and thursday.  It’s all too much to take in, and frankly, I’m going to head outside now to enjoy the sunshine.  I’ll check back in upon return to Ohio next week.  But in the meantime, I thought I’d let you know that Taos Mountain has welcomed us with open arms.  I am so grateful for the chance to be here.


In the Garden (and beyond)

Things are rolling along at the Amberley Green Garden.  We are down to simple watering and weeding chores which is nice.  I finished up any mulching that needed to be done this weekend.  The leaf mulch around the plants and then the more wood-chip mulch material in places to create paths (more like stepping stones) so I’ll have a place to stand when the plants mature.  Already we are reaping a plentiful harvest….

We’ve already begun to see a few results.  A few of my fellow gardeners have planted a 3 sisters garden that I plan to help out with as it grows.  3 sisters is basically a garden of corn, beans and squash .  These plants will support each other through out the season.  But for now….

Thankfully (or should I say tankfully…) we had a few days with rain in the last week and so our water tanks are back to being fullish.

At home, I’ve managed to grow a flower in my ‘living stone’ plant.  I love this.  So far, no deer has eaten it.

It’s not all been work in the garden.  It’s summer so we have had ice-cream.

And each week the Taos trip draws nearer…. Thanks to Julie who has been snapping some of the prepping process for the class.  Students are getting to know their watercolor sets.

And they are collaging and transforming blank books into vessels that will capture their travel experiences.

We are all getting to know one another as well…

as we prepare to head west next week (next week!!)

And Taos.  Oh sweet Taos.  In one short visit a few years ago I fell in love with the place and it’s had a magnetic pull on my soul ever since.  There’s always been Maine.  And Ireland… those moist and gray and green places that seem to help me grow roots to my very self.  But Taos is a different animal.  Instead of roots, it’s gift to me seems to be wings.  Every visit there I discover more about, and have more opportunity to further, my work.  This never ceases to amaze me.

This year’s delightful surprise is the chance to be a part of the Eco-Chic Retreat team.  A group of women, artists, healers, makers – who are coming together to share their work in a DVD project created by filmmaker Jody McNicholas.  Just as I was putting together today’s blog-post, an email arrived with Eco-Chic’s film trailer and a chance to support the making of the film on the indiegogo fundraising site.  

I hope you’ll take a peek at what we are up to and consider supporting the making of this film…

Til next time.







[draw] drawn, draw·ing,  noun, verb (used with object) cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; drag (often followed by along, away, in,out,  or off ).

As you probably know by now from reading this blog over the years, the one steady thing that has been a constant throughout all of my adventures as an artist, a world traveler, and a musician is the fact that I carry around a sketchbook with me.  Pretty much wherever I go, I have a book in my bag, a small set of watercolors and a pen or pencil to write, draw, collect what I see and hear in the world.  This practice began years and years ago, when my kids were really small.  Say what you want about the beauty of motherhood.  It IS beautiful.  But it’s also really, really hard.  Among the few things that kept me somewhat centered during the early years of parenthood (such as a great husband and many many many marathoning miles), the act of drawing in a little book became a habit that was like my anchor in the storm.  Those early drawings are clumsy and poorly rendered.  The really early ones didn’t even include any watercolors!!  And yet, I have them (somewhere around here).  They include tales of camping trips interrupted by pasta ravaging raccoons and over-the-top Halloween costumes made to order for my kids (One year Jack wanted to be a peacock.  And his little sister? Yes, a Princess Peacock.  I swear if I come across those journal entries/ photos I will totally share them).

Slowly, over many years, through many slumps and the crossing of proverbial seas, I began to realize what I had in this seemingly simple practice of sitting and drawing and writing a bit about my life.  I began to do it with a bit more consciousness. I began to find others, people who called themselves Artists, who did a similar thing and seemed to even be making books and teaching classes.  People around me, beyond my awesome family who always thought I could draw anything, began to notice.  I even went to art school.  But not for drawing.  Majoring in sculpture, I was still noted for my copious collecting skills in the form of my sketchbook.  Post art school, I made some Art, but it has been the sketching and journaling that has time and again come to the fore.  This is mainly because, as a mom, it’s the one art form that’s portable (that and embroidery, but that’s for another post, another time.)  All of this time and the many filled books, eventually led to my teaching this process to others wanting to learn it.  Without even realizing it, I had developed a very individual and distinct way of doing this sketch-journal thing.

So fast forward to nowadays.  I teach Keeping an Illuminated Journal in both individual classes and at the local community arts centers.  I co-developed a business centered journaling process with a former student. (That project is tabled right now as we both pursue our individual work, me here in Cincinnati, and Adam in NYC.).  With the support of the Art Academy, I began taking students afield to document the travel experience in a sketchbook.  Through these trips to Taos it was even clearer to me that what I am teaching is more than simple life documentation, or learning to draw things that come across one’s path in life.  This process has a power to draw a person toward their center.  Keeping a journal, and more importantly an illuminated journal (one with drawings or paintings) is an act of meditation which leads to a deeper thinking about life in general.  As a young mama, battling depression and anxiety, I was not only capturing precious bits of my kids’ fleeting childhood, I was actually healing myself.  Keeping these books has been a slow-cooker style of self-guided therapy that has, over the years, taught me much.  I’m much healthier in the head and heart these days and I attribute some of that to merely growing into myself.   Growing into myself has happened in the pages of my sketchbook.  It is there that I can jot down quotes that speak to me at the time, I can mull over the mundane and the difficult, I can draw a dog or a backyard bird and feel calmer for doing so.  It’s like magic really.  And I love sharing this magic.

This summer when I head to Taos with yet another amazing group of students, I will also be filming my segment of the Eco Chic Retreat DVD project slated to be completed this fall.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.  Often, the spiritual side of the classes I teach winds up being an added, unexpected bonus to the fun process of writing and drawing in a journal.  But Eco-Chic’s retreat climate is all about centering oneself in the storm of life through a time of guided nutrition, yoga, painting, meditation and more and of course, keeping a journal.  I’m tremendously excited to talk about how the simple act of making a drawing, writing a haiku poem, or taking note of the day can seriously alter a life.  I don’t make the claim lightly.  I was my first student and I am, finally after all these years, a firm believer in the power of this process.

What drove me to go into writer mode on today’s blog post is the photo below of some of the Eco-Chic family.  This was shared electronically to those of us on the team who couldn’t be there for this particular gathering and when I saw it, my heart just swelled.  These women are doing amazing work in the world.  Each of them is a healer in her own way.  I am humbled to be a part of this project.  But I too am a healer.  And I look forward to sharing my take on  the ‘simple’ act of keeping a sketchbook in the hopes that it will bring healing your way too.

L-R: Ana Easter, Lourdes Paredes, Jan Haller, Jody McNicholas and Louise Lowry

Taking stock and shifting gears

My work life has always had plenty of branches, and lately those branches have reached beyond the scope of our nest and into the world a bit more.  I’ve not been so studio centered so there is not as much solo art being made, and this blog practice continues to shift into the land of longer, more convoluted stories of What’s Happening Here.  All of this being so, it’s an exciting time in the work sphere, and beyond so I’ll catch you up to speed on where things are.

As you may know, I juggle many jobs.  The most important one being that of Parent.  With my teens not quite driving but still busier and busier by the day, we spend a lot of time running around to various school, music and dance related activities.  Jack is branching in his work as much as I am in mine.  Between his classical and Jazz studies at school and his Jazz and Irish music duties outside of school, he is constantly playing music.  This past weekend we both played at the Museum Center’s Celtic Lands Festival.

First with the Riley School as a group.  And later, with Jack in the lead of the kids band in a kid centered concert in the Children’s Museum theater.  Seems like only yesterday, he was one of the little kids.  And being a Celtic festival, Maddie had a dance gig as well that day.  Good thing there is overlap in their cultural activities, or I’d be in the car even more!

Later that day, Jack moved on to his Jazz activities which these days includes a local gig at a place called the Blue Wisp.  He and some of his fellow musicians, the Young Lions, play there most saturday evenings for tips.  It’s great practice for all of them, and has led to some other gigs here and there for them as well.  They are a joy to watch and are consummate professionals, even at this young an age.

In spite of all of this, I was able to steal away a few hours over the weekend and attend an Owl Prowl at Spring Grove Cemetery.  I love Spring Grove.  It’s a place to sit with the spirits of those we’ve lost as well as a place to sink into the beauty of nature.  Just last week we marked the third anniversary of Esme‘s passing with a gathering at her weeping cherry tree.

I still can’t fathom that it’s been that long ago, and yet feels like just yesterday…

And so, the time spent at the Owl Prowl was pleasant, yet pensive.  The presentation portion was in the Norman Chapel of the cemetery.  I had never been inside this lovely building and felt a world away….

We did hear an owl call later, just as we caught up to the crowd where the guide was calling them with a recording.  I really enjoy owl calls.  Both those of the local varieties to be found right outside our door, like the Barred Owl, the Screech Owl and the Great Horned Owl, as well as those from farther afield…. like this guy at the zoo, a Eurasian Eagle Owl I spent some time sketching last week….

It felt really great to sit down with my sketchbook and my watercolor set and get lost in the drawing process for a couple of hours.  As you may know, I am gearing up for another visit to Taos in June with a group of students interested in keeping an illuminated travel journal.  I am looking forward to getting back to teaching this magical process, as it inspires me to capture my own life and travel adventures in my sketchbook.  Taos has a magnetic pull and a way of making connections between people that is, in my experience, rivaled only by Ireland.  A number of weeks ago I was approached by a film-maker, based in Taos, about the potential of being a part of a very unique film project…..

And so, let me introduce you to Jody McNicholas, of Walk-In Productions.  Jody is putting together a project called the Eco-Chic Retreat which you can read all about at the website.  As much as I love the idea of a retreat to Taos, or Ireland or wherever the wind blows me with my work, I know that a travel centered retreat is not always a possibility at all times for all people.  And yet, the need to back off of the daily grind, to dig down deeply inward and take stock of things is a crucial practice in this wild and wooly world of ours. Jody, and I, along with a whole basket full of talented artists, healers and makers are in the process of crafting a container for the at-home retreat experience.  The Eco-Chic Retreat will provide viewers with mini-classes in all of our various fields of self-work and exploration, such as yoga, nutrition, painting, journaling, meditation…..  It is something you can take a weekend to commit to, or simply apply a bit to your daily life.  The film will be the type of thing you get together with your girl-friends, your partner, your sisters, to encourage the self-care so many of us lack in our lives.  In so doing, we will be that much more outfitted to care for our loved ones, and our communities.  Each bit of the film will be a little bit different, owing to the differences in all of us participating in the project.  Each of us will provide a bit of what it is we teach in our classes and place-centered retreats so that you get an over-arching spectrum of skills and ideas to apply to your own life.

Jody found me and my work through the magic of google.  The convenient timing of my time in Taos for the Mabel Dodge trip is nothing short of serendipitous and I’ll be able to film my part of Eco-Chic while there.  I am honored to be a part of this amazing project and will of course keep you updated here as things progress with the film.  At this time, it looks like it will be released in the fall time frame, allowing for it to be on everyone’s holiday gift giving lists!!  I’ll keep you posted….

So yes, another spoke in my Wheel of Work.  Puppetry is shaping up.  I have learned 2 shows and have a third one to get under my belt in June.  The weeks of rehearsals are exhausting, but the performance schedule is composed of feasts and famine, which suits me just fine as it enables me to keep up with part time work at Carroll Concertinas.  And still, as if it all weren’t enough, we are in the process of renovating another area of this old house of ours.  To keep the budget in scope, we are doing a lot of the work ourselves, which is fun, but time consuming.  This house sits on an amazing bit of land, but was poorly built (as so many things were in the 50’s) and so we have been systematically rehabbing it.  In our lower level there was no insulation whatsoever which kept it cold and dank much of the year.  We’ve torn all of that dankness out and have framed in some new storage and insulation.  It’s already more pleasant to be in.  As this area continues to shape up, I can see what I want in there.  One half of the room opens out to our yard and so it is light filled and wonderful during the day.  It has a fire place too, for wintery days.  My plan is to put one of my drawing tables near the hearth so that I have a place to paint and draw, even when the weather is too cold or too hot to be in the studio….

And what of the studio?  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of a studio.  Especially my studio space, which is lovely to be in, about half of the year.  The room goes unused a lot with all of the work I am doing outside of the house and due to weather extremes.  It also has some serious issues which we will need to deal with sooner than later.  A leaky roof, birds in the rafters…. you get the picture.  Part of this shift in my work is the idea that I don’t really need a dedicated space that much anymore.  If I can carve out a drawing/ painting station in our new family room, and have an embroidery/knitting nest on the couch, I am left with needing just a small wax table set up in the studio space.  I’m looking to tidy it all up a bit.  Organize my books onto our new shelves downstairs, make the studio more of a breezy sunroom to be used when weather permits.  After all, that’s what it was built for.  It’s time to get rid of the fireplace out there that is the cause of the roof leaking and part of the reason it gets so very cold/hot depending on the season.  The room has served me well over the years, but I can see it now as needing a little day bed for napping, should the opportunity present itself.  My work is happening in all kinds of arenas right now and that doesn’t seem about to change.  And I don’t think I want it to.  As exhausting as it all is, it’s exciting and I love every bit of it.  Though I am trying to carve a little more time out for painting and drawing.  That’s where my heart is…..