In a matter of weeks, I’ll be departing for New Mexico for my annual “illuminated travel journal” workshop, held most years at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos. Usually by this time, all the plans are firmly in place and there are a host of folks gathering supplies, building pre-workshop community online and finalizing travel plans. As with all things in the covid era, this year is different. But, with cautions in place, and hope in my heart, I am forging ahead with this year’s workshop. The scope of the workshop is more intimate – only half the size of regular years, in keeping with New Mexico’s covid-safety guidelines. There is a certain expected fluidity in covid-era plans, and thus, this finds me with a slot open in the Taos class this year.
If you find yourself looking for a way to dip your toes back into travel, but in a way that doesn’t feel like an onslaught, this trip might be for you. Including myself and my trusty assistant and dear friend Rosemary, we are merely a group of 10. All attending will be vaccinated. Two of three meals a day will be taken at Mabel’s together, and there are plenty of take out options available locally in Taos. Rooms are single occupancy.
I’d love if you could join us this year. These are strange times indeed. What better way to catalog them than in a painted journal. A keeper of the beauty around us we might otherwise miss while weathering the storms of current events. Send me an email at email@example.com if you need more information. Here is the link to the trip details: https://www.amybogard.com/taos-new-mexico/
I’ve been painting a bit. And writing. You can read about it all over on Patreon where I share a couple of exciting new projects I am to be a part of in coming weeks. Below is the link and as always, I appreciate your support of my work.
The last time we were renovating, we were relatively new to this house, busy with elementary school kids, eager to create a home for them that would grow with them. I catalogued those renovations back in the spring of 2008. Looking back to those posts and a host of others before and after on this lowly old blog, there is one small and constant voice in the comments section. (before I realized that there were comments!!) Just the one. I don’t think many people were reading my early efforts really. But Esme was.
Es was a dear friend of my kids. They bookended her in age and the three of them spent countless hours together. I wrote about losing her in this blog post from March 2009.
Today is the somber anniversary of that loss, a loss that rippled through a community in ways still being navigated. It’s been 12 years. Madeleine made the journey home from Columbus today and we met up at Spring Grove Cemetery to pay homage to a young life ended too soon. There is a tree there, planted in Esme’s honor and we made our way to it. I remember when the tree was first planted, Es’s dad Tom would personally hand carry big buckets of water over to it to make sure it had enough. So many trees in Spring Grove. He wanted to make sure this became a tree for the ages. It has.
There is something about the time in which we find ourselves just now – this pandemic – which has peeled some layers of vulnerability back on all of us. My kids, now young adults, may finally be able to look at what happened to Esme from a slightly broader perspective. Perhaps they even feel some company in grief, now that we find ourselves surrounded by it.
It is miraculous to stand amidst the boughs of this amazing weeping cherry and think of how much we have all grown over time. How much stronger we all are.
We can bear so much now, with love in our hearts, and the perspective of time.
This nation has lost 500,000 people. Like the virus that has us all at a stand still, grief rides the air and it can seep into everything. No one is left untouched. Perhaps we will support one another in grief and learn to live and love in kinder ways, I do not know.
What happened to Esme was a random and strange thing – a strike of lightning in a way. Violence against women is – and always has been over the ages – rampant, with some women more at risk than others. In every family, and for every young friend who loses someone – that loss shapes the lives of everyone touched in their lives.
This cannot be over-stated.
Sometimes when I consider the grief in the wake of this pandemic, or in the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous women, I think of Esme and of the affect her loss had on our lives. None of us were ever the same. We still grieve. And while we were her friends and we loved her dearly, we weren’t even her family. I think of the hundreds of thousands of families, and loving friends, who’ve lost someone this year and I know a bit of the road ahead.
Grief is a prickly thing. We all navigate it differently. But grief, much like birth and death, is something we share as human beings. And while the way through this journey of both grief and more broadly of being human is very personal, there are some tried and true paths which seem well lighted.
The gifts of music, art, nature, poetry and friendship (even if distanced just now) can be a bit of a healing balm through the tears. It is our only option really, to seek beauty through sadness.
We have not been without our rough times after the loss of Esme. Life is life, yes? But our kids never really went through a stereotypical stage of teenage rebellion as they were sort of catapulted into the realities of the world at a much too early age. The two of them have the most tender hearts, in part because of a Big Loss at such a young age.
We have a choice when we experience loss. We can either harden, or deepen. With the tools of art, music and kinship, we can choose to deepen (perhaps not right away, but eventually). As painful as it might seem at the time, deepening is better than hardening, yes?
This time of year is normally fraught with a bit of tension. The Irish music and dance arenas are on full throttle and we can tend to bottle up or bury the sadness of years past. This is ok, and a very human thing to do. We mark this anniversary in our own private ways most years. This year though, we are at a strange collective standstill and are given a small gift of space. A moment of silence to work into grief a bit, our own and that of the community at large, locally, nationally, globally. Let us not harden.
Let us grow, even with dark shadows at our heels. Let us deepen.
I wish you all peace. Through the grief of the age.
****this is public post also available at my Patreon Page. If you’d like to support my work and writing over there, the link is this: https://www.patreon.com/amybogard
We have taken the dogs and run away to Kentucky for a couple of days. Stop over to my Patreon site to get the full story. Your patronage is truly appreciated there. (even just a dollar each month!)
In other news here on this lowly old blog, I have engaged the tech services of a new person to help keep this place safe and ongoing. Welcome John! To Mary Beth, my long time, cheerful tech helper of all years in recent memory, I thank you for your patience and kindness. You’ll be missed.
I am still working out what needs to be “blog” and what needs to be “patreon”. But suffice it to say, it’s important to me that this ‘place’ here on the internet be maintained, that the kettle is always on and warm and that you are always welcome. We all need a little place to get away from the world now and then.
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.
Brew a cuppa, this could be a long one. It’s one of those borderless days.
***** A quick note about this post. It is offered here today and also over on my Patreon page to everyone – in full – regardless of patronage or lack there of. As always I appreciate those of you who come to this space to read and I will continue to offer bits and pieces here as I have since the beginning. I have been told my writings brings a smile sometimes, or value of some kind at least. Occasionally.
If this is you, and you would like to buy me a cup of coffee each month, (house brew, with a splash of oatmilk if you please) head on over and make a little pledge to do so. Every little bit helps. And at this point with the help of my new patrons, I have financially covered what it will take to upgrade some of my tech to keep this website alive and kickin. For this I am deeply grateful. Now….. let’s go to Antigua, Guatemala on this cold and snowy gray day……..*****
These are strange times in which we find ourselves. I for one am still feeling a bit twitchy since the January 6th insurrection at our nation’s capitol. While I am, for all intents and purposes, just fine, I also write this post with a heating pad round my neck just after an appointment with an acupuncturist this morning. I think it may take a while to physically remove the stains of vitriolic hatred from our bodies after the past 4+ years. I know in my bones that we aren’t finished with this madness, just getting a little break. Some time to recoup and catch our collective breath.
I find myself quick to cry lately. Perhaps a song in a poignant key, or a tune comes round that I remember playing together with friends in the before times and I well up. I suppose crying acts as a sort of pressure valve release. Affording us a small respite so as not to shatter into a million tiny pieces. I’ve lost count of the number of friends I have who have lost parents and other loved ones. I know friends who’ve sickened and suffered but survived. I also know friends who’ve sickened and not survived. And I know those who are simply surviving in other ways as well – mentally, spiritually, financially. It’s a slog, and we don’t even have each other to lean on. Not really. Though to be honest, as much as I may grow weary of zooming, I cannot deny it’s presence has been a god-send in this era of endless loneliness.
It has been almost a year since I packed my satchel to travel to Guatemala for two back to back travel journal workshop offerings. My heart was heavy at the time with the household loss of my pack of aged animals – one on the heels of another and yet another, but the very soul of the city of Antigua acts as a balm to a weary spirit and the healing begins the moment my plane touches ground in Guatemala City.
There is a woman next to me on the plane in traditional Guatemalan dress. She has no English, only a bit of Spanish and my Spanish languishes hidden behind veils of trauma and time. I have no Maya to speak of either (let alone the dozens of dialects therein) . But the universal language of humanity allows for mild pleasantries to occur during our flight – “excuse me, can I pass through to use the loo?”, “can I pass your cup of tea to you?”, “would you like this last cookie?”. In this way we have traveled companionably.
The sun is up outside our minuscule scratched porthole. We see the smoking tips of volcanoes peeking up through clouds below us. The land in Guatemala is alive, breathing. My companion breaks into a tooth gold grin when our wheels hit the tarmac and I can’t help but join her in this gleeful feeling of homecoming. Anxieties surrounding the years of my childhood spent here are tucked away into what feels like a different lifetime and I’ve developed a deep love for this place as an adult and an artist. This land, these amazing people. In spite of a crushing level of poverty to be found here in many places, people are quick to smile, to correct my woeful grammar or to give assistance in finding my way. From here in wintry Ohio, in the middle of a raging pandemic, I need only close my eyes to see the smiles of my friends in Guatemala.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the work that I do in the normal times. When asked “so what is it that you do?”, my answer is “I teach the art of keeping an illustrated travel journal.” That’s the short answer at least. The truth of the work is much more complicated. Sure I teach a bit of art, I do a lot of cheerleading, and I share words and writing – my own and that of others. But the real heart of the work is that I teach people to notice. I conduct exercises which promote an opening up of the mind to the art of attention.
It is said that we teach what we most need to learn. I suppose in a way, this old adage holds a grain of truth for me. Engaging in a small blank book when traveling is a bit like holding a magical key of a kind. I can slow time, focus in on the most miraculous sights, sounds and memories. Later, when leafing back through old volumes, a drawing or the jotting of a few words’ impression can catapult my mind and heart back to the exact moment I wrote, drew or painted it.
This morning, before dawn, I sit with some coffee and a sleepy melted puppy (aren’t puppies the sweetest when just a bit melty?).
In my mind, for some reason, I go to Antigua. I can smell woodsmoke on the air from cook fires off in the distant hillsides and diesel from cars and motorcycles shuttling local folk to work and school.
For my ears, there is the music of school and church bells ringing through out town. These bells have a tinny clang to them unlike the bells I know back home. I wonder about the families rushing to get to school on time, the grandmothers who light a candle upon entering a hushed and darkened church foyer. There is laughter perhaps downstairs on the main level of our posada where the work day begins for our gracious hosts. Hugo’s laughter is a bright light the world. It is good to conjure on a dreary Ohio morning. The sun shines and warm breezes blow, Fuego’s most recent eruptions drift off into the distance….
As much as being fully present is vital and advisable, I am not beyond a bit of escapism in difficult times. Why else would we have the imaginations we do? My Antigua travel-journaling class won’t be happening this spring, and summer’s trip to Taos is looking more and more doubtful each time I read the covid-related headlines. Perhaps I can squeeze in a trip to Guatemala just to make art and work in my own journal before this calendar year is over. I do not know.
I do know that I dearly miss the other soul-home-spaces I’ve come to know over the years of my nomadic work. I also know that it has been a real gift to work on tending to this home-place here in Ohio for a time, cold and gray as it is just now. I hope that wherever today’s missive finds you, be it sitting with sorrow or gratitude, or perhaps diving into old journals as a means of momentary escape, that you find a way to be gentle with yourself. Have that second cup of coffee or tea. Spend an extra moment holding it close for warmth. Give into a good cry. Trust me, it feels good. Let your friends know you miss them.
We will get through this. Eventually.