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.
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?
Seamus Heaney wrote a poem called Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, which 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.
This morning, just after my first cup of coffee, an autumnal sonic assault begins. A murderous whirring of epic proportions.
The gas powered leaf blower.
It is nigh impossible to think for oneself amidst the din of modernity, particularly in suburbia, where the moving of leaves around seems to point to some sort of status.
I wonder, what we might hear if we were afforded an opportunity to listen deeper. To listen to the miniscule preparations being made by the smallest of creatures….
Roll, roll, grumble, grumble, roll…
The sounds of a gathering of food stuffs for the winter season. Acorns, walnuts.
Crack, snap, crack, crack, stack…..
Further gathering and arranging of sticks and wood and kindling with which to warm ourselves in the months to come. Even the smallest of fallen twigs might be of use.
Perhaps we hear the click, click, click of knitting needles working woolens into garments for bracing against autumnal winds…..
Maybe we hear the gentle felling of ripened fungi in the forest, so that they might be dried and saved for soup making.
What sorts of sounds do you listen for when the leaf blowers finally run out of gasoline? How can we better listen to the quietude offered to us by the smallest of woodland creatures? How might we better listen to ourselves?
Too fast paced of late. Frenetically crossing to-do lists off as if penance for up-coming traveling. Only time out of doors can check this process. Finally the temperatures drop to comfort level, leaving “hotumn” behind us.
October temperatures in the mid-nineties will make one crabby.
I find myself outside on a beauty-filled day. Collecting leaves, plotting a small hillside in the back for a new vegetable bed slated for next spring. Tunes wander through my head. I take a break to capture a bit of this ochered season with my camera. The old sweet gum tree in front is particularly lovely, dropping her petals into the main creek which is, miraculously, always running with a trickle even in the driest of times. There are little skimmers paddling along in their own little world, which I suppose they do with or without our observation.
I put together a slow paced little gathering of sweet gum and skimmers for you here. The music is used with permission and is by Nuala Kennedy. Once upon a time I did a little art work for the cover of the album where this track can be found. The whole collection is divine and if you haven’t heard it, you should.
It is my hope that in this busy time of harvesting and preparing for the darker days of the season, you too might find the time to settle down for a spell and take in the small wonders.
This is a world gone mad. Too many things to take in, too much heartache for a body to navigate really. The things I love which carry me into the gentle places of my soul and self and which keep me grounded when the winds do blow have suffered for lack of care. I look at this little home of mine here on the interwebs and realize that it’s been since August that I’ve written. It is not as if I have not written, or drawn, or painted in general. Just not here, where even when no one is reading, it matters most.
Today I took to the woods with one of our trusty dogs, the one and only wild Iris Rose, to ponder a plan of how to negotiate the dangerous waters of our time in a sustainable balanced manner. It is October, my most favorite month of the year. I adore autumn and all it has to offer in the way of cooler temperatures, misty mornings and the desire to get the knitting needles clicking once more….
We admired the colors signaling a late but welcome change of season….
I played a bit with my fancy camera which, like this blog space, has grown a bit dusty with disuse.
The pace of things in the world has me feeling a bit weary. All this running and seemingly little to show for it. The season and my soul alike beg for a backing off, a swing toward the internal to come once more to the still point of my personal center. This country, and the world at large could stand the same I believe.
With the dark season ahead, one often fraught with personal mental health challenges, I am looking back with pride on a few months of wondrous productivity and activity whilst simultaneously crafting a structure of future quietude to keep the wolves at bay in the months ahead.
The Resistance, as it stands, is in full swing and its toiling does take up space and energy. I quite mindfully make the space necessary to be of service in these dark times but must balance that of course. There is canvassing and volunteering and much reading to stay informed. The news is too much to keep up with and it can drag a soul down to low places, but I do my best. I am careful to turn it all off and hit the paints or the road when I need a break.
The flurry of work and words in the past couple of months have been exciting to birth forth. Here I share a few things that have been occupying my eye, my keyboard and notebook, my interest and my heart. It is my hope that I take to engaging more here in this space in the coming months as it forces me, in the best way possible, to slow down. To think about what I am writing and the images I share. Social media channels are wondrous in their own way, and I certainly find myself lurking in the more creative corners of their hallowed halls. There is so much to inspire. But here, in my own designated space, I can think through my fingers….
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
….and maybe go a little deeper.
So, last I left you dear reader, it was August, and so very hot. September came along and while the heat gave no break, I encountered a small challenge to make a drawing a day in 1″ square scale. This painterly adventure, combined with a whirlwind trip to Taos, NM was balm indeed to a tired soul….
I completed the challenge and made 30 of these little works.
Even when the news did say there were magnificent displays of ill will and malevolence.
Toward the end of the month of September, my long time, dear friend Kristin (whom you may remember from this post) and I somehow managed to make our way from Ohio (me) and Vermont (she) to Chicago for a seamless meet-up at O’Hare and on to a quick flight out to New Mexico. The opportunity to introduce a dear one to one’s soul home is a gift indeed and we savored every second. Not much was catalogued of our time there, but we did manage some image captures…..
“It’s the most wonderful place you can imagine. It’s so beautiful there. It’s ridiculous.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe
We timed our visit with the Feast of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo (every year on September 30th, you should go) which enabled me to see and visit with some dear friends there at a very sacred time. It was a gift and blessing to share these folks and this place who are so dear to me, with an old friend from the way back, equally as dear. Kristin said to me at one point, “You’ve built a whole world here, Ames.” I do believe I have. I am deeply grateful.
Our journey was far too short for a proper catch up. To be honest, in spite of the splendor we encountered, we spent a good deal of time in a state of deep grief over the recent goings on at the Supreme Court. There is a collective, primal scream of rage emanating from the women in my life over doing this all over again. How many times has this story been lived, eh? Though this time is was so public, and so top-level. I am still grieving.
But, and this is the thing, somehow we must keep going……..
And so, once home, early autumn life began with a focus toward music each weekend at the Riley School of Irish Music. Those of us who love the music aim to bring just a smidge of this video below to our own playing….
While we may never reach this level, we did manage to play our annual ceili dance once more and folks who attended seemed to enjoy it. Chatting with our caller, Éamonn de Cógáin after the dance, he remarked, “This is growing!!” And indeed it is.
The season brings with it, as mentioned before, a renewed commitment to new needle bound adventures. I’ve invested in some gorgeous wool from my local knit shop to attempt the crafting of a sweater. We shall see…. But in the meantime, it’s always fun to get to know the source of all things wool.
And maybe even attempt a sketch or two.
Perhaps you too are experiencing a bit of whiplash of the soul. One minute darkness and rage – the next minute, a shaft of light to pierce that darkness and provide a respite. We here are fortunate to have these moments of lightness. To make art and craft worlds with words is a privilege indeed, and one I do not take for granted. I believe to my core that it is an act of resistance to play music, and craft beauty with line, paint and words. I am fortunate to have the support of family and my day job that enable me to live this artful life. Not everyone can. Yet somehow, artists get the job done, one way or another. Here are just a few whom I support and so should you…..
And so where does this all leave me? As you can see, there’s been a great deal of output here in the form of energy and a good bit of intake as well which is wonderful. But my hope is that I can slow it all down a bit. To corral things to more depth and to a more manageable realm for me as an artist. I like to say that I am a crock pot in this world of microwaves.
My hub and I are running away a couple of days after the election to Guatemala to visit friends and make some art – to shore up our souls for what’s to come in our lives personally and collectively, good or ill.
We will get home just before Thanksgiving (yes, I’ve ordered the bird from our favorite market vendor.) I plan to write here on this blog-space from down there if I can connect, as it’s one of the most inspiring places. So do stay tuned.
Wherever this reading finds you, I hope you are finding some gentility in this rough world. We are at a crossroads as human beings and we have some decisions to make as to the path ahead. For me, it’s one of kindness and art making.
“Hang in there, make art, be kind.” ~Neil Gaiman in response to the news of Brazil’s election of a nationalist, right wing president. To my friends in Brazil, we are here for you.
It is my favorite sort of day. One which began inspired and meditative, flowing along at my own pace, following my nose in an artful way, with no lists or have-tos clouding my inner compass.
Today I have been graced with the following….
Meditation at the very tip of my pencils.
Green chili stew on my stove top. (I don’t eat much meat, but this stew’s protein came from my friends over at Grassroots Farm. I am so very grateful for their work.)
Many (many) mugs full of tea. It’s fuel.
Ghosts at my doorstep. It is a liminal time of year, is it not?
Cool autumnal breezes in the tree tops. We have been afforded a most beautiful fall season. This doesn’t happen every year. It is a gift.
The warm glow of candlelight on my studio window. (The gorgeous candle is by my favorite honey and wax peddlers, Bee Haven to be found locally here in Cincinnati at Findlay Market on week ends.
A four legged friend who is up for adventure and doesn’t talk that much.
and finally, some paint on my paint brush. I’ve been coaxing a little painting along lately who is not so keen to tell me all of her secrets. She is to be wooed slowly it would seem. I am giving her time and space to tell me what she knows. We will go from there. But this much I do know…..
she knows of the power in the flutter of a moth’s wing. she knows she must always have a basket handy for carrying the gatherings, (though what is in her basket, I do not yet know). she spends a great deal of time outside as it tends to keep her thoughts clear.
It is autumn time and despite some sneaky warmth in the weather, Ginger and her friends know that winter cannot be far on the heels of fall.
And so, between jumping into leaf piles, gathering pumpkin seeds, and building winter-worthy nests, Ginger has made some new friends in the forest and they have swapped preparatory skills. The field mice, experts in softening up a home with fresh mosses and mushrooms show Ginger around the darker sides of the forest. Squirrels, the quintessential gatherers, share that putting up food for a winter pantry is as simple as gathering nuts and canning berries. Simple things, when the work is shared among friends.
In return, Ginger teaches her woodland friends how to knit eensy sweaters to keep the drafts at bay and how to brew a proper pot of tea, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Ginger loves to make new friends, and to keep up with her old friends via the post. She is excited to send postcards to all of her dear ones when she is traveling later this season, ready to get to work on her memoir.
If you are interested in hearing more from Ginger Small, just look here, here and here. Til, then, do stay warm, and keep a proper cup of tea on hand.
3dG and I went visiting last week. We found ourselves at the home of our friend and fellow artist Vanessa Sorensen for a quick bite of lunch and eventually, some photographs of shy little felted Ginger.
There has been a great deal of origami going on over at their household lately as they prepare for an event to honor Martha, the last passenger pigeon who died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. There will be a flock of thousands on the lawn of Xavier University eventually. Ginger was intrigued by their stoic silence and felt like she might be able to make a friend or two…. if she held very still and to hear the story of their downfall.
It was quite cold and rainy on this particular day and so Ginger donned her magical cozy shawl to keep warm and dry. We both love this time of year.
Ginger enjoyed pretending she had on a long and autumnal ball gown. Though she worried about getting tripped up in all of the crinoline.
Many thanks to Vanessa for these wonderful snapshots. It was fun to see what friends Ginger might make if she ventured outside…
There has been a string of very seasonable (for our neck of the woods at least) hot days lately. The sort of days that make a gal cringe to even think about getting into the car after a day at the shop. The sort of days that have me waking before dawn just to get some exercise in. It’s brutal and my least favorite time of the year (including our more wintry friend, The Polar Vortex). I suppose in my soul I am a true northerner, as I would prefer to add layers and sip tea through a cold spell versus grapple with inescapable heat and humidity. All that said, in spite of the temperature, there is a definite sense of the goldening of things. A shift in the way the light leans each day….
The gardens are beginning to dry out and fade, making way for autumnal splendor on the pallet of the season.
After all, these are spring time creatures which must take their rest until next year….
I have the gift of a whole day here at my home/studio today and can take time to notice this goldening. The dogs enjoy flushing out the rabbits who live in our ferns, to give a quick chase which keeps the poor bunnies on their toes. Of course if you ask, the pups deny all wrong-doing.
I sit with my journal trying to capture thoughts, ideas, sketches and stories as they zoom past like so many streaking chickens.
Meanwhile, in spite of a woeful lack of gardening on our part this year, I was surprised to see a pumpkin in our little patch. Evidently the deer didn’t get to every single bloom after all.
zoom! There goes another chicken!
The girls continue to be fairly productive in the egg-making department and I am so grateful for it. They seem to love their little hut and the extended run which helps keep Mr. Fox at bay. Even they seem to notice a change in the light of late.
Yet still they lay, day to day…..
As I begin a day holed up in my cozy (and thankfully air-conditioned!) nook of a work-room, I am glad of this shifting of things. It brings a new energy to life, a nesting of sorts. I bring some of the outdoors in, until I can invite the autumn breezes inside as well.
And with the help of my muses, I dive into working…. on bunnies who herd sheep, world-traveling hamsters who are in desperate need of an apron or so, and oil paints perhaps. As usual, I shall keep you posted on the goings on.
ps. I posted the video below before in this post but I shall post it again here, as with the word Gold floating around in my mind, the song is as well.
With one kid away at University and the other up and at ’em and out the door on her own each morning (her preference, I must add), my mornings are fairly quiet. Most days, I use those mornings to savor some coffee, make a quick sketch, and then go about my business of working day-job hours, errand running, etc. It is a rare thing indeed to allow days in a row of sinking into what I think of as my own particular Artist’s Pace.
Let me set the stage. The Hub is usually just a couple rooms down the hall working his day job, entertaining a seemingly endless series of conference calls. If I do take an ‘art day’ to spend in my studio space, it is with door closed and music on to block out the din of the rest of the house. It’s usually about sitting down and getting things done. Business. And the business of art is important stuff, lacking in romance though it may be. But this week, the Hub is out of town for his business (I think it’s nice they get to all talk face to face now and again, don’t you?) and I have found myself with a few days of this house to myself and the dogs who aren’t much for conference calls, or any conversation for that matter. And while it took me a bit of the weekend and much of yesterday, I found myself awakened today, settled into my own sense of The Pace of Things. I find it fascinating how much Real Work I can get done in the course of one day in the studio when I am not pushing so hard; when I allow that sense of play and timelessness to set the tone for the day and for my process. My mindset is different for a few days’ solitude and I am reminded that it truly is just a mindset; one that I can tap into in spite of the din of the day to day, should I simply allow it.
There is much to be worked on again today upstairs but first, I spent some time outside, admiring my morning entertainment, in the form of the chickens whom I could seriously sit and observe for hours at a time.
They are truly endearing creatures and I am enjoying their company greatly these days. As well as their amazing eggs. Thank you girls!
While the chickens scritch and scratch away looking for bugs, the dogs play peekaboo with each other and the squirrels.
And the brooks that criss-cross our land babble along happily in the company of jewel toned autumn leaves.
Indoors blank canvases and bits of specially prepared papers await my attention. The very whiteness of blank canvases, or a new journal for that matter, used to intimidate me to the point of avoidance and inactivity. This is not so any more. To me the site (and feel) of a freshly sanded canvas is an invitation to explore another world. I accept this invitation gladly, with my bags packed for adventure.
Lately I have been traveling north for these imaginary adventures, where I seek out the magic of the ‘Merry Dancers’, The Norther Lights. My earthly self has the witnessing of the Aurora Borealis on my life-list of goals, but my astral, internalized self has been seeing them for ages now, and they are beginning to come to the page.
There will be plenty days ahead full of the ‘business’ of applying for shows, cataloguing work, purchasing supplies, getting the word out about the Taos trip, managing the day to day of our home and family, etc., etc. But for today, my toes are tucked into my sheepskin slipper-boots, my pajamas are ready for a spot of two of paint should that occur, and I am ready to fall headlong into today’s adventures.
Artists are the keepers of the creative flame in this world. We are the dancers and drawers, the makers and musicians, the magicians and conjurers of worlds not yet brought to light. It is our job to allow the spaciousness for these worlds to come into being.
“There are myth places, they exist, each in their own way. Some of them are overlaid on the world; others exist beneath the world as it is, like an underpainting.” ~Neil Gaiman