We find ourselves here once more. Telling the story of a little dog who unexpectedly wove her way into our hearts. Yesterday afternoon, with the gentle and kind assistance of the wonderful folks at Cincinnati Animal Medical Center, I said a tearful goodbye to our Charlie.
She wasn’t always ours. Charlie began her life as the much coddled lap dog belonging to Tony’s mom Pat. Very shortly after she came to them, health problems began to take center stage as can happen in life and Charlie learned to tolerate shuttling to and from the homes of relatives between hospital stays. After Pat’s husband Larry passed away, Charlie and Pat settled into a number of peaceful years and I know Charlie was great company for my mother-in-law, who was now very much on her own.
Eventually, Pat’s own health began to suffer and with that, her ability to care for her beloved little dog. And so, in the grand arc of all the things involved in Caring For An Aging Parent, we took the dog.
She was a bit worse for wear, having been reared on tasty but lacking-in-nourishment “treats” and too little exercise. When Charlie arrived here at Chez Bogard, she weighed almost 20 pounds and was unable to even walk up the driveway without lying down to rest. Eventually, forced into the Bogard Clean Living Plan featuring good food, no junk, and more and more gentle exercise, Charlie lost her extra pounds, getting to a healthy 13 pounds. Imagine losing a third of your body weight!! Over time, the compounding changes in her health led to a softer, whiter coat and more energy. Charlie’s feisty personality really blossomed and she settled into life here, amazingly able to keep up with our two larger dogs, Iris and River.
“Even the tiniest poodle or chihuahua is a wolf at heart.”
But honestly, her favorite thing was lying around on the couch.
Charlie was the last creature I saw each night before I went to sleep as she liked to lie at the foot of our bed. Sometimes, in full moonlight she would shine like a bright little beacon.
I often drew her in my bedside drawing practice. I’ve always liked scribbly dogs, and Charlie was very scribbly indeed.
As you may have read, the last couple of years have been a bit rough around here with quite a bit of loss and grief.
Charlie spent nearly a year as our only dog and we could see she was aging a bit. But we adjusted.
She was able to go to the seashore for the first time….
And she continued to make friends wherever she found herself.
Last December we adopted a puppy called Philomena and Charlie, once again, adjusted beautifully.
I find myself this morning settled with our decision to let her go. Everyone who knows us had been saying for a while, ‘maybe it’s time’, but I struggled to know when exactly that time was. For a good long time now, Charlie has been deaf to all but the shrillest sounds, blind to all but the shifting shadows of light and dark. Still, she had her routine and she carried on. We managed her pain as best we could and carried on with the day to day. She relished meal time in what I now know was an almost demented obsession. I look at the photos of her from as recently as this past spring and I can see how much she had shifted in just the last couple of months. Gone was the brightness in her eyes and she just seemed weary. Much as I hated to admit it, I was holding on to her for my sake, not for hers. It was time.
We didn’t choose Charlie, rather we all just sort of fell together somehow. I always joked that “she was not the brand we ordered.” Here was a dog who’s hair care routine was more expensive than my own! And yet, she was one of us. We learned a good deal of patience through the stewardship of this little dog. We learned that change is possible – good, solid, life-altering change – at any stage of life. Charlie may have been an unexpected acquisition, but we loved her well.
We begin a new chapter in recent days. One filled with the sweetness of a puppy’s young breath while haunted and hunted by the pandemic. The weekend saw us driving northward a bit to collect a new dog whom we now call Philomena Amaryllis. A big name for a big personality. We are still getting to know her.
We encountered her through a local heeler group as I’ve been keen to get an Australian Cattle Dog mix of some sort. A dog who can keep up with my miles in the morning, Hub’s miles in the evening, and everything in between. They called her number 9 and something in her eyes reminded me of our wild and wise Iris Rose whom we lost last winter. We still grieve, but life goes on in spite of that.
We inquired about this young pup in particular and I enjoyed getting to know the young woman who would bring her to us once she was ready. Along the way she sent us routine photos of the pups and their parents, apparently from a farm home. I didn’t ask too many questions. Puppies are puppies and they provide us with a blank slate of possibility. They were clean and well cared for, what more could we want?
We made our decision to adopt number 9.
And so we brought her home a couple of days ago and things are fairly puppy centered in our home just now. I’m feeling a bit sleep-deprived and depleted with night-time puppy scheduling on top of some recent health challenges. But we are really happy with our new puppy. At least most of us are…..
Charlie, our sweet “canine house-cat” is not too keen on Phil’s addition to the family. But they occasionally find a peaceful moment.
We remain diligent in making sure Charlie’s quality of life and personal boundaries are respected and maintained, even with the addition of a rambunctious new pup. We give Phil plenty of time and space to run. I find her enchanting and engaging.
Phil was in a motley way when me met her, smelling of regurgitated puppy food as her brother had gotten a bit car sick on the drive down to us for the hand off. So much for her pre-trip bath!
We got her cleaned up and wrapped up and headed for home. She hardly moved a muscle the whole drive. Except when she was nursing in her dreams.
Arriving home we are already figuring out our schedule again as a household. We’ve dealt with the changing landscape of early puppyhood in the past and know that nothing lasts long. We simply spend time observing and correcting, training and treating. It’s a fun and fleeting time.
This week our talented builder, who’s been singlehandedly rebuilding our back room, tested positive for Covid-19. We have not had much indoor contact with him, and when we have it was always masked, but this is nevertheless quite worrisome. And so now we quarantine here with our new puppy. Socialization with neighbors and friends outdoors will have to wait until we make sure we are all healthy and well. Soon the spectre of the coronavirus will be made slightly less grim by the arrival of a vaccine. We merely bide our time in the meantime and try to keep hopes high.
This is not difficult to do with a new puppy in the house.
Today we are walking out in the yard more, allowing Phil to explore while teaching her that we are the source of all good treats and pats. We learn that she is really into traipsing through dried plant life in the garden and this brings her endless pleasure.
It is my sincerest hope that this activity will make for a restful night. But we shall see. This is puppyhood after all. We remain patient and diligent in equal measure.
You’ll be seeing a lot of Phil on this blog in due time. Drawings, paintings and the like. Dogs are my muse after all. Such a close tie to Nature itself. They remind us of our wild selves, all the while weaving themselves into our domestic lives and reminding us to root down into a settled life in the moment. We needed more of this concept in our lives after this devastating year.
Yesterday evening I took a break from breaking news. (not news at all really, more like a collective zoom-based anxiety rave bent on driving us all insane as we wait, feigning a patience we do not feel.) In the darkness, (’tis the season, what with the time change) Charlie and I ambled quietly up the drive after her evening meal.
“Ciúin” (Irish for ‘quiet’)
It was quiet, but for a couple of owls hooting to one another in the trees.
Any bit of true quiet feels like a miracle these days, noise of current events occupying mind and even heart of late. I find my little doses of quiet in these small moments – an evening meander with the dog, a morning wander around the village to put the moon to bed. I’ve come to treasure these times.
Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
Friends, it’s okay to say Hello.
It will likely help us, and we do not do so alone. I also believe God greets us as we greet our days.
Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer,
And we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit,
I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning, I sit, I kneel, waiting,
making friends with the habit of listening,
hoping that I am being listened to. . .
There, I greet God and my own disorder.
I say Hello
to my chaos,
my unmade decisions,
my unmade bed,
my desire and my trouble.
I say Hello
to distraction and privilege.
I recognize and greet
my controlled and uncontrollable story.
my untold stories,
my unfolding story,
my unloved body,
my own love,
my own body.
the things I think will happen,
and I say Hello to everything I do not know about the day.
my own small world,
and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
and hope that I can forget my story during the day,
and hope that I can hear some stories,
and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead.
I greet God,
and I greet the God Who is More God than the God I greet,
Hello to you all, I say,
as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.
~Pádraig Ó Tuama
As I write this little missive, the democratic process continues to play out and unfold here in this country. The other day I awoke especially early to play my small part in that unfolding, volunteering at the polls to hand out democratic slate cards on some shifts, and refreshments to all voters on other shifts. The goodness of donuts and hot cocoa are something both sides of the political equation can agree on.
It was a hopeful day. A day of feeling like, no matter the outcome, I was doing my part (and had been for much of this election cycle, I should tell you).
One of my shifts happened to coincide with pick-up day at a local food pantry held at the same location as this particular voting precinct. It was very interesting to me that the very outcome of this election would hold sway on whether people would or would not have to rely on community support merely to have food to eat. One woman, both voting AND picking up food, said she relies on the food pantry because between food and her prescription medicines, she has to choose the medicines. My heart broke. Another lovely fella stopped in, also to vote as well as to pick up supplies. He had a large roller bag suitcase with him to carry what he needed. He had recently become homeless.
I offered him a donut.
When my sister and I were kids and my mom was a newly divorced single mom struggling to make ends meet, we were, for a time, on food stamps. I was young and don’t remember too much about the specifics but I tell you this as a snapshot of explanation for my left-leaning, take care of folks when they can’t take care of themselves, kindness-driven view on government. People struggle. This is a great truth of humanity.
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled about the outcome of this election over all. I had hoped that more people would see through the chaos of the last four years and would see that the Grand Old Party is simply not there for the regular citizen of the good ol’ U. S. of A. Instead, I am disappointed that nearly half the country is willing to witness an experience another Trump term. This is where we stand. In all likelihood, we will see a Biden presidency presiding over a minority rule. It’s not a total loss, of course it’s not. There is much to celebrate!
How to move forward? A big issue for me is climate change and I am figuring out how to be of service to bring this concept into the collective light more fully. After all, these changes will affect EVERYTHING in the very near future, in fact have already begun to do so. We have a lot of work to do.
But first, for now, should things play out as they seem to be headed…..
We take a deep breath. We drink medicinal teas complete with tinctures (and possibly some bourbon this evening) to ease our anxieties. We shed some long over due stress tears. We listen with hope to someone who might be able to provide unity in our divided land. Democrats should waste no time in appointing Stacey Abrams as their new leader to forge a new path – a path that speaks for everyone. We as a country must learn to slow down and really see each other, person to person. We must do some difficult soul searching and come to a reckoning with ourselves and with one another. It is my hope we get this opportunity.
But, like so many – around the world even – I wait.
Just be quiet and patient.
Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you.
Do not try to avoid them.
On the contrary, observe them carefully.
Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. People can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness.
The main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.
Patience is the master key to every situation.
One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing…
There is no such thing as bending or breaking.
It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself.
That cannot be avoided.
To abandon that path is always to break in pieces.
One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself.
The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love.
One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait.
Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.
— Franz Kafka
Meanwhile, like so many things during this strange era in which we find ourselves, there is a juxtaposing personal angle to this concept of waiting and patience. We are officially looking for a new dog to welcome home to us. I’ve put some heeler-feelers out and have filled out some forms to local rescues. We have a bit of house work and building beginning next week here and the pup will hopefully arrive as that process ends sometime in December. We shall see. We don’t have an actual, specific dog in mind. But we have narrowed to a blue heeler girl dog if we can find one. I can just about picture her in my mind….
As we navigate these uncertain times, may we find moments of stillness, moments of joy amidst the seemingly overwhelming largesse of the world just now. Yes, things are hard. But there are dogs in the world.
And maybe, just maybe………..eventually…………..a new path forward.
“My fashion philosophy is, if you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty.” – Elayne Boosler
My grandparents had been married for 64 years when they died less than three days apart from one another. Something about this closeness in the timing of their passing brought us a small semblance of comfort in a time of great chaos and grief. I look to that phenomenon to help us through the latest news here in this dark winter of doom (as honestly, it’s beginning to feel like lately).
Alas, this morning our dear old dog, our Wild Iris Rose, finally succumbed to her recent illness and is now at home in the stars with River, the accidental and constant companion of her lifetime. I think dogs are more like people than most folks give them credit for. Iris especially, with her wise eyes and knowing look.
“I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through”
Perhaps she simply couldn’t be on this plane without River. I do not know, as this is the depth of mystery, this ‘why’ of everything. I have always thought Iris knew more about the ‘why’ of everything, and perhaps now she does.
So much of the content in this lowly old blog has been devoted to the dogs in my life over the years. The puppies came along shortly after I began this online diarizing, and they fit right into it all with their antics and photogenic, sketchable qualities.
Even with all the complexities having multiple dogs brings to a household, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even these final, messy weeks. Dogs remind us of our own innate physicality and, of course, our mortality. They are constant reminders of the following:
We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously.
Time is of the essence. The moment is now.
To be joyful is a gift, and it’s ours for the taking at any moment.
Love with abandon.
When you rest, just give into it, like it’s your job.
Give your keen attention to anything you find interesting.
Take a walk. Everyday. Twice if possible.
Love your fellow beings. Even when you find them to be curiosities quite unlike yourself.
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born”.
“But then I looked in your eyes
And I was no more a failure
You looked so wacky and wise
And I said, lord I’m happy
’cause I’m just a walkin’ my dog
Singin’ my song
It’s just me and my dog
Catchin’ some sun
We can’t go wrong
’cause I don’t care ’bout your hatin’ and your doubt
And I don’t care what the politicians spout
If you need a companion
Well just go right to the pound
And find yourself a hound
And make that doggie proud
’cause that’s what it’s all about”
You can imagine the quiet state of things around here. I honestly don’t know quite what to do with myself. So here I am, writing, which strangely, is what I do in times of crisis. There is a nap of escape in my future. I’ll take Charlie with me, and maybe the cat too (but that’s up to him). Beyond that, I am doing my best to simply make space for this grief. A grief that feels bigger than a couple of good dogs gone too soon. I’m giving it space, and hoping it doesn’t move in permanently in a darker, blacker form.
“The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth will ever be.”
Here’s to you, my wild Iris Rose. Long may you run.
PS~ As heartbroken as I am, I want to just say thank you to the vets and techs at Cincinnati Animal Medical Center. They have seen us through many a beloved pet and this time was no different. They treat us like family and I know they grieve along with us. If you are local to the Cincinnati area, I can’t recommend them enough.
This time last week I was in Austin, Texas, visiting artful friends, meeting new trees and dogs. A good time was had by all and I was (and always am) deeply inspired by time spent with these women and their loved ones.
One can read countless articles about the food in Austin, or the music in Austin. But honestly, I really loved the trees.
There were two in particular which captivated my imagination. The first being the famed Treaty Tree – an old, intrepid Council Oak utilized by Native Americans long before our misguided United States was even a glimmer on the horizon. You can read the full story here about how this poor tree was poisoned back in the 80’s and nearly died. But it survives to this day and is loved and protected and shored up and supported in its growth.
The day we visited it, there happened to be officials on hand, measuring and taking stock of the tree and I asked permission to come inside the fence and place my hand upon its trunk. I was permitted and nearly cried when I touched it. Trees are truly miraculous beings and I have a bit of a thing for them.
A second tree which I befriended just happened to be in the back yard of the very friends we were visiting. This tree, now called Bonnie, was a primary reason my friends chose this of all houses and they brought in an arborist to make sure they could care for her properly in the coming years. I think they are glad to know Bonnie. And perhaps Bonnie is glad to know them.
I am guessing there will be more paintings of Bonnie. I spent a bit of time just watching how the evening light played upon her stately form. She’s lovely indeed.
But Austin is not all trees, there are the dogs. One dog especially seemed to sum up all of Austin’s playfulness. Mr. Pickles.
One cannot NOT sketch a spectacle such as Mr. Pickles. Apparently his mom works in the mobile dog grooming world, hence the painted on color. I think Mr. Pickles knows how cute he is as he greeted us with enthusiasm on our visit to the Contemporary Austin art museum.
There was much more to tell of Austin. A beer garden in a grove of trees in the hill country, cocktails made of a desert plant….
Vintage finds in the second hand shops. But mostly we merely enjoyed one another’s company. And this was enough. Even in a city as cool as Austin.
And now I am home. Nursing a cold…..
And deeply worried over our own pup Iris. Our Wild Iris Rose has been unwell of late. Deer poo is nasty stuff and we can only guess that she may have sampled some in the yard leading to intestinal distress. We got her sorted out last week and were in the clear, but this week, among everything else, she was overcome again.
Tonight she is hospitalized and getting fluids. We are hopeful for the best, but it’s up to her. And so tonight we wait.
I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, tea is helpful, yes.
And good books to pass the time…
But it’s worrying, to put it mildly. She has been greatly weakened by this latest illness and we are giving her the best care we know how. And only time will tell. Of all the dogs, Iris is really my girl and I miss her presence here in the studio tonight as I write this. Hoping she’s back home resting comfortably tomorrow perhaps. But we shall take it all as it comes.
“So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear. But autumn was waning fast; slowly the golden light faded to pale silver, and the lingering leaves fell from the naked trees.” —J.R.R. Tolkien
A week’s time into the hiatus from the more time consuming of social media platforms. It is surprising to me how little I miss them. The season of gratitude and a shared meal around the home table is past and we are thrust into the highlight of the capitalist calendar.
We walk in the woods. We play music and sketch.
We maintain gratitude for the littlest of things.
We tend to them with care and full presence.
Still we grieve. Also with care and full presence.
Most of all, we rest.
As promised to myself, I practice the art of slowing down, of diving into deep time. Knitting, reading, drinking tea. A gentle but firm pressure on the reset button. It is good.
“The times are urgent. Let us slow down.” ~Bayo Akomalofe
There is still *busy-ness*, as there is in life. Appointments to be kept, jobs and presentations to attend to. But it is all a bit less noisy and for that I am deeply grateful.
Here are a few of the delightful things occupying my mind, eyes, ears and heart of late….
And this one:
I look forward to a catalyst for dreaming due out in the coming months by Jackie Morris. Even the updates on the process of its creation are delicious. Consider supporting The Unwinding. (click the link, there is a beautiful video.)
A friend of my daughter’s turned her ears to a podcast….
I’ll admit to a bit of back and forth between the lovely depth and gentility of this wonderful consideration a favorite series of mine, and the live news coverage of impeachment hearings going on in my own country. Somehow, the magical world of Harry Potter seems to make more sense than the one here in the not-so-United States, especially when viewed through a blind republican lens.
Via email, I receive updates from another podcaster, Jocelyn K. Glei. Her show Hurry Slowly began as a mindful methodology toward higher productivity, but has become a meditation on transformation of spirit, so sorely needed in the world right now. In her newsletters, she collects and shares lovely links which create a rabbit warren of inspiration. Much like I do here.
Since logging off of social media, I’ll admit that the sensation of “writing for the proverbial no one” is a bit more pronounced. But I have no fear of missing out as it were. Instead, I am wondering how I might be able to do these longer breaks more often. I am glad of the gift of time.
Have you opted for some time off on the social media channels? How do you balance your online time? Are there blogs or newsletters to which you subscribe which bring you joy outside of the soundbyte realm? I’d love to know.
PS, for Mary Oliver….. coffee and rainy days indeed!! <3
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
― Anatole France
We’ve been wandering a bit close to the proverbial bone in these parts of late.
We always think we have more time…..
Once upon a time, we went for one puppy, and came home with two.
We didn’t really intend to, it just happened. And it was perfect.
River was the unexpected one. And he lived a life of such heart….
“If you’ve been thinking you’re all that you’ve got,
Then don’t feel alone anymore.
When we’re together, then you’ve got alot,
‘Cause I am the river and you are the shore.”
“Winding and swirling and dancing along,
We pass by the old willow tree”
“And it goes on and on, watching the river run,
Further and further from things that we’ve done,
Leaving them one by one.
And we have just begun watching the river run.
Listening and learning and yearning.
Run, river, run.”
Iris and River have been together from the beginning. Though not litter mates, they came home to us as a pair and have been inseparable. We will have to keep an eye on our old girl now, and give her some extra love and attention and patience. Tonight, before River left us, she crawled into bed with him, as she’d done a thousand times before…..
Within an hour or so after that, he was gone. He had had a stroke in the afternoon, but seemed ok. Sure we are used to seizures in Iris and maybe with a little rest he’d be fine. But alas, he slipped away peacefully. For this peaceful passing we are deeply grateful, but it will be a long while yet until his presence has truly left our home.
Difficult to believe that at this time just last week, we found ourselves in the magical, mist-ical lands of coastal California -my hub just barely cracking through his shell of over-work, only to have to dive straight back in again. But it was good to see a glimpse of himself to be sure. I am hopeful he could be coaxed back to this real life once again soon.
It is always a strange thing to return back to our regular doings back here at home in Ohio. For me, the mark of Good Travel is that it makes for a yearning and a churning of the soul, a fire in the mind, which keeps us asking questions of ourselves about how we are living this One Wild and Precious Lifeof ours. While we balance chores and responsibilities, work and dreams of what can be, time marches on ever faster. We must make sure we are on the right track. Travel and all the soul-nudging it brings with it, is one sure way to track our proper path isn’t it?
Yesterday my daughter sent along a new song to add to a running playlist I get going each year which tends to set the tone for the up and coming Taos sketch trip. This annual trek to the high desert is a flagship workshop for me as an instructor/facilitator. And the yearly playlist often carries a loose theme through the songs which happens strangely and organically. One year it was about light, especially Golden light, as I found myself craving the sparkling quality of light that is found in places such as northern New Mexico. Yet another year the loose theme seemed to be aboutthe heart of the matter – on finding ones heart beating below the surface of all that is thrust upon us in the drudgery of the day to day.
On a whim, I sent along this new song to a dear musical friend of mine, also the parent of a young adult daughter, knowing the both of them might appreciate it. He asked how I found myself relating to this new song and it got me thinking about my playlists in general and how I use and relate to them. About why I gather songs and how they capture a moment in time. Like the old mix-tapes we might have traded around in our teens, these playlists relay a certain kind of longing. Today’s longing is a more complex, multifaceted thing than my middle school obsessions. Now, I find myself pining for wilder places versus people, be it a sea of salt-water or a sea of sage. I suppose my yearly playlists are a listing of love songs to landscapes that are out of reach to me in my daily life.
“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” ~Terry Tempest Williams
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a scientist. I love all animals and could spend hours upon hours in observance and wonder of them. Alas, I do not have the mind of a proper scientist which remembers long and (to me) complicated names and specific facts and figures, and so my observance skills took a different path to that of artist. Now, my very favorite thing is to go to a wild place and watch, and draw, and wonder. Just a different kind of scientist really.
We had the great fortune to obtain access to a beach near Santa Cruz which the majestic elephant seals come home to for a season each year to go about the Business of Life. Here they mate, struggle for territory and status, give birth, nurture and nurse, grow and learn, rest and recuperate. We were fortunate to have a patient guide on our tour who allowed us to tarry a bit longer than other groups so as to take it all in properly.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” ~Aristotle
And amidst all of this marvelous wildness, we had also the comfort of dear friends who welcome us to this wild land with open arms. In the evenings there was a warm fire in the hearth and plenty of tea and long over-due conversation.
The ocean and it’s splendor was a indeed big player in our whirlwind trip west. I had a run on the beach one morning and we sketched the waves. I was captivated by the variety of dogs to be found having their daily walks along the shore.
We also took part of a day to meander down the coast and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we watched, entranced, the displays of Jellyfish and other watery wonders.
“Jellyfish: The sea offers up flowers of glass like thick light. They are transparent landscapes.” ~Raquel Jodorowsky
I was reminded of some old work of mine with the jellies, and vowed to come home and make more.
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” ~Loren Eiseley
“…the sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever.” ~Jacques-Yves Cousteau
But the trip was not all ocean all the time. I was invited to an Irish music session at a local home of a friend of a friend of a friend, which is how it works in musical circles, and was welcomed with open arms to share a few tunes.
Welcomed with open arms is also how we felt in the Redwoods just minutes inland from the sea.
To walk and wander in a forest of these trees is to experience the notion of Cathedral. We found ourselves whispering in hushed tones out of respect. Even the local wildlife is quiet. With the trees comprised of naturally inherent tannins, they are insect-repellant, and therefore even the chatter of birds is kept to a minimum.
We sat and sketched a giant for a good long while. It was cold and quite humid.
All in all, it was a wonderful getaway. January in Ohio is not for the feint of heart. A friend of mine, also from the world of Irish music, was saying last night that while she has lived in places with reputations for the harshest weather winter can throw at us (i.e. Alaska, Montana) she has found that winter here in SW Ohio/ N. Kentucky is particularly draining for it’s gray heaviness. Difficult to convey to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, we here in this river valley trudge through the winter months as best we can, thankful for the opportunity to get out of town when we can.
I left the Hub in California to do his work and I to come home to do mine. The temperatures were in single digits upon my arrival which was shocking to the system to say the least, considering I had had my toes in the pacific ocean just days before. But, I made some little woolen boots for my smallest dog, brewed a lot of tea, and carried on.
“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire?”
“Have you seen the girl with the heart as big as the sea?”
I am not the only one with a big heart and a mind on fire, yearning and churning for a bit of change. The world at large is calling for it as well, at least women and those who love and respect them.
This past weekend marked the 1 year anniversary of the Women’s March and we did it again. While the news didn’t make much of it, the numbers appeared to be as large if not larger this year. I was at our march here in Cincinnati and while the palpable shock of the election of a vile predator-in-chief was not as present this year, a continuing sense of outrage was.
The energy was palpable.
These strange times seem to have unleashed a free for all on many levels. On the one hand, the highest levels of power, especially in this country, are seemingly above all scrutiny. Politicians who once would have run a president out on a rail for the kinds of shenanigans ours pulls off, merely turn a blind eye and shrug off the behaviors of the current administration. I marvel. But the flip side of this coin is the notion that really, anything is possible. And I find a bit of hope in this.
I find that there is a fire in my own mind of late. The travel bug is turned on full-force by this most recent trek to the fair state of California. Guatemala is right on it’s heels, a mere 37 days away for me, with workshop participants arriving shortly there after. And there are more adventures to follow. Traveling shifts perspectives and asks us to consider hard questions. Questions such as, should we give up this little track of land, with is gardens and trees and lovely, soul-nourishing green space and quietude, for a condominium with less upkeep? Could doing so free up even more time and money for travel? Or would we regret giving up this amazing space? Do we want to even stay in Cincinnati? For me the draw of my family and friends (this includes my art and music family) is a big one. But part of me feels my studio practice could really use a daily walk in the wild, versus the familiar suburban paths here in Ohio. These are all the questions burning just now. And likely they will continue to do so for a while.
One could go a little off the rails with these ponderings, but the work will always bring me back to center. Sitting down to write a bit here settles my bones. From across the room, the paints call to be mixed up to craft some new paintings. Who knows where they will lead. Story ideas come and go, flitting and floating in clouds of doubt and fear. Rays of light amidst the dust particles. Today on this day of endless gray, I’ll follow the words, follow the paintbrush, follow the breath to whatever comes next.
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